The National Association of Nigerian Traders (NANTS) has declared its plan to support 19,000 small-scale farmers across the country with micro-credit.
According to the NANTS President, Ken Ukaoha, the financial assistance given to the farmers was in fulfilment of her promise to continue giving support to her small scale rural farmers who lack economic opportunity usually caused principally by the lack of access to credit and formal financial services.
“Our small-scale farmers in the country are virtually stranded due to the absence of collateral, illiteracy, too high and unfriendly interest rate or other policy and documentation requirements, when it comes to accessing loans from financial institutions,” he said.
He explained that the beneficiaries of this year’s micro credit scheme where selected from the rural communities located in the three middle-belt States of Nasarawa, Plateau and Benue States including FCT, Abuja.
He said the choice of rural small scale farmer members who are currently over 19,000 across Nigeria was to ensure that such rural communities acquire financial access necessary to reduce extreme poverty which is most prevalent at such levels.
He also remarked that this phase of disbursement followed the 100 percent successful recovery of the immediate past small loans disbursed to these poor farmers in all states involved.
He believed that NANTS microcredit had remained a source of succour to many small scale farmers who could not access government loans or assistance adding that it was meant to improve their farms and increase their food production for the 2012 farming season.
He presented the various cheques to the executives and state network officers of NANTS farmers from the various States.
He explained that NANTS commenced the Microcredit programme in 2010 where small loans were given to her small-scale rural farmers with interest rates of 10 per cent for one year.
The 10 per cent interest was also given back to the communities to increase the number of and impact on beneficiaries as well as for monitoring and administrative purposes.
Ukaoha said it was interesting to note that these loans were revolving among the identified farming communities so as to reach already trained farmers in the waiting list.
He also disclosed that the second phase, which was disbursed in 2011 recorded a larger number of women beneficiaries and producers of crops such as rice, cassava, sorghum, maize, tomatoes, yam, and millets.
“The microfinance intervention scheme is one of the agric focused interventions of NANTS, which includes other packages such as regular review of agric related policies; grain banking to create market access for farmers; market information services; the provision of small scale agric technology like tractors, threshers, harvesters and water pumping machines.
It also caters for capacity building targeted at educating the small rural farmers on farm accounting, crop budgeting, input costing and management. These are empowerment strategies aimed at equipping the farmers to effectively utilise the micro credit administered by NANTS,” he informed.
In her remarks during the disbursement, the Nasarawa State Middle Belt Small Scale Farmers’ Network (NANTS Farmers, Network) President, Mrs Jumai Yohanna expressed displeasure over the Nigerian government’s passive attitude and attention to agric microcredit to rural farmers.
She noted that poor farmers were often excluded from the mainstream of many microfinance institutions and their products. The absence of small scale agricultural loans has impacted negatively on the agricultural productivity and expansion of small holders.
She regretted that despite the volume of funds credited by CBN and disbursed to commercial banks for onward transmission/lending to small scale rural farmers as well as huge grants from international organisations and donor agencies to governments for interventions targeted at rural agricultural financing, the small-scale farmers were still receiving the short end of the rope with regard to access to finance.