Nigeria , October, 27 2016 -
The federal government and the International Fund for Agricultural Development-a specialized agency of the United Nations dedicated to eradicating rural poverty in developing countries, implemented Rural Finance Institution Building Programme(RUFIN).
One of the reasons why rural dwellers remain poor is lack of access to agro micro-credit facilities to undertake meaningful ventures.
To mitigate this, the federal government and the International Fund for Agricultural Development-a specialized agency of the United Nations dedicated to eradicating rural poverty in developing countries, implemented Rural Finance Institution Building Programme(RUFIN).
The total cost of the project is US$40 million with IFAD contributing the sum of US$27.58 million.
The programme aimed to develop and strengthen Micro Finance Banks (MFBs), other member-based Micro Finance Institutions (MFls), to enhance the access of the rural populace to financial services in order to expand and improve agricultural productivity and Micro-Small Rural Enterprises.
The programme uses group lending methodology to form over 18,000 women groups in 12 implementing states.
Katsina and Zamfara states are among the 12 pilot states, where the programme is being implemented.
In Dutsin-Ma, Katsina State where some of these rural women groups are, women tell their success stories and the challenges they face getting farm inputs.
“Noma da Kiwo” (crop and livestock production) is the name of two groups with 20 members each, and led by 55-year-old Fatima Sirajo in Sanawa village, in Dutsin-Ma, Katsina State.
Their primary occupation is farming - crop and livestock production - in addition to engaging in small agro-enterprises like trading in farm produce and processing.
Fatima Sirajo, a mother of five, told Daily Trust that she and other members of the group have accessed eight circles of loans from MFI and MFBs ranging from N10,000 to N70,000.
“My journey out of poverty started with micro-credit I received from a microfinance bank. We were linked to the FG/IFAD rural financial inclusion programme for the smallholder women. Through the loan, I was able to buy farmland on which I cultivate soya beans, sorghum and millet.
“I bought two calves, which I raised to bulls that can fetch me N300,000 or more. I also have three rams and four sheep. Also, I bought one goat, which today has multiplied to six goats. Today, my husband is proud of me because I bought a new motor bike for him,” Hajiya Sirajo said.
Malama Nana Murtala, 25, serves as the group’s secretary and proud owner of seven sheep and three rams, which multiplied from two she bought with the loan of N20,000 she got.
According to the young mother of five, she used the four circles of the micro-credit, which went up to N50,000 to raise livestock which she later sold and bought a groundnut processing machine and later expanded her farm.
“In the last five years, I have been accessing micro-credits which I use in raising livestock to sell and make more money. I thank God, at least I’m doing better now,” Nana said.
Aisha Bishir is the president of another women group called “Dogon Ruwa” with 16 members in the same area.
The 49-year-old mother of 10 told Daily Trust that the micro-credit she accessed through the RUFIN intervention in nine circles lifted the family from poverty, adding that she had been able to send two of her children to Isa Kaita College of Education in Dutsin-Ma.
“After the capacity building I accessed credit ranging from N20,000 to N60,000 nine times. Through these loans, I bought animals - sheep, goats and cow - and farmland (1.5 acre) at N225,000 where I grow groundnut, millet, sesame and then bought a house for N170,000,” she said.
Aisha said she sold one of the bulls she raised at N145,000 and some of the rams along with her farm produce which fetched for her the sum of N225,000 with which she bought land, stressing that “I couldn’t have done that without the RUFIN loan.”
Another group led by Aisha Hamisu, in Gidan Makera, in Dutsin-Ma is into rice production and has so far harvested 27 bags (100kg) with more yet to be harvested.
In neighbouring Zamfara State, ‘Kainuwa Dashen Allah’ women group led by Aisha Abubakar and Hindatu Usman, has made investment into orchard farming - planting orange, guava and date palm trees in a land the group collectively bought at N300,000 from their monthly group savings out of the profit they get from the micro credits.
The 4-year-old 20-member association with individual credit access of between N30,000 and N70,000 has helped many of the members to strengthen their production capacity - farms expanded, more animals bought and more engagement in meaningful enterprises.
Another group, ‘Da Rarrafe Ake Tashi Tsaye’ pooled its profit to buy cows at group level. When the cows were sold, proceeds were shared.
Hauwa Maude, 46-year-old, who speaks English fairly said the loan she got through RUFIN really strengthened their finances, adding that four years of continued access to the loan in circles had improved her income 100 per cent, adding that “I bought a house in Gusau for N600,000 which is now undergoing renovation.”
For Islamiyya women group in Tsafe, the members have seen good value in groundnut processing. Processing oil and cake, with processing machines acquired through the loan, they have been able to extend loan to their members to undertake good farming or trading activities.
The RUFIN group’s methodology has made lending and repayment easier to micro finance banks to deal with the women as most of them require as little as N10,000 to make them more productive.
The challenge for the women groups now is continuity of the programme as the RUFIN partnership ends in 2017. However, Mr. Auta Appeh, the Special Assistant to the Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbeh on Donor Programmes, said plans are underway to get more funding for the project to enable it continue in states that were willing to pay their counterpart funding.