From Esther Akaa, Lafia
The Agabija Young Farmers’ Association provides loans to women in the Agabija community, Lafia Local Government Area of Nasarawa State, allowing them to start small businesses and increase their incomes. These women are now testifying of the gains they have reaped from these loans.
This is made possible through the various interventions given to the association by the Sasakawa Africa Association (SAA), which was founded in 1986 by Japanese philanthropist Ryoichi Sasakawa, Nobel Laureate Dr Norman Borlaug, and former US President Jimmy Carter with a focus on agricultural extension and smallholder farmer development.
Some of the women who spoke with The Voice on Monday during a 4-day media field trip organized by SAA with funding support from the Nippon Foundation expressed joy over the impact of the interventions in their businesses.
One of the beneficiaries, Mrs. Hauwa Umaru, said she obtained a loan of N50,000 from Agabija Young Farmers’ Association, which enabled her to start a small-scale business where she buys grains such as millet, maize, sorghum, and rice and resells them to make a profit.
Umaru said her business had increased after just six months of accessing the funds, and she was able to repay the loan.
“I have been able to use the money I made from my grains business to enroll my three children into school, and I feel fulfilled now because education is very important.
“I sincerely appreciate the association for me with the loan,” she said.
Another beneficiary, Mrs. Salamatu Haruna, also testified that the farmer group provided her with a loan to start a food business.
“I cook food such as rice and other traditional foods and sell in this community, and with the N50,000 loan I accessed from the Agabija Young Farmers’ Association, I have been able to expand the business, and I am making more sales now,” Haruna stated.
On her part, Mrs Hauwa Rabiu said she was trained to cook balanced diets and best cooking practices.
He said the training has helped her to cook good meals for her family to improve their diets and health care.
She, therefore, called on the government and other organisations to emulate Sasakawa Africa Association (SAA), which is implementing a programme aimed at supporting farmers in the rural areas to improve food productivity.
Speaking in an interview with The Voice, the Secretary of Agabija Young Farmers’ Association, Mr Shauibu Abdullahi, said SAA had trained members of the association on modern system of agriculture such as transplanting of crops, record keeping and how to apply fertiliser on their farmers.
“Sasakawa Africa Association has also taught us on how to carry out dry season farming and we plant crops like pepper, onions and rice and the money we make from our farms, we gather it together and give out as loans to our members and other people in the community.
“So far, we have given out N350,000 and the beneficiaries, especially women are testifying and some of them have started repaying the loans. The women were also taught on best cooking practices and new knowledge in agriculture.
“We were also given five sprayers to spray weeds on the farm and this has impacted positively on our association,” Abdullahi said.
He, however said the association was facing the challenge of transportation of their farm produce from the farms to places of market.
“We also do not have equipment that will help us to process some of our farm produce such as groundnut, cassava, and maize, among others.
“Another challenge is that we do not have enough land to cultivate crops on a large scale and therefore we are calling on the community to provide us with farm lands that will enable us to cultivate crops both during rainy and dry season to ensure food security,” he concluded.
On his part, the Programme officer, Market Oriented Agriculture (MOA), SAA, Mr. Jonathan Taknan Yassah, said SAA had trained and mentored the young farmers on how to practice agriculture as a business.
Yassah explained that other areas of the training was on enterprise management in order to keep records and engage in Community Saving Investment in Agriculture Business (CSIA) to encourage saving for the benefit of members of the association.
He said that SAA also trained the farmers on how to spray herbicides on their farms and supported them with five sprayers, saying it has improved productivity and service delivery in the community.
The Programme officer further stated that women were also trained on processing and poultry rearing among others to serve as backup in case of crop failure especially as a result of climate change such as flood, drought, pest and infections, among others.
He, therefore called on the group to continue to apply the knowledge gained through the various interventions provided by SAA for sustainability.
The Voice reports that project is funded by Nippon Foundation, a nonprofit, grant-making organization founded in 1962 and implemented in the state by SAA.