Beneficiaries of the Rural Financing Programe of the International Fund For Agricultural Development in Benue state North Central Nigeria, have appealed for an extension of the program beyond 2017.
They made the call when officials of the Federal Ministry Of Agriculture and IFAD representatives visited Logor Council Area to assess how well the farmers have utilized the funding.
The IFAD officials were also in Lagos state where they visited the Epe and Ikorodu Local Government Areas.
Coordinator of RUFIN Lagos state, Funmi Bello said the Lagos State Government is planning to extend the program even if IFAD is not continuing. “We have to mentor these people to a certain stage” She added.
The 7-year program which was introduced in 2010 is being sponsored by the International Fund For Agricultural Development, in partnership with the government.
It’s main aim is to reduce poverty in rural areas by providing access to financial services for poor households especially women, the physically challenged and the youth.
Pleased With Results
So far, officials of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture are pleased with the results. Speaking with the Senior Technology Assistant to the Minister Of Agriculture, Autta Appeh, he says: “Our aim is to bring life back to the village and to do that, is to provide access to financing and elevate both the youth, women and ageing farmers”
Farm land and farm produce were among some of the rewards for the local farmers. A Beneficiary Gloria Nguto, in the Logor Local Government also expresses her joy while speaking with Channels Television, in her words, “With the first money they gave us, we started trading shoes, bags and other things.
“Even as we are not in the town, they are encouraging us to produce more so that we will not sit idle and eat, depend on our husbands or our children”
Another beneficiary Adebimpe Olawale said: “We started very small but now at least I can boast that I am somebody”
However, she admits that there have been challenges along the way, she opined that “the government should bring the interest down to 2% per annum where farmers can have real access and have gains from their farms, they will have something to remain for themselves and still have something to pay back”.
Microfinance expert, Adamu Ibrahim says, “What RUFIN has done in collaboration with Central Bank is to bring in intervention funds specifically targeted at a particular segment of the market to bring down the cost of interest”
An IFAD official expressed that RUFIN has thus far been the best pilot program that has been put together. “It has given us a platform to be able to build upon, from this we are building a bigger basket”, he added.
According to IFAD, 18,000 farmer groups have been able to access micro- finance through the RUFIN program.