Lagos State Agro-Processing Productivity, Enhancement and Livelihood Improvement Support, APPEALS, has revealed that it will ensure that farmers do not get into financial contracts that they will not be committed to.

The State Project Coordinator, APPEALS, Mrs Oluranti Sageo-Oviebo, disclosed this at the graduation of the first batch of 50 beneficiaries under the aquaculture, poultry and rice value chains training on accessing second level financing.

She said that the need for second-level financing for farmers, the agriculture funds via the Central Bank of Nigeria at single digits, was pertinent as the grant available under the APPEALS project now would not be able to finance large scale farmers.

APPEALS is a World Bank, Federal Government and Lagos State tripartite partnership for small scale farmers. The training conducted in partnership with the Africa Leadership Forum, ALF, had the theme: “Entrepreneurship Accessing Single Digit CBN Agro-Credit and Export Readiness”.

According to Sageo-Oviebo, beneficiaries under the Commercial Agriculture Development Project ,CADP, who have done very well need to be trained on accessing more funds. “We have five batches, 50 persons per batch, totaling 250 beneficiaries by the end of December.

The criteria for selecting the trainees was farmers who benefited under the CADP and are doing very well, and also some women and youth who benefited and are doing very well.

“We will be facilitating and ensuring that farmers do not get into financial contracts that they will not be committed to. We will not leave them on their own; we are ready to support them all the way through.

“The truth is, we cannot support everybody with grant under this project, so for those we feel we cannot support based on the scale of their farms and all of that, we decided to bring them out and asked them to attend this training.

“Then we looked at farmers who had potential for export market because it is not everybody that can get into the international market; so, that was another criteria we looked at,” she said.

According to her, after the training, the project will work closely with the Enterpreneurship Development Institute (EDI) and the Export Promotion Council on certification and export opportunities. She said:

“We will not stop there, for export we know that certification is key and that is part of what this project is looking at. “We are looking at clusters and possible ways of satisfying them as a project, and we are not working in isolation; we are doing alliance, like farmers with processors and then the market.

“This is where we are partnering with EDI, Export Promotion, NAFDAC and other regulatory agencies.” Dr. Olajide Bashorun, the Chairman of Rhyss Farms Limited and a former Permanent Secretary of the Lagos State Ministry of Agriculture said that export was important to earn foreign exchange.

Bashorun said that the training was apt as Nigeria needed to expand market by exploring international market. “The training is timely and the entire intervention of the project to improve productivity for expanded market and export is a very important opportunity.

“Most of us have not explored the export market, so this training is timely. One laudable thing is that the project brought people who are knowledgeable and are into export business themselves. “What we produce in Nigeria are needed overseas; looking at Nigerians in the diaspora, most of them crave Nigerian foods like catfish. “Now, how do we take it overseas, while meeting the safety conditions, the processes of preservation, handling and packaging.

“That is what the training is all about to improve farmers’ capacity to get technical know-how, and in the long run, earn foreign exchange to develop the economy,” he said. Also commenting on the importance of seizing export opportunities and improving farmers Livelihood, Mr Kolawole Awe, Managing Director, SPT Logistics Nigeria Limited, said that farmers needed to collaborate to be able to penetrate the international market. Awe said a lot needed to be done in the area of exporting homegrown foods and Nigerians in diaspora had a lot to do to complete the production and export chain.

Also speaking at the event, Executive Director, ALF, Dr Olumide Ajayi, said that donor projects such as the APPEALS needed to be sustained. He said the sustainability of the APPEALS project after the external interventions is important, “Once the donors withdraw their assistance, the enterprises who benefitted just go down.

“So, what we are doing is collaborating with the APPEALS to offer this finance known as the second level finance to ensure sustainability after the World Bank withdraws. READ ALSO: World Bank says Nigeria’s $1.5 bn budget support loan request ‘still in the works’ “So, we will train them and give them all the requisite knowledge they need beyond what the project has done for them to enable them access funding and create more jobs,” he said. “We have done a lot in the area of capacity building in governance and enterprise development.

“We have been working with the CBN since 2008, we were made the enterprise development firm for South-West in 2013. “It has been a continuous process with them, and under this new dispensation where they have to set up a bank for the intervention funds, the ALF has been accredited as the EDI to train and assist small business owners to be able to understand how to manage a business before giving them the loan.”