THE Bank of Industry (BoI) has signed a partnership agreement with Oxfam to disburse N200 million to empower about 4,000 farmers in Nasarawa, Benue and Plateau States, under the Federal Government’s Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP). The fund will be disbursed through Oxfam’s Village Saving and Loan Associations.

GEEP is one of the Social Intervention Programmes (SIPs) of the Federal Government, executed by BoI, which facilitates easy access to interest-free loans for market traders, artisans, cooperatives, youth and farmers.

A cross section of beneficiaries out of the 135 women presented cheques in the first batch of the Hon. Wale Raji Women Empowerment Scheme in partnership with the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund (LSETF)

Deputy Country Director, Oxfam Nigeria, Mr. Constant Tchona, said in a statement that the money is expected to strengthen the living capacity and resilience of poor households in rural communities.

Micro-credit initiative

He said the partnership is born out of the need to target the most marginalised and hard-to-reach in the rural communities in line with the objectives of the Federal Government’s social intervention policy.

“The BoI is executing the Federal Government’s micro-credit initiative, the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme; while Oxfam’s implementing partners, Young Mens Christian Association, Nigerian Association of Women in Agriculture, and Cocin Community Development Programme, will be responsible for monitoring and supporting the beneficiaries to effectively utilise the funds in Nassarawa, Benue and Plateau states, respectively,” he said.

According to Tchona, apart from the primary goal of increasing access to credit to the ’unbanked’ at the bottom of the pyramid, the scheme has significantly improved community cohesion and active citizenship in communities where the project is being implemented while building the resilience of rural farmers towards saving for unforeseen circumstances. He said women who hitherto did not have voice or engaged in community governance issues had become very vocal and confident as a result of their participation in the scheme, hence greatly improving their leadership skills.

In her remark, Executive Director, Microenterprise Directorate, BoI, Mrs. Toyin Adeniji, said the funds were part of the Federal Government’s mandate to the BoI to achieve financial inclusion and facilitate access to credit for 1.6 million beneficiaries across target segments of market women and traders, artisans, enterprising youths, agricultural workers, agro-allied processors and other MSME categories. She noted that the programme is aimed at facilitating the attainment of poverty eradication, employment generation, growth and development of micro enterprises in the country.

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