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‘Traders benefit from community banks more than farmers’

…Farmers Federation scribe

February 26, 2015 

Secretary General of the National Federation of Farmers Sierra Leone (NAFF-SL), Mohamed S. Kabiru, has told Concord Times’ FOCUS ON AGRICULTURE that village or community banks established under the Smallholder Commercialization Programme have rather served another purpose.

“We felt the village banks were established for farmers to access quick loan but it is quite the opposite. Traders are benefiting from the banks more than the farmers on the grounds that the conditions stipulated by the banks are not farmer friendly,” Kabiru claimed.

He said agriculture is being hampered by climate change and blamed the banks for not looking into all such constrains, but instead deny farmers long term loans that would enable them embark on large scale farming.

As for the Agricultural Business Centres (ABCs) established under the just concluded Smallholder Commercialization Programme (SCP), he said they are undergoing a complete overhaul through administrative restructuring to enable them perform their expected roles.

According to information from the Ministry of Agriculture, 392 ABCs, 151 Financial Service Associations, and 17 community banks were established under the Smallholder Commercialization Programme.

Kabiru told Concord Times that NAFF-SL was established in 2008 with support from the Ministry of Agriculture and FAO, adding that it is charged with the responsibilities of advocating and lobbying on behalf of farmers, resource mobilisation, organising farmers and monitoring and evaluating agricultural activities across the country.

The secretary general said the federation comprises various farmer-based organisations across the country with executive members in all the districts, adding that they play an advisory role to government on the issue of agriculture.

He disclosed that they are holding consultations in all districts geared towards the establishment of a consortium that would comprise small, medium and large scale farmers who would put resources together to embark on large scale production.

“This is the road leading to agriculture as a business with value addition along the chain of production to market,” he said.

He pointed out that the federation has conducted training for farmers in production and marketing, and that they had also compiled a database of all farmers across the country.

“We have undertaken training in Moyamba and the Western Area with support from the Chinese Embassy in Sierra Leone,” he disclosed.

Among the challenges highlighted by the secretary general are high illiteracy among farmers and lack of finance to maintain administrative staff of the federation. He noted though that despite the challenges they are doing their best to ensure that farmers are protected.