1.1 Background Information
The Nigerian economy has been strongly dependent on agriculture for many years, before the discovery of oil in 1956. Agricultural enterprises such as cocoa, groundnut, oil palm and cotton production accounted for a large chunk of foreign exchange earnings in Nigeria. The south-western zone of the country was renowned mainly for its cocoa production and the South East together with South-South zones were renowned for oil palm production, while the Northern part of the country was renowned for its groundnut and cotton production. Nigeria was also one of the largest exporters of oil palm and cocoa until the discovery of crude oil, which resulted in the partial neglect of the agricultural sector. Even with the decline in output, the sector has continued to contribute about 40% to Nigeria’s GDP.(Nigeria Economic Outlook Report 2010-2011 period, in National Bureau of Statistic (NBS), 2012).
Agriculture is predominantly practised in the rural areas of the country. Most farmers in those areas could not embark on mechanized agriculture because of the high rate of poverty that is prevalent in those areas coupled with the land tenure system still being practised in most places; hence, the need for farmers in rural areas to have access to farm inputs such as fertilisers in order to ensure that soil fertility is maintained. Resources required to enhance high agricultural productivity are the provision of seeds and information on best farming practice. In view of this, in July 2012 the Federal Government of Nigeria introduced the Growth Enhancement Support (GES) scheme and this was designed to deliver government subsidised farm inputs directly to farmers via GSM phones. The GES scheme, according to Adesina (2012), is powered by e-Wallet, an electronic distribution channel, which provides an efficient and transparent system for the purchase and distribution of agricultural inputs based on a voucher system. The scheme guarantees registered farmers e-Wallet vouchers with which they can collect fertilisers, seeds and other agricultural inputs from agro-dealers at half the cost, the other half being borne by the federal government and state government in equal proportions. As part of the GES Scheme, the federal ministry of agriculture announced that the ministry would equip millions of farmers in the rural areas with mobile phones (Adesina, 2013). Adesina (2013) further stressed that the project would link farmers directly to government and vice-versa so that Government would be able to monitor the progress of farmers as well as disseminate valuable information to them.
According to Cross River State Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources (2012), the GES scheme is one of the many critical components of the federal government’s Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA). It was designed for the specific purpose of providing affordable agricultural inputs like fertilizers and hybrid seeds to farmers in order to increase yields per hectare and make them comparable to world standard. GES scheme which is an innovative scheme seeks to remove the difficulties usually associated with the distribution of fertilizer and hybrid seeds in the country, as in the past farmers complained of diversion, exorbitant cost and adulteration of various inputs which had ultimately led to low productivity, increased poverty, unemployment and lack of interest in farming.
The scheme, according to the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMRD) (2012), represents a policy and pragmatic shift within the existing fertilizer market stabilization programme and puts the resource- constrained farmer at the centre through the provision of series of incentives to encourage the critical actors in the fertilizer value chain to work together to improve productivity, household food security and income of the farmer. According to Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMRD) (2012), the goals of GES include to:
- target 5 million farmers in each year for four (4) years that will receive GES in their mobile phones directly, totalling 20 million at the end of the 4 years;
- provide support directly to farmers to enable them procure agricultural inputs at affordable prices and at the right time and place,
- increase productivity of farmers across the length and breadth of the country through increased use of fertilizer i.e. 50kg/ha from 13kg/ha; and
- change the role of Government from direct procurement and distribution of fertilizer to a facilitator of procurement, regulator of fertilizer quality and catalyst of active private sector participation in the fertilizer value chain.
The scheme’s approach is to target beneficiaries through the use of electronic system, and by encouraging the engagement of the private sector in the distribution and delivery of fertilizers and other critical inputs directly to farmers. The objectives of the GES scheme include to : (a) provide affordable agricultural inputs like fertilizer, hybrid seeds and agro-chemicals to farmers; (b) remove the usual complexities associated with fertilizer distribution; (c) encourage critical actors in the fertilizer value chain to work together to improve productivity; (d) enhance farmers’ income and promote food security; and (e) shifting the provision of subsidized fertilizer away from a general public to only identified genuine small holder farmers (FMARD, 2012).
In various states of the country, the programme commenced in July 2012 after the farmers were sensitized and registered prior to the commencement of the scheme. Thirty five states of the country had already keyed into the programme for implementation except Zamfara had already keyed into the programme with various farm inputs being redeemed to registered farmers at designated redemption centres (FMARD, 2013).
1.2 Problem statement
The introduction of Growth Enhancement Support (GES) scheme was received with scepticism among Nigerians considering all that led to the failure of past agricultural development policies. In Nigeria, many agricultural development programmes were introduced with the hope that such will address problems being faced by farmers in agricultural production. A good example of such was the introduction of Agricultural Development Projects (ADPs) which, apart from its mandate of carrying out extension activities, was also saddled with the responsibility of making farm inputs available to farmers in order to boost their food production in the country. The programme was seen not to have met the farmers’ needs since such initiative did not translate into meaningful agricultural transformation (Ademola, 2011). For the reasons stated above, many have lost confidence in any of the government agricultural developmental policies.
From the stated goals and objectives of the GES scheme, it is quite clear that the idea behind the introduction of the scheme are lofty and commendable but the question is whether the process of implementation will be effective enough to achieve the set goals and objectives? For instance, a survey carried out in some states by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) (2012) showed that 71% of sampled farmers in the rural areas did not have a mobile phone which, in effect, excludes them from the benefit of the GES” eWallet platform.
It is then of importance to explain how the scheme has been implemented in Kogi State and the general perception of farmers towards the implementation process of the scheme. It is against this background that this study sought to answer these pertinent questions: What are the farmers’ perception of the GES schemes’? What’ are the farmers’ knowledge level on the scheme activities? What are the sources of information on the schemes’ activities? What is the level of satisfaction on the schemes’ implementation process? What are the perceived constraints to effective implementation of the scheme? and What are the perceived strategies for effective implementation of the scheme in Kogi State?
1.3 Purpose of the study
The overall purpose of the study was to determine the farmers’ perception of Growth Enhancement Support (GES) scheme in Kogi State. Specifically, the study sought to:
- ascertain farmers’ perception of the schemes’ effectiveness
- determine level of farmers’ knowledge of the activities of GES scheme in Kogi State;
- identify farmers’ major sources of information on the GES scheme activities;
- determine farmers’ level of satisfaction in the implementation of the scheme;
- determine perceived constraints to effective implementation of the GES scheme and
- determine the strategies for effective implementation of the programme.
- The socio-economic and institutional characteristics of rural farmers have no significant influence on their knowledge level of the GES scheme.
1.5 Significance of the study
The Growth Enhancement Support (GES) scheme is a Governments’ agricultural development intervention aimed at boosting agricultural production in the country. The aim of the scheme can only be achieved when the government at various levels key into the scheme for implementation with the participation of genuine practising farmers. It is therefore, hoped that the findings of the study will be of immense benefits to the government as it will help in identifying areas of constraints during the implementation process in order to make adequate effort that will enhance its effective implementation and to the farmers, as such will create in them confidence that GES scheme, if properly implemented will lead to higher agricultural production in the country.
Finally, the findings and recommendations of this research work will be of benefit to the government in policy formulation and a source of information to future researchers as this will enable them assess the effectiveness of similar projects in any part of the country. In the same vein, the findings could as well be published in journals and in that way help future researchers.