The AGRA President, Ms Jane Karuku, told the 'Daily News' over the weekend that under their current programme where they are taking 10 per cent of the risk and the other 90 per cent by the banks, to support poor farmers, 48bn/- ($30m) is available and run by Standard Chartered Bank and NMB.
"It is some sort of 'hedge' against default by borrowers and AGRA carries that 10 per cent risk," she said.
She said they have so far guaranteed to help to reduce the risk of lending by NMB to agro-dealers and farmers.
"Already, $4m has been given out to Small and Medium Entreprises (SMEs) and SACOSS to lend to smallholder farmers and the funds are still available," she said.She said SACOSS and SMEs have borrowed for many other crops including barley.
This is part of the farm input credit scheme to benefit poor Tanzanian farmers and improve the country's network of rural agro-dealers.She was speaking ahead of the African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) 2012 to take place in Arusha next month which will put smallholder farmers at the centre of the conversation.
Some of the themes, they would look at, she said, would be rethinking public-private partnerships: Catalytic policy interventions for transformative change, Strategic partnership to build African science and technology capacity for agricultural development and Making regional agricultural markets work.
Agra is working across Africa with local partners to help millions of small-scale farmers and their families lift themselves from poverty and hunger through practical solutions that significantly boost farm productivity.
The agricultural sector in the country is under-capitalised and accounts for only one per cent of all loans, according to statistics.She said that only six per cent of the population has access to loans from the financial sector and as a result, less than 15 per cent of farmers use improved seeds and fertilisers.
She said that while private equity funds exist, they are not appropriate for financing agro-dealers since they focus on equity investments in medium and large agribusinesses. Tanzania is one of the priority countries for AGRA, where the organization has so far spent grants USD 26 million over the last five years.
Their main focus, she said, has been the Southern Highlands, where AGRA programmes have provided farmers with innovative financing and high-yield crop varieties, and forged partnerships with private seed companies and small agro dealers.
"We know that 70 per cent of smallholder farmers are women. Our focus is mostly on increasing productivity of staple foods, and this makes life of women and children better and plays a big role in improving the economies of a given area," she said.
AGRA has integrated programmes in seeds, soils, market access, policy and partnerships and innovative finance work to trigger comprehensive changes across the agricultural system.