Justina Ya’apera is a middle-aged widow in Anyiin, Logo LGA in Benue State and proud owner of 40 bags of soya beans, which could fetch her over N400, 000 given the current price of the produce at N12,000 per bag.
She produced the 40 bags from a loan of N10,000 she got through group savings and N20, 000 micro credit from Bank of Agriculture and Gboko Micro Finance Bank in a number of circles, which she has already paid.
The widow is a member of Akanawe women group in Anyiin with 100 members trained and mentored through the federal government and International Fund Agriculture Development (IFAD) Rural Finance Institution-Building Programme (RUFIN), which seeks to reach out to poor rural people.
The programme ensures that the rural poor gain access to financial services and can invest in improving productivity in agriculture and small businesses.
With group savings of N60,000 to N80,000 monthly, a member could get a soft credit to either expand her farm and/or undertake business depending on how much she saves.
Martha Aba’a is another member of the Akanawe (yam farmers’ women association). Her little monthly saving of N500 to N1,000 with the group, along with the micro credits she got through RUFIN linkages, was able to invest in yam production.
Today, “I harvest over 1,000 big tubers of yam from my farm,” she said.
In Ugba, a widow who gave her name as Mrs. Esther is a volunteer under the RUFIN programme. Esther’s job is to help other women to form groups with the aim of imbibing group savings and lending culture.
Her two years of helping women come together resulted in the formation of over 10 women groups, saving from the little they make from their farms and agro-enterprises. These groups lend to themselves depending on how much you save in the group, one could get loan facilities from N5,000 to N50,000.
Another widow, Mrs. Agara while telling her emotional story, recounted how life was miserable for her family before receiving the FG/IFAD capacity building on group formation and saving culture.
The widow has so far mobilised over 100 women into 15 groups in her ward helping them to save their widow’s mite and lending to each other. She told the IFAD supervision team that “I have expanded my soya beans and yam farms, and have now gone into selling cloths too.”
Some of the groups they help to form, like the Nongo Sisters and Kakuli women groups, made up of financially challenged women and widows are taking the lead in changing the economic situation around their families and learning how to empower themselves.
Mrs. Elizabeth Adam of the Nongo Sisters listed the group’s challenges to include more access to financial institutions in order to expand their production base.
As RUFIN winds up next year, the Central Bank (CBN) and International Fund Agriculture Development (IFAD) are already putting in place strategy to sustain rural financial inclusion for the poor smallholder farmers in states willing to key into the programme.