NIRSAL disburses N105bn to farmers

The Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending has provided funds amounting to N105bn to support different agricultural sectors in the country.

The agency, in a statement on Wednesday, said the beneficiaries of the funds were selected from the pre-upstream, upstream, midstream and downstream segments of the agricultural value chain in in the country.

According to NIRSAL, investment of the funds has led to the creation of over 400,000 jobs and impacted two million lives positively.

The statement said NIRSAL Agro Geo-Cooperative facilitated the financing by creating 16,000 agro geo-cooperatives made up of eight million farmers cultivating four million hectares of farmland.

NIRSAL explained that over 52 agro geo-cooperatives covering over 270,000 hectares of land had benefitted from the process through the Central Bank of Nigeria’s Anchor Borrowers’ Programme.

The agency said, “This agriculture funding has started to bear results as North-Central farmers are poised to smile to the banks with expected profits, high yields and improved livelihood in the 2020 wet season.

“Rice, maize, cassava, sesame and soybean farmers in Nasarawa, Niger, Kogi and Benue and the Federal Capital Territory will record financial and harvest gains, following NIRSAL’s support for their 2020 wet season farming activities under the ABP.”

NIRSAL said that farmers in the Federal Capital Territory were structured into 16 established agro geo-cooperatives, 12 of which were included in the ABP for wet season 2020.

It added, “NIRSAL has also linked the 926 FCT farmers cultivating 1,140 hectares of land with guaranteed off-take markets thereby protecting them from price fluctuations and the exploitative tendencies of some middlemen.

“Other forms of support that guarantee bumper harvest and financial gains for the farmers, include the provision of fertilizer, crop protection products and round-the-clock technology-driven project monitoring services.”

It said some farmers in Dobi area of the FCT had received further support for their on-going farming activities.

The Head of the agency’s Project Monitoring, Reporting and Remediation Office in the FCT, Mr Ayo Olaleye, reiterated the Federal Government’s and the CBN’s unwavering commitment to the development of the agriculture sector.

Olaleye told the farmers that NIRSAL would continue to prioritise farmers’ needs, not just in the implementation of the CBN’s ABP, but also in the development and delivery of frameworks that would further open the banking sector to agriculture, with the agro geo-cooperative model being one of them.


Adama J. Adama: Agriculture will create more jobs for Nigerians than oil and gas sector

Although Nigerians have heard a lot about the merit of agriculture since the time of Operation Feed the Nation and The Green Revolution, the message seems to have been lost on them simply because politicians, policymakers and various governments in the country had paid lip service to agriculture since the late 1970s. With the country’s disproportionate reliance on the petro-dollar economy, agriculture was relegated to the background, leading to the abandonment of farming, a scramble for white colour jobs and rural-urban migration.

In recent years, the decline of crude oil revenue had piled pressure on oil-dependent countries to consider diversifying their economies and to come up with a viable alternative. Adama J Adama, CEO of two revolutionary agribusiness initiatives, and, has provided evidence that agriculture business can clearly become Nigeria’s mainstay and if taken seriously by government and individuals can usher in an era of unprecedented prosperity that surpasses the oil booms.

With just two month into after its official unveiling, Viable X has proven its creator and investors right that agriculture is a feasible business and a reasonable way of empowering members of the society. The growing number of registered members on the platform and the phenomenal volume of the transactions recorded so far speak volume about the impact the platform is making in Nigeria’s agriculture and insights to the long-term gains accruable to the country, farmers and the agribusiness community.

The positive response and the results are further reinforcements on the feasibility of agribusiness in a world turned upside down by the coronavirus pandemic.

A viable approach to Agribusiness floated specifically for farmers, traders, agripreneurs and agro-allied investors, the National Export Promotion Council (NEPC)-licensed Viable X platform offers farmers instant loan, serves as a virtual marketplace for trading in farm produce and facilitates export financing for commodity.

The platform safeguards investors’ fund with goods-in-transit and marine insurance policies from Leadway Assurance and so far.

With the track records of fu investment dividends to Farm4Me Investors, 50% return on investment (ROI) in four months is a bankable promise for Viable X Export Financing Investors.

In a country where agriculture has been neglected and downgraded to the preoccupation of the rural poor, providing collateral-free loans, ranging from N50, 000 to N200, 000 for smallholder farmers, has been an innovative approach to turning around the fortune of agriculture and those working in the sector in Nigeria. “All that is required is three guarantors and credit history verification from credit bureau, and a loan is granted and extendable by repayment,” reveals Adama J. Adama, Viable X’s CEO.

Adama has been an initiator of game-changing agriculture initiatives since the debut of his first initiative Farm4Me, a Nigerian premium agribusiness outfit that successfully pioneered contract farming in Nigeria since 2019 till date.

Of the viability of Viable X, he avows, “the platform was created to change the face of agribusiness in Nigeria.”

The level of patronage, he reveals, has been very encouraging, an assertion backed up by encouraging figures: over 6, 000 members enrolled on the platform in less than two months, and the volume of transactions on the platform exceeding N100 Million, with export financing attracting the highest patronage.

Viable X’s goal of attracting 100,000 registered members by December 2020 is not farfetched in view of the success recorded in its first few weeks.

“Our passion is to raise 1000 commodity trading millionaires in 2025. We are committed to keeping our promise and therefore ready to go the extra miles to satisfy our members,” Adama reiterates his objectives of raising millionaires on the platform.

“We will not rest on our oars. We will continue to make giant strides, raising more millionaires,” he adds.

Viable X at inception was touted as an initiative with capabilities to boost job creation and foster economic empowerment through innovative agribusiness approaches.

The prospects have materialized with the provision of soft loans and creating a viable platform that helps farmers to market their products with ease.

Riding on the success of Farm4Me, Viable X is the second innovative approach to agricultural business pioneered by Adama. The first was his boundary-pushing Farm4Me platform which specialises in contract farming for interested clients.

“It is simply about contracting a farmer to farm for you and deliver a specified quantity of farm produce to a specified location on a specified date, or sell the produce and pay the client in cash” explained Adama, who took the pain to distinguish contract farming from crowd farming which is simply the pooling of funds to sponsor a farming project and sharing of the profit by the fundraisers.

Explaining the dynamics of Farm4Me, hailed as first-of-its kind in Nigeria, Adama said:  “Potential clients who signs up on the website receives a breakdown of the cost, projected yield and profit document that enable them to make a decision on the crop and the hectares of land.”

He continued: “After, Farm4Me is notified, the service agreement is sent to the potential client to study carefully, sign and send back. We sign our part of the service agreement and send the final copy to the potential Client. Once the contract has been activated, invoice is generated and sent to the potential client. Once we are notified about payment, work begins immediately on the farming project. On a milestone basis, the client is informed on the progress of the farm.”

Again, as it is with Viable X, investors in Farm4Me are also protected against loss by Leadway Assurance which insures the farms to minimise risk. In the instance of a yield below the invested capital, for example, Farm4Me undertakes to refund the client’s capital, thereby providing an insulation that shields the client from the risks associated with farming, Adams explains.

The client can take advantage of other services offered by the agribusiness firm. Farm4Me can, for instance, help the client to sell the farm produce at the prevailing market price (if he so wishes) and credit the client’s bank account or harvest and ship the produce to the client’s doorstep on an agreed date.

Like Viable X, Farm4Me also attracted a lot of interest. “We receive on the average 15 sign-ups every day,” Adams confirmed.

He added: “We have a good number of clients that have paid us to farm for them.”

The economic impact of this revolutionary approach to farming has been immediate and obvious.

Within its first nine months, Farm4Me created economic opportunities for a vast number of people including landowners, tractor operators, vulnerable women and youths who engage in farm labour as well as farm input suppliers.

With at least, 20, 000 people working directly and indirectly with Farm4Me, the opportunities evolving from its operations tallies with its CEO’s vision to build a Nigerian multibillion-dollar agribusiness company with tangible social impact.

Brighter days ahead

Given the dynamics of its first few months of operation, the exploits of the Viable X platform has further attested to the merit of salvaging Nigeria’s fortune by diversifying the country economy include significant investment in agriculture by Nigerians.

According to Viable X’s CEO: ” Agriculture is a money-spinner. We are exploring innovative ways to make it attractive to Nigerians, especially, graduates.”

Adama further avowed: “By 2030, Nigerians will now see beyond Oil and Gas and see agriculture as a viable alternative through our success story.”


Entrenching cassava mechanisation initiatives for higher yield

Nigeria is rated the largest producer of cassava in the world when its farmers are harvesting fewer than 10 tonnes per hectare with numerous challenges, including the myth that cassava farms do not require fertilizer, as the chemical will contaminate the crop, and the belief that cassava does well with minimum rain and minimum weeding.

Apart from being the largest producer, Nigeria is acknowledged globally as the country that consumes cassava the most. While other countries of the world use cassava as animal feeds, ethanol, starch and other industrial products, here in Nigeria, it is one of the staples eaten the most daily.

Nigeria has explored using High Quality Cassava Flour as a substitute in the wheat flour confectionaries, and master bakers experimented with about 20 per cent of cassava flour addition in bread baking, prompting a move to deepen industrialization of the product to reduce forex on wheat importation.

Despite these realities and potential, production cost is very high and productivity per hectare is still very low, necessitating adoption and maximisation of farm mechanisation, which is capable of resolving the twin challenges.

In 2013, the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) introduced one of its programmes, Cassava Mechanisation and Agro-processing in Nigeria (CAMAP). The programme was started in the South-Western states of Oyo, Osun, Ogun and Ondo, as well as the North Central’s Kwara, with an initial number of about 2,000 farmers.

The CAMAP initiative is working towards revitalising the cassava industry through mechanised production and post-harvest handlings along the value chain. The project aims to improve cassava productivity through increasing the operational efficiency and improving market linkages for smallholder farmers. With this approach, the project is enhancing food security, improved incomes and means of livelihood for farmers, processors and marketers in the cassava sector.

It will be recalled that the government-initiated mechanization scheme launched in 2014 by the former Minister of Agriculture, Dr Akinwumi Adesina, in Zamfara State, has not recorded much progress funds and sustainability have become stumbling blocks to the initiative. Hence, stakeholders believe that the private sector-led initiatives in farm mechanization and value chain development are the wands that could make great impact on the sector.

In four countries, Nigeria, Uganda, Zambia and Tanzania, CAMAP also promotes good agronomic practices, encouraging farmers to use improved stem varieties, fertilisers and herbicides, and ensure timely farm operations.

Since its launch in 2013, the project has increased the efficiency and timeliness of operations, the key results being about 200% increase in yields, about 100% increase in incomes, improved quality of life and attraction of more women and youths into cassava farming as a business.

Mechanisation has increased the efficiency and timeliness of operations and this has attracted women and youths into cassava farming who are now trained in farming as a business.

Impact of National Centre for Agricultural Mechanisation
One of the principal partners of the programme in Nigeria is the National Centre for Agricultural Mechanisation (NCAM) in Ilorin, Kwara State. 

With its mission of accelerating mechanization in agriculture in Nigeria, NCAM became the chief technical driver of the project, ensuring that imported machineries followed the nation’s technology transfer rules.

While reiterating the importance of mechanization to productivity and food security, Mr Faleye Tope, a chief agricultural engineer with the centre, said: “We have never seen anything like the facilities AATF brought into the country for the project. For us, it was an eye opener seeing a machine that can plant cassava and harvest it.

“Following the mandate of our centre, we were able to study one of the machines, dismantled it, opened it up and reproduced it using available materials. We and AATF were able to train over 100 operators for the various equipment, as well as farmers on what was expected of them.”


FG Inaugurates Smallholder Farmers’ Programme

The federal government has launched the Agriculture for Food and Job Plan (AFJP) programme targeted at about 1,100,000 smallholder farmers across the country.

AFJP is expected to create between five million and 10 million jobs in 12 months and also mitigate the negative impact of the pandemic by creating more access to food production, processing and distribution in Nigeria.

The federal government has launched the Agriculture for Food and Job Plan (AFJP) programme targeted at about 1,100,000 smallholder farmers across the country.

AFJP is expected to create between five million and 10 million jobs in 12 months and also mitigate the negative impact of the pandemic by creating more access to food production, processing and distribution in Nigeria.

He noted the plan was also in tandem with the three pronged action plan of the Ministry to deal with the impact of the pandemic on Nigerian agriculture and farmers.

According to him, “these measures include among others, the life-saving humanitarian assistance to vulnerable households to buffer the impact of COVID-19, such as the release of about 100,000 metric tons of assorted food commodities from the National Food Reserve to several groups and communities.”

He explained that the deliverables of the AFJP as contained in the NESP in 12 months includes, “creation of between 5- 10 million jobs in the agric sector, produce about 10,000,000 MT of food, cultivate between 20,000 – 100,000 hectares of land per state based on land availability to an aggregate of 2.4 million farmers tied to farmlands, input financing loan to farmers will be zero interest, land clearing and preparation support, among others.

“This symbolic launch represent over 1,100,000 smallholder farmer beneficiaries in 36 states and the FCT on the Batch A list under 6 partners namely AFEX, BabanGona, Value Seeds, Universal, Thrive Agric and Oxfam. We will soon be announcing Batch B beneficiaries,” he stated.

However, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Agriculture, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, stressed that the agric sector is the bedrock of the economy and appreciated the efforts of the federal government under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari for his policies in the agric sector.

On his part, the Chairman, House Committee on Agric Production Services, Hon. Muntari Danduste, said the policy would cushion the effects of the pandemic on 2020 farming season in the state and the nation.


NALDA To Engage Nigerian Youths In Commercial Agriculture

The National Agricultural Land Development Authority (NALDA) is set to engage thousands of Nigerian youths across the country in agricultural production to enhance food security and economic diversification.

The Executive Secretary of NALDA, Prince Paul Ikonne stated this in Katsina where he paid a working visit preparatory to the take-off of the program nationwide.

Prince Ikonne explained that in the pilot phase of the program, the agency had carefully selected 14 states where it will train 100 youths in three Local Government Areas each on various forms of agricultural production.

He said the pilot states were selected from the six geo-political zones of the country, in collaboration with state Governors and Traditional Leaders.

Prince Ikonne also indicated that more states would be engaged in subsequent phases of the program to maximize its impact on the economy.

He noted that “the essence of the program is to engage as many Nigerian youths as possible by giving them enabling environment and empowering them with skills and tools to handle the business aspect of farming”.

“This will enable farmers to get value for their produce, and the global economic trend warrants that we call on everybody to go back to farm.

“The government of President Muhammadu Buhari has assured Nigerians that farming will be fully mechanized to make it more attractive and more profitable, and that is what NALDA is driving at.

The NALDA boss said, “in this project, we will engage institutions, corporate bodies, governments, and individuals to lease their land that is not in use so that we could put it to use in a way that will contribute to economic productivity and youth empowerment.”

While at the Government House in Katsina, the NALDA team held a closed-door meeting with Governor, Aminu Bello Masari.

While briefing newsmen after the meeting, the governor said Katsina State government will provide agricultural land for NALDA for the purpose of training and engaging youths in agricultural production.

He noted, “80% of our people are farmers and we have projected that our engagement with NALDA will create more jobs for our people while also boosting the rural economy

“I believe this approach is a major departure from what NALDA used to do, this is a more practical approach and it will impact directly on the rural and national economy,” Masari said.

Earlier, the team was at the palace of the Emir of Katsina, Alhaji AbdulMumini Kabir Usman where the Executive Secretary solicited the Emir’s support by encouraging rural dwellers in the state to lease out idle land to NALDA to enhance agricultural production in rural areas.

The Emir pledged support for the program while urging the federal government to put in more effort in the fight against armed banditry which has obstructed farming and commercial activities in some LGAs in the central and southern parts of the state.

He also appealed to agencies that have a stake in agriculture and forestry at state and federal levels to commit more resources in combating desertification which threatens agricultural land in the Sahel part of the country.


Kwara woos agric investors with more palliatives

Kwara State Government has canvassed for more investors into the state, especially those who would make the state an agro-industrial hub of Nigeria.

Deputy Governor of the state, Mr. Kayode Alabi, who made the appeal during his inspection visit to Versa Farm, mechanised tomatoes and pepper farm at Oke-Iya Ipo, Ifelodun Local Council, said the geographical location of Kwara as a gateway between the North and the South, coupled with its large expanse of arable land, makes the state the dream of any agro-allied investors.

“I came here as a private citizen who is interested in farming. What I have seen on this farm shows that the only way forward in Nigeria is farming. The oil sector seems to be gradually fading away.”

Alabi praised the farm owners for their vision, to have chosen the part of agriculture for a living, advising other Nigerian youths to shun paid employment for agriculture.

The joint owners of the farm, Olasunkanmi Mustapha and Ibitiye Toheed Ibrahim said the need to feed Nigerians without much reliance on importation remained their motivation for establishing the large expanse of land measuring 50 hectares.

“This is one of the gaps we want to fill by embarking on the massive growth of both hybrid tomatoes and pepper for the local consumption of Nigerians. Currently, we harvest about 14 tonnes of tomatoes and 10 tonnes of peppers every week.

“Over 50 workers of various cadres are on our payroll. That number would multiply when we commence the massive production of tomato pastes,” they said.

As parts of their Corporate Social Responsibilities (CSR), to their host communities, they disclosed how they have assisted in the payment of external examination fees of some students and sinking of motorised boreholes for the people.

They, however, appealed to the state government to construct roads into the farm for easier movement of goods and constant supply of electricity to reduce high costs of alternative power supply.


NITDA’s novel agricultural initiative

Diversifying Nigeria’s economy which has historically relied majorly on revenue from oil has always been a mantra of successive governments, especially since the beginning of the Fourth Republic in 1999.

But none appears to be more committed to this mission than the government of President Muhammadu Buhari. This is not just because it is one administration that is severely hit by a revenue shortfall as a result of the drastic slump in global oil price, but it is because it is one that has amply demonstrated the will to truly diversify.

But it has to be pointed out that in the face of the growing digitization of the global economy, there’s need to respond appropriately to economic diversification in a manner that will yield better dividends for the country.

One man that has demonstrated the right acumen for engaging this challenge is Dr. Isa Ali Pantami, Minister of Communication and Digital Economy.

Pantami found a worthy partner in Mallam Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, the Director-General of National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), and together they have sought to take the issue of advancing digital economy beyond just another buzz term.

Diversifying Nigeria’s economy which has historically relied majorly on revenue from oil has always been a mantra of successive governments, especially since the beginning of the Fourth Republic in 1999.

But none appears to be more committed to this mission than the government of President Muhammadu Buhari. This is not just because it is one administration that is severely hit by a revenue shortfall as a result of the drastic slump in global oil price, but it is because it is one that has amply demonstrated the will to truly diversify.

But it has to be pointed out that in the face of the growing digitization of the global economy, there’s need to respond appropriately to economic diversification in a manner that will yield better dividends for the country.

One man that has demonstrated the right acumen for engaging this challenge is Dr. Isa Ali Pantami, Minister of Communication and Digital Economy.

Pantami found a worthy partner in Mallam Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, the Director-General of National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), and together they have sought to take the issue of advancing digital economy beyond just another buzz term.

For a start, NAVSA kicked off in Jigawa State with 130 farmers drawn from 27 local governments of the state. They have undergone training and were provided with smart devices, internet connectivity, seed fund of N100,000 each and certified seed.

For a country blessed with a large fertile landmass, nothing can be more important than coming up with innovative ideas that will promote smart agriculture as a means of diversifying the economy.

There is no doubt that the best way to improve Nigeria’s agricultural output is through the adoption of new technologies as is the case with most advanced economies around the world.

Consequently, it is important for farmers to join hands with Pantami in his efforts to digitize Nigeria, a lofty objective that accords with President Buhari’s promise to take 100 million Nigerians out of poverty within the shortest possible time.

Clearly, this cannot be achieved without technology, which is a key tool for creating jobs and alleviating poverty.

There can never be enough commendation for both the leaderships of the Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy, and NITDA for this inventive scheme which has significantly met President Buhari’s expectation as expressed in his Democracy Day speech which highlighted the role of digital economy in the country’s development agenda.

NAVSA is already primed to enhance digital agriculture strategy, while supporting federal government policy by taking advantage of the growing youth population which is more than 50% of the estimated 200 million population.

Consider also the fact that just about 40% of the estimated 82 million hectares of arable land is being utilized, and there are about 126 million active internet users, 72 million broadband subscription and 37.8% broadband penetration with 70% target by 2025.

But the ultimate goal of NAVSA is to make Nigeria a world leader in digital farming. With a digital platform that enables key players in agriculture access important information that will help them scale up their productivity, reduce the cost of production and facilitate access to local and international markets, this noble cannot be far-fetched.

Little wonder the governor of Jigawa State, Mohammed Abubakar Badaru, was ecstatic as the project kicked off in his domain. Surely, in not too distant time, he should be celebrating much more than just rice millionaires in his domain, thanks to NAVSA.

But like all laudable initiatives, success takes more than government’s effort and commitment. It is hoped that beneficiaries of this initiative will work assiduously in tandem with the government’s plans and together attain the lofty dreams of the NAVSA initiative. At the end it is envisaged as a win-win for all.

Reviving Nigeria’s Bank of Agriculture for allied industries

Head of Agro-Economy, FEMI IBIROGBA, takes a look at the history of the Bank of Agriculture, its mandate and the realities of inefficiency, failures and unmet expectations as Nigeria needs more food to feed the growing population, cut down on importation and create more job opportunities with industrialisation of crops.

Credit is one of the fundamental inputs for sustainable food production, crop value chain development, food distribution and food security, but access to agricultural financing is impaired in the country, with aversion on the part of commercial and other conventional financial institutions for the sector.

And, it appears hope is lost on the efforts to reposition Nigeria’s Bank of Agriculture (BoA) as the bank crawls in performing its core mandates when private financial institutions are revving up in meeting the 21st Century financial requirements of businesses.

As of now, the bank goes the way of the old National Electric Power Authority (NEPA), Nigerian Telecommunications Limited (NITEL) and Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC), just to mention a few, losing touch with the reality of the food cultivation and processing industry, and appears totally incapacitated to deliver its mandates.

The bank is a specialised development financial institution which philosophical motive has been eroded. There are three main schools of thought on the philosophical motives behind the establishment of development banks.

The industrial policy view stipulates such banks are established as a reaction to failures of capital markets to raise funds for entrepreneurship and industrial activities (Armendáriz de Aghion 1999, Gerschenkron 1962).

The social school sees development banks as a government intervention to resolve certain socio-economic issues, such as unemployment, lack of housing, energy dependency, among others (Shapiro and Willig 1990, Shirley 1989).

The political school views development banks as tools serving the interest of political elite’s objectives or as conduits pipes for gratifying industrialists who are politically involved or serving politician’s interest through their cronies (Ades and Di Tella 1997, Shleifer and Vishny 1994).

From all indications, BoA is serving the political motive, and it contributes insignificantly to the agro-allied sector. This is one of the reasons experts have called consistently for its revamp through a public-private partnership (PPP) and other strategies.

The bank history
THE bank was incorporated as the Nigerian Agricultural Bank (NAB) in 1972, became functional in 1973 and in1978, it metamorphosed into Nigerian Agricultural and Cooperative Bank (NACB) Limited.

The Federal Government streamlined the operations of its agencies in October 2001, and the NACB, People’s Bank of Nigeria (PBN) and the Family Economic Advancement Programme (FEAP) were merged, adopting yet another name, Nigerian Agricultural, Co-operative Rural Development Bank (NACRDB) Limited. It was expected to serve as an agricultural and rural development bank with multiplier effects on rural life improvement and economic empowerment.

In October 2010, it was renamed as the Bank of Agriculture (BoA) Limited with the following accurately defined but terribly implemented mandates.

The mandates include the provision of agricultural credit to support all agricultural value chain activities; provision of non-agricultural micro-credit savings mobilization; capacity development through the promotion of co-operatives, agricultural information systems, and the provision of technical support and extension services; provision of opportunities for self-employment in the rural areas, thereby reducing rural-urban migration and inculcation of banking habits at the grass-roots of the Nigerian society.

THE strength areas of the bank include being the largest development finance institution and leading agricultural finance institution, no matter how moribund it has become. With 201 outlets nationwide, six zonal offices and a head office in Abuja, the structure is already laid, but grossly underutilised, hence, its inability to achieve the mandate.

The bank has the highest national interaction/interface with rural farmers, with institutional knowledge of rural and agricultural finance with its over 40 years of existence. Various partners at one time or the other include the U.S Agency for International Development (USAID), IFAD, World Banks and ECOWAS, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Federal Ministry of Women Affairs, State and Local Governments.

Its mission is “To stimulate agriculture, improve lives and grow communities,” with a vision “To become the foremost self-sustaining Development Finance Institution in Africa.” However, the performance of the bank in an era when Nigeria re-emphasises agriculture as the base of a diversified economy has been abysmal, as farmers wave aside its contribution to the food production sector.

Under its Direct Credit Product, designed to finance agricultural productions and agro-allied activities, BoA said farmers and others could obtain “Loan [that] ranges from above N250,000 to a maximum of N50,000,000, with a limit of N5,000,000 to individual persons and above N5,000,000 to corporate organisations.

It adds that: “Loan tenor not exceeding five years, disbursement both cash and kind, backed up with viable, profitable and bankable business proposals.”

It also indicates that “Interest rate is 14% for agricultural production and agro-processing, while commodity marketing is 20%,” and to access such facilities, “Current tax clearance certificate is required and last three years audited statements of account or statement of affairs is required. Consent to a mortgage of the landed property being pledged as security for the loan requirements.”

Under the Large Credit Product, the bank indicates that it is developed to finance large agricultural production and agro-allied activities, and that loan volume ranges from above 50 million to a maximum of 1 billion for a single obligor. Interest rate, it adds, “is 14% for agricultural production and agro-processing while marketing is 20%.”

But the majority of the large-scale farmers have described the bank as dysfunctional, saying it is easier to get loans in commercial banks than from it.

Organisational structure and market engagement
CaNvassing re-engineering of the bank, an Agriculture Regional Manager of an old-generation bank, who prefers anonymity, said: “The Bank of Agriculture should be restructured along functional lines to capture business strata of the economy albeit … retail, MSME, commercial and corporate businesses.”

He also suggested that retail business should focus on primary production engaging smallholder farmers and livestock farming.

The agriculture financing banker said for BOA to succeed in its roles in national development and diversification of the economy, its present operating structure, ownership, capital base, market engagement strategy, funding sources, strategic partnerships and banking technologies must be revamped and strengthened to meet the realities of the emerging order and the requirements of its focus market, the agribusiness community.

The agric. banking specialist said: “BOA, as is currently structured, with complete dependence on the government funding for shareholder capital and a minimal attraction to the organised private sector and the banking public as a source of liability generation (which should be the main source of capital for financial intermediation, while shareholders’ funds serve as a buffer) cannot support the purpose of the agricultural revolution that is required to move the Nigerian economy forward.

“Fortunately, extant banking regulations and provisions are available to support certain thoughts in “unbundling” the bank for greater efficiency.”

In an interview with The Guardian on May 27, 2019, former Minister of Agriculture, Audu Ogbeh, had said the Bureau of Public Enterprise (BPE) had completed its work on the privatization and re-engineering of the bank. But the Public Relations Officer of BoA, Adebayo Fasakin, while reacting to an inquiry about the privatization move, said it had been “put on hold,” saying he would contact the Acting Managing Director, Mr Alwan Hassan, and get back to The Guardian. However, as of press time on Sunday, he did not respond.

Audu Ogbeh had disclosed that: “The lead consultant has now taken up the responsibility of marketing the idea to the public and when that happens, we will begin to sell shares. The idea is that farmers will own 40 per cent of the shares of the bank; the CBN will hold 10 per cent; the Ministry of Finance 10 per cent; and the private sector operators, 30 per cent.”

Ogbeh had explained that “farmers should see BoA as their bank, put their money in it because we are trying to raise between N200 and N250 billion for the bank so that farmers can borrow at five per cent [interest rate].

“As long as the bank makes enough money to pay their staff, there is no point overcharging farmers. We think in another two months or so, the sale of shares should be done.”

Alas! the only change in the bank, for now, is the appointment of an acting managing director.

Experts have, however, said running the bank like a civil service establishment, with the Federal Government paying salaries and pensions, would only perpetuate incompetence, underperformance, corruption and near-zero contribution to the agro-economic development of the country.


CBN suspends importation of maize

A day after a PREMIUM TIMES report showed that Nigeria’s maize importation failed to decline in two years despite farmers saying they can meet local demand, the Central Bank of Nigeria has stopped the issuance of forex for the importation of the cereal.

The CBN made this known on Monday in a circular signed by O.S. Nnaji, its director, Trade and Exchange Department.

The decision, according to CBN, is to boost local production of maize.

“As part of effort by the Central Bank of Nigeria to increase local production, stimulate a rapid economic recovery, safeguard rural livelihoods and increase job, which were lost as a result of the ongoing Covid-19 Pandemic, Authorized dealers are hereby directed to discontinue the processing of Form M for the importation of maize/corn with immediate effect,” CBN said in the memo.

Form M is a mandatory document used by the Ministry of Finance and the CBN to monitor goods that are imported into the country as well as enable collection of import duties where applicable.

The bank, however, asked the dealers to still submit the already registered forms.

“Accordingly, all authorized dealers are hereby requested to submit the list of Form M already registered for the importation of maize/corn using the attached format on or before the close of business on Wednesday 15, 2020,” CBN said.

Data obtained from the United State Department of Agriculture (USDA) shows that Nigeria imported 400,000 tons of maize in 2019 as it did in 2018.

That figure, recorded separately in both years, is the second-highest maize import volume for the country since 2009.

The highest was recorded in 2016 when 650,000 tons of maize was imported by the country.

Since its introduction to Africa in the 1500s, maize has become one of Africa’s dominant food crops.

Nigeria is Africa’s top producer of maize, followed by Tanzania, according to the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture. But the country is also a leading importer as demand for animal feed grows in the country.

Nigeria’s annual need for maize is estimated at 15 million metric tons while the country’s local production is 10.5million tons.

According to Edwin Uche, the national chairman of Maize Growers and Processors Association of Nigeria (MAGPAN), he told PREMIUM TIMES that maize farmers in Nigeria can produce enough maize needed in the country if the government supports them with more incentives.

“We are capable of producing the needed quantity of maize in the country if the government can place a ban on maize importation and provide us with the necessary incentives such as financial aids, loans, fertilizer among others,” Mr Uche said.

Also, according to Abraham Godson, a former research supervisor at IITA, Ibadan, continuous importation of agricultural commodities like maize can weaken the country’s economy.

“It is sad that we still import many of the agricultural produce that we produce locally. This leads to the continued depreciation of the naira and in turn weakening of the economy and our international purchasing power. More efforts should be made at changing our economy and especially the agricultural sector from a consumption-oriented to export-oriented,” Mr Godson said.

“A new strategic policy is urgently needed to reverse this trend. It should be geared towards modernizing agriculture through supply of agricultural machinery to farmers, improved seeds, agrochemicals to farmers, and a nationwide capacity building and training for those involved in agriculture,” he added.

The CBN on June 23 during the flag-off of 2020 wet season maize farming in Delta State expressed its readiness to support about 200,000 maize farmers across the country to boost maize production.

The plan, according to CBN, is to support maize farmers with 166,000 farming inputs that will lead to the production of a minimum of 4 tons of maize in a hectare of land.

The bank said it would do more next season if farmers deliver.

Nigeria: Digital Economy – NITDA Adopts 130 Farmers, Disburses Funds to Beneficiaries

In its move to digitise agricultural sector, the National Information Technology Agency (NITDA), under the supervision of Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, has adopted 130 farmers into the National Adopted Village for Smart Agriculture (NAVSA) programme.

The initiative, according the agency, will provide Nigerian farmers with means to showcase their farm produce in the digital world market.

The project, piloted in Jigawa State, was initiated to systematically adopt farmers across the 774 Local Government Areas of the country in order to support and equip them with necessary skills that will make Nigeria one of the leading nations in digital farming.

A total of 130 beneficiaries drawn from 27 Local Government Areas of Jigawa State were trained and also provided with smart devices, Internet connectivity, seed fund worth N100,000 and certified seed during the official closing ceremony of the event that was held both physically and virtually.

The governor of Jigawa State, Mohammed Badaru Abubakar who attended the ceremony virtually, appreciated the vision of the Minister for bringing the project to the state and promised to ensure its sustainability.

He also cautioned the beneficiaries against misuse of the materials and knowledge impacted on them. He maintained that the state, in the last few years has produced a lot of millionaires through rice farming precisely.

“Jigawa State will remain grateful for being chosen to pilot this project that will alleviate poverty as well as make the farmers independent in their lives.”

He thanked the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, NITDA, and other partners for finding his state worthy to kick-start this laudable project.

The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, while delivering his special address, said that there is need to come up with innovative ideas that will promote smart agriculture in Nigeria as a means of diversifying the nation’s economy, adding that Nigeria is blessed with a large fertile landmass.

The minister noted that the National Adopted Village for Smart Agriculture (NAVSA) is part of the main policy of the National Digital Economy policy and strategy for a Digital Nigeria launched and unveiled by President Muhammadu Buhari.

He said the best way to improve the output in the agricultural sector in Nigeria is through the deployment of emerging technologies.

While delivering his welcome address, Director General of NITDA, Kashifu Abdullahi, said that the goal of NAVSA is to build digital capabilities and innovations across agriculture value chains aimed at creating massive jobs and improve the income and wealth of every ecosystem player. According to him, currently in Nigeria, agriculture hires about 70% of the workforce.

He said NITDA, together with Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, conceived the idea of introducing digital platform for farmers, in order to carry them along in Digital Economy journey spearheaded by the minister.

Mr Abdullahi stated that, NAVSA is designed to take small scale farmers to commercial level using a performance-based approach. The project targets graduates (between the age of 20 to 35 years) with prerequisite knowledge to participate in AgricTech project.

“There is need for farmers to join this journey towards realisation of Dr Pantami’s dream to digitise Nigeria, and this is in line with President Muhammadu Buhari’s promise to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in the next few years. We believe this can only be achieved through innovations, which technology plays a vital role in terms of jobs and wealth creation,” he said.

He added that NAVSA will enhance digital agriculture strategy, and support Federal Government policy by taking advantage of the growing youth population which constitutes over 50 per cent of the estimated 200 million population; farmers owned an estimated 82 million hectares of arable land, of which according to a research, only 42 per cent is being productively utilised. There are about 126 Million active internet users, 72 Million broadband subscription and 37.8% broadband penetration with 70% target by 2025.

Many dignitaries attended the event, virtually, in line with the guidelines on COVID-19 by the Presidential Task Force (PTF) and Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), to ensure agricultural activities are not badly affected, as directed by the President.