From Juliana Agbo, Abuja

The Federal Government  is targeting about two million smallholder farmers across the country through a revolutionary agric-focused intervention scheme to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on food production.

The scheme tagged Agric for Food and Job Plan (AFJP) is a joint venture between Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, state governments, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), private sector via out-grower schemes and other relevant stakeholders.

The Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Agriculture, Dr Andrew Kwasari, who spoke yesterday in Abuja, said the scheme is aimed at increasing local food supply, while simultaneously creating employment opportunities in the agricultural sector.

Kwasari stated that it will be achieved through investment in the sector by way of providing zero-interest input financing options such as fertilisers and seeds to farmers across the 36 States and the Federal Capital Territory.

He explained that the AFJP is totally different from the Anchor Borrowers Program which is a long-term programme.

While stating that the project is aimed at providing zero interest input finance to smallholder farmers, he noted that it would run for a duration of 12 months with an aggregate of two million hectares of land, and livestock targeted across the country.

He listed the priority crops and livestock targeted to include, rice, maize, soybean, groundnut, cowpea, millet, cotton, cocoa among others.

“In collaboration with N-Power Scheme, trained enumerators have been sent out to identify farmers and their farms to ensure proper targeting of beneficiaries,” he said.

Dr Kwasari further explained that the project plans to eliminate post-harvest losses by collaborating with existing channels for off-take and storage such as existing commercial processors, aggregators, commodity exchanges, warehousing and strategic grain reserves.

He however said the department of extension services and the department of Farm Input Supply Services are responsible for the implementation of the project.

He said the farmers registration will also ensure appropriate linkages to quality private inputs and services supply scheme and reduce none performing loan rate which are caused by side selling, political farmers, inappropriate timing and targeting of loan disbursement.

“Upon completion of the identification and registration phase, an evidenced-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.

“COVID-19 has created the most challenging economic situation Nigeria has ever gone through. However, it is important to continue to seek innovative ways to keep the country running and protect the livelihood of its people,” he added.


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