The Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP) is one of the celebrated successes of this administration. Many believe it has boosted food production and self-sufficiency. The programme focuses mainly on the production of grains, which the country hitherto spent billions to import. It was launched by President Muhammadu Buhari on November 17, 2015, in Kebbi State and is intended to create a linkage between processors (anchors) and smallholder farmers on the required key agricultural commodities. Designed by the Central Bank of Nigeria, ABP comes in form of loans to help farmers produce more and repay from the proceeds of the farm.
Thousands of smallholder farmers across many states have benefited, which led to increase in the production of some crops like rice and maize. But it has a huge challenge over repayment. Many farmers defaulted in the loan repayment, forcing officials of the programme to set a new guideline for benefitting from the programme. The new rule says that farmers have to deposit 20% equity contribution of the value of the loan before taking delivery of the inputs. This new approach has left many farmers wondering as many of them believe it is no longer meant for the poor farmers. Farmers, who have between half-a-hectare and one hectare, are required under the new rule to deposit an equity contribution in the sum equivalence to 20% of the total value of the loan before the inputs are delivered to them.
An official of the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN) said it was designed to make it easy for repayment in order to make the programme sustainable because many farmers took it as a government gift. Meanwhile, many of the farmers in Nasarawa State who spoke on the new development express the feeling they were been surcharged because they were not given such information at the registration stage. Farmers, who spoke with the reporter in Lafia, Doma, Obi, Kokona, Keffi, and Toto local government areas of the state, expressed anger and dismay with the new requirement, pointing that the 20% required was beyond the rural farmers who have long been waiting for such intervention.
Isma’il Musa Jafar told our reporter that he was shocked when he was asked to pay N45,000 before the input will be given to him. “If I have N45,000, I will rather take it to the farm than give it to take a loan. How many smallholder farmers even have that money,” he asked. He said with the new requirements, many farmers who have been successfully registered and enlisted would not avail themselves to collect their inputs. Abubakar Sadiq, who is the leader of one of the farmers’ cooperatives in Obi Local Government Area, said many farmers do not understand why a programme meant to benefit the poor will require such a huge amount as deposit. He said he, along with other members of the cooperative, will not pay the required 20%. He said they consider the time and the N3,000 for registration and account opening with bank as wasted effort and money. For Ibrahim Fulani in Agwada in Kokona LG, he described the new requirement as a fraud. “This is no longer for poor rural farmers. They never told us that something like this will be done in the beginning. After going here and there and getting people to register, you said they should pay N23,000 for those that did data capture and N45,000 for those who did not do data capture. Where are we going to get this money from? No member of my cooperative will pay this money,” he said.
Farmers like Ibn Usman, Waziri Sabon Gida, Danjuma Babankaki in Keffi and a host of others in Umasha in Toto, also see this new development as a fraud, adding that if they had known that earlier they wouldn’t have spent N3,000 for registration. Similarly in Doma, the farmers are fuming and complaining. Alhaji Sabo and other farmers think it is unfair coming up with the new demand after sapping the farmers during the registration process and months of waiting for the inputs that came far behind schedule. Malam Abdulkarim Muhammad Abdullahi, a rural empowerment advocate and former Director, NTA Kaduna and Rector TV College Jos, said though the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme was a noble initiative, the architectural delivery mechanism which he thinks skewed the real poor farmers, was faulty. The former TV College rector suggested a total overhaul of the programme to benefit the farmers who, he said, voted massively for President Buhari. However, the National President of RIFAN, Alhaji Aminu Goronyo, said the programme learnt so much in the last two years of implementation where the repayment rate was not very encouraging, adding that the introduction of the 20% equity contribution was to ensure repayment and sustainability.
“So part of the new policy is that whoever is interested to participate must pay 20% equity contribution that will be deposited in his own RIFAN farmer’s account so that when it’s time to repay the loan, already the farmer has 20% as repayment so that he will just go and make effort to add maybe 10% or 15% to what he has already as equity contribution. “It is a national policy from the national office for the farmers’ good because we want the programme to be sustainable. “We realized that what the farmer thinks is that the government is giving these inputs and its free because they are used to that political free gift, so whatever the farmer collects now, he thought is the same scenario, approach or business as usual and that is why we quickly said let us rescue this programme and help this country,” he said. Alhaji Goronyo further stated that “in Kano, 98% of farmers have paid, in Katsina, about 60%, in Kaduna 85% have paid, in Enugu about 60% have paid and other places like Sokoto, Kebbi, Zamfara are complying, but for Nasarawa they are close to Abuja and so they thought they would raise alarm and it would work.” He said virtually in all the states across the federation, except Nasarawa, farmers are happy and paying because they are not paying to RIFAN or CBN but it belongs to them, stressing that it was designed to make repayment easy for them.
SOURCE: DAILY TRUST