FMARDPace: Federal Government to empower farmers through Agric for Food Job Plan, set to offer zero interest loan to captured farmers

The Federal Government on Tuesday, disclosed its plan of boosting local food production through the registration of Smallholder farmers who constitute a larger percentage of the farmers aggregate in Nigeria through the Agric for food Job Plan (AFJP) program.

Disclosing the purpose of the new program by the President Mohammadu Buhari led administration was the Special Assistant to President on Agriculture, Andrew Kwasari, who stated that the Agric for Food Job Plan targets 2 million smallholder farmers across the 36 States and FCT, to be empowered to produce 10million tonnes of food including carbohydrate, animal protein and edible oil within the next 12 months.

Kwasari furthered that the program is different from the Anchor Borrowers Program in many ways including its target crops which are basically Maize, Sorghum, Soybean, Groundnuts, Cowpea, Cassava, Millet, Livestock, Horticulture, Palm kernel & Cotton; while Sesame Seeds, Hibiscus, Cocoa, Hides and Skins; and Horns and Hoofs are targeted for the export market.

The SPA to the President on Agriculture noted that the program implemented by the Extension Services and Farm Input Supply Services Departments of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, is part of the effort of the Federal Government to cushion the effect of COVID-19 on Agricultural production, at a time oil economy has been adversely affected.
Since its detection in Asia early this year, coronavirus, widely known as Covid-19 has ravaged countries on a global scale, stopping the world dead in its tracks and altering life as we know it. Rapidly spreading from country to country, the virus has led to a temporary shutdown of activities as a result of strictly enforced lockdowns and restrictions that hampered businesses and economies around the world. With oil prices experiencing a major fall and the concept of recessions becoming a reality for most nations, it has become imperative to forge paths and cultivate ideas that protect not just jobs and the economy, but the survival of Nigerians as a whole. 
A vital sector affected by this virus is the agricultural sector. With panic, restrictions, and lack of access to funding and relevant input impeding the farming process, output and supply have been negatively affected with a scarcity of food and job losses becoming more imminent by the day. 
To this end, the Federal Government in collaboration with State Governments through the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), is set to launch a revolutionary agric-focused intervention scheme in the form of the Agric for Food and Job Plan (AFJP). 
This joint venture between FMARD, State Governments, as well as other relevant stakeholders including the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), private sector via out-grower schemes, and farmers across the country, is aimed at increasing locally grown food supply, while simultaneously creating employment opportunities in the agricultural sector. 
This will be achieved through investment in the sector by way of providing zero-interest input financing options such as fertilizers and seeds to farmers across the 36 states of the country and the F.C.T, to produce a harvest that can sell domestically and internationally. This will, therefore, increase agricultural productivity, create job opportunities in the sector, ensure the continuity of the country’s food supply chain, and help the economy recover speedily. 
The programme will be run for a duration of 12 months with an aggregate of 2 million hectares of land, and livestock targeted across the country. In collaboration with the N-Power Scheme – a part of the Federal Government’s Social Intervention Programme, trained enumerators have been sent out to identify farmers and their farms to ensure proper targeting of beneficiaries.
The Agric for Food Job Plan (AFJP) data capture which kicked off in its pilot phase across the States of the Federation has partnered N-power volunteers as Enumerators who would capture an evidence-based database devoid of political farmers.

Kwasari emphasised that the farmers’ registration will also ensure appropriate linkages to quality private inputs and services supply schemes and reduce non performing loan rates which are caused by side selling, political farmers, and inappropriate timing and targeting of loan disbursement.

Upon completion of the identification and registration phase, an evidence-based database of farmers will access input financing facilities to carry on their 2020 wet season farming, as well as a guaranteed market in the form of assigned off-takers.” 

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