When the Growth Enhancement Support (GES), an innovation under the agricultural transformation agenda of the federal government, was introduced, a major criticism was that many beneficiaries were unable to redeem their inputs due to GSM network failure or an absence of it in many remote areas. There is no doubt that, as part of the federal government’s plan towards a complete withdrawal from fertiliser procurement and distribution, the GES programme – a sort of supply chain management scheme – was evolved to liberate farmers who have been short-changed in the past under phoney fertiliser subsidy programmes.
The Touch and Pay system devised to assist the farmers has received a boost with the adoption of a state-of-the-art technology to help overcome the perennial problem involving government procurement and distribution, which crowded out private sector. With this technology, the pervasive complaints about network problems in remote areas will soon be a thing of the past, going by the experiences from the two states where it was done on a pilot scale.
The unprecedented increase in farmers’ registration as well as input redemption have shown that, with this technology, farmers in remote areas no longer have to worry about being captured or about input redemption. For the 2014 wet season, the pilot targets 500,000 farmers, working with over 100 agro-dealers in FCT and Sokoto State. In the first three months, this technology has registered 290,000 farmers; a near threefold increase on the previous two years combined. The number is growing.
The Token Administration Platform, or TAP, is an e-voucher scheme that uses the latest tablet and smartcard technology to change the way the Nigerian government collects data and delivers benefits to its citizens. Although TAP is currently only active in Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory and Sokoto State, the initiative is already changing the agricultural landscape.
TAP, which uses near field communications (NFC) and people-powered mesh networking to transfer data to field staff devices, is fast gaining ascendancy. Findings show that, in 2014, there will be more active users of contactless smartcards in Nigeria than the UK, a record achievement coming from the agricultural sector. With the present results, during the 2014 wet season, more Nigerian farmers used NFC technology than UK bank card users.
TAP technology was developed by a leading independent consultancy Consult Hyperion, in partnership with international development specialists GRM International, the agricultural non-profit International Fertiliser Development Centre (IFDC) and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), with funding from the UK’s Department for International Development, to transform the way agricultural subsidies in Nigeria are managed.
Under this arrangement, the system is using the latest mobile technology to connect online and offline farmers to their local agricultural dealers (agro-dealers), enabling farmers in remote regions where there is no network coverage to have access to the GES fertiliser discount scheme. The scheme will eventually involve more than 500,000 farmers and 100 agricultural dealers. Using a more secure, efficient and reliable process, TAP is directly supporting Nigerian farmers and boosting the local economy.
Six area councils and 62 wards are involved in FCT, with 109,000 beneficiaries, 46 per cent of which are women. For the total population of beneficiaries, 83 per cent received green card while 17 per cent received black card. Out of the 80,000 farmers who redeemed their input, 46 per cent were women. The overall redemption rate was 73 per cent.
In Sokoto State, 398,000 beneficiaries, 19 per cent of which were women, were enumerated in eight weeks, giving an average of 10,000 farmers per work day, of which 76 per cent got green card and 24 per cent got black card. The redemption involved 79,000 farmers after the second week. Again, “the second year of TAP technology application is targeting 2,125,000 farmers, with one state per geo-political zone,” the IFDC source claimed, describing TAP as “a form of technology leap-frogging, giving an interesting outlook.”
Quoting the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, “TAP allows our farmers to redeem their inputs in areas where there are no networks, simply by using Android phones as smart cards…just tap it on the phone and all the allocation shows up and the farmers redeem their seeds and fertilizer without any network. It’s revolutionary. We are the first in the world to do it.”
Recently, while was registering under the technology at the IFDC office in Abuja, the minister said “this is a fantastic technology. It helps in identity management to synchronise stocks to get over the issue of double registration and helps with speed of redemption and will improve the integrity of GES platform with banks and agro-dealers’ network.” The minister observed the “need to speed up registration (of farmers),” promising “to have this demonstrated at the National Economic Council.”
Through the GES Scheme, farmers and agro-dealers have access to agricultural subsidies to drive production, output, and ultimately, the growth of the agriculture sector. NFC is used in farmer identification. Farmers are issued with a TAP contactless card, which is linked to the farmer’s record via the tablet’s NFC interface. The record includes a photograph of the farmer, which is subsequently presented to agro-dealers for verification at the time of voucher redemption.
TAP is being used to register farmers for the GES. It accurately records and transfers biometric and credit data, and delivers vouchers to eligible farmers and agricultural dealers. It takes the discounts to the farmers by effectively extending mobile network coverage into an offline environment, beyond the current reach of mobile networks. TAP significantly reduces the risk of fraud and ensures that fertiliser subsidies reach the farmers for whom they are intended.
TAP offers full weekly reconciliation reports so that farmers get their discounts quicker and agricultural dealers receive their reconciliations quicker; it also has built-in fraud prevention and detection systems. Distributing 1.5 million vouchers, it has been estimated that TAP will save farmers £12.7 million. According to Paul Makin, head of Mobile Money Practice, Consult Hyperion, “we are overcoming obstacles of geography, identity and fraud to quickly and effectively provide farmers in Nigeria the fertiliser subsidies they are entitled to and need, when they need them.”
Nigerian farmers have opportunities to take advantage of this emerging technology. Considering the multiplier effects of speed, wider coverage, greater number of beneficiaries covered and the transparency involved in the data. [SOURCE: LEADERSHIP]