Having successfully piloted Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP) in five states of Nigeria – Kebbi, Sokoto, Zamfara, Kaduna and Oyo in 2016, the Sterling Bank, dubbed Nigeria’s number one customer bank, will advance to other states of the country in 2017 to “improve smallholder farmers’ lives.”
Next year, the bank would be supporting smallholder farmers with more than N3 billion, Group Head, Agric and Export Finance, Bukola Awosanya said, moving from over N1 billion it disbursed in the last 10 months since it partnered with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on the programme.
“In fact, all the states wanted us this year, but we felt it would be too bullish to take on every state, so we decided to do with these five [states] – at least no other bank can say it has done five states – I believe I should be applauded for that,” Awosanya told the Nigerian Tribune in an interview at the bank’s headquarter in Lagos.
Next year, expanding from its original 5,000-farmers base in Kebbi State to 10,000 or more in the coming year, the bank said it is planning to take on more farmers across the state in which it has branches in. The bank currently has close to 200 branches in the country.
“We think we can do 10,000 to 20,000 farmers in a state but we will take it a step at a time,” she disclosed, as she said the bank is prepared to increase the farmers’ hectarage from one to three or more.
As important as the ambitious plan for 2017 is though, equally important is the plan for the last quarter of 2016, as far as accelerating sustainable development among Nigeria’s smallholder farmers is concerned. By the end of year, poultry farmers in the country would have began to enjoy single digit interest rates from the bank, through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)’s ABP.
This new package, which is expected to be approved by the apex bank this October, is designed and packaged by the bank, Awosanya said, to help achieve one of the tiers of the ABP – employment.
According to her, it was important for the bank to develop another package under the ABP to absorb the non-crop farmers in the country and the bank is choosing the poultry segment in the agriculture at the moment.
“We had a meeting with the CBN and we told them, we want this to extend to poultry and we looked at poultry value chain and we felt that the best of the poultry that can do it is the broiler. Once it is approved, it will be opened to everybody, but we started the idea because we saw that this thing is workable and doable,” she said. Being that it takes only six weeks to grow broilers, Awosanya said these particular types of poultry were the best fit for the programme.
To develop the new model, Awosanya said she worked with a team of graduates of agriculture in her division, poultry farmers, processors, feeders and insurance managers, among others, before heading to the CBN to propose the model that if approved, will be opened to other banks for adoption.
“We sat down to develop a model, took it to the CBN, as well as an off-taker, who has chicken processing business.
“They have a processing plant but they need birds and then the same template ABP template applies – cost of feeds, cost of day old chicks, and cost of medication, insurance – everything is within template. So we have shown them the template, we have shown them that we have an off-taker and we can easily put young graduates who don’t have jobs and make all of them into cooperatives to grow 1,000 broilers each.”
The aim here she said, is to meet their customers’ needs and to reduce unemployment rates in Nigeria, currently put at 13.3 per cent in second quarter of 2016.
“Our customers are our number one priority. We are a full service national commercial bank in Nigeria and taking care of our customers, anticipating their needs and meeting them is what makes us the number one customer bank,” Awosanya said in response to why Sterling Bank was the first commercial bank to get involved in the ABP when it lauched.
Continuing, she said: “There is something about Sterling Bank, we like being the first in agric finance, we like being the first in anything we do. Other banks looked at a lot of things and asked ‘how are we going to do this?’ but we looked at them we asked ‘okay, how can we work to improve smallholder farmers’ lives in Nigeria?’”
After a brainstorming season that took months in the making, the bank found a viable way to make the programme work for it, she said, adding “when the product came, we looked at it and we made sure we tied every loose end and we took the product to our customers.”
With a background in agriculture, Awosanya is bringing her “passion for getting things done” to Sterling Bank’s efforts at developing products that will, using the ABP, help lift thousands of smallholder farmers out of poverty and advance their businesses; and says she is confident that the bank will keeping developing models that will keep meeting its customers’ needs, more so since it had earlier developed the Group Enhancement Scheme (GES) model that was adopted and was used by other banks.