By Marie-Therese Nanlong
The Anchor Borrowers’ programme of the federal government which was launched by President Muhammadu Buhari in November, 2015 and implemented by the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN has been in existence for about four years now; the programme was to create linkages between companies involved in the processing of key agricultural commodities and small holder farmers.
The programme targets farmers’ groups who produce cereals, roots and tubers, tree crops, legumes, livestock etc, who would access loans through participating financial institutions with minimal interest rates to provide farm inputs and cash to boost agricultural activities.
In Plateau State, some crop farmers especially rice and maize farmers have attempted to take advantage of this scheme to strengthen their businesses but such cannot be said of the livestock farmers who are yet to get involved in the scheme even when its value chain has been grossly underdeveloped.
The benefits the rice and maize farmers are getting could be replicated if the livestock farmers especially the herders also embrace the scheme to minimize the incessant farmers/herders conflicts and promote peaceful coexistence in the State as the herders would access the available loan to cater for their cattle within an area without moving them around and in the process, trespassing on farms and destroying crops.
A rice farmer, Timnan Dassah attested to the benefit saying, “The scheme has been successful, it has helped us to enhance our business, we have more people joining us in rice farming now, the quality of our produce has improved and we have ready buyers now compared to what we had in the past.”
The scheme too can promote the long forgotten symbiotic relationship between the crop farmers and the livestock farmers because the livestock farmers would get animal feeds from the crop farmers while the crop farmers in turn get manure from the livestock farmers.
It was gathered that lack of awareness, inadequate information, and cumbersome procedure among other factors are inhibiting target groups from accessing the scheme; hence an appeal for relevant authority to look into the concerns raised.
Speaking on the issue, the State Chairman, Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, MACBAN, Muhammad Nuru said he was not sure what the scheme entails and how his association can access it as according to him, “I don’t know what the thing is about, they are not carrying us along, we are not part of it in Plateau but I don’t know if our national body is a part; I will check and get back to you.”
State Chairman of All Farmers Association of Nigeria, AFAN, John Wuyep stated, “AFAN is for all farmers, that is the crop and livestock farmers. We are trying to harmonize and get involve with the openings the federal government is providing for every commodity. We are having a meeting with the State Ministry of Agriculture, we are discussing because so far, only two commodities; rice and maize are accessing the scheme. Others have not, the opening is there, CBN and others are talking with the farmers.”
However, the State Director General, Research and Documentation, Professor John Wade explained, “The anchor borrowers’ scheme is the programme initiated by the federal government, a purpose driven scheme for the benefit of the farmers. In the past, farmers were left on their own to produce, and were exposed to the risks of the markets, the losses and at the end of the day, they don’t have anything to fall back on.
“But in this scheme, it enables them to farm their products, get buyers who take the produce off from them and pay them. There are also arrangements to take care of the risks that may be associated with agricultural activities so the scheme is very beneficial to the farmers. May be crop farmers are benefiting but for the herders, their own scheme is being worked out through the National Livestock Transformation Plan, NLTP which is about to take off in the State.”
Meanwhile, a staff of the CBN who did not want to be named said, “We are not authorized to speak with the Press, such can only be done from our headquarters. The anchor borrowers’ scheme is all embracing, the herders have always been part of the programme and are not stopped from accessing the scheme once they are organized and they meet the criteria.
“Apart from crop farmers, we have poultry farmers and other livestock farmers who are part of the scheme, it is open to all qualified people, if the herders come to us as a group, we are here to attend to them.”
With the potential the scheme holds, it is hoped that both crop and livestock farmers would embrace it to add value to their respective businesses and curb the recurring farmers/herders conflicts not just in Plateau but the entire Middle Belt region.