OPINION

My Personal Experience With Agriculture In Nigeria, Fulani Herdsmen & Nirsal Anchor Borrowers Programme.

Ezeji Patrick.

NIRSAL: Nigeria Incentive-based Risk Sharing System for agricultural lending.

 

Every time I try to talk about My agricultural Experiences with anyone especially as it relates to Agriculture in Nigeria, Fulani herders, and Nirsal Anchor Borrowers Programme, I feel this closeness to tears. This may be due to my nature of being an emotional person or maybe because I am simply annoyed at the scenarios that played out in the course of investing time and money in a program that was soon to throw me into serious hardship.

Before I delve deep into this article, I will like to give you some background in order to make you see why I am usually moved to tears at every point.

I had just rounded up my one-year compulsory youth service and was getting prepared to leave Ekiti State (Ado Ekiti To be precise) if I did not get something meaningful to do either with my time or with my Stacked Monthly allowance.

As this thought was still going on within, I Was equally looking out for the possible alternatives either in Lagos where I have my Family, or still within the state of Service.

Barely one month to my final departure from the state, I was presented with an opportunity that looked golden but will soon prompt me to pen this article down. I was introduced to an agriculture cooperative-like investment where every member was expected to invest in an ongoing maize and cassava project.

Initially, I was skeptical because I have never invested such an amount into a venture like this. All through my life, I have only invested N30,000 into a business and that was cosmetology products while I  was on campus. The truth of the matter is; I made my research. Part of what I did was to check the character of the top leaders who marketed the investment Ideas to me. Also, I tried to size everybody on the team including some of my church leaders who were there.

I finally decided to hop in since I did not see any incriminating attitude in them. I practically emptied 11 months of NYSC monthly savings of N15,000. Suffice to note that: I was getting N8,000 from my place of primary assignment plus free accommodation aside from the N19,000 monthly allowance from the federal government.

In all, I invested N180,000 into the projects. Well, I really did not bother about how much my investment was going to yield, I was just concerned about my capital coming back to me….. Laughs.

From every meeting we held subsequently, the project looked good. On several occasions, we even visited the very large farm. We had the opportunity to go round the farm on a bike since it was practically impossible to trek around the farm.

The plant looked fresh, healthy, and promising. I was secretly jubilating within me with a feeling that alas, my decision to stay back in the state had paved the way for success. At a point, I even volunteered to work on the farm as I was really passionate about the project.

We visited the farm frequently as volunteers in order to either give victuals to the workers on the farm or simply to inspect the activities.

***

Fast forward to harvest time, it was a different tale entirely.

Lest I forget, the size of the land used for the project was 260 hectares. We could only get this size of land because it was a government reserve land.

The result of our hard labor was going to be really massive because apart from the fact that our coordinators did all they needed to do such as Using the right seed (Mozanto Seed), Using the right weed control measures, applying the right fertilizers, and Even having to treat armyworm at some point, yet, it all ended in nothing.

Fulani Herdsmen devoured the entire crop without minding it was my entire 11 months savings they just destroyed.

In total, we lost N15,000,000 as a result of this heinous act from these herders from the Sahel, and All efforts to recover a fair part of the money proved abortive.

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Reports were made to the police, even the commissioner of police was informed, but the herders only agreed to pay N150,000.

 

 

My Experience With The Nirsal Anchor Borrowers Programme.

At this point, I was not only heartbroken, but I was also disappointed because I have lost the biggest part of what I had in my account. The weeks that proceeded with this news were even tougher as I could barely feed well again. I had endured for 6 months in hopes that my endurance and investment will catapult me into something big.

As I was battling with getting myself together and also making plans on how to leave the state for good, we suddenly got summoned again by the group for an urgent meeting. Initially, I made up my mind to turn down the invitation, but at a second thought, I yielded.

At the meeting, we were told of an Anchor borrowers program by Nirsal/CBN. What was more interesting was the fact that we would not contribute any money, all we needed to do was to sign agreement letters stating that we would manage our portion of land well, and ensure that it does well. This looked simple to me as I had gotten a good experience already from the previous farming experience.

We all went through the coaching weeks, the bank account opening, the document submission process, and every other preparation for the loan disbursement.

Finally, our Ecobank accounts were credited. I got an alert of the said amount after several months of delays and budget reshuffling.

At some point, so many persons were already fed up with the whole project because the disbursement was taking an unnecessary time.

The project soon commenced after the disbursement.

Right from the commencement of the project, I had my doubts because the project was to take off on the same land we used the last time (My first experience).

This was later proven right months after the project. Not only did Herders destroy a large part of the farm, thieves also had their turn on the crop. This project also failed woefully.

The most painful part of this project was; NIRSAL/CBN currently sees my BVN as indebted to the government. I find this really bad.

Again, NIRSAL was carried along in the course of the project, they were aware of Herder’s issue, and also, they were in the know about the end yield of the project. So how could they not have initiate debt forgiveness to every account holder who participated in the project?

 

Final Note

I have personally come to the conclusion that Agricultural practice in Nigeria is a big joke. I have never fancied talks from the government claiming they have empowered any number of youths neither do I fancy any of their talks claiming that they are committed to encouraging the youths back into agriculture.

I am a staunch believer in the fact that so long as Fulani herders are allowed to comb our forests without check, Agricultural growth in Nigeria will always retrogress.

Additionally, I also believe that Nirsal needs to do more in helping Farmers to mitigate the crisis of herders. Their refusal to do something about this makes them accomplice in the crime against Farmers in any part of the country.

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