Africa, Credible Future - Can Micro Loans Make a Macro Difference?, Development & Aid, Food and Agriculture, Headlines

NIGERIA: Loans In Kind For Farmers Improves Food Security

Toye Olori

BIU, Borno State, Jan 1 2006 (IPS) - PROSAB or Promoting Sustainable Agriculture in Borno State is a micro-credit project with a difference in northern Nigeria.

Instead of small loans in cash, the Canadian-funded project distributes loans in kind- agricultural inputs like seeds and fertiliser-to indigent farmers. And they repay the loans with a part of their harvests.

The two-year-old project that is being implemented by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) based in Ibadan, the capital of Oyo State in the southwestern Nigeria, has improved food security.

Agricultural productivity and incomes have gone up despite the unfavourable weather, soil fertility conditions and ‘striga’, a parasitic grass that has destroyed farms in Borno State.

Nancy Wakama, a lecturer and farmer, asserts: ”the coming of PROSAB has helped us a lot because they have taught us how to defeat poverty, hunger and disease. I am getting twice what I used to produce.”

Most farms in Borno State grow maize and soybean. More than 2,000 farmers in four local governments received free seeds this year. There are over 30 communities participating in the food security project. The project is proving itself self-sustaining. Farmers are producing enough for themselves and to put back in the IITA’s kitty for distribution to new farmers who join up at the start of the planting season every year.

Lucky Omogui, a research associate explains that ”by the second year we reduce the free bags. By the end of two years we withdraw the loan completely because the farmer is now able to buy without depending on us.”

Everywhere yields have gone up. In Marama village, Ndiherwa Ibrahim said she harvested 26 bags of maize on half a hectare of land this year. Before PROSAB, she was producing between 8 and 10 bags.

Now she is a project leader. ”PROSAB has changed my life,” she says. “They showed me how to make money. I am teaching other farmers too. If PROSAB should leave today, we can sustain the project but I don’t want them to leave. They are like a father and mother to us.”

Joshua Mshellia, who took a seed loan for two years, says the PROSAB credit scheme has succeeded in persuading farmers to grow soybeans that add nutrients to the soil and reduces striga infestation.

”If this method is extended to other sandy areas, it will help increase food production not just in northern Nigeria but in the whole country,” the retired head teacher asserts.

Maisanda Mohammed, the district head of Mirga, where the pilot project was launched, says PROSAB has lifted his people from poverty to riches. “Our people are wealthier than before,” he says.

”We have learnt a lot from them (IITA). My people were very lazy before PROSAB came. I am proud to say that everybody now knows what he is doing,” he adds. . Funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the five-year-project has a budget of 5.4 million dollars.

According to Jan Helsen, the project manager of PROSAB, in Borno State farmers are facing increasing food insecurity because of the erratic rainfall, marginal soil fertility and non- conducive policy environment.

”The goal is to improve food security and reduce environmental degradation; to improve sustainable agriculture through transferring improved technologies and management practices, improve market access, develop a more enabling policy environment and enhance capacity,” Helsen told IPS in the state capital Maiduguri.

The IITA is implementing the PROSAB project with local partners, Borno State Agricultural Development Programme, University of Maiduguri, and a non-governmental group Community Research for Empowerment and Development.

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