By Augustine Abu
To create access to finance for smallholder farmers in Nigeria, Solidaridad has initiated Village Savings and Laon Association (VSLA) to beneficiaries under its programmes in Nigeria. The scheme is a contributory and loan initiative among farmer groups in communities where Solidaridad is implementing its programmes. Presently, over 20,000 smallholder oil palm farmers have been digitally profiled to benefit from the National Initiatives for Sustainable and Climate-Smart Oil Palm Smallholders (NISCOPS) and another 4000 has been reached under its Sustainable Development Goal Project 1 (SDGP1). Both projects are supported by the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
Solidaridad will deplore VSLA as a tool that will enhance the financial empowerment of smallholder farmers under its programmes.
To ensure the effective implementation of the scheme, Solidaridad recently organized a week-long Training of Trainers (TOT) workshop in Ikom, Cross Rivers State, Nigeria. The workshop, among others, equipped the participants with knowledge and skills on VSLA methodological principles, best practices, and operational procedures. The participants will further step-down the training to communities under Solidaridad programmes in Nigeria.
The participants are from Akwa Ibom, Cross Rivers, Enugu, Kogi, Kaduna and Kano state. These are the states where the projects are being implemented and, where Solidaridad has facilitated the formation of over 200 farmer groups in different project communities.
Gabriel Ufono, the director of Agricultural Services, declared the workshop opened on behalf of Okon Owuna, the Honourable Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources, Cross River State. He commended Solidaridad for the VSLA initiatives which will create access to finance for smallholder farmers, especially in the rural areas of Nigeria where access to finance is almost impossible.
“This is an initiative that wills turnaround the agricultural sector in the country. It will solve some of the challenges in the sector faced by smallholders, which is access to finance for investment. With this, Solidaridad has shown the commitment to improve income and the livelihood of smallholder farmers. This will support the effort of the Government of Cross River Sstate in building an agriculture-based economy,” says Ufono.
In his remarks during the session, Solidaridad Senior Climate Specialist for Africa and Country Technical Lead for Nigeria, Dr. Samuel S. Ogallah stated that “the VSLA(+) is one out of the many initiatives of Solidaridad in empowering smallholder farmers. He added that Solidaridad through its creativity and innovation has taken the conventional VSLA practices to the next level which is dubbed Solidaridad VSLA Plus (VSLA+). This provides opportunity for inclusivity, innovation and impacts among project beneficiaries to create that change that matters”, says Dr. Ogallah.
With NISCOPS and SDGP1, Solidaridad is increasing the productivity of oil palm, and transforming the fruits and vegetable sector in Nigeria particularly in the project implementing states through best management practices, climate-smart agriculture, and sustainable land-use. The projects are improving income and livelihood of smallholder farmers in the project implementing states while enhancing national food security and job creation at large.
Solidaridad works on creating sustainable supply chains from the producer to the consumer. This enables producers in developing countries to get a better price for better products, and it helps to preserve people’s environment. It helps companies in the marketplace to implement Corporate Social Responsibility and find sustainable suppliers.