One way to ameliorate the plight of smallholder farmers and ensure that fertilizers and seeds get to them on their farms in the rural area is through the use of scratch cards.
The use of the scratch cards facilitates incremental payments towards the future receipt of agricultural inputs like seeds and fertilizers. Since farmers already know how to use their mobile phones and SMS, they can purchase a scratch card from a local operator not far from where they live.
According to myAgro, an award-winning social enterprise working in Mali and Senegal with the mission to help small-scale farmers move out of poverty, the advantages of the scratch cards include transparency.
Analysts at myAgro say unlike the mobile money platforms, which often feature complicated fee structure, scratch cards make it clear to the farmer that the value of the cards purchased corresponds to the amount needed for payment, while farmers can keep the card as evidence.
However, the scratch cards system, a form of Digital Financial Service (DFS)- which primary objective is to allow farmers access to banks, micro-finance institutions and other financial institutions- has some inherent shortfalls such as how to use mobile technology and in some cases, trust.
Policy makers Nigeria, however, should tap into this model (scratch cards) as farmers keep large sums of money at home, ignorant of the risk associated with theft and the temptations to spend on impulse. Rural dwellers are not used to having their funds banked compared with those that live in the cities.
Government can collaborate with telecom service providers like the MTN, Glo and Etisalat on these projects. It should be noted that how to move financial services to farmers in the rural areas have buffeted, bedeviled and blighted the Nigerian government.
According to the World Bank, an estimated 500 million smallholder farming families-representing more than 2 billion people rely on varying degrees on agricultural production for their livelihoods.