By; PATRICK TITUS, Uyo
Akwa Ibom State is set to break-even in food production to feed the teeming population and for export as it enters into partnership with El-kanis and Partners, a specialist company in digital technology for agriculture and food development.
Chief Executive Officer of El-kanis and Partners, Mr. Ekanikpong Ben, said partnering with the state government on the use of digital technology in agriculture through the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Sufficiency, will help to improve the agricultural sector in the state and country.
Ben said the intervention of the organisation in agriculture will position Akwa Ibom for optimum productivity in that area, as the state will serve as a pilot state in the country for the project.
He noted that Fork will be working with Harvestplus on maize biofortification project in Nigeria, and mentioned other areas of collaboration to include: organising training for farmers on farming technology, leveraging on state government support to create visibility, and validate El Kanis & Partners before the international development agencies for possible support in innovation, growth and funding.
He said the company will use its knowledge in crop health analytics for large farms with remote sensing on-board drone, (Farmx mobile Application), win-win farmer-community-business solutions, El-kanis mobile switchboard, farmers local dialect Interactive Voice Response(IVR) platform, Agricultural training and capacity building, as well as Research and development for food safety, food security and sustainability.
‘’We want to work with the Ministry of Agriculture to give us business advisory. Now how will this work? We are going to leverage on the professionals in the Ministry of Agriculture to offer us professional advice. We will also bring on board government extension field workers on the platform to enhance adequate support system for many rural farmers.
“There are many rural farmers in Akwa Ibom State and our team cannot cover it alone. According to Association of Akwa Ibom farmers, there are over two million farmers in Akwa Ibom State. With our small team, we cannot meet all those farmers, even 50 percent of them.
“Since Ministry of Agriculture has offices spread across the state, alongside its agric extension field workers, we want to use them and reach farmers. We will onboard them by bringing them on our platform and use our interactive voice response to create a link between farmers and extension field workers in their respective Local Government Areas.
“This will keep all field workers in the ministry busy and consequently bring improvement in the agricultural sector in the state,’’ he said.
According to Ben, his organisation and Fork, a leading blockchain firm for Food technology in Netherlands is working on deploying blockchain technology to address issues of food traceability on food safety in Nigeria.
He said over 70 percent of farmers mostly in rural communities lacked access to improved agro services, market credit and insurance, even when they have access to arable land, free fresh water and other resources that would have made the call on the Permanent Secretary and Directors in the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Sufficiency, that most Nigeria farmers were unsuccessful due to ignorance and lack of requisite technology in farming.
The Permanent Secretary in the State Ministry of Agriculture and Food Sufficiency, Dr. John Markson, commended the company for the digital technological innovation.
He indicated the interest of the state government to take advantage of the opportunity by partnering with El-kanis in using digital technology to improve the agricultural sector in the state.