The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) assisted Rural Finance Institution Building Programme (RUFIN) in collaboration with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has given awards to 60 Nigerian microfinance banks and institutions for promoting financial inclusion under the Rural Business Plan (RBP) initiative.
RUFIN is a 40-million dollars loan agreement between the Federal Government and IFAD designed to strengthen smallholder farmers’ and small businesses as well as enable them have access to financial services in order to lift the rural poor out of poverty.
Speaking during an award ceremony for best Microfinance Institutions (MFIs) in RBP implementation held recently in Abuja, Dr Bamidele Amao, CBN Deputy Director, Research Department, said the award ceremony was to recognize the efforts of the MFIs in driving financial inclusion by establishing new business operations in rural locations with more people in rural communities enjoying access to financial services and becoming economically empowered.
He noted that the RBP approach had yielded good results adding that the rural business plans strategy needed to be strengthened to include more states and local government areas across the country as only 12 states are participating in the RUFIN programme.
Mr Olumuyiwa Azeez, RUFIN National Programme Coordinator, said that under the programme, over N40 billion had been disbursed to people in the rural areas of the 12 participating states.
He said that although the programme, would wind down by the end of September, the Federal Government is making efforts to have a second phase of RUFIN. “In view of the success of the Rural Finance-IFAD programme which we are all witnessing today, the testimonies from farmers, financial institutions, financial NGOs and financial cooperatives, where over N40 billion has been channeled from the MFIs to the rural people, the Honourable Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development has indicated interest of contacting IFAD to see how this design can be replicated in all the 36 states of the federation including FCT,” he disclosed.
The central objective of the programme is to develop and strengthen Microfinance Banks and other Microfinance Institutions by enhancing access of the rural populace to funding to improve agricultural productivity as well as micro and small scale enterprises.
Since 2010, RUFIN and CBN have championed reforms for an enabling environment for rural poverty reduction and enhance access of rural poor households to financial services. In 2013, as part of its efforts to deepen rural outreach, the programme introduced RBP approach helping microfinance institutions in strategic planning and expansion into rural areas.