Gombe State farmers have erected a pyramid of grains as they repaid loans from the Anchor Borrowers Programme under the platform of the North-East Commodity Association.
The programme which accepts loan repayments through bags of grains, equivalent to the amount collected has begun with four categories of grains, Sorghum, maize, Soya Beans and cotton, to the off-takers.
This is seen as the benefits intended essentially by the Central Bank of Nigeria, with the introduction of the Anchor Borrowers Programme, by the Muhammadu Buhari led Government in 2015. It is aimed at giving small scale farmers access to loans, high breed seeds and other incentives to increase yield and at the same time get ready buyers for their produce.
Nigeria's Central Bank's Director of Development, Mr. Mudashiru Olaitan who was represented by Mr. Edwin Nzelu,said at the official flag-off of the recovery and handing over of four categories of grains to off-takers, that 'the introduction of the Programme had produced increase in production and loan repayments.
Such loans are accessed through commodity association, which access the loan through the Agricultural Development Bank and also guarantees the implementation of the loan through the services of extension workers, who train the farmers on how best to make use of their farm inputs for increase yield.
However, in repaying the loan, farmers will not pay back in cash, but in bags of grains produced by them with the price determined in value by the commodity association and the company buying off the produce.
The number of bags is also determined by the amount of loan collected and repaid based on the market value.
According to Mr. Nzelu, before the introduction of the Anchor Borrowers Programme, various other interventions by the bank strictly concentrated on increasing production.
He said in 2002, the scope of interventions expanded and began focusing on the financing of Small and Medium Enterprises, with all the value chain in agriculture sponsored.
Mr. Nzelu said in the past, rice millers were not having enough paddies to mill, operating at about 30% capacity. But that now, rice milling production had increased to between 70 to 80% capacity utilisation.
With the success story coming from Gombe State on the loan repayment, Mr. Nzelu said the commitment and sincerity demonstrated by the farmers, called for increase the number of Small Holder farmers in Gombe.
We commend you and we will be with you, we will work with you in the recovery of the balance of the 50% and also work with you to increase the number. It is more like an experimental number, 21, 000 something farmers benefitting. And here we are, with this quantity of recovery, in just two weeks. So, by the time the season is far gone, we will recover all that is invested, just 8.9 billion. And our target is to double it or to triple it. I will take this home, we have taken pictures of this, we'll take this to them and we will tell them what we have seen and I assure you that we will continue to support you, Mr. Nzelu said.
The National Chairman of the North-East Commodity Association, Alhaji Sadiq Deware said farmers in the North-East were now very happy, especially those in Gombe State, who have shown the commitment to repay 40% of the loans received.
According to Alhaji Daware, there can never be a better time for a small holder farmer in a North-Eastern village than now, where he does not know anybody, but is empowered to produce more and make a better living.
Despite that, our farmers have received these loans and are paying back. Take note, sometimes, at the peak of Boko Haram, villages in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States ran for their dear lives. They left their farms, they left their produce, they left their animals, they left their loved ones, they ran for their dear lives, they left with virtually nothing. And now that we have relative peace, these people are back, but with nothing, not even with a single grain to sow as a seed on farms. But with this programme by the North-East Commodity Association, a lot of farmers are happy. They are recouping and getting back life as normal, Alhaji Deware said.
The Chairman of the Gombe State North-East Commodity Association, Alhaji Ahmed Dukku, over 8, 000 farmers were benefitting from the Anchor Borrowers Programme in the state.
Farmers have appreciated the efforts of the Nigerian Government that is why we are willingly bringing back the loan and repayments through this produce you are seeing. This pyramid you are seeing and all the stores behind us here are filled to the brim with produce that have been collected from farmers that have benefitted from the Anchor Borrowers Programme, through NECAS. As you can see, people are employed, aggregating and preparing all the produce for handing over to our off-taker. The products you seeing before us here, is what we received just this morning. On daily basis, we receive nothing less than 600 to 700 bags from farmers across the 11 local government areas of Gombe State. Alhaji Dukku said.
Some of the Beneficiaries, Mrs. Gladys Garba and Mohammed Al-Amin said they were very grateful to the Nigerian Government for the opportunity to secure the loan and empower themselves now.
It's awesome. I don't even know how to describe it. It has never happened before. It's not as if there was no government programmes of such for farmers, but we have never seen the one that has come down to the grassroots, where people of nobody, you don't have to lobby, you don't have to know anybody, you can just go and get it, Mrs. Garba said.
According to Mr. Al-Amin, We have been encouraged by NECAS. They have encouraged us and we have done what we really want, because we did not have the real capital. And if there is any assistance rendered for a farmer like this, I think the country will move forward, more especially in discouraging the importation of food items.
In case of risks after securing the loan, the Central Bank then involved the Nigerian Agricultural Insurance Company, to minimise the losses of farmers, who insured their farms.
The Central Bank Director of Development Finance, who was represented by Mr. Edwin Ezekiel Nzelu, said if the farmers kept pace with programme like now, the sky would be the limit and the issue of hunger would be eliminated in Nigeria.
Source: Voice of Nigeria