Uche Usim, Abuja
Hopes of Nigeria attaining food sufficiency in the nearest future brightened, on Wednesday, as the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has partnered with Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN) to empower 12.2 million farmers under the fully digitalised second phase of the Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP).
The apex bank, which disclosed that N55 billion had so far been expended on the scheme, also revealed that the nation’s foreign reserves has hit $42.8 billion, attributing it to the remarkable reduction in demand for foreign exchange to import rice and other foods now produced locally.
The CBN also said it would partner with other commodity associations like maize, cassava, millet, sorghum and other staple foods farmers to provide employment, reduce food import, boost export and earn foreign exchange.
Speaking, in Abuja, Wednesday, at a meeting with officials of RIFAN to herald the 2018 farming season, Special Assistant to the CBN Governor on Agriculture and Development Finance, Tunde Akande, said the partnership with RIFAN remained key, adding that it has helped digitalise loan process for smallholder farmers.
He added that the collaboration has also helped in monitoring farmers closely and ensuring they get inputs, extension services and other incentives needed to achieve bumper harvests.
According to Akande, “The ABP started in November 2015. Under two years, we decided to upscale it. We’ve decided to collaborate with RIFAN but we’ll also partner with maize, cassava, sorghum, etc, using commodities associations.
“They have structures at all levels. We want to provide mentoring, extension services, etc to farmers through them. We can now provide tractorization and all that.
“It’s about the loan being well utilized. There is a guaranteed market for farmers under this programmme. We’ve deployed seamless technologies to them. We’ve taken their biometrics and we have their contacts. Days of taking loans and inputs without accounting for them are over. In no distant time, we will attain food sufficiency and even export to earn foreign exchange”, he explained.
Akande also disclosed that under the ABP, all loans given to farmers are mandatorily insured by the Nigeria Agricultural Insurance Corporation (NAIC).
He added that each farmer got N250,000 to cultivate one hectare of land for the dry season farming.
In his remarks at the event, President of RIFAN, Alhaji Aminu Goronyo, hailed President Muhammadu Buhari for launching the ABP in 2015, describing it as ‘a huge success’.
Goronyo also revealed that about five million farmers are to cultivate 200,000 hectares of land for rice.
“For two years, the ABP worked successfully as CBN/State governments’ programme. Now, it has graduated from government-government collaboration to government-private sector collaboration. We launched the pilot scheme in Gwagwalada, Abuja on Tuesday. Other states have launched today (Wednesday).It is tagged the RIFAN-CBN model.
“This collaboration is to put Nigeria on right track in agribusiness. Before 2015, it was operating on an analogue model, thus making monitoring and compliance very challenging. So, all that was done in agriculture was not properly recorded.
“But with this, we’ve 500,000 farmers under this season’s farming. From this figure, we’ve 200,000 farmers for the dry season.
“With this new digitalised programme, I can, from my phone, reach all the farmers. It’s a global innovation. Farmers are now accessible, verifiable and the entire process reliable. Anyone coming to do business with us can access us and work with reliable data”, he explained.
Goronyo added that RIFAN has national working committees and six zonal offices and heads at both local government and ward levels.
He also disclosed that 32 states are currently onboard the ABP, revealing that Benue, Nassarawa, Enugu and Cross River States could not join this year’s farming season as could not tidy up their application and documentation before the deadline elapsed.
“They couldn’t meet the time for applications and all. So, we’ve deffered their participation till next wet season”, he added.