Friday, 28 December 2012 00:00
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GESS: How government is transforming agriculture using technology

The Growth Enhancement Support Scheme (GESS), a special agricultural scheme of the Federal Government aimed at delivering subsidized farm inputs to farmers and facilitating a shift from subsistence to commercial farming.

Special Assistant on Media & Strategy to the Minister of Agriculture and rural development Dr. Olukayode Oyeleye said the GESS was designed as a component of the Agriculture Transformation Agenda of the Federal Government (ATA) in 2012. The ATA is the current government’s response to realizing food security and increasing household income for farmers at the micro level.

GESS is hinged on the use of technology to enhance effective distribution of various farm inputs, especially fertilizers, to farmers. This is inline with government vision of making agriculture the cornerstone of Nigeria’s economy.

With GESS, Government sought to withdraw from direct fertilizer purchase and distribution, and introduce an alternative system of distribution built on the voucher system. Under the scheme, registered farmers receive e-wallet vouchers with which they can redeem fertilizer and seeds from agro dealers. The GESS is a 3-year scheme and the first cycle was implemented in 2012.

The scheme has been designed to encourage a private sector led market development process, ultimately geared towards improving Nigeria’s competitiveness and food security. Through this scheme, government will subsidize the costs of seeds and fertilizers for farmers by 50%, while providing soft loans to the seed and fertilizer companies and agro-dealers to sell their inputs directly to farmers and build their supply chains to get to rural areas.

The Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development sought and secured participation of state ministries of agriculture throughout the country and this helped the success of the scheme. The ministry also encouraged the participation of private agricultural input dealers .

He said the GESS programme kicked-off in Ekiti, with the state government supported fertilizer and seed distribution programme.  Zamfara state quickly followed suit with the Cotton seed multiplication programme and over 3,400 farmers received fertilizers using the special electronic validation process. 

Under the Ekiti State programme, each registered farmer will receive a support of N10,500 from government and beneficiaries are expected to match the government provision wit their own N10,500. This effectively means that government is providing 50 per cent subsidy on fertilizer to farmers.

The Commissioner for Agriculture in Ekiti, Mr. Jide Arowosafe, expressed delight at the fact that GES is starting in his state noting that government will provide all that is needed to ensure the success of the scheme in order to achieve its desire of boosting agricultural development in the state

In Ekiti, the GES scheme is a state-wide rollout, involving 16 locations simultaneously in all the local government areas.  So far 58,000 farmers have been registered for the scheme in Ekiti with 35,000 of them having valid mobile numbers whereby they can be identified and reach uniquely.

Thirty-five states and FCT are implementing GES. Adamawa State was the last state to sign up to GES and implementation has not started. This is an implementation rate at state level of 97 per cent and a participation rate at state level of 100 per cent.

The participation of LGAs in GES and Commencement of GES activities is as follows: 754 LGAs are implementing GES; this is an implementation rate of 97 per cent at LGA level:
One of the major fulcrums of the GES scheme is to use Agro-dealers to directly deliver inputs to farmers.

A  lot of success was recorded in this regard as 1081 Agro-dealers are participating in GES; this is an agro-dealer to LGA ratio of 1.4:1 or 14 agro-dealers for every 10 LGAs. Over 783 agro-dealers have so far participated actively in the program so far out of the 1083 registered agro-dealers, thereby giving us an absolute participation rate of 72 per cent.

Approximately 1,585,980 farmers showed up at operational redemption sites in the 35 States and FCT that are implementing GES. Approximately 1,113,685 farmers have received their farm input so far. As a proportion of the 3.9million registered farmers in the participating locations which excludes Adamawa state that did not participate and most of Zamfara State, where the actual figures were not available; this is a turnout rate of 41 per cent and a redemption rate of 70 per cent.

This number did not include the 65,000 farmers who participated in Cocoa, Cassava and Cotton GES. Although the turnout rates is similar to observable behavior during elections; it is pertinent to note that in this case these numbers reflect the current low adoption of fertilizer usage and improved seeds in Nigeria; the low trust levels of Nigerians in the government that the GES program is trying to fix and effectiveness of the communication program to farmers about the program. Although absolute redemption numbers vary widely across the 6 geopolitical zones (GPZ); the redemption behavior was similar. It is pertinent to note that the major reason why farmers could not redeem was lack of money.

As at October 30th, 2012, a total of 138,898MT of Fertilizer; 4216MT of maize seeds and 6816MT of rice seeds have been redeemed so far. This is a supply effectiveness rate of 27 per cent for fertilizer and 130 per cent for seeds companies. Please note that this excludes the cotton GES program and one-week data on inputs- redemption are still being reconciled for the northwest geo-political zone.