Assessing the Factors Affecting Smallholder Farmers’ Access to Formal Credit in Bo District, Southern Sierra Leone
Keywords:Smallholder farmers, Access to finance, productivity and financial institutions.
Agricultural credit plays an important role in making farming segment supplementary productive and efficient in developing economies like Sierra Leone. Increasing food production and attaining food security in Sierra Leone require timely and adequate supply of agricultural inputs including agricultural credit. It is generally recognized that credit plays a crucial role in economic development in general and agricultural development in particular. Amid other things in Sierra Leone, lack of finance is one of the major problems impeding productivity and income of smallholder farmers. Since access to formal finance is very limited, the majority of the poor are forced to search financial services through informal channels. This study is anxious with analysis of factors affecting smallholder farmers’ access to formal credit. As credit is one of the most important factors required for smallholders input utilization, it is important to have sustainable agricultural development. A two stage sampling method was employed. A total of 148 farm households were selected randomly using probability proportional to size. Descriptive statistics and logit model were used for analyzing quantitative data. The respondents were interviewed using a structured questionnaire and results revealed that 34.5% of the samples of smallholder farmers were official credit customers, whereas the remaining 65.5% were non-customers. Respondents accessed loans to finance their farming activities in areas such as land preparation, harvesting and threshing. The results revealed that respondents derived benefits from the use of credit including purchasing inputs and use of machinery to ensure high yield, undertaking land preparation. It was concluded that even though majority of the farmers in the study area take loans, yet they faced certain challenges like late disbursement of loans, small loan sizes whilst others also complain of the interest rate being too high. The study concluded that, access to loan is not a security for higher productivity; hence borrowing may allow farmers to respond to households needs rather than input market to increase productivity. Based on the findings, farm precise factors such as education needs to be nonstop, this would enable farmers make better technical decision on how to allocate production input effectively.