Nigeria’s agriculture sector has performed creditably in the out-going year, enhancing the capacity of farmers and mitigating the effect of flood disaster that ravaged many states across the country, according to Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Akinwumi Adeshina.

The private Guardian newspaper reported Wednesday that the minister described the Growth Enhancement Support Scheme (GES) introduced in the outgoing year by the ministry and some other innovations as the saving grace for the sector.

“But for the GES, Nigeria would have seriously felt the impact of the flood disaster that occurred in some parts of the country,” the minister said in what appears to be a review of the activities of the ministry during the year.

GES was set up as an intervention measure to break away from the past ineptitude, ineffective and corruption-ridden distribution of fertilisers and other government subsidised inputs to farmers.

The scheme was introduced principally to deliver government-subsidised inputs directly to farmers, using their GSM telephone sets. It kicked off on 9 May in the South-West Ekiti State.

Under GES, government withdrew from direct fertiliser purchase and distribution, and introduced an alternative efficient system of distribution built on the voucher system.

With the scheme, registered farmers receive e-wallet vouchers with which they redeem fertiliser and seeds from agro-dealers.

Before the scheme, only 11 per cent of fertilisers purchased and distributed by government got to genuine farmers.

Government fertilizers found its way to the black markets and other countries, while farmers who are supposed to be the beneficiaries, are left to wallow in abject poverty.

But many critics said the scheme has largely cut off the farmers who are mostly rural based, illiterates and find it difficult to operate the phones.

But the minister disagreed with such critics.

“It is not true to say our people in the rural areas cannot use mobile phones to redeem seeds and fertilizers. The same people use the phones to ask their relatives in the cities to send money to them. They recharge credits on their phones,” the minister said.

As at 6 December 2012, about 1,585,980 farmers shown up at operational redemption sites in the 35 states and the Federal Capital Territory for the 2012 GES season.

About 1,113,685 farmers have received their farm inputs – government-subsidised fertilizers and free seedlings – so far.