By Olubunmi Adeniyi
Lagos. February 15, 2013: Novus Agro, an agricultural market information service company is promoting new mobile phone and web technologies to bridge information gaps among Nigerian farmers in real time.
The company says the initiative support the Federal Ministry of Agriculture transformation agenda of enhancing agricultural productivity in the country by enabling farmers to have access to mobile telephony.
Transforming the agricultural sector through mobile phone is key to the Federal Government strategy for growth and is driven under the new Ministry’s Growth Enhancement Support (GES) scheme, introduced last year by, Akinwumi Adesina, Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development, the company says.
Novus Agro is leveraging on the over 108 million active mobile phone in Nigeria to provide agro-based information and consulting services to all direct and indirect participants in the nation’s agricultural sector.
While intimating the media recently in Lagos on the activities of the company, Victoria Ononuju, Head Business Development, Novus Agro says that, ‘through mobile phones, we send agro-based marketing information to farmer and broadcast advertising via SMS.”
“We use our flexible web based platform that allows farmers to build and manage a campaign themselves or deliver for them as part of a managed service”, Ononuju adds.
The company charges N30 per SMS but for groups like co-operatives, the information given will be charged based on the number of people they have in their group.”
According to her, Novus Agro has a continually growing database of subsistence and commercial farmers, commodity traders, transporters, Agri-input dealers, processing companies and other participants who play different roles in the agriculture value and supply chain.
She said Novus Agro is riding on the Ministry’s GES scheme to deliver inputs like fertilizers and seeds to farmers directly through mobile phones.
Novus Agro embraces the Ministry’s strategy of e – wallet vouchers, the electronic platform which enables farmers to purchase fertiliser and seeds at subsidised rates, noting that this invariably has helped to improve transparency and accountability in the agricultural sector.
In line with this, Novus Agro forged a partnership with Pagatech, a financial services company licensed by the Central Bank of Nigeria to provide Mobile Payment services as a non-bank led mobile payments provider, according to the company.
She adds that the partnership seeks to address the completion of trade between buyers and sellers on the Novus Agro platform by providing a payment option for goods to be sold and exploring other areas of mutual interest between both parties.
Taking of the note of the fact that some of the farmers may not be able to afford the charges by the agricultural market information company because of their economic status, the Ministry says it devised a strategy for that.
Olukayode Oyeleye, Special Assistant, Media and Strategy, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development says that “mobile platform operates mostly on prepaid service and since farmers are benefiting from the market information, I don’t think it will be difficult for them to provide the token. This shouldn’t be a problem for the farmers.”