There appears to be new hope for unemployed youths, women and disabled persons residing in the rural communities of the Niger Delta.
Livelihood Improvement Family Enterprises – Niger Delta, an initiative of the Federal Government, NDDC and International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) is the instrument that may bring the much desired change and improvement in the lives of these helpless rural Niger Delta people.
Given the mandate to cover 9 Niger Delta States of Abia, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Ondo, Akwa Ibom, Imo and Rivers, the body had already taken off on a good note with the training and empowerment of a good number of rural Niger Delta youths and women in agro-based businesses which were area it was asked to concentrate.
According to Engr. Abiodun Sanni, National Project Coordinator of the Livelihood Improvement Family Enterprises, the scheme operates on a methodology of locating experienced agri entrepreneurs within the rural areas and clustering youths and women with particular interest in the enterprise of choice and giving them the opportunity to get hands-on learning experience within the facility of the master trainer, otherwise referred to as the incubator. Those to be trained, or trainees are referred to as incubatees.
Although, the project is designed to be implemented over a period of 12 years divided into two phases of 6 years each, the coordinating body which took off 3 years ago in 2019 has recorded huge milestones in line with its goal of transforming the rural economy of the Niger Delta in which the rural population can derive prosperity and equal benefit.
In an interactive forum with media executives in Port Harcourt, the National Project Coordinator, Engr. Abiodun Sanni while giving a breakdown of the body’s performance in 2022 disclosed that the Life-ND supported over 700 incubators and facilitated the establishment of 5, 194 women and youths incubatees enterprises, trained a total of 6, 904 incubators, including women and youths and the vulnerable on topics in Agricultural Entrepreneurship and Good Agricultural practice covering the business cycle of the beneficiary’s business of choice and created over 5, 194 decent jobs through agribusiness support whereby women and youths have been gainfully employed and now have permanent jobs comprised of 2, 467 female youth and 2, 727 male youths in various agri-enterprise ventures of choice.
The body in the year under review, equally supported the beneficiaries financially.
It strengthened the capacity of over 5, 000 beneficiaries on financial literacy and use of financial products and services across 6 states of the Niger Delta.
Life-ND listed as a certified Enterprise Development Institute (EDI) with the qualification to train potential beneficiaries of CBN/NIRSAC Agribusiness Small and Medium Enterprise Investment Scheme (AGMEIS)-Loan Schemes.
Fostered partnership and signed MOUs with over 15 technical and financial partners aimed at taking advantage of their strength and leveraging on support services provided to enhance effective service delivery and access to needed resources and extension services to Life-ND beneficiaries.
The Life-ND Project also developed (construction/upgrade) over 38 poultry production cluster facilities in six participating states, developed over 54 fishery production cluster facilities in five participating states, supported a total of 100 incubatees with over 250 collapsible tarpaulin ponds in five states, constructed over 3nos. oil palm processing and 6nos. Cassava processing facilities in the five states, constructed 7nos. Blocks of open/closed market-store facilities in the states, constructed 3nos. Cold Room and 1nos. Farm House in two states, constructed 2nos. landing jetties in one state, constructed over 10km of rural farm earth roads and 15nos. Hydraulic structures and 2nos. small bridges in six participating states, provided 9nos. Solar powered boreholes facilities across the six states in view of promoting good practices-water, sanitation and hygiene within the incubation centres, beneficiary farms and community environment. Provided over 60nos Irrigation equipment with sprinkles to over 180 beneficiaries on dry season vegetables production across the six participating states.
Over 2000 women and youths were also capacitated and supported on homestead vegetable garden production including uses of bio-fortified crops such as Orange Fleshed Sweet Potatoes (OFSP), tomatoes, fresh pepper and pro-vitamin A Cassava. It also established Vegetable Homestead garden in over 30 schools and 60 incubation Centres across the six participating states.
In addition it went into partnership with some environmental groups in a bid to help check the menace in the Niger Delta environment.
By far the greatest contribution of Life-ND is in the area of food security where the body has invested heavily.
In the year under review, it recorded production output of over 2,176 MT of agricultural produce 1450MT for Cassava Production, 219.74MT for Rice seed multiplication, 230MT Paddy rice production, 21.23MT for Cocoa production, 660 MT Poultry broiler production and 594.63MT of fish production.
It injected an approximate gross income of over N1,877, 820, 583 into the national economy.
Reached out to over 6,964 small holder farmers as at December 2022 ending and hope to attain over 13,000 beneficiaries by 2023 ending with planned addition of over 6000 beneficiaries by year 2023 and hoped to make significant contribution to Nigeria’s strategic objective in food security and national economy.
It also promoted ICT development through the application and deployment of Digital technology to support small holders farmers inline with the Federal Government Agricultural Transformation Policy (NATIP) etc.
Micahael Stanley, Mutiu Nathaniel, Fasheki Victor and Champion Diepriye beneficiaries of the programme from Niger Delta States narrated their life changing stories with Life-ND.
While Michael, Mutiu and Fasheki commended the managers of Life-ND for training and empowering them to become entrepreneurs, Diepriye from Bayelsa State narrated a story which evoked pathos in the audience. As an orphan, he said he was doing nothing when the Life-ND located him mentored, trained, guided and empowered him to become a successful owner of a thriving poultry farm and other businesses, including POS. He said he had been brought back to life through the instrumentality of the Life-ND project. He lavished encomiums on the managers of Life-ND and prayed for long life for them.
The project which is financed by IFAD, 60 million USD, States 3.7 million USD, FGN4.9 million USD and NDDC 30 million USD (budget for 6 years) had run for 3 years and appeared to have been shrouded in secrecy until the Media Roundtable the managers of the programme held with journalists in Port Harcourt on 10th February, 2023.
It was for this reason that Media chiefs, such as Dr. Onyebusa-Thisday Newspaper, Rex Uguri-Wave 91.7 FM and Ekerele of AIT urged the management of Livelihood Improvement Family Enterprises to incorporate journalists into the project to carry the success story of programme to the public.
Thisday Editor, Oyebusa personally suggested that Life-ND should from time to time take journalists to a tour of their projects, so that they would carry the news to the nooks and crannies of the society.
“If you shroud what you are doing in secrecy, nobody will know about it,” he said, stressing that they should work with journalists in order to help them tell their story.
Engr. Abiodun Sanni, National Project Coordinator concurred with them, saying he will work with the press for effective projects delivery.