By Usman Aliyu
ActionAid Nigeria, an NGO says the access of smallholder farmers to agriculture financing in Kwara since 1973 has been low.
ActionAid said this in a report which was presented to officials of the state Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources and the state Agricultural Development Project in Ilorin on Thursday.
Mr Abdurrahman Ayuba, a Senior Programme Officer, Centre for Community Empowerment and Poverty Eradication (CCEPE), who presented the report, said that the scorecard was a product of collaboration between the centre and various agricultural stakeholders.
He said that smallholder farmers were not involved in the development and implementation of the government-supported agricultural credit schemes.
Ayuba said that the assessment was carried out in states across the country to have data on the success of the various government-supported schemes among the smallholder farmers.
He said that the other states where the assessment was also carried out were Bauchi, Delta, Ebonyi, Gombe, Kogi and Ondo states as well as the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
He said that the aim of the report was not to condemn the government but to draw its attention to the gaps that were observed in the course of the exercise with regard to the implementation of the programmes.
Ayuba said that the report showed that smallholder farmers found it stressful to access credit facilities under national agricultural schemes in most states due to the difficulties encountered in the process.
He noted that farmers encountered such problems in spite of the fact that N98.2 billion loans were earmarked for smallholder farmers under the various activities of the Agricultural Credit Guarantee Scheme Fund (ACGSF) between 1978 and 2016.
He, however, noted that smallholder farmers in Gombe, Bauchi and Kogi states had access to more credit facilities than their counterparts in other states.
Ayuba said that the report said that the smallholder farmers largely financed their farming activities through personal funds rather than the funds set aside by the government.
He said that the report wondered how 90 per cent of farmers in the country faced difficulties in accessing credit facilities.
“Agriculture is the second largest contributor to Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) after oil, contributing about 23 per cent.
“It also employs 70 per cent of the labour force in the country,” he quoted the report as saying.
Ayuba said that the report affirmed that “smallholder farmers were only able to access 2.78 per cent of the total annual credit provided by deposit money banks between 2009 and 2013.’’
He said that the report, therefore, recommended that government should persuade and encourage the formal banking sector with favourable policies to direct their human and financial resources toward the provision of credit to smallholder farmers.
“Government should depoliticise and recapitalise agricultural lending institutions such as Bank of Agriculture and insist on performance-based approach of doing business.
“Government should also involve smallholder farmer organisations and civil society organisations in the development and implementation of government-supported agricultural credit initiatives.’’
Responding, Mr Adegoke Bamidele, the state Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources, said that the current state administration had always been engaging farmers in the planning processes of its agricultural credit schemes.
Bamidele, who was represented by Alhaji Ahmed Mohammed, Director of Agricultural Engineering and Services, said that the state government was committed at making farming more lucrative for the farmers. (NAN)