The Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL Plc) in collaboration with its partners Successory Nigeria Limited, and MTN Nigeria has launched the NIRSAL Farmers’ Business School (NFBS) – a mobile learning platform that is based on Interactive Voice Response (IVR) technology.
Managing director/CEO of NIRSAL Plc Mr Aliyu Abdulhameed said the farmers business school will address the lack of access to information which is critical to the success of production cycles, particularly in the face of changing weather and climatic conditions.
Stating that the school was in line with NIRSAL’s technical assistance pillar of its mandate, Abdulhameed said it will provide convenient, bespoke training on Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) to Nigeria’s Smallholder Farmers (SHFs) who crave improved access to vital information which is critical to the success of primary production cycles. He said NIRSAL is poised to provide support mechanisms that plug information gaps, boost entrepreneurial capacities, and improve access to commercial finance.
Successory Nigeria Limited led collaborators in the research and development of the framework of the NFBS, design of the infrastructure, creation of the system map and process flow, and set up of the back-end infrastructure, the output of which has gone through testing and quality assurance.
Abdulhameed allayed concerns that the platform may be too sophisticated and expensive for some rural farmers to use. He said that pre-design research and situational analyses took such concerns into account, hence, the product is a multi-language, offline on-the-go platform that can be accessed via any mobile phone – smart or not.
Abdulhameed emphasised the importance of the platform to NIRSAL Plc, its owners the CBN, the federal government, Banks, and other investors in agricultural primary production as it will promote the inclusion of farmers in the use of ICT and limit physical classroom engagements in line with the new normal.
Chief Sales Distribution Officer of MTN Nigeria Adekunle Adebiyi said MTN is a natural collaborator in initiatives that meaningfully connect, inform and educate Nigerians. He said MTN’s peerless network connectivity in Nigeria will serve as the conduit for a seamless, continuous, and cost-effective interaction between NIRSAL Plc and farmers, which will lead to improved productivity and earnings across board.
Adebiyi said MTN’s resolution to further support the initiative with free SIM cards for farmers as a way of accelerating the take-off of the platform and the onboarding of millions of farmers.
As the lead developer of the product, Successory’s job is not done yet as it would oversee the onboarding process of subscribers and address whatever teething challenges that occur. Beyond that, the company is to ensure that the NIRSAL Farmers’ Business School continues to give value to NIRSAL Plc and the farmers who use the platform to boost their capacities and productivity.
The acting director of Corporate Communications of the CBN, Mr. Osita Nwanisobi, who was also present at the launch event applauded NIRSAL Plc and its partners for the initiative and urged the press to drive its uptake nationally for the good of all.
Incidentally, the launch of the NIRSAL Farmers’ Business School (NFBS) follows the ongoing provision of Strategic Business Support Services (SBSS) by NIRSAL Plc nationwide. Challenged by a general apathy amongst smallholder farmers towards scholarly mentorship programs, and an insatiable appetite for government grants, the delivery of the SBSS will be enhanced by the ease and convenience offered by the NFBS.
A brief demo of the platform revealed its paced, multi-language interactivity, as well as ease of navigation. The demo was conducted by Mr. Isaiah Bendi, Managing Director/CEO of FBIS Technologies, who expressed gratitude for the opportunity to participate in a project with potentials for massive national impact.
NIRSAL Boss said the platform also holds great value for NIRSAL’s officials in the field who have been wading through towns, villages and bushes to perform their training and capacity building assignments.