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No fewer than 262 smallholder farmers under the USAID-funded Feed the Future Nigeria Rural Resilience activity, on Tuesday, received N82.4 million to boost food sufficiency in the region and the country in general.

The farmers were in three clusters comprising Motherhen Farmers Akko Cooperative Society (107 members), Motherhen Farmers Kwami Cooperative Society (97 members), and Motherhen Farmers Yobe Cooperative Society (58 members).

The beneficiaries received the disbursement at an event organised by Sterling Bank and the Rural Resilience activity, which was implemented by Mercy Corps, in collaboration with the International Fertiliser Development Centre (IFDC) and the Save the Children International.

Speaking on the gains of the partnership, Acting Country Director of Mercy Corps Nigeria, Mrs Adesola Osuji, said the collaboration would ensure food sufficiency.

She revealed that the loan was in response to the rising food security due to the high cost of agro-inputs and high prices of food, which were directly linked to the ongoing insecurity, the economic impact of Covid-19 and the Russia-Ukraine war.

Osuji said, “Mercy Corps is committed to improving food security in Nigeria. This is underscored in our global and country strategies. The loan disbursement to the women-led farmers’ cooperatives will not only foster financial security and increase economic opportunities for the women but also contribute to advancing food security and to breaking the bias against women. It will further project women as key stakeholders in the food industry.”

On her part, the Chief of Party, Feed the Future Nigeria Rural Resilience Activity, Mrs Margarita Aswani, said the loan would support more farmers in the region towards economic prosperity.

“We are proud to be working hand in hand with Sterling Bank to support more than 204 maize producers and nearly 300 hectares of land in Akko and Kwami LGAs of Gombe State, as well as 58 cowpea producers in Yobe State to access agricultural inputs and tractors to increase land productivity and jointly tackle food insecurity We look forward to ensuring that more farmers in the North East continue to gain access to finance and working capital,” Aswani said.

Speaking during the disbursement, the Group Head, Agric Finance & Solid Minerals Group of Sterling Bank, Dr. Olushola Obikanye, lauded Mercy Corps for its confidence in the bank’s capability to drive the initiative successfully, adding that the partnership would reduce poverty in the region.

According to Obikanye, “Sterling Bank is proud to lead this critical effort at rebuilding the economic fortunes of Northeast Nigeria by providing appropriate and demand driven financial services that align with the aspirations of women and young people in the region and across Nigeria who are often excluded from financial services.”

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