News Column

When Osun Introduced Debit Cards for Farmers

August 7, 2014

Gbenga Faturoti

In a bid to achieve food security and empower the people at the grassroots level especially the farmers, Osun State Government last week rolled out debit cards for farmers through which they would have direct and easy access to farming input such as improved seedlings, pesticides and fertilizers at 50 per cent subsidized rate.

Governor Rauf Aregbesola unveiled the debit cards and gave them out to about 10,000 farmers as the first batch at the official launch of Farmers' Input and Credit Support Programme held at the farm input distribution centre, AISU, Ede.

Already, over 50,000 farmers and their farms have been registered by the state government to benefit from the scheme in future, across the 30 local government councils and area office in Modakeke.

Farmers have the opportunity to draw through the debit card, farming input worth between N100, 000 and N150,000 that is repayable either in cash or in kind after a year or thereabouts.

The gesture tagged: Farmers Input and Credit Support Programme; according to the Coordinator, Osun Rural Enterprise and Agricultural Programme (O-REAP) and Director General, Office of Economic Development and Partnership (OEDP), Dr. Charles Akinola, is aimed at delivering subsidized farm input to farmers through debit card.

"Under the scheme, every registered farmer will have the opportunity of purchasing all their agro input such as improved seeds, chemicals, fertilizers, farm implements from the nearest agro dealer outlet in their locations with the debit cards issued by the Wema Bank Plc.

Prior to the implementation of the scheme, Akinola noted that his agency, (O-REAP) planning and coordination in collaboration with Unicapital Plc and Wema Bank Plc had carried out an enumeration of farmers in the state to gather and compile the necessary information on them.

The O-REAP planning and coordinating team also worked with Osun Agricultural Development Project (OSSADEP) to carry out an appraisal of the existing process and infrastructure for input distribution in the state.

Akinola disclosed that, "under this scheme, the state government has decided to opt out of direct procurement and distribution of input since 2013 farming season and instead instituted the private-led agro input distribution scheme.

"The Farmers Input Supply and Services Company (FISSCO), a private-led agro input company will concentrate on supply and distribution; development of the agro-input market chain; provision of market information; extension and demonstration activities for the farmers while the state government would now concentrate on policy guidelines and regulatory control; provision of basic infrastructure, quality control; guarantee for investment loans; and sector performance monitoring and documentation.

The scheme he added "is planned to ensure widest penetration of agro input to our farming population. The implementation will also contribute immensely to the attainment of our strategic objectives of our robust programme 'the Osun Rural Enterprise and Agriculture Programme (O-REAP). These objectives are food security, job creation and youth empowerment, and economic transformation of the state and wealth creation in line with the administration's Six Point Integral Action Plan.

The O-REAP Coordinator further explained that "for many years, agro input supply and distribution in Nigeria has been limited by ambiguity in government policies regarding production, liberalization, regulation and subsidy provision".

Akinola further disclosed that Subsidy administration has been fraught with so many inefficiencies with farmers claiming that the inputs do not get to them at required times and recommended rates or at all. Fertilizer procurement and distribution in particular has been fraught with fraud, discrepancies and inefficiencies. Governments at the federal and state levels, he noted, were spending a lot of money on farm input, which were not reaching the intended beneficiaries (smallholder farmers) and thus, had no significant impact on the food production.

Furthermore, Akinola declared that Government has now realized that its intervention in the agro-input procurement and distribution with presumed subsidized inputs were limiting participation of the private sector (potential) market channels, thus constraining crops productivity, food security and economic growth.

While speaking at the event, Governor Rauf Aregbesola Aregbesola assured that his government will vigorously explore more ways of expanding and improving agricultural production and the development of agro-allied industrial base in his second term in office. The debit card, the governor stressed, will make farming easier for all those interested in embracing farming and remove excruciating burden of loans.

According to him, "we came up with the aide scheme in order to correct all the anomalies that are inherent in the extant system of agricultural input distribution, while the Credit Support Programme is meant to boost the capacity of stakeholders to play their roles properly towards the development and modernisation of agriculture.

"We therefore embarked on a rigorous process of due diligence by carefully and painstakingly conducting enumeration of all farmers in the state. This led to the registration of more than 50,000 farmers all over Osun.

The governor expressed confidence on the capacity of the agricultural sector to deliver the goods on the state's economy saying no wealth can be created sufficiently without the sector.

He said, "We are convinced that there is immense potential in agriculture for job creation, wealth generation, food security and poverty eradication.

"We will continue to vigorously explore more ways of expanding and improving our agricultural production and the development of our agro-allied industrial base.

"What we are doing today is continuation on the path we have consciously taken since our assumption of office. This is the empowerment of farmers and the development of agriculture for the purpose of making food available in abundance, first for feeding ourselves, then for feeding others and ultimately, the development of agro-industries for job creation and wealth generation for individuals and the government."

"Wema Bank of Nigeria will provide the platform for the financial transactions involved in this scheme. The new distribution scheme, which began in April, is already making positive impacts in enhancing agricultural operation in Osun.

"The scheme has also facilitated employment for 77 young people at the 60 retail outlets currently in operation. This figure will of course increase as more of those outlets are established. We are convinced that there is immense potential in agriculture for job creation, wealth generation, food security and poverty eradication.

"We will continue to vigorously explore more ways of expanding and improving our agricultural production and the development of our agro-allied industrial base.

"For instance, of the 2,010 tonnes of fertilizer delivered to the state, 1,682 tonnes have been sold. Indeed, under the new scheme, individual farmers have requested and received up to 10 bags of fertilizer. This shows a huge shortfall in meeting farmers' needs under the Federal Government's GES programme, which allows a maximum of only two bags for individual farmers.

"Also, 45,914 litres of agro-chemicals and 2,450 different types of implements have been sold. Yet more orders are being placed. What this underscores is the efficiency of the new distribution system in ensuring much wider spread, easy reach and ready availability of the inputs to support farm operations.

"We have come a long way, though we still have many miles to go. We are however satisfied that our efforts in this regards are bearing fruits. My seeking re-election is to enable us consolidate on our efforts and bring the foundation laid to bear fruits. You have been my worthy partners and dependable allies. I know that we can win together and take agriculture to greater heights. We can together arrest the scourge of hunger and poverty and usher in an era of agriculture based prosperity for farmers, the people and the government. I thank all farmers for their encouraging support, in this time and all at times.

In his response, the Patron of Farmers' Association of Nigeria, Chief Bola Otunla, lauded Aregebsola, noting that since the creation of the state in 199, no successive government has performed the feat for farmers, adding that the gesture was unique and targeted at enhancing the living standard of farmers in the state.

Professor Ladipo said that since the commencement of the Aregbesola administration in the state, fertilizer distribution has been going round all the rural farmers at 50 per cent subsidized rate adding that the present administration is farmers' friendly.


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Source: AllAfrica


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