The Executive Secretary of the Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria (ARCN), Prof Garba Shaributu, has chided the Central Bank of Nigeria over misdirection of Anchor Borrowers Scheme money.
According to him, the funds should have targeted graduates of colleges of agriculture who have gone through internship training rather than randomly-selected farmers.
Shaributu, while speaking with agriculture correspondents in Abuja, said the grant requirements should be structured to ensure beneficiaries go through internship training at colleges of agriculture.
He said: “I do not want to query how the beneficiaries of the anchor borrowers’ scheme were selected. But I can tell you the criteria are faulty. If you want to recruit people and give them CBN money to go into agriculture, you had better recruit people with a rudimentary knowledge of the sector.”
He lamented that less than 30 per cent of agriculture graduates practise the profession, According to him, if all the agriculture graduates in the country practise the profession and are provided with the needed take-off grants, it would have a great impact on the sector.
He said: “If these graduates who can be early traced are given the CBN loans and monitored, 50-70 per cent of them will be willing to stay in agriculture. But people who were not trained in the field will easily divert the loans.”
He said the council had written a proposal to the Minister of Agriculture for the establishment of entrepreneurship centres in all the colleges of agriculture. He noted that the centres would serve as a teaching ground for agriculture graduates.
He attributed the low off-take of agricultural research products to the fact that the sector is not a quick return-yielding trade as there are lots of competition between agriculture and trades. He said unless we start looking at agriculture in terms of the short and long term, we may never be able to get it right.