Timothy Olanrewaju, Maiduguri
Farmers in Borno are calling for a review of the Federal Government’s Anchor Borrowers’ agricultural loan programme to ensure that its goal to encourage domestic food production is fulfilled.
An agro-allied entrepreneur and leading anchor implementing partner in Borno State, Alhaji Abba Kale, told Daily Sun in an interview in Maiduguri that the Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP) launched by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015 was a well-designed loan package for the agricultural sector to reduce food importation into Nigeria and outflow of foreign exchange. He, however, expressed concern that the vision of the programme was being threatened by official bottlenecks.
“The Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP) has brought succour to millions of Nigerians, with poor farmers being the greatest beneficiaries [added to the] large number of employment created. Unfortunately, the participating financial institutes (PFI) that started this business, Agricultural Bank Limited (BOA), through which banks loans are disbursed are now proving to be a likely stumbling blocks that will scuttle this good project,” Kale complained.
He urged the Federal Government to constitute “a strong team of competent and impartial” public officers to work with the project management team provided by the Federal Government for the speedy disbursement of the Anchor Borrowers loans to farmers.
He further suggested use of farmer’s land as collateral for loans and inclusion of traditional rulers in the project management team to identify and confirm genuine land owners in their domain.
Kale, founder of a leading anchor group, Kalef Ventures, appealed to the government to buy off excess food from farmers during harvest and store at the various silos, releasing them only during scarcity. He said this was necessary to ensure farmers are not discouraged due to low patronage of their products which often flood markets during harvest.
“This will undoubtedly provide a way forward for this programme since it will motivate both farmers and off-takers,” he said.
He commended the CBN Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele, for his efforts to ensure that the federal programme succeeds. He said the scheme was capable of addressing unemployment among thousands of youths especially in the northeast where a decade of insurgency has created poverty and robbed millions of their means of livelihoods.
“No production sector of the nation can employ youth pernnially like the agricultural sector because one doesn’t need a university degree or a college degree to become a successful farmers” he said.
Other farmers also appealed to the government to sustain the programme, noting that good policies in Nigeria were often marred by the problem of sustainability.