Agricultural stakeholders in Nigeria have alerted the government of the need to prevent opportunistic borrowers from abusing zero-interest loans for smallholder farmers from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), which are meant to prevent post-COVID-19 food shortages, hunger and unemployment.
CBN Governor Godwin Emefiele, at a review session on the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme , and strategies for the 2020 agricultural wet season, said that the creation of a non-interest scheme for farmers was due to requests from stakeholders that farmers across the country also be considered.
According to previous Farmersmanual reporting, smallholder farmers have on several occasions clamored for interest rates of 3 per cent or less on loans intended for farming and other agriculture related productions.
In the past half a decade, non-oil sectors have driven an impressive growth rate in the nation’s economy, particularly the agricultural sector.
This means that the growth rate of the overall economy is to a large extent dependent on the growth rate in agriculture’s gross domestic product , hence the need for interest- free loans.
While commending the zero-interest loans scheme, farmers and scholars warned that all the ancillary requirements designed to ensure real farmers make the best use of funding should be thoroughly addressed and that attached conditions should be less cumbersome, particularly considering the majority of producers are either illiterate smallholder farmers or energetic youths and graduates who most of the time have no collateral.
Augie Sahabi, Kebbi State chairman of the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria, said that the interest- free loans would attract more Muslim farmers, who hitherto have avoided bank loans with interest due to religious prohibition.
Kolawole Adebayo, an agricultural extension specialist and former regional coordinator for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation-sponsored Cassava Adding Value for Africa project, added that the loans’ impact on Nigerian food systems will be great provided that they are implemented to achieve the stated objective.