How Agrofinance Promotes Human Rights: 

“You are what you eat” *anonymous.
Have you ever wondered how your kitchen or rather your pantry will look like if all the farmers should be on quarantine due to medical emergencies or are not producing up to optimal capacity? Surely, those most important sections of every households will be dry, empty, gloomy and ominous.

Have you as a Nigerian wondered why in peace time or when all things being equal that each visit you pay to a grocery your eyes are greeted by a variety of freshly harvested vehetables, fruits and other edibles that constitute the main engine of sustenance and survival as a living being?

These basic questions are often glossed over or aren’t scientificallt inquired into because due to the normal laissez faire tendencies of man, and given that there is an abundance of those fresh grocery at his beck and call, the man thinks almost very little about how these rich harvests of agricultural products come by.

However, an important fact of life is that qualitatice agricultural productions are imperative for the realization of the larger goals of the achieving the constitutionally guaranteed Right to Life because if there are no nutritions then human life would be extinguished.

It follows therefore that making the production of agricultural products seamless is one sure way of mainstreaming the respect for the fundamental human rights provisions enshrined in the chapter 4 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria of 1999 (as amended).

From scholarly studies, we know that Human rights are the basic rights and freedoms that belong to every person in the world, from birth until death.

They apply regardless of where you are from, what you believe or how you choose to live your life.

They (Human Rights) can never be taken away, although they can sometimes be restricted – for example if a person breaks the law, or in the interests of national security.

These basic rights are based on shared values like dignity, fairness, equality, respect and independence..

These values are defined and protected by law.
In Britain our human rights are protected by the Human Rights Act 1998. To understand the question how human rights can help you, It is phenomenal to note that human rights are relevant to all of us, not just those who face repression or mistreatment.

Human Rights protect you in many areas of your day-to-day life, including: your right to have and express your own opinions;your right to an education ;your right to a private and family life;your right not to be mistreated or wrongly punished by the state

Also of significance is the truism that the idea that human beings should have a set of basic rights and freedoms has deep roots in Britain just as these landmark developments in Britain include:the Magna Carta of 1215;the Habeas Corpus Act of 1679;the Bill of Rights of 1689. One last thing before i continue with my conversatoons on human rights versus agrobusibess financing, is to state that the World is governed by a set of principles codified in many domestic legal instruments of all member states of the United Nations is The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

A human rights focused British organisation had stated the fundamental orihin of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and established a nexus with the atrocities of the Second World War which made the protection of human rights an international priority.

The grouo recalled that the United Nations was founded in 1945 just as the United Nations allowed more than 50 Member States to contribute to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in 1948.

This the group said it was the first attempt to set out at a global level the fundamental rights and freedoms shared by all human beings.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights formed the basis for the European Convention on Human Rights, adopted in 1950. It also formed the fulcrum of chapter 4 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria of 1999 as amended. Now that we have a working knowledge of human rights, we can as well proceed.

This is because for me i see agricultural activities and other affiliate programs as viral to sustainable development which for me is the reason for my clamour that the teaching of theory and practicals of agricultural science be made a compulsory course of study applicable to all high school of Secondary schools in Nigeria given that Nigeria is enormously endowed with a large population which is should give the Country a comparative advantage in agriculture than almost all other African nations.

It is indeed remarkable that successive federal administrations have at least made heavy weather about its relevance in the scheme of things with some of these federal administrations actually embarking on institutional buildings that are strategically targeted at enhancing agribusiness financing so as to unlock bank finance for agrobusiness. If your business has been struggling with finances, then consider attending these financial seminars

I’m not sure most Nigerians know about the pragmatic approach the Central bank of Nigeria under the current governor of CBN Mr. Emefiele has made towards bridging the wide chasm between financial and credits granting institution and genuine farmers all across Nigeria through a baby it gave birth to institutionally that is known as NIRSAL- the Nigerian incentive based Risk sharing system for agricultural lending. Launched in 2011 and incorporated in 2013 by the Central bank of Nigeria as reportedly a dynamic, holistic $500 million Public-Private initiative to catalyse the flow of finance and investments into fixed agricultural value chains. It is an initiative of of the CBN; the bankers committee (BC) and the federal ministry of agriculture and Rural development. The Managing Director is Aliyu Abdulhameed who i was told by a colleague in the human rights sector is a multi-talented agricultural Economist with varied experience in institutional development, programme management and process development and improvement. Recently this institution had a business outing somewhere in Abuja and out of curiosity due to the complex nature of the meaning of its name NIRSAL, yours faithfully scent few minutes listening to his presentation on agricultural business financing and i must confess that I was thrilled beyond imagination and impressed that the current administration has this high calibre talented professional committed to the advancement of the agro allied industry of the Country that is the largest black nation in the globe. I heard him say that his institution has been able to pull out N100 billion from banks which were transparently deployed in the different genres of agrobusiness. That to me remains remarkable and impressive and i think this momentum needs to be sustained and upgraded if possible so Nigeria can achieve the famed self sufficiency in agricultural foods. At that event i learnt that the institution is right about now wooing deposit money banks to unlock bank finance for agrobusiness in Nigeria. Mark you, President Muhammadu Buhari has proved to be a political leader who does not trifle with the strategic place of agricultural business in the economic sector of Nigerian State. I had once accused President Muhammadu Buhari of unusual biasness towards the agricultural sector over and above other equally good sectors of the economy. But the knowledge I generated from that unplanned meeting I ran into by NIRSAL made indelible imprint on my philosophical mind.

Briefly, this is what I learnt from that public forum. Yours faithfully learnt that to ensure that financial institutions participate in and contribute to the growth of the agricultural sector in the country, NIRSAL has been engaging management credit committees of commercial banks and appraising them on promising investment-friendly developments in Nigeria’s emerging agricultural/ agribusiness sector.

I also saw documentary evidence and indeed high valued empirical data to justify the claims that for many years, the agricultural sector has received less than 3 percent of total bank lending, leaving it largely underdeveloped and its vast potentials for economic growth untapped.

To address this, i was told that the Central Bank of Nigeria(CBN) created NIRSAL to fix the broken agricultural commodity value chains and de-risk the sector to enable increased inflow of finance and investments.

NIRSAL is said to have made extensive presentations on its Agribusiness models, financing frameworks, tools, techniques, methodologies and partnerships in meetings with several banks in the country.

NIRSAL pitched its agricultural finance risk management innovations and agribusiness models that will stimulate the desire from banking institutions to finance/ invest in secure, risk-controlled , and structured environments.

Aliyu Abdulhameed, NIRSAL’s managing director/CEO emphasized that the focus on the upstream segment of the agricultural value chain(primary production) was because while it was the source of all agricultural commodity raw materials which other segments are dependent on,it is characterized by high risks and banks tend to avoid investing in it.

Mr. Abdulhameed also pointed out NIRSAL’s acquisition and planned utilisation of geospatial technologies for identification of ecologically endowed areas for specific commodities, and for the aggregation of fragmented farmlands.

NIRSAL’s engagements with banks have elaborated the corporation’s risk management tools and general approach to agricultural finance with a particular emphasis on it’s credit risk guarantee(CRG) cover, the interest draw back (IDB) support and its innovative Index-based agricultural insurance products.

Most significant is the Mapping to Markets(M2M) strategy under which NIRSAL is “pre-selling” smallholder farming NIRSAL AgroGeoCoops to financiers. These NIRSAL AgroGeoCoops will have ready farmers who, after being technically and financially enabled, would be advised on what to produce and how much to produce to service the off take market coordinated by NIRSAL in accordance with pre-agreed quantity, quality and price parameters.

These engagements have contributed to the realization of over #14.5billion in additional financing from these institutions – a further#48 billion are at various stages of approval as at Q3 2019. Banks are slowly changing their perception about the risks involved in investing in the agricultural sector and the vast business opportunities inherent in it.

NIRSAL’s efforts continue to secure more commitments from Nigerian banks in sponsoring its agribusiness initiatives and developing joint frameworks aimed at facilitating a greater flow of finance to structured, agriculture-related investment opportunities in Nigeria.

NIRSAL hosted value chain actors and enablers to a forum aimed at exploring avenues for the successful deployment of its Mapping to Markets( M2M) strategy. M2M is an innovative strategy focused on linking and aligning the upstream segment of the agricultural value chain with all the other value chain segments.

This engagement provided stakeholders along the segments of the value chain with the opportunity to jointly validate business models used by value chain players and financial institutions. Participants were able to map relevant inputs to the primary production of commodities and produce to offtakers, at the same time develop templates for satisfactory trade dynamics across value chains, establish partnerships, identify policy requirements for value chain actors.

In developing the M2M strategy, NIRSAL considered the challenges of obsolete farming techniques, low productivity, high postharvest losses, poor pricing, among other factors, that continue to negatively impact the primary production (upstream) segment of the agricultural sector. These factors have consequently created an apathy for agriculture particularly amongst the youth.

The M2M strategy will provide a systematic approach to achieving agribusiness-led socioeconomic development by concentrating efforts and resources on the structuring development and transformation of the upstream segment of the agricultural value chain. This will create positive market- driven ‘pull and push’ effects on other segments of the value chain and agribusiness support service sectors.

With the optional buy-in of stakeholders, the M2M strategy will also provide a unique, inclusive and sustainable solution to the challenges facing the upstream segment and, by extension, the entire agricultural value chain. NIRSAL is targeting 5,000 farmers planting maize and soybean during the pilot phase of the M2M implementation period.

Aliyu Abdulhameed, NIRSAL’s Managing Director/ CEO, informed stakeholders that the upstream segment of the agricultural value chain has the highest level of risks, the weakest structures, the lowest access to finance, cut crust technologies and the poorest standardization in Nigeria and Africa, hence the need for innovation in the space.

Abdulhameed concluded by enjoining participants to take ownership of the M2M and make vibrant contributions towards the successful deployment of the strategy.

Relatedly, i saw an evidence showing that NIRSAL signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Ecobank on a #70 billion portfolio commitment from the bank of Agribusiness projects initiated and de-risked by NIRSAL.

The facility will reportedly be drawn down in series with the MoU effectively kicking off an initial #15 billion agribusiness financing provision by Ecobank.

The commitment by Ecobank was the latest result of NIRSAL’s efforts aimed at improving investment from the financial sector in agribusiness through the provision of incentives such as risk- sharing, technical assistance and innovative insurance of banks.

A publication circulated to the participants of that forum disclosed that in announcing the partnership in Lagos, Aliyu Abdulhameed, Managing Director/ CEO, NIRSAL Plc, said that Ecobank’s onboarding demonstrated the growing acceptance of the Central Bank of Nigeria’s proposition of NIRSAL as an innovative mechanism targeted at de-risking lending to the agricultural sector and providing a safe climate for highly profitable private sector investments.

Then this is the real gist-: the collaboration between NIRSAL and Ecobank will support lending to actors in the agricultural value chain in conformity with Ecobank’s risk acceptance criteria and credit process.

The aforementioned facts are credible because Ecobank’s commitment to NIRSAL’s agribusiness initiatives will facilitate joint selection and development of projects that will meet the financing needs of actors in the agricultural sector based on NIRSAL’S priority commodity value chains; Maize, Soybean, Wheat, Cassava and Cotton; Hibiscus, Sesame, Ginger and Shea; Rice, Sweet potato and Beans; Fresh Fruits and Vegetables ( FFV) and Aquaculture; and Livestock.

Under this agreement, and in line with it’s Mapping to Markets (M2M) strategy, NIRSAL will identify and refer structured projects to Ecobank to support the bank’s deal origination and financing operations in agribusiness.

Ecobank will, in turn, finance the projects leveraging NIRSAL’S Credit Risk Guarantee( CRG) which is a further comfort for lenders to agriculture and agribusiness.

Ecobank Nigeria Limited’s Managing Director, Mr. Patrick Akinwuntan, said the bank is actively promoting agriculture as a strategic initiative to support national dedevelopment.

“Ecobank is committed to working with NIRSAL to open up the vast opportunities in agriculture and to ensure citizens benefit ultimately, Mr. Akinwuntan stated.

NIRSAL’S M2M strategy, to which commercial banks are opening up their balance sheets, has already been deployed for the production of Maize and Soybeans in NIRSAL AgroGeoCoops across Benue, Ekiti and Niger states.

Although the current practice of social spacing did not let me have a warm handshakes with Abdulhameed but i came out of this completely accidental meeting with the impression that this INITIATIVE is the best candidate for a NATIONAL PRODUCTIVITY AWARD given the extensive accolades that i have so far seen experts shower on NIRSAL over the past few years.

Next time i find the opportunity of a meeting with the managing director i will propose the setting up of the civil society/human rights liaison department because the whole essence of the works they do in that office dovetails into the mainstreaming of respect for the fundamental human rights of Nigerians.

Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko; a former Federal Commissioner of Nigeria’s National Human Rights commission is the intellectual head of HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA).

Disclaimer: “The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of By Emmanuel Onwubiko & Queen Onwughalu and do not necessarily reflect those of The Nigerian Voice. The Nigerian Voice will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article.”

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SOURCE :The Nigerian Voice (opinions)

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