The federal government’s focus on empowering women and youth through agriculture is the linchpin for the Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN), Project 1000 Farms Multi-purpose Cooperative Society making waves in Rivers State, JOHN OBA reports.
Findings has shown that one of the major challenges facing the agricultural sector in Africa and especially Nigeria, is devising appropriate development strategies that captures financial services requirements of farmers especially, smallholders farmers who constitute over 70 per cent of the farming population.
However, like the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Anchor Borrowers programme for farmers, the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) One-Local Government-One Product (OLOP) programme as provided for in the 2017 appropriation Act designed to promote Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) development in communities by focusing on products distinctive to the each locality where they have comparative advantage.
The programme is expected will also help cultivate same through value-addition into a national and global brand is currently yielding some fruits with the focus on farmers Cooperatives.
Witj SMEDAN recently signing Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) with some Cooperatives through Micro Finance Banks like Ekondo Microfinance Bank in Port Harcourt, Rivers State which allows members of the cooperatives to be given loans/grants for farming and production has given Filip to agricultural activities in the State.
A cooperative, the Project 1000 Farms Multi-purpose Cooperative Society Limited along others recently signed a N4 million loan/grants where it members are expected to produce cassava across the value chains.
Speaking with Blueprint at the Weekend, the Secretary of the Youth-based cooperative society, Mr Dough Onah, said, the MoA is an interest free loan/intervention fund of SMEDAN’s One Local Government One Product initiative approved by the federal government for disbursement.
Onah said the interest free loan and intervention fund, will be judiciously used for the processing of Cassava flour, Cassava Chips and hygienic Garri suitable for diabetic patients and for consumption both locally and internationally.
“The Project1000 MPCS Limited is among the three MSMEs representing Cross River State and the Northern Senatorial District in the SMEDAN OLOP project, which is geared towards production of indigeneous agricultural products in each zone of the country.
“This is a part of the SMEDAN 2017 budget year and N4 million is a 30% grant and 70% loan to cover cost for working capital, equipments and work space, which will be disbursed in installments as the program unfolds.
“The Project 1000 Farms MPCS Limited is a subset of Project 1000 a citizen oriented organisation for Yala young Urban Professionals” he said.
He explained that the initiative which was launched as a solution driven citizenship forum on the 9th of June 2018, has helped to identify the challenges in Yala LGA and proffered solutions to them along the lines of agriculture, education, ICT, culture and tourism as a means of addressing youth unemployment and curbing social vices.
Onah assured that the cooperative is committed to providing lasting solutions to unemployment, by engaging in Youth and women empowered through Agriculture and in improving quality of life and ensuring food security.
“The project 1000 farm Modern Cassava processing factory is set to explore the agricultural value chain of cassava, with processing of Cassava into fufu flour, cassava Amala and garri, but our garri is targeted at those with diabetic with zero sugar level.
The project 1000 farms according to Onah is encouraging women and youths to participate actively in agriculture from the cultivation to harvesting. Also at the factory, which belong to the cooperative, the women have been fully engaged.
Utilisation of intervention
He explained further the grant will be invested into improving “our workspace from our present road side cassava processing unit into a modern processing plant and also to acquire two key machines as the budget can support.
“Our plan is to see the possibility of going into proceesing of other food products such as yam flour (amala) poundo yam flour, plantain flour, beans flour, groundnut pudding, mango, cashew and orange juices since we have abundant raw materials to cater for the local and international markets,” he said
The Director General of SMEDAN, while congratulating the benefiting cooperatives urged them to judiciously utilise the fund properly for the maximum benefit of their Senatorial District.
He also tasked them on the need to fulfill their obligations to the respective micro finance banks with timely payment of their loans.