The plans by the Federal Government to distribute mobile phones to 10 million farmers across the country, has been criticized by the potential beneficiaries who described it as a misplaced priority. Rather than provide them with phones, they say access to funds is what is needed instead.
A member of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria in Delta State, Dr. John Akwara, said phones do not appear on the list of priorities of an average Nigerian farmer.
He said, “What we need are funds not phones. We also need to see some sincerity in the people who are in the ministry of agriculture because they are fond of ‘cornering’ things meant for farmers for their personal use.
“If government really wants to help farmers, they should help us with better access to funds. Some of us need funds to set up our farms and others need funds to expand. Bank interest rates are too high; average farmers can’t get loans from banks. So, government should make sure we get these funds.”
Akwara further blamed politicians and civil servants whom they alleged ‘hijacked’ government’s intervention funds for the sector.
“All the money government approves for agriculture does not get to farmers. Politicians and those in the ministry of agriculture end up being the beneficiaries. For example here in Delta State, they use some funds approved for farmers to empower political thugs. They told them to form a cooperative society and once they did, the money was allocated to them in the name of farmers,” he said.
In her own reaction, Managing Director of Duke’s Farm, Ijebu-Ode, in Ogun State, Mrs. Omotayo Omotayo, the idea of giving phones to farmers is unnecessary since most farmers already own mobile phones and have been using them to connect with their market.
She said, “I don’t think buying mobile phones for farmers is important. There is hardly any serious farmer that does not have a phone or a means of communicating with his or her customers.
“The idea doesn’t hold water because, at least here in Ogun State, we have the Agricultural Development Programme. They usually go into the rural areas to educate farmers on new farming techniques. So, I don’t think farmers need to receive such information on mobile phones.”
Omotayo, instead advised government to buy farm implements for farmers.
According to another farmer, Benjamin Samson, who is also a member of the Catfish Farmers Forum, government should give out loans to farmers instead.
“Phones have become very cheap. So, any farmer that needs a phone can buy it. What we want is for government to give us loans,” he said.