Rural farmers in Sokoto are heaving a sigh of relief over what they describe as good riddance to some major hitches in their agricultural activities.
This followed the launch of e-wallet mobile banking scheme, an electronic pre-paid account for keeping money and transacting business through electronic device such as smart phones.
The promoters, Cellulant Nigeria Limited, said the scheme was to “help farmers to have easy access to fertilizers and agro imputs and to connect them to off-takers for their farm products. It will also help them increase their yield, income and improve their living standards.”
A farmer, 75 year old Ibrahim Makeri who is the Chairman Water Melon Farmers Association, Sabon Birni Local Government Area of Sokoto where the programme was launched, said the initiative has bought “a lot of good things” to them.
“We have been encountering many problems in our farming activities especially in transactions with our business partners from far away areas such as Lagos, Ibadan, Warri etc who send money to us through Civil Society Organisations (CSOs).
“Now it is much easier to access our money with e-wallet allocated to each beneficiary,” he said.
“With the e-wallet, farmers can transact all kinds of businesses such as paying for transportation, purchase of seedlings and sending large sums of money to various destinations without having to carry them physically which is risky,” the farmer added.
Makeri, who boasts of over 35 years in farming business, lauded the foresight of the initiators.
Another farmer, Mallam Mahe also disclosed: “We have been facing many obstacles for lack of banking facility in our village. I have customers from Port Harcourt, Ibadan, Warri, Lagos and most of our transactions were through the CSOs who collect a good percentage from every transaction but now all that is history.”
He was excited that they now deal directly with their customers, describing the initiative as fast and efficient. “I pray Almighty Allah rewards the initiators of the mobile banking system which has brought succour to farmers,” he said.
For his part, 42-year-old Jadi Arzika asserted: “I most especially appreciate the fact that the mobile banking affords farmers in rural areas access to soft loans, and off-takers who come directly to our farms to buy our produce.”
Another good thing, Arzika noted, was that the off-takers now use scale to measure the quantity of what they want to buy from farmers instead of the local measuring method which he also observed did not fetch ‘good money’,
Speaking with Daily Trust on Sunday on the scheme, Chairman, Sokoto State All Farmers Association, Dr Murtala Gagadu Minanata, said the scheme, which was launched in Sabon Birni Local Government with over 360 farmers registered, will be introduced in all 23 local government areas of the state.
He said food crops selected for the programme include wheat, soya beans, guinea corn, millet, rice and maize.
“Any transaction above N1 million must be channeled to a super-agent who facilitates such payment,” he explained.
One of the benefits of the programme to an average farmer, the AFAN chairman noted, is that it makes off-takers available to farmers, thus making them sell their produce right at their farms after harvest.
“It facilitates access to cash for farmers living in rural areas where there is no bank. The programme also eases the difficulty of having to transport goods to the market,” he said.
Dr Gagadu said some farmers even in the metropolitan local government area of Sokoto North have declared interest in participating in the programme having realised its benefits.
The chairman commended the Sokoto State government for its support to AFAN and facilitation of some activities for the benefit of farmers in the state.