February 24, 2020, Abuja, Nigeria – Agriculture plays a key role in the development and growth of African economies, contributing to employment and food security. Even though agriculture accounts for an average of 24% of the continent’s GDP, there remains a lot of untapped agricultural potential that can be leveraged by increasing farming productivity.
To do so requires investment, but agricultural investment and agribusiness in Africa is a high-risk environment due to irregular rainfall, degraded soils, pests, water scarcity, and more.
The elimination of such risk across the agricultural value chain so as to foster more sustainable investment into the industry is a key mission objective of the Nigeria Incentive-based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) Plc.
NIRSAL has thus entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Microsoft to collaborate in the deployment of the Microsoft Azure FarmBeats platform to help Nigerian farmers become more productive, reduce costs, practice sustainable agriculture and achieve better agricultural outcomes.
The US$500 million non-bank financial institution, wholly-owned by the Central Bank of Nigeria, was established in 2013 to stimulate the flow of affordable finance and investments into the country’s agricultural sector by de-risking the agribusiness finance value chain, fixing agricultural value chains, building long-term capacity, and institutionalising incentives for agricultural lending through its five strategic pillars, namely: Risk Sharing, Insurance, Technical Assistance, Incentives and Rating.
By organising 4 million hectares (owned by 8 million farmers) into 16,000 NIRSAL AgroGeoCoops® of 250 hectares each, NIRSAL aims to remove barriers to better financing for farmers. This will also allow for easier and more affordable deployment of modern technology for AgroGeoCoops®.
NIRSAL has turned to Microsoft Azure FarmBeats as the perfect platform to enable Comprehensive Farm Monitoring which is critical to the NIRSAL Credit Risk Guarantee (CRG) to financiers and investors to minimise the risks associated with agriculture and agribusiness finance and investments.
Microsoft’s Azure FarmBeats is a purpose-built, agricultural cloud platform that enables the aggregation of agricultural data and generation of actionable insights into farm health and conditions, soil moisture, crop layout and farm population by harnessing the power of Artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, and Cloud technology.
Speaking on the collaboration, Aliyu Abdulhameed, NIRSAL’s Managing Director/CEO commented that “Agriculture remains the foundation of Nigeria’s economy and is the main source of livelihood for most Nigerians. Therefore, the sustainability and growth of the agricultural sector is crucial for the development of the country and its people. We are certain that Azure FarmBeats will be the tool that will help us to analyse the data being produced from these farms and all the possible ways we can use it to stabilise the agricultural value chain and boost the confidence of investors to eliminate barriers to the free flow of finance and investment to agribusiness in Nigeria.”
Also speaking at the signing ceremony was Akin Banuso, Country Manager, Microsoft Nigeria Limited, who said: “Microsoft is excited to be working with NIRSAL to promote precision agriculture in Nigeria by leveraging both the experience and field structure established by NIRSAL to transform the agricultural space in the country and empower those who work within it by using Microsoft’s purpose-built, industry-specific cloud platform FarmBeats to drive innovation in the industry”.
Agriculture is one of the longest-standing practices in the world, and yet it remains unpredictable. Farmers use their instincts and experience to know when to plant crops, how much and where, but external and uncontrollable factors can impact the productivity and profitability of farms. This, in turn, can affect a farm’s viability and accessibility to funding and investment.
With this partnership, NIRSAL is now able to help farmers analyse weather conditions, temperature, water conditions and so much more in real-time to inform better decision-making to optimise agricultural output and therefore lessen the risks to investors and attract more funding in Nigeria.