Millions of mobiles
Will cell phones “rebuild the broken walls of Nigeria’s agriculture and unlock wealth and opportunities”? That's the hope of Agriculture Minister Akinwunmi Adesina, who supports a project to arm farmers with mobile devices that can help create a centralized farmers database and a platform for knowledge-sharing.
Last month initial media reports said 10 million cell phones, estimated to cost 60 billion naira (about 75 million euro), would be purchased by the Nigerian government. A 26 January article by Vanguard softened the controversial statement, stating that Minister Adesina said the government would "distribute only two million phones to farmers this year".
According to a 7 February article by This Day Live, the minister said that 71 percent of 426,000 sampled farmers across 13 states did not have cell phones and that "many...in rural areas are quite poor and are excluded from the benefits of the mobile phone revolution going on in Nigeria".
RNW recently paid a visit to Myke Gbe, a farmer whose upped use of mobile technology brings him more clients, more information and the occasional unexpected visitor. Here's the second half of our two-part story (read part 1 here).
By King James Yiye, Makurdi
Amidst the quail, geese and ducks that normally reside on this farm in Benue State, another winged creature is visiting. Farmer Myke says it would have ended up “in a big black pot for Christmas” if he hadn't intervened. And if weren't for his Nokia E72 cell phone and Samsung Galaxy tablet computer, he might not have learned in time that the visitor was an osprey, which only eats fish.
“It was on a Sunday morning, the 23rd of December,” Farmer Myke recalls. “I was here on my farm and my mechanic called me… He saw some people with a bird, trying to sell it… It had a ring on it. Once I heard the word 'ring', I drove straight to the place.”
As it soon became clear, the auction item was an osprey, also known as a fish eagle. The bird was sick. It was being offered for 5,000 naira (about 30 US dollars). Straightaway Farmer Myke offered 6,000 naira, bringing the bidding to a close.
On the farm, the bird is kept in a cage. The ring, around its right foot, has an inscription reading: 'RETOUR Museum ZOOL Helsinki Finland, M-61683'.
“It hasn't started feeding itself – we feed it – but it came here very weak and almost dying,” Farmer Myke points out. “Yan a tsenda a tsenda ambi,” he adds, referring to the bird’s watery faeces.
But thanks to his mobile devices, he could find helpful information online. “I browsed [the internet] immediately and found out from the Embassy of Finland that it feeds exclusively on fish. Luckily, there’s a fish farm here,” he says. The embassy, in turn, put him in touch with the responsible ringing centre, located at the Finnish Museum of Natural History, which is affiliated with the University of Helsinki.
“They also asked me to make contact with the Nigeria Conservation Centre in Maiduguri,” he explains. “They've shown interest that I should help them...they will expect me to release it when it's fully recovered.”
“I thank God I have been able to revive the bird,” he says. “It was almost dying, now you can see it is alive. It couldn’t stand on its feet. Now it is walking around in the cage and...you can even see right now it’s attempting to escape...that means it is recovering.”
There’s no doubt: the cell phone has been a springboard, taking Farmer Myke to heights fellow farmers may not reach for years. In this case, handheld technology may also be responsible for letting an osprey soar on its intended mission.
Read part 1 of this story here.