Friday, 28 June 2013

Farm Kings: a reality series in the making!

It shouldn’t surprise our readers that as a reporter, we gain some pretty cool experiences.

Yesterday was no different. It was one of those cool experiences.
I actually got to see the filming of a reality series. The best part is, the stars of the show are actually faithful Farm and Dairy readers! The next best thing was that I didn’t have to travel far for the taping.
The show is called, Farm Kings and it will air on the channel, GAC.
Farm Kings is about a family with 10 children, ranging in age from 29-11, determined to make a living farming with their mom.
They are vegetable growers, and have even built a bakery in recent years to sell baked items at their farmers markets.
Dan, 22, wants to built a cattle operation and intertwine that into the farm operation. That’s the reason they were filming at the Mercer Livestock Auction.
The farm is located between Valencia and Butler, Pa. near state Route 8.
I just think it is so cool — with all the drama in the reality series we view on television — a network thought a series about nine brothers trying to make a living farming would be entertaining.
I talked to the mother of the 10 children, Lisa King. She said the series is about the challenges facing young people in the farming industry and how they keep moving forward.
She said the family wants viewers to take away this from the series: Support your local farmers!
What a great way to get the message through to those who don’t farm. Maybe if those who are disconnected see the trying times and challnges farmers are facing, they will decide to support farmers.
I know from the stories I write and what I hear talking to others, there are enough challenges to fill at least 30 minutes a week!
The series premiere will air 9 p.m. June 14 and then 10 episodes will air beginning in September.
I say we should plan a viewing party just so we can say, how cool it is to have real working farmers on television doing what they do best!
Kristy Foster Seachrist lives in Columbiana County raising sheep and horses with her husband, Kurt. She earned her degree from Youngstown State University and has worked in both print and broadcast journalism

Local Farmers Take On Reality TV

Local Farmers Take On Reality TV « CBS Pittsburgh

Monday, 24 June 2013



Wednesday, 19 June 2013

The Farmers Club

Welcome to The Farmers Club, a unique club for those involved with agriculture, primarily, but not exclusively, in the United Kingdom. Over half of our members are directly involved in farming, with the rest being mostly associated with the agricultural industry. We also have a very active Under 30's section, vital seed corn for the future of the Club.
The Club reaches out to its members all over the UK and overseas in a number of ways. It attends many of the major agricultural shows along with other regional events throughout the year. We also regularly hold seminars on the key issues of the day frequently attracting internationally renowned experts. The Farmers Club also keeps in touch with every member via an excellent and informative bimonthly journal, and of course, this ever evolving webpage. The Club is run, through the secretariat, by a committee of members, drawn from all parts of the industry.
Whitehall Court is the heart of the club offering a very comfortable, 'home from home' atmosphere, excellent value bedrooms and an excellent restaurant committed to selling British produce. It also has a number of function rooms which can be used for meetings or private parties as well as a modern business suite. Above all though, The Farmers Club is renowned for its staff whose friendliness and efficiency are its hallmark.

Monday, 10 June 2013

Fighting poverty among female farmers with mobile phones

The mobile phone is a device that can turn  the lives of rural female farmers around, Dayo Oketola writes
 Mrs. Alice Balogun, a smallholder female farmer who lives around Ajilete community in Ogun State, plants vegetables, maize and cassava. She relies on the vegetable for short-term income, maize for seasonal or mid-term income and cassava for yearly-kind-of income. She sells her farm produce herself and often results to self help in processing her cassava tubers to Garri before selling. In all of these, Balogun decries poor returns.
Her story is not different from that of Mrs. Ganiyat Audu, a female farmer in one of the farm settlements scattered in the outskirt of Ibadan, specifically the Ibadan end of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. She often results to selling her farm produce to travellers on the expressway because of their perishable nature. This, she says often lower returns while failing to complement the time and labour put into nurturing and harvesting the produce.
Experts say Balogun and Audu are mere archetypes of the Nigerian women farmers, who constitute 70 per cent of the country’s agricultural workforce and produce 80 per cent of the country’s food, yet most of them lack access to almost everything that could make farming worthwhile and gainful. With hoes and cutlasses, most of the women farmers still engage in farming practices that are already outdated.
They are not only susceptible to the whims and caprices of weather; they also face challenges such as lack of funds, inadequate agriculture information, inability to preserve farm produce, and poor access to the market. Others are lack of information about crop production, pest control, treatment of animals, economic and health information, among others.
Relying on the National Poverty Eradication Programme that says 75 million Nigerians, representing 50 per cent of the population, still live in poverty, experts say the country’s women farmers are largely poor.
Therefore, to take them out of poverty and stimulate socio-economic development, experts say it is imperative for the female farmers to have access to adequate information in order to boost agricultural and rural development.
A number of women farmers’ advocacy groups have developed self -help initiatives to enlighten the poor female farmers. The Executive Director, Women Farmers’ Advancement Network, a rural farmers’advocacy group in the Northern part of the country, Dr. Salamatu Garba, says the group relies on radio programmes to create the necessary awareness among its members. How impactful this will be, according to analysts, has yet to be ascertained in a country where power supply is poor and many of the farmers may not even have transistor radios to benefit from such programme. They may as well be in the farm when the programme is being aired or busy with domestic chores if the programme is aired at night. The reality is that female farmers have been neglected and yet to be considered in the forefront of agricultural empowerment in Nigeria.
Experts say their situation is one of the many indices of the country’s fortune-dwindling agricultural sector that has seen the groundnut pyramids in the North, the robust cocoa economy in the West, and the palm tree plantations in the East disappeared and only exist in the Nigerian history books.
In view of the bleak circumstances engulfing the Nigerian female farming community, experts largely believe that Information and Communications Technology, among other critical measures, can take the farmers out of the woods.
The mobile phone, which is both an engine of opportunity and convenience, according to experts, will play a critical role in the entire equation.
Recognising that ICT holds great potential for rural dwellers, particularly female farmers, President Goodluck Jonathan, in his 2013 budget presentation to a joint session of the National Assembly, says his administration will give five million mobile phones to women farmers in 2013.
Jonathan, who describes this as part of efforts to prove the gender friendliness of his administration, says “To further integrate women in the various sectors, we have developed an innovative approach to mainstreaming gender issues starting with five pilot ministries – agriculture, health, communication technology, water resources and works. These ministries are signing MOUs with the Ministry of Women Affairs to deliver on specific services for women.
“The Ministry of Agriculture, for example, will work with its ICT counterpart to ensure that five million women farmers and agricultural entrepreneurs receive mobile phones to be able to access information on agro-inputs through an e-wallet scheme,” Goodluck says.
The president says N3bn has been set aside to be disbursed to participating MDAs as incentives for them to deliver on these targets.
Prior to that time, however, the Minister of Agriculture, Mr. Akinwunmi Adesina, had announced government’s plan to distribute 10 million mobile phones to smallholder farmers in 2013. The minister had said that the phones would carry features such as information on climatic conditions, market prices of farm produce, extension workers and how farmers can access agricultural funds. He explained that the initiative was aimed at subsidising the cost of major agricultural inputs, such as fertiliser and seeds. “By that the farmers can get information on planting seasons. We cannot do that by newspapers, we need to have something they can relate with in local languages,” he had said.
From 400,000 lines in 2001 to over 109 million in 2012, telecommunications has single-handedly driven mobile phone penetration in Nigeria and the mobile phone has become one of the greatest socio-economic tools in the hands of Nigerians. As an enabler, the mobile technology is driving the growth of m-Commerce, mobile money, and m-Banking, among others, in the country and rural women/female farmers can have access to a personal communication tool that has the power to transform their prospects. But unfortunately, most ICT investments in the country have focused mainly on the urban areas while rural female farmers lack access to telecommunications gadgets such as mobile phone.
An MTN survey in 2010 had confirmed that over 800 rural communities in the country had yet to have access to telecommunications and these are localities where majority of the farmers live.
Goodluck’s promise, according to experts, represents the light at the end of the tunnel for the ICT-deprived farmers in the country. As such, the Chairperson, Women in Technology in Nigeria, Mrs. Martha Omoekpen Alade, who welcomes the gesture, says, “It is an excellent initiative. Rural women need such to keep abreast of technology. This will to a great extent bridge the digital divide. Rural women are important to economic stability. It is a good thing the Federal Government is positively gender sensitive.”
She reveals that WITIN has developed a mobile app for illiterate rural women, adding that the app currently runs on affordable mobile phones.
Former President, Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria, Mr. Titi-Omo-Ettu and the Programme Director, One Network, Mr. Sola Bickersteth, observe that the Federal Government proposed phone gift to the women farmers, if it ever see the light of day, is a fantastic move and in line with global trends.
eTransform Africa: The Transformational Use of Information and Communication Technologies in Africa, which was recently jointly published by the World Bank and African Development Bank, with support from the African Union, also backed the move by the government.
The Lead ICT Policy Specialist, World Bank and the author of the report, Mr. Tim Kelly, said, “Africa is rapidly becoming an ICT leader. Innovations that began in Africa – like dual SIM card mobile phones or using mobile phones for remittance payments – are now spreading across the continent and beyond. The challenge going forward is to ensure that ICT innovations benefit all Africans, including the poor and vulnerable, and those living in remote areas.”
Leading mobile phone manufacturer, Nokia, who welcomes FG’s initiative as rightly directed, says it’s Nokia Life Tools, recently introduced into Nigeria, is already offering a wide range of information through the services (through the mobile phone) covering health care, agriculture, education and entertainment which address the needs of rural consumers and improves their economic prosperity and quality of life.
Nokia’s General Manager for West Africa, Mr. James Rutherfoord, says the Nokia Life Tools is a key part of Nokia’s overall strategy to connect the next billion people by providing access to locally relevant services and information on affordable devices.
“Farmers will be able to check market prices without travelling long distances, people will be able to find important health care information without having to travel miles to see a doctor, and students will be able to learn English. All the services are available on easy-to-use and affordable mobile phones,” he adds.
Beyond providing agriculture information such as market prices, weather, news and advice to the female farmers, experts say five million mobile phones in the hands of women farmers will create a platform for multiple services with the overall aim of improving the economic standing of the poor farmers. The private sector, according to them, has a lot to benefit.
According to Access to Financial Services in Nigeria 2010 Survey conducted by Enhancing Financial Innovation and Access, only 30.0 per cent of the country’s adult population currently has a bank account, which is equivalent to 25.4 million people. 67.2 per cent of the adult population has never been banked, which is equivalent to 56.9 million people. While 63.5 per cent of adult males are unbanked, a whopping 76.8 per cent of adult females are unbanked. These unbanked female Nigerians form part of the 78.8 per cent of the rural population which remains unbanked till today. As such, experts say it can be easily taken for granted that most of the rural female farmers do not have bank accounts.
The Central Bank of Nigeria, in response to the forgoing statistics and also in recognition of the potential of the mobile phone in driving financial inclusion in the country, licensed over 20 companies to roll out mobile money services in the country. So far, little success has been recorded in mobile money penetration due to  lack of adequate agency network, among other challenges. For instance, a survey by Enhancing Financial Innovation and Access reveals that only 400,000 people out of 28.6 million adults operating bank accounts in Nigeria have mobile money accounts. The figure represents 1.4 per cent of the bank account holders. The survey also shows that 0.45 per cent of the total adult population (given as 87.9 million people) in Nigeria use the mobile money facility. It stated that mobile money was mostly used to buy airtime, with 32.9 per cent of registered mobile money users buying airtime on the platform; while 28 per cent use mobile money to send money to people.
The Principal Associate, Mobile Money Africa, Mr. Emmanuel Okoegwale, who analyses the result of the survey, concludes that the few people who have adopted mobile money are those who already have bank accounts, saying this is contrary to the real reason behind the introduction of mobile money in Nigeria, saying it is primarily targeted at the  unbanked population of the country.
With five million phones in the hands of female farmers, Okoegwale reckons that huge opportunities will be available for mobile money companies to benefit from.
With a system called M-PESA (Swahili for mobile money), operated by Kenya’s largest cell phone service provider, Safaricom, Kenyans use their cell phones to send and receive money. Some use it for all their shopping. Kenya currently has 10 million households and 14 million M-PESA accounts.
Okoegwale says with five million phones scattered across the country, mobile money operators have five million potential customers, majority of who have never been banked.
MTN, Globacom, Airtel and Etisalat, all GSM Operators, have already introduced mobile money services in Nigeria. With five million female farmers with mobile phones, the Mobile Money Africa boss, says operators should know where to search for the real unbanked Nigerians.
The fact that only 1.0 per cent (0.8 million) of the adult population in Nigeria has insurance, according to experts, clearly demonstrates the potential for using mobile phones as a distribution channel for providing financial services to the unbanked especially against the background of the country’s 109 million mobile lines.
Deepening insurance market especially through retail insurance has been tied to effective use of mobile telephone on insurance product distribution.
Microensure, a recent winner of a Financial Times/IFC award in financial service innovation for the bottom of the pyramid, has introduced a variety of micro-insurance solutions via mobile phones. Its product line includes life insurance in Ghana, farmers’ crop insurance in Tanzania, and health insurance in India.
The General Manager, Microensure Ghana, Mr. Peter Gross, who emphasised the potential of the mobile phone in insurance penetration in Nigeria, said, “Providing micro insurance through the ubiquitous mobile telecommunications platform is the only available means of developing products to insure the critical mass that form the informal sector in Nigeria and allow the insurance industry to increase the level of insurance penetration.”
Tina Rosenberg in a piece titled, ‘Doing More Than Praying for Rain’ said,  “In the United States, insurance against extreme weather is seen as so important that Washington subsidises it highly and requires it for farmers who want other government benefits. If American farmers need weather insurance, African peasant farmers need it even more. But the vast majority of African peasant farmers have no opportunity to insure their crops.
“Small farmers around the world need many different things to help them survive climate change: seeds resistant to extreme weather and pests, cheap irrigation systems, and better agricultural infrastructure, such as more feeder roads. But one thing that can help small farmers now is insurance.”
Rosenberg and other experts agree that what will make this low-income earners and base-of-the-pyramid insurance product work is technology, particularly the mobile phone.
As such, five million female Nigerian farmers can also be exposed to cheap insurance solutions via their mobile phones.This, experts say, is a virgin land for the Nigerian insurance industry.
For instance, Kilimo Salama, a project of the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture, which does research on improving harvests on small farms, has been introduced since 2009.
The non-profit foundation is financed by the Swiss agri-giant Syngenta. Kilimo Salama also gets money from the International Finance Corporation, a sister organisation of the World Bank.
The project, which is situated in Kenya’s southwest, currently insured 22,000 farmers and the tool being used to sign up farmers and pay out claims, is the mobile phone.
Generally, the mobile has become one of the passive channels making tremendous impact on insurance penetration in the emerging market.
According to the Munich Re Foundation in Making Finance Work in Africa, “Nine countries in Africa contain more than one million lives and properties insured: Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe. Every one of those countries, with the exception of Nigeria, achieved that coverage with the help of a simple mobile phone linked life product.”
From agriculture information to mobile money, m-Insurance to m-Health, experts say the proposed five million mobile phones to be distributed to five million women farmers will unlock huge opportunities for them and urged the Federal Government not to rescind on the promise.

Poverty Eradication in Nigeria through Agriculture and Enterprise Revolution

By Peter Osalor
The intricacy of issues involved here is reflected in the fact that the National Poverty Eradication Programme of 2001 identifies agriculture and rural development as its primary area of interest.
The fact that all development has to begin from the bottom_up cannot be overemphasised in the context of Nigeria, where a farming boom can ensure not just food supply and exports but also provide industrial raw materials and a market for products.
Agricultural expansion is critical to economic prosperity across Western Africa, considering the region’s crippling poverty levels. A 2003 conference organised by NEPAD (New Partnership for Africa’s Development) in South Africa strongly urged the promotion of cassava cultivation as a poverty eradication tool across the continent.
The recommendation is based on a strategy that focuses on markets, private sector participation and research to drive a pan_African cassava initiative. What was once a rural staple and famine_reserve food has become a lucrative cash crop!
The NEPAD initiative has strong relevance for Nigeria, the world’s largest cassava producer. With its large rural population and extensive farmlands, the country boasts unrivalled opportunities of transforming the humble cassava to an industrial raw material for both domestic and international markets.
There is a growing and well_justified belief that the crop can transform rural economies, spur rapid economic and industrial growth and assist disadvantaged communities. While production grew steadily between 1980 and 2002 from 10,000 MT to over 35,000 MT, there is scope for significant further increase by bringing more land under cassava cultivation.
Nigeria must take the lead not only in developing better production, harvesting and processing technologies, but also in finding new uses and markets for what is undoubtedly a wonder crop. Nigeria stands to make giant strides towards inclusive and sustainable development simply through the intelligent and judicious promotion of cassava farming.
The following are some of the most urgent requirements for a successful revolution in Nigerian agriculture:
“Active promotion and establishment of agro_based industries that generate employment, sustain local food requirements and encourage exports. “Effective steps to modernise and diversify the agricultural economy as a means of buttressing entrepreneurial growth in ancillary sectors.
“Institution of a tariff system that promotes local produce against cheaper imports, together with the removal of institutional barriers against agricultural profitability.
“Subsidies on technologically advanced farm equipment and practices that help boost productivity without any adverse ecological side effects.
“An umbrella poverty alleviation programme designed specifically to promote agrarian reforms while simultaneously improving the quality of life in rural communities.
“Enhanced access to agricultural enterprise loans through a network of regulated lending institutions sympathetic to farming realities.
“Adult education programmes designed to help Nigerian farmers upgrade to locally relevant but modern methods of cultivation, marketing and distribution.
“Encouragement of both public and private sector agricultural research aimed at correcting technological constraints faced by local farming communities.
If Nigeria’s agricultural potential is enormous, it is partly because more than 90% of its 91 million hectares of total land area is arable. While soil fertility is generally estimated on the lower side, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) predicts medium to high yields across the country with optimal utilisation of resources.
Combined with Nigeria’s substantial rural population traditionally involved in agriculture, this projection translates to gigantic prospects in terms of agricultural productivity and, by extension, economic resurgence.
For a nation emerging out of a troubled past and struggling to attain social, political and economic stability, the ideals of agricultural and entrepreneurial revolution hold vitally important. Because they are also inextricably linked in the Nigerian context, the country’s future position on the world economic stage depends literally on the bounty of its harvest.