The Growth Enhancement Scheme (GES) of the Federal Government in agricultural transformation is creating platform for financial inclusiveness for women in advancing agribusiness.
The Scheme allows for direct access to agro-allied inputs to farmers directly through contact with them on their mobile phones from a contact point within their localities.
Studies conducted in Nassarawa, Benue and Plateau states, respectively, reveal that women in agribusiness are advancing efforts and have gone ahead to establish micro-finance banks to advance quicker access to financial services by members to boost rural economy.
It could be recalled that the Federal Government’s launch of the staple crop processing zone in the country with a target of advancing rural economy with Carghill kick-starting the investment with $100 million investment in Kogi State on cassava production added to the efforts of these women in wealth creation.
Mary Afan, a coordinator of women groups consisting of 500,000 members in Plateau State, who spoke with BusinessDay on the establishment of a micro-finance bank for its members, said: “It was the Fadama people that started organising us into co-operatives and teaching us rudimentary book-keeping and financial management.
“Action Aid’ also supported us on having a good fiscal policy and even sent me on a refresher course in Ethiopia. They observed that the women group according to what they are taught are saving 10 percent. We had had difficulties getting loan facilities from commercial banks and that was how we mobilised the women to save for the micro-finance plan.”
In addition,”when we pull together all the women groups numbering 500,000, we directed each group to turn 30 percent of their savings into an account, let see if we could facilitate the opening of a micro-finance bank. We have gone to about four banks prior to source for access to finance, they tell us that we do not have collateral. That was our motivation to owning a micro-finance bank.”
According to her, “when we made further inquiries from the CBN, we were told that if we could raise N20 million, we could get a unit of micro-finance bank. I make bold to say that for now, we have been able to get N18 million into a single account at the moment.
“We would have launched the bank in May 2014, but we are eagerly waiting for the support of the minister so that he could also fulfil part of the promise he has made to us.”
In addition, Esther Audu, coordinator of Kogi State women in agriculture, told BusinessDay that, “the GES of the Federal Government has brought women to limelight. We have formed women in agriculture co-operatives for easier access.
“In 2009, women in agriculture was formed, we have our co-ordinators in the 21 local government of the states. We have ward co-ordinators through which we reach out to our 36 members.”
She said that “the intervention of Agricultural Transformation Agenda in Kogi State brought women to limelight. We have our fertilisers now and that had advanced our business by establishing also a micro-finance bank that serves our members.”
Meanwhile, Jummai Yohanna, from Nassarawa State, who also co-ordinates women farmers in Obi Local Government Area of the state, expressed similar views with the Kogi and Nassarawa women co-ordinators but insisted that security was having negative effects on their farming activities.
According to her, “we have been having violent attacks in my locality. It effect is adverse. I travelled recently to Germany for an agricultural programme. When I came back my farm products have been ravaged by violence. This is where we want government, both at the state and local government levels, to intervene.”
Some experts believe that policy consistency by the Federal Government would advance the efforts of these women in agriculture. In addition, formation of women groups into co-operatives would also allow for easier access of agric mechanisation machines as recently launched by the Federal Government.