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Initiatives introduced to assist drought stricken farmers

Initiatives introduced to assist drought stricken farmers

Niël Terblanché
FOLLOWING President Hage Geingob’s declaration of the drought situation in Namibia as a State of Emergency, Agribank as one of main financiers of agricultural activities in the country, announced a two-part drought relief initiative which will be rolled out to needy farmers early next week.
In an official statement issued by Sakaria Nghikembua, Agribank Chief Executive Officer, he said the first intervention is a payment relief on both arrears and instalments for the current year, stating that clients who are in arrears will be required to pay 45 percent of their arrears after which the remaining arrears will be capitalised.
“Capitalisation of the remaining arrears effectively means that the client will no longer be in arrears unless they fall into arrears again in the future. Once a client has settled the 45 percent of the arrears, they will also be delisted from the credit bureau if they are currently listed by the bank.”
Nghikembua added that an additional two years will then be added to the client’s loan period in order to give them more time to repay the remaining amount. The bank however recognizes that clients might not be able to pay the required 45 percent all at once and will allow clients to pay off this portion of their loan amount in manageable amounts until 30 September 2019.

Pictured: Farmers tending to their cattle in Namibia. – Photo: Courtesy Gondwana Collection

“Meanwhile, clients wishing to make use of this relief effort would be required to sign an agreement with the bank and the capitalisation of the remaining arrears and the credit bureau delisting will be effected once the agreed payment has been made. Similarly, clients who anticipate that they will not be able to settle their annual instalments in full for the current year will be required to settle 60 percent of the instalment due, with the remaining 40 per cent being capitalised.”
As with the arrears payment, an additional two years will be added to the client’s loan period to make payment more affordable over time. Clients who may have difficulty meeting the payment requirements are encouraged to make contact with their nearest branch to discuss possibilities.
“The bank is committed to ensuring that all clients who wish to take up the offer are assisted after consultations with the bank.”
Nghikembua, emphasised that no client should be turned away on the arrears and instalment payment relief option but that the client and the bank should engage where peculiar client circumstances exist.
He indicated that for this reason, the bank has set up a ‘war room’ at its head office where branches can immediately refer issues or queries they cannot resolve.
The second intervention initiative will consist of drought relief loans.
Nghikembua said in his statement that these loans will be offered to clients who have fulfilled the payment relief requirements and can be used for various drought related needs such as the purchase of fodder, the drilling of boreholes or rehabilitation of boreholes or other water infrastructure, adaptive income streams such as wood and charcoal production and bush-to-feed-making equipment.
He said clients who qualify for the drought relief loans will receive a one-year grace period before they would be required tostart with their repayment. The repayment periods for the loans after the grace period, as well as the interest rates charged, will be in line with the existing product terms of the bank.
“We are facing challenging times for both our clients and the bank. We want both to survive. We are trying to balance so many considerations to ensure our clients receive some scope to make it through this difficult period. We certainly wish we could do more but resources are limited. For the bank, our main source of funds is loan repayments by our clients.”
Under the relief initiatives introduced total repayment relief is unfortunately not an option.
“But we believe we have done our best to assist our clients. We will maintain a flexible approach in our discussions with each client. Given the urgency of the situation we have set up a war-room to deal with peculiar cases or queries which the branches might not be able to immediately deal with. This team will meet regularly to consider any such requests from the branches and provide feedback within 36 hours.”
According to Nghikembua the Agribank remains committed to making a difference in this dire situation and the institution urged all clients to make use of the interventions on offer.

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