By Chioma Ezenwafor
It’s no longer news that Nigeria is the poverty capital of the world and accounts for about 12 percent of the world’s poorest population. The World Poverty Clock has said that 2 in 5 Nigerians live in extreme poverty. In fact, Brookings Institution said Nigerians living in extreme poverty has grown to 91.16 million, with 6 people falling into poverty every minute.
Specifically, in the Niger Delta, the poverty rate has been estimated to be about 25.2 percent. These figures have had dire consequences.
It is worrisome that poverty continues to affect all facets of our society, forming a cycle proving quite difficult to break. Poverty is also believed to be at the center of corruption engulfing every fiber of Nigeria. No sector of Nigeria’s economy is spared as its effect on the education sector trickles into the health sector all the way up to the judiciary.
A strong judiciary equals economic development which is why Constitutional Lawyer, Richard Wokocha, an Associate Professor at the Rivers State University, regretted the effect of the high poverty rate on the country’s judicial system.
Unfortunately, promises made by past and current governments to lift many out of poverty in Nigeria have always fallen short of how they intend to get this done.
Several Economic development programs established to alleviate poverty in the Niger Delta often leave much to be desired or end up being the conduit pipe for siphoning public funds. (A matter for another day)
Consequently, the Director of National Orientation Agency, NOA in Rivers state, Young Ayo-Tamuno has identified agriculture as the major key to reducing the high poverty rate in the country. So why is there so much foot-dragging when it comes to proper government support for Agro Business?
Well, this non-governmental organization, Partnership Initiatives in the Niger Delta, PIND did not wait around. They started an intervention project to build capacity in Agro Business solely to reduce poverty in the Niger Delta.
An Official of PIND, Faith Emmanuel-Sawyer speaks of how PIND trains the lead farmers and service providers from the farming associations on best agricultural practices at demonstration farms and them in turn, train other farmers. Describing it as the service provider’s model, she said it is one of PIND’s new market development approaches for boosting economic opportunities and reducing poverty for thousands of farmers and SMEs. The PIND official explained that the organization identified sub-sectors in agriculture with high potentials to generate income and create jobs for a significant number of poor people and engaged clusters of farming associations with large numbers of farmers in these sub-sectors across Niger Delta.
“Then we have three agricultural value chains now going to the fourth one; Business Linkages Initiative Programme. So the agricultural programs: we have aquaculture, we have cassava, we have oil palm and now we’re beginning to go into cocoa which is the fourth agricultural value chain that we’re beginning to implement interventions in. So we started aquaculture in 2012, the others started in 2013 and so far we’ve been implementing interventions across the nine Niger Delta states.”
The PIND Official said business support service providers also receive training on how to offer market linkages, finance, and business advisory services to select Niger Delta-based SMEs. Mrs. Sawyer said that PIND used the service provider’s approach to identify and tackle some of the systemic constraints stalling growth in the agriculture, Small and Medium Enterprises sectors in a sustainable manner.
She said over 11,000 fish farmers have benefitted from the service providers’ model adopted by PIND.
“Fish feed companies and the service providers, they are beginning to collaborate together in the sector and cumulatively, they’ve been able to reach over 11,000 fish farmers across the Niger Delta. So in a way we can say yes, these over 11000 fish farmers have indirectly benefited from PIND’s activities through our capacity building program for the service providers and feed companies. So the same model goes for cassava, cocoa and oil palm where we focus on the service providers. Because if they are strong, if their capacity is built invariably they’ll be able to build the capacity of farmers.”
Beneficiaries of PIND’s Service Providers’ model have much to say but they begin with a call to both private and public organizations involved in development programs to adopt the PIND approach of tackling poverty.
One of such beneficiaries, an Aquaculture trainer, Benedicta Peter-Ugheoke told our correspondent how her capacity in fish farming was built under the PIND Service Providers model when she participated in Warri in 2015.
“… coming in contact with PIND, there was a grant we got from PIND as service providers from different locations. I was given a grant of one million naira to train 100 farmers, of which I’ve trained much more than that. As we’re talking, I’ve trained about 200 farmers.”
Another Aquaculture Service Provider based in Ughelli Delta state, Israel Yusuf shared some of the lessons learned from the training provided by PIND. Mr. Yusuf, who is also known as Doctor Fish said the training enabled him to impact the right knowledge on fish farmers thereby helping their businesses grow.
“So I attended a training organised by PIND Foundation where I was able to see clearly that there are two parts to farming: there is the technical part and there is the business part. So after the training, for every training I do, I try to teach both technical and the business component.
Farmer’s have been able to now see that the fish farming they are doing, the poultry farming they are doing, it’s not just a hobby, its a business. You know courtesy of PIND Foundation I realized that the market system of today does not favor the poor. Since then I’ve been able to help farmers focus on one aspect of the value chain or two if they have the capacity.”
However the intervention project is not without its challenges. PIND’s Economic Development Program Manager, James Elekwachi highlighted some of the issues the program continues to maneuver to sustain the intervention projects.
“A number of challenges. First of all, you know the Niger Delta region, it’s an area that is quite dominated by the entitlement mentality. When we started, they expected us to give handouts. We went to a fish farming cluster, they didn’t want to listen to us or talk to us. They felt that so many development agencies had come in the past and nothing came out of it. We then decided to work with them to prove a model that can help them increase the productivity of their fish farming.”
As Poverty eradication remains number one on the Sustainable Development Goals, SDG, it is hoped that the government at all levels will use PIND’s Service providers’ model to eradicate poverty especially in the Niger Delta, seen to be the Oil hub of the country but yet wallows in abject poverty.