Appraising FG’s Poverty Reduction Initiative In Niger Delta

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As part of efforts to alleviate poverty and boost economic
growth in the Niger Delta, the Federal Government introduced the Community/
Based Natural Resource Management Programme (CBNRMP).

The Federal Government is executing some projects in the
area under the programme, in collaboration with the International Fund for
Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the Niger Delta Development Commission
(NDDC).

IFAD’s Executive Board approved CBNRMP in July 2002, while
an agreement on its commencement was signed by the benefiting states in July
2003.

CBNRMP is aimed at alleviating poverty and improving the
living standards of about 400,000 people in communities across the Niger Delta
states of Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Imo, Ondo and
Rivers.

The programme is being implemented via a bottom-top
approach, as the communities and groups are allowed to select their projects,
while the beneficiaries are involved in field monitoring and project
supervision.

CBNRMP is, however, expected to terminate in September 2013
but several stakeholders are of the view that the overall objective of the
programme may not be attained by 2013.

The Chairman of Arochukwu Local Government Council in Abia,
Chief Okoro Okoroafia, believes that if the programme is properly implemented,
it has enormous potential to transform the lives of the beneficiaries.

“But the impacts are yet to be noticed because the programme
is still at the pilot stage of implementation.

“There is the need for the extension of the programme, it is
also necessary to expand the programme to all the local government areas of the
participating states,’’ he adds.

Okoroafia, nonetheless, emphasises that the programme ought
to be managed like a business venture for it to become sustainable, even beyond
2013.

“There are still uncompleted projects everywhere, and we
need to ensure that before the programme ends, all beneficiaries would have
extended their projects beyond the pilot stage,’’ he says.

Okoroafia identifies lack of commitment as one of the major
factors limiting the attainment of the objectives of the CBNRMP; noting that
many beneficiaries are not paying their counterpart funds.

Mr Mark Ezeala, the CBNRMP Programme Officer in Abia, says
that the project in the state would have gone beyond the current stage but for
some financial constraints.

The Commissioner for
Agriculture in Abia, Mr Ike Onyenweaku, concedes that on few occasions, the
state government failed to pay its counterpart funds

“There could be one or two months when the state government
failed to meet up; we try to disburse what we have but all the arrears will be
paid,” he says.

Onyenweaku, nonetheless, underscores the need for a
technical plan to take CBNRMP to the next level.

Ms Atsuko Toda, IFAD Country Programme Manager, also
stresses the need for increased cooperation by beneficiaries.

“This project is moving towards attaining its objectives but
this really depends on the nine participating states,’’ she says.

Toda, some NDDC officials and programme consultants recently
came to Abia for the 5th IFAD Direct Supervision Mission.

During the tour, the officials visited a rice demonstration
farm and an oil palm processing plant at Umuezike, Ofeme, in Umuahia North
Local Government Area.

“What we saw was very fantastic. We saw a group of farmers
using a new variety of rice as well as chemicals to kill weeds; therefore,
their farming requires less labour,’’ Toda says.

“IFAD has an objective and the project is moving towards
achieving the objectives,’’ she adds.

The IFAD official notes that Abia, Cross River, Edo and Ondo
are doing relatively well in the programme implementation, urging the other
benefiting states to put in extra efforts and show more commitment.

“We need to share new technologies to farmers and make sure
that the technologies go beyond the areas, which the IFAD project is currently
covering in the participating nine states,” she says.

On the possibility of extending the programme, Toda insists
the programme could be extended, only if its extension would make a difference.

“There is a chance of extending the programme but we have to
be sure that if the programme is extended by one year, it will make a
difference in terms of greater impact on more poor people.

“But I don’t feel it will be necessary to extend the
programme in the states where there is less commitment to implement, sustain
and scale up the IFAD project.

“I will like to continue with the states that have shown
their commitment, ownership and ability to carry out the activities because I
think that the only way for us to reach poor people is when the states are
committed,’’ she stresses.

All the same, Mr Kenneth Ononukwu, the Chairman of Chinwe
Rice Cooperative Society in Ofeme, Abia, concedes that the programme has
transformed the lives of the people of the neighbourhood.

“At the moment, we have 68 hectares of rice farm; we spent
N153,000 on labour for the cultivation of one hectare of rice farm and we have
a minimum of N300,000 gross income and a net income of N147, 000,’’ Ononukwu
says.

Nevertheless, Ben Odoemenam, IFAD Country Programme Officer,
believes that a lot still ought to be done to enable the programme’s
beneficiaries to get more value for their labour.

He stresses that factors such as the lack of technical
support and competence are still hindering the beneficiaries’ efforts to fully
exploit the programme’s potential.

Odoemenam attributes this to the fact that the beneficiaries
have yet to embrace modern trends in agriculture, adding that the insincerity
of most state governments as regards agricultural development is also a
limiting factor.

He, however, underscores the need to encourage farmers to
adopt mechanised farming and other modern farming techniques so as to engender
increased agricultural production.

Stakeholders are, however, of the view that tangible efforts
should be made to expand and streamline the IFAD project in the country to
enable it to meet the goals of the Federal Government’s Agricultural
Transformation Agenda in a pragmatic way.

Acha is of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).

 

Emmanuel Acha