The Deputy Governor of Benue State, Mr Benson Abounu, has said that prompt access to agricultural credit facilities by rural farmers will guarantee food security and poverty reduction in the country.
Abounu said this while receiving a team of the Rural Financing Institution Building Programme (RUFIN), led by RUFIN Supervision Mission Leader, Mr Swandip Sinha, in Makurdi on Tuesday. He expressed regret that most smallholder farmers lacked access to financial credit to boost agricultural productivity.
Abounu commended RUFIN programme for fast tracking farmers access to financial institutions. He said the programme had impacted the lives of many poor rural farmers and dwellers in the state since inception in 2010.
The deputy governor expressed optimism that the sustainability of the programme would help the country achieve food security within the next 10 years.
Abounu suggested the extension of the programme to the 36 states of the federation to enable the country achieve its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“From the testimonies, some of the people that collected loans have been able to affect their families and this is what we have been looking for.
“The rural poor have little exposure to whatever can help them in improving their businesses so programmes like this especially the one that is self sustainable, is extremely important.
“This is a wonderful programme and I think that if we should run it for the next ten years, there will be a total transformation of the poor in the rural areas.
“My worry about programmes like this is that after the pilot scheme, the progress will begin to dwindle,” he said.
He noted that the state was committed to sustaining the gains of the programme. Earlier, Sinha said the team was in the state to access progress of the programme and how it had affected its beneficiaries.
The team leader, who said the programme would wind down by March 2017, called on state governments to support and sustain it.
Sinha explained that there was a gap in the payment of counterpart funds by various benefitting state governments to strengthen the programme.
Mrs Uneku Ufaruna, the Deputy National Programme Coordinator of RUFIN, said the programme was designed to link farmers to financial institutions to enable them access credit without collateral.
She said the programme had facilitated financial access of over N30 billion and had enjoyed 95 per cent of loan-credit recovery since inception.
“Many women have set up sustainable businesses with the support of the programme.
“We have about 20,000 groups including women and youths that we are working with,” she said.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that RUFIN is being implemented in 12 states across the six geo-political zones of the country. The states include: Lagos, Anambra, Edo, Bauchi, Zamfara, Oyo, Akwa Ibom, Adamawa and Katsina, Benue, Nasarawa, Imo.
The programme enjoys financial assistance from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), a UN agency.
It specifically targets marginalised groups such as women, young people and those with physical disabilities.
The objective of the programme is to strengthen micro finance institutions and establish linkages between them and formal financial institutions.
By reaching out to the rural poor, the programme ensures that they gain access to financial services and can invest in improving productivity in agriculture and small businesses.