Hope for farmers as experts develop financing model for cassava, others

Hope for farmers as experts develop financing model for cassava, others

Saturday, October 26, 2019 11:13 pm

A cassava plantation

The Smallholder and Agri-SME Finance and Investment Network (SAFIN) and its partners are designing a model on how to unlock investment and financing opportunities in some specific value chains in Nigeria.

The Technical Specialist, SAFIN, Mr Michael Von During, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) after a round table in Abuja that the model would be encapsulated in a document called Investment Prospectus.

During said that the Investment Prospectus would detail specifically on creative ways to unlock investment opportunities in cassava, maize and soybeans value-chains.

He said that the AFEX Commodity Exchange and its other partners are collaborators in designing the model, which would be launched in 2020.

The roundtable, convened by SAFIN and AFEX, is to put finishing touches to the document by having inputs from different stakeholders within the agricultural ecosystem.

The technical specialist explained that SAFIN was a network of organisations that share a common vision or mission towards increasing access to finance, particularly for Agriculture-based Small and Medium-scale Enterprises (SMEs) around the world.

He said that the SAFIN members represented different aspects of the value-chain actors and different areas around access to finance.

“So, we have private and public sectors as well as development organisations; we work around five work streams and SAFIN is the Secretariat.

“Our objective is to have the network work together on the five work streams, and one of them is the alignment of finance.

“The alignment of investment work streams is essentially trying to identify opportunities for investment within a given country and a given value-chain,” During said.

He disclosed that there are five pilots currently running in different countries including Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Uganda, Nigeria and launching in India.

The SAFIN specialist said that each of those pilots focused on a value chain, and they tried to identify opportunities for investment.

He stressed that essentially that meant that profitable investments could be made, and earned for a number of different reasons that could vary from country to country, value chain to value chain, and even different levels of value chains.

“We identify how profitable investments can be made, try to identify why access to finance is not available in one aspect, and then try to develop the potential solution,” During said.

Mr Iruansi Itoandon, Head of Commercials, AFEX Commodities Exchange, said AFEX had been leading the SAFIN steering committee to develop the investment prospectus in the past months.

He said the development of the prospectus was necessary to ensure that beyond the need to galvanise investment, there should be creation of pointers to opportunities within the investment space.

“Having done some kind of scooping, study and documentation, the roundtable was one of those sessions where we brought in other partners within the ecosystem to validate or reprove some of the submissions in the document.

“It is an ongoing process and this is one of the last steps before we get into finalising the investment prospectus basically,” Itoandon said.

The commercial manager stressed that the motivation for AFEX was in being able to participate in a process aimed at unlocking finance into the agricultural ecosystem.

He noted that the more money in the ecosystem, the more seamless activities in the various value-chains would be.

“Unlocking financing is core for our existence to the extent that reneging on that responsibility is to say we do not exist anymore.

“So, in four, five years without any government intervention, we have unlocked an excess of N3 billion in the agricultural ecosystem, providing smallholder loans to over 60,000 smallholder farmers in Nigeria because it is core to us.

“The other thing that makes this very important for us as AFEX is the role the AFEX country manager plays in the steering committee.

“He is the global head of the steering committee among multiple partners in different parts of the world.”

Also, Ms Inga Stefanowics, European Union Delegation to Nigeria and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), expressed satisfaction with the level of work done by SAFIN and its partners.

Stefanowicz, who is an International Cooperation Officer, said the biggest take-away from the roundtable was the role of the local stakeholders and actors who were already active and the solution they would bring to the table.

According to her, given the active participation of local stakeholders, donor organisations have little or nothing to do.

She said, “I think there is a lot of know-how, there is a lot of energy and possibilities are there”.

Stefanowicz said the major role to be played by donor organisations would be bringing the different initiatives together to scale them up, adding that, “this is where a donor may come in as a catalysing or stimulating element”.

The international cooperation officer noted that Agriculture in Nigeria had enormous unrealised potential.

“From what we heard at this meeting, I do not think we should fear supporting this sector because it provides opportunities.

“What we fear and hope to address in supporting agriculture is the growing population and the climate issues.”

Mr Arokoyo Thomas from Alliance for Grant Revolution in Africa (AGRA) said the organisation acted as a facilitator or catalyst, adding that the model being developed was in line with its objectives.

He added that with the model, farmers’ productivity would be harnessed and with least effort, farmers could meet all required services.

“AGRA has been supporting farmers, especially smallholder farmers, to increase income, reduce food security issues, ultimately reduce poverty,” Thomas said.

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