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Monday, December 12, 2022

Agriculture: How LAPO is making great impact in Nigerian - ITREALMS

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Agriculture is deeply woven into the fabric of Nigeria’s history and culture and it remains a central pillar of the economy. A dominant sector in Nigeria, it consistently contributes (specific figure) to Nigeria’s GDP, and accounting for the livelihoods of almost 84 percent of households in rural communities.
However, despite recent gains, the vast majority of farmers practice subsistence farming characterized by lack of modern implements and low yields. Sadly, farming is still largely defined by the poverty of practitioners, rather than its great potentials, although an emerging generation of young farmers are trying to change the narrative of Nigerian agriculture through a focus on new techniques and technology.

It is not a surprise that agriculture is a strong priority of LAPO Microfinance Bank which grew out of the LAPO Group, a pro-poor institution, committed to the social and economic empowerment of low-income households.

Given the reality that agriculture remains the number one source of employment in the country, the sector must be central to any serious anti-poverty and empowerment efforts.
This is the focus that drives the agricultural strategy of LAPO MFB.

In line with the name of its parent organization, Lift Above Poverty Organization, LAPO MFB has driven and supported many agricultural interventions designed to boost productivity and improve the lives of farmers. LAPO has lived up to and even increased its commitment to agricultural development, over the years.

The focus is organic. In 2016, LAPO’s chairman and founder, Godwin Ehigiamusoe revealed at a forum, that the bank had disbursed N455.5billion to owners of micro and small enterprises, including N20.7billion as agricultural loans to micro and small enterprises engaged in livestock, arable, and tree crop farming.

While noting agriculture’s prominence in Nigeria’s economic development particularly in the pre independence era, Ehigiamusoe stated that agricultural development was the most viable path to diversification of the country’s economy.

At its annual media forum in February, 2022 LAPO disclosed that it had committed the sum of 19.9 billion naira to boost agricultural investments of clients through the LAPO Rural Development Initiative (LARDI) in the 2021 financial year. This figure represents 64 per cent growth compared to N12.2 billion disbursed in 2020.

Also in February this year, LAPO MFB signed a Memorandum of Understanding with international non-governmental organization, Mercy Corps to provide access to farmers and micro-enterprises in North Eastern Nigeria.
 
The scheme was designed to make credit facilities accessible to 90,000 low income households comprising smallholder farmers and microenterprises, in the Northeast states of Borno, Adamawa, Yobe and Gombe.

These efforts are making a real difference. They are also attracting honours to LAPO MFB. Th bank was named the best supporting Financial Institution at the CBN’s Agricultural Credit Guarantee Scheme Fund (ACGSF) Awards, in Ogun State in July. LAPO MFB had won the award last year as well. Interestingly, the award for Overall Best Farmer, went to a LAPO MFB client.

LAPO MFB’s participation in the ACGF is not its only partnership with the Federal Government toward agricultural development. In December, 2021, LAPO signed an agreement with the Federal Government, through the Value Chain Development Programme (VCDP), and other partners, to provide loans for small holder farmers. The MoU which is billed for six years, includes technical and financial support to rural farmers.
 
LAPO MFB also caters to farmers and others in the agricultural sector through signature loans. Its bouquet of loan products includes a collateral-free, low-interest Microfinance Agric Loan, ranging from N50,000 to N500,000.

LAPO MFB’s substantial and consistent investment in agriculture, supported by targeted and impactful interventions is lifting lives, businesses and communities. It is also showing the way to a more productive and self-sufficient future for Nigerian agriculture.

*Sunday E. Azu/Editor

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