Landmark private-public partnership forged to transform Nigeria’s agricultural sector

A demonstration of the agCelerant platform in progress.

A demonstration of the agCelerant platform in progress.

Bringing together public and private organizations working in agriculture, Nigeria recently formed a country-level committee with ICRISAT as its co-chair. The committee will use a business development platform called agCelerant to orchestrate financial and technical support for 15 million farmers.

“We need to start reversing this trend (low agriculture productivity) by harnessing the huge potential in the agricultural sector for sustainable development through partnership and engagement with willing stakeholders, who genuinely believe in our beloved nation, and are ready to lend us helping hands,’’ said Alhaji Mohammed Sabo Nanono, Nigeria’s Federal Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), at the committee’s inauguration.

The National agCelerant Technical Committee espouses a ‘phygital’ approach to farming. The physical and digital together constitute the phygital approach, forming the conceptual bedrock of agCelerant, which was developed by Manobi Africa PLC. The platform connects smallholders with sources of credit and insurance, inputs, and output markets. It uses Internet of Things (IoT), Earth Observation and Artificial Intelligence, and is powered by youth franchisees that can proximally and economically monitor and advise farmers under contract.

agCelerant was developed with technical support from ICRISAT’s Innovation Systems for the Drylands and WCA Research Programs, CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) and the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program. It provides agricultural investment risk mapping to reduce lenders’ cash-out and increase availability of credit to smallholders. It also offers robust and affordable insurance contracts to reduce persistent climate risk in intensifying crop-livestock systems, as well as improved management of crop-nutrient deficiencies to increase fertilizer use efficiency and agricultural productivity.

In 2018, ICRISAT and Manobi Africa led the early implementation of agCelerant in Nigeria by applying it to the digitalization of nearly 5,000 ha of smallholder sorghum fields in Bauchi, Kano and Niger states. Unprecedented amounts of socio-economic, agronomic and yield data thus collected helped showcase the potential of agCelerant in Nigeria, which led federal authorities to extend its implementation to 15 million smallholder farmers. With US$ 500/ha needed to cover smallholder production costs, agCelerant thus targets a consolidated investment of US$ 7.5 billion by financial institutions. Accordingly, FMARD and Manobi Africa aim to secure the recovery of 1 million smallholder loans within the first year of extended implementation.

As the lead agricultural research institution in the committee, ICRISAT’s role will be to advise in the development of new technical solutions such as advanced yield forecasting, post-harvest loss predictions or hybrid insurance products, and to support deployment targeting and leveraging of other scientific knowledge for purposes like structuring of agCelerant digital seed value chains.

Other members of the committee include Permanent Secretary Office of FMARD (Chair), the Federal Departments of Agricultural Extension and Agriculture, FMARD’s Planning of Policy Coordination and Program Coordinating Unit, the National Agricultural Extension Research and Liaison Services, the Bank of Agriculture, the Nigeria Agricultural Insurance Corporation, the Nigeria Incentive-based Risk Sharing system for Agricultural Lending, the Central Bank of Nigeria, the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan Implementation Unit and Manobi Africa.

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