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BUSINESS A.M. FEBRUARY, MONDAY 12 - SUNDAY 18, 2018 COMMODITIES & AGRICULTURE 31 L-R: Babajide Arowosafe, executive director technical, NIRSAL; Aliyu Abdulhameed, managing director/CEO, NIRSAL; Karl-Heinz Knoop, chairman, RIELA, and Bernhard Schlagheck, ambassador of Germany to Nigeria at the signing of an MoU between NIRSAL and RIELA on mechanization of post-harvest processing held in Abuja Fortis Mobile Money deploying digital finance for small-scale agriculture Edidi Abdulrafiu Fortis Mobile Money has said it is deploying its newly designed Digital Finance for Rural Agricultural Development (DiFRAD) for the purpose of funding smallholder farmers, especially those in rural and peri-urban communities in the North Central, North East and North West of Nigeria. Samuel Oladimeji, managing director of the company, said the product is a digital agricultural initiative and was inspired when he had a first-hand encounter with some farming communities in Niger and Cross River states, during some of the company’s cash transfer programmes. “Most of the beneficiaries of the programs are farmers held down by the lack of financial services and sometimes know-how. The company immediately stayed working on the idea of bringing the banks to them, and bridging the gap between the farmers and agricultural developers,” Oladimeji said. Realising the initiative required Fortis to work in partnership with several microfinance banks, agricultural developers and insurance companies, working on a package of products that will cater for the extensive needs of the farmers, he further said, adding that it has been really difficult for Mobile Money Operators (MMOs) to craft a value proposition that will address the real needs of their target market even though that target market might differ across MMOs. Oladimeji said: “Fortis Money has always been going the extra miles in the right way. Although, the company can decide to improve value with bill payments and wallet-to-bank transfers, but then any sort of aggressive marketing of e- channels by the commercial banks would leave MMOs scrambling for market share in an already saturated market.” Oladimeji believes the product is unique because it focuses on the value chain instead of isolated financing. He noted that it was the company’s passion to end At Fortis Money, we see ourselves as a socially responsible organisation and DiFRAD to us is part of the ways we give back to the community the marginalisation of small holder farmers by buyers and even nature by providing knowledge and guidance as they journey through the digital finance value chain, and that is why it is in partnership with the microfinance banks and insurance companies, to financeÅ the entire value chain starting from provision of farm land through its clearing to its harvesting, processing and selling. The package also extends to the provision of inputs and we have consulted critical expertise to look at the proposition and ensure that we achieve the desired impact. This is why the whole process is mostly digital and going digital guarantees a level of transparency, Oladimeji explained. The Fortis Money CEO has a word for the central administration in Abuja: “We have witnessed demonstrated resolve of the government to properly incentivize agriculture. While the government faces challenges especially with regards to reaching the (BOP), small holder farmers, I believe that the solution is Public Private Partnership. The privately owned organisations with the right organisation and the right process have the opportunity to bridge the gap between the government and the rural farmers. “At Fortis Money, we see ourselves as a socially responsible organisation and DiFRAD to us is part of the ways we give back to the community. The overarching goal is to reduce the poverty level in rural communities seeing that their most recurrent occupation is farming,” Oladimeji added. Dry season farming under threat from delay in GES input supply Ajose Sehindemi THE ALL FARMERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (AFAN), Kaduna State chapter has raised the alarm over the non-supply of farm input for dry season farming. It said the call became imperative because dry season farming under the Growth Enhancement Scheme (GES) had not started. Nuhu Aminu, chairman of the association said this in Zaria, Kaduna while appealing to the Federal Government to intervene. He said: “The GES dry season farming programme ought to have started in October last year, but up to now, nothing had been done. “We are already in February and we are still waiting for its commencement. I want to use this medium to appeal to President Muhammadu Buhari to direct the Minister of Agriculture to launch the 2017 GES dry season farming so as to enable farmers across the country to access farm input. “The fertiliser and seeds under GES are genuine inputs; they are supplied at subsidised rates to boost the morale of farmers and increase agricultural production. “We usually get discounts on the prices of the inputs and this assistance has been beneficial to many smallholder farmers.” Aminu said farmers across the country had complied with the directive of President Buhari to return to farm. He said the directive had yielded positive results as many Nigerians had now embraced farming as their livelihood. “As farmers, we have listened and complied with the President’s instruction; we went back to our farmlands and produced enough food last year. “However, we are already in the dry season farming period, which started since October, but up to this time, neither fertilisers nor seeds nor chemicals had been released to farmers,’’ he said. He stressed the need for the government to do something urgently to sustain the support of farmers for government policies and programmes. “Things are not moving well as far as dry season farming is concerned; therefore, government needs to do something urgently to improve agricultural activities and keep the farmers’ faith in it,’’ he said. Aminu, however, called on the citizens to support the government in its efforts to execute its agricultural policies and programmes. “Failure to supply fertilisers, chemicals and seeds will not augur well for the next farming season because we don’t have enough seeds to plant. “Apart from that, the assistance from government has been helpful in encouraging people, especially the youth at the grassroots, to embrace farming,’’ he said. Failure to supply fertilisers, chemicals and seeds will not augur well for the next farming season because we don’t have enough seeds to plant

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