Mobile Meets Farmer: Lessons for the Entrepreneur

Why is it assumed that of all problems facing Nigerian farmers, the most acute is treatable by merely buying mobile phones for them?  This was the opening question in Dele Momodu's recent article in Nigeria's THISDAY Newspaper published on 5 January, 2013. The Federal Government (FG) had recently announced its plan to distribute mobile phones to 10 million agricultural entrepreneurs in 2013. This project cost was estimated at N60billion (although disputed by the Minister). The policy the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development is promoting is to get mobile phones to farmers, as part of its agricultural transformation agenda, to connect farmers to information, expand their access to markets, improve their access to savings and loans, and help them adapt to climate change dynamics that affect them and their livelihoods. This decision was made following the success story of the Growth Enhancement Support (GES), which used mobile phones to reach farmers with subsidized inputs. The system ended 40 years of corruption on fertilizers and cut off rent seekers and middlemen who – for decades – have entrenched massive corruption of the fertilizer sector. Government succeeded. The GES system reached over 1.2 million farmers in 120 days in 2012. The success story of this model in Kenya cannot be overemphasised and it has led to new entrepreneurial endeavours that I greatly admire such as M-Kilimo and M-Farm. Today, mobile phones play an increasingly important part in new and existing farm projects in Kenya. However, there has been a lot of debates on this project in Nigeria but personally I have 4 questions I am leaving you to ponder on: