The N10bn agriculture fund for women By Jide Ayobolu

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OrijoReporter.com, The N10bn agriculture fund for women By Jide Ayobolu

The Nigerian president, Muhammadu Buhari has said he will launch a N10 billion agriculture environmental impact fund to support women farmers to increase access to food production.

According to the president, the fund is to cover women, whose farmlands were affected by environment degradation and terrorism.

A statement made on Sunday, December 18, in Abuja by Dean, Agriculture Faculty, University of Abuja Prof. A.A. Adeniyi said the event by the Women Association for National Agriculture Environment Impact Fund (WAEIF), would focus on food increase to reduce impact of recession. He explained that pollution of the environment led to importation of genetics modified organism food, which often caused cancer.

“The WAEIF launch of N10 billion agriculture environmental impact fund will serve as alternative funding option for women who could not have access to land, collateral for bank loan, especially women from Northeast that have been displaced due to terrorism and cultural factors,” he added.

Nigeria and the rest of Africa must brace up to meet the challenges of food shortage which comes to the continent soon if nothing is done fast.
President Muhammudu Buhari said this while urging African countries to focus more on agriculture to avert the looming food shortage.

Daily Trust reports that while speaking on Monday, December 12 at the annual Meeting of the Food Crisis Prevention Network (RPCA) of the Sahel and West African Club Week, holding in Abuja, Buhari said: “Your excellences, the threat of food crisis in our sub-region is real.

“Accordingly, we must recognize the urgent need to develop mechanisms to curtail the impact of food crises on our people.

“We are currently facing some shortages on staple food because of our inability to modernized agriculture over the years.”

It would be recalled that, the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, has protested to Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, over alleged marginalization of women entrepreneurs in the disbursement of its N220 billion micro, small and medium scale, MSME, fund. Addressing some women entrepreneurs at the just concluded second African Women Innovation and Entrepreneurship Forum, AWIEF, the minister in charge of the ministry, Senator Aisha Jummai Alhassan, stated that women have accessed less than 5.0 percent of the CBN special intervention fund, but she did not disclose the proportion for men.

In her words: “women have accessed less than 5.0 percent of the CBN N220bn MSME Fund which had earmarked 60 percent of beneficiaries to be women.

“This situation is unacceptable and my Ministry has written the CBN on the need to relax the stringent conditions that have debarred women from this pool of resources”.

The minister also lamented that in Nigeria, although more than 48 per cent of informal micro-businesses are run by women, they access less than 12 percent of available financial credit.

She stated that social perceptions, stereotypes and biases limit women’s ability to reach the very top of the corporate ladder, while economic constraints prevent them from gaining access to adequate financing for their businesses, thereby inhibiting their potentials.

According to her, statistics released by the African Development Bank indicate that only 16 to 20 percent of women in Sub-Saharan Africa are able to access long-term financing from formal financial institutions.

She stated: “Although women-owned business enterprises account for only 25 percent of all businesses in Sub-Saharan Africa, the median capital available to male entrepreneurs is more than twice that of women in some of Africa’s largest economies, including Nigeria and Kenya.

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“Consequently, women are being forced to enter and remain in the informal sector of the economy, where their contributions are usually overlooked and undervalued, making them less likely to receive the much needed technical and financial support”.

She, however, noted that in recognition of the enormous contribution of women to the Informal Sector of the Nigerian economy, the Federal Government has, in recent times, through her Ministry and other Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), carried out various forms of intervention programmes geared towards supporting women and women entrepreneurs in Nigeria.

According to her, “some of these interventions include the Women’s Fund for Economic Empowerment (WOFEE) implemented in collaboration with the Bank of Agriculture (BoA), and the Business Fund for Women (BODFOW) to provide soft loans for female entrepreneurs; The Growing Women and Girls in Nigeria (GWIN) programme designed to support young girls and women in targeted sectors of the economy.

“To further consolidate on these initiatives and reaffirm its commitment towards improving the productivity and livelihood of the Nigerian Woman, the present administration, under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari recently launched a N1.6 billion special intervention fund called the National Women Empowerment Fund (NAWEF).The Fund is targeted at supporting grassroot women operating informal businesses by providing start-up and scale-up credit for them”.

According to her “the NAWEF programme would be kick-started with eight (8) Pilot States, and is expected to target 10,000 women beneficiaries per State who will receive between N10,000-N100,000 each.

“An estimated N200million is to be disbursed per State through active and functional women cooperatives, local trade associations and other community based groups. The loans are interest free with no collateral required”.

She said that another programme called the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP), which is one of the five social protection interventions targeted at providing microfinance to young men and women from all States of the country, is also being implemented on the same conditions as the NAWEF Programme.
The policy thrust and objectives of the present administration include,
•Agriculture as a business–focusing the policy instruments on a government-enabled, private sector-led engagement as the main growth driver of the sector. This essential principle was established in the ATA and will remain a cardinal design principle of Nigeria’s agriculture policies going forward.
•Agriculture as key to long-term economic growth and security—focusing policy instruments to ensure that the commercialization of agriculture includes technologies, financial services, inputs supply chains, and market linkages that directly engage rural poor farmers because rural economic growth will play a critical role in the country’s successful job creation, economic diversity, improved security and sustainable economic growth.

•Food as a human right –focusing the policy instruments for agricultural development on the social responsibility of government with respect to food security, social security and equity in the Nigerian society; and compelling the government to recognize, protect and fulfill the irreducible minimum degree of freedom of the people from hunger and malnutrition.
•Value chain approach –focusing the policy instruments for enterprise development across successive stages of the commodity value chains for the development of crop, livestock and fisheries sub-sectors, namely input supply, production, storage, processing/utilization, marketing and consumption. Building complex linkages between value chain stages will be an important part of the ecosystem that will drive sustained prosperity for all Nigerians.
•Prioritizing crops- focusing policy on achieving improved domestic food security and boosting export earnings requires a measure of prioritization. Therefore, for domestic crops, the initial focus in 2016 –2018 will be expanding the production of rice, wheat, maize, soya beans and tomatoes. For export crops, the initial focus will be on cocoa, cassava, oil palm, sesame and gum Arabic. In 2018 onwards, the export focus will add on bananas, avocado, mango, fish and cashew nuts. Investments in closing infrastructure gaps to accelerate productivity and investment in these crops will also be sequenced to reflect capital availability and management attention.
•Market orientation–focusing policy instruments on stimulating agricultural production on a sustainable basis, and stimulating supply and demand for agricultural produce by facilitating linkages between producers and off takers, while stabilizing prices or reducing price volatility for agricultural produce through market-led price stabilization mechanisms (commodity exchanges, negotiated off-take agreements, extended farm-gate price under value chains coordination mechanisms, agricultural insurance, etc.)
•Factoring Climate change and Environmental sustainability –focusing policy instruments on the sustainability of the use of natural resources (land and soil, water and ecosystems) with the future generation in mind while increasing agricultural production, marketing and other human activities in the agricultural sector.
•Participation and inclusiveness–focusing instruments on measures to maximize the full participation of stakeholders including farmer’s associations, cooperatives and other groups, as well as NGOs, CBOs, CSOs, development partners and the private sector. This places a premium on the role of these organizations or groups as agents of economic change in general and agricultural economy in particular, thereby drawing benefits from their policy advocacy roles as partners to and watchdog of government.
•Policy integrity–focusing policy instruments on measures for sanitizing the business environment for agriculture, in terms of accountability, transparency and due process of law, ensuring efficient allocation and use of public funding and fighting corruption on all programmes involving public resources. This also applies to compliance with international commitments, protocols and conventions that Nigeria is a signatory to.
•Nutrition sensitive agriculture–focusing policy instruments on addressing the issues of stunting, wasting, underweight and other manifestations of hunger and malnutrition with particular reference to the vulnerable groups, which include children under 5, nursing mothers and persons with chronic illness and disabilities
•Agriculture’s Linkages with Other Sectors–focusing policy instruments on the connected relationship between agriculture and other sectors at federal and state levels, particularly industry, environment, power, energy, works and water sectors.

Also, the Federal Government, launched the agricultural sector roadmap, known as The Green Alternative, for promotion of agriculture from 2016-2020.

The presentation was made by the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, who said government would deploy 100,000 agric extension workers to assist farmers implement the policy. Osinbajo maintained that the move to diversify the economy through the agriculture sector had become necessary due to the huge food importation bill and the need to create jobs for the teeming population of youth in the country.

He also expressed optimism that the roadmap would address challenges in the sector and reposition it for economic growth and development.

He said: “The present administration came into office to meet an economy in a meltdown and we have to take difficult decisions on short, medium term in order to repair the huge damage done, especially by the dependence on oil, the worst not investing in infrastructure or deepening the diversification of our economy, or even building our reserves when oil sold at over a $100 per barrel.

“We knew that we had to set aright and put back the economy on a fast lane, inclusive growth, job creation for our huge population. One of the most critical components of that plan is to position agriculture, the arrowhead of our economic recovery efforts.

“There is no question at all that if we get agriculture right, we will get our economy right. The great clarity, ‘The Green Alternative, sets out strategies to resolve these challenges and particularly impressed that the roadmap does not dismiss the agric policies ‘building on the successes of the agricultural agenda’.

“This particular issue of alignment is crucial. For instance, there is no way we can encourage agriculture than to encourage food production when we allow unbridled importation of the same things we are trying to produce.

“Still on the issue of policy of alignment, as part of our 500,000 teacher corps that we will be engaging 100, 000 of them that will be trained as extension workers for our farms.

“I, hereby, launch the Agriculture Sector Roadmap: The Green Alternative; Agriculture Promotion Policy 2016-2020.”

According to the Vice President, the home-grown school feeding programme will have one meal a day for pupils and specifically the food will be from farms in each state.

He also assured that the Bank of Agriculture would be recapitalized and repositioned to meet farmers’ financial need by giving them a single digit interest rate and low interest.

Speaking earlier, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, said the roadmap for the sector was all encompassing and would salvage the economy from collapse.

He said: “In this policy, you will see us navigating through the agricultural terrain, trucking on virtually every aspect. The emphasis on ‘Green’ is to capture the essence, spirit and orientation of this new policy/strategy document.”

Ayobolu, a public affairs analyst contributed this piece from Lagos State.

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