From Judex Okoro, Calabar
In its commitment to improve access to the poor and vulnerable people in Cross River, the state government in collaboration with World Bank has provided about 169 micro projects to over 50 rural communities and groups.
The intervention scheme estimated at over N500 million is aimed at improved social and natural resource infrastructure services in a sustainable manner.
The intervention, which include provision of water, electrification projects, classroom blocks as well as the provision of critical infrastructure like bridges, culverts and drainages, have added value to the lives of rural dwellers in the state.
The projects, which are basically targeted at vulnerable groups in rural communities, is undertaken by the Cross River State Community and Social Development Agency, an agency established by law to implement the Community and Social Development Project (CSDP), which is a World Bank assisted project.
The CSDP, which utilises the community development approach, a bottom-up development strategy, places the poor on the driver’s seat of development by giving them a voice in decision making for development and allows them to identify, design, part-finance, implement, manage and own assets created towards poverty reduction.
Under the strategy, which has proven to be largely successful in the state, the community provides counterpart funding of 10 per cent including the cost of land and labour while the agency provides 90 per cent of the funds as well as the technical expertise to execute the selected project.
Determined to ensure the success of the programme, the agency has intervened in a dilapidated hostel block and refurbished three hostels in Stella Maris Secondary School including Pope Francis, Pope Benedict and Pope John Paul Hostels at Uyanga Model Village in Akamkpa.
At Anong Bahumuno, the agency in collaboration with the community provided a standard science laboratory comprising physics, chemistry, biology lab and drainage for the community to address the problem of flooding.
A similar intervention was also seen in Akam Community in Ikom Local Government Area, where the agency also constructed science laboratory blocks, a standard examinations hall as well as a comprehensive health centre for the community.
The people of Omale, Bende Ward 2 in Obanliku, were not left out as the agency renovated classrooms and constructed a bridge just as it constructed classrooms blocks as well as a solar powered borehole at Itege Ekpudu, Arkwa Community in Yala.
The story was the same at Ajassor, a border community linking Nigeria and Cameroon in Etung local government area, where the community in partnership with the agency constructed modern market stalls at the Ajassor International market and Monyam Bridge
This market, serves nationals from both countries, operates on selected days of the week and usually witnesses quite a large number of traders and buyers that come to trade in goods largely from Etung which is noted for its agricultural products.
The agency also constructed an examination halls in Government Secondary School, Okweriseng Ubang, Obudu and refurbished a hostel in Stella Maris Secondary School, Uyanga Akamkpa and Mary Knoll Secondary School, Yala.
Speaking shortly after touring round some of the projects across the state, the General Manager of CRSCSDA, Pastor Victor Ovat, said the idea of the projects is to provide resources to poor communities and vulnerable groups in the state to access finances from the government for projects they have chosen themselves in their communities.
Ovat said the 10 per cent counterpart fund from the communities is for them to have ownership of the project as you cannot own what you have not contributed for.
“That 10 per cent counterpart fund is compulsory as a contribution from the communities as a mark of ownership of the project they are looking for, without it, we cannot guarantee that there is ownership by the community,” he said.
Reacting on the interventions in the education, rural culverts and bridges, some of the beneficiaries including teachers and traditional heads, commended the initiative of the government and its development partner in improving the learning environment in the educational sector as well constructing link culverts and bridges.
Fr. Francis Okon, Priest in Charge of academics, Stella Maris Secondary School, Akamkpa, said the intervention has improved the learning environment for the students, particularly those using the refurbished hostel.
“The renovated structure is quite nice and has provided comfort for the students particularly during the raining season. The dormitory is now well ventilated and there are other facilities added like light, fan as well as electricity,” he said.
At the Community Secondary School, Anong Bahumuno in Abi Local Government Area, the principal, Elder Philip Ezongelemi, said the laboratories would boost the teaching and learning of sciences in the school.
Ezongelemi stated that the number of science students in the school had increased and he was happy with the development. He appealed to government to send more science teachers as the ones available were too few to handle all the students.
The traditional prime minister of Anong Bahumuno, Amos Ukomi Ekwe, said the intervention has empowered future leaders in the community.
“As a science student, I know the importance of sciences and the laboratory that have been provided by the agency. Before now, we went to Odenafa, which is about four kilometers, to borrow materials and educate our sons and daughters in sciences.
“We discovered we cannot continue to borrow and so we pooled our resources, applied to the agency and that is why we have a clean one now. The students have come to know of the laboratory with complete materials and we are confident they can compete with their peers. Besides, we are now free from floods as it is being directed to elsewhere.”
Commending the agency for their health projects in Ogbebit Village in Akam Clan, Ikom, the village head, Oval Alfred Aluche, said: “The health centre has brought health care closer to our people. It has made it easy for our people to access health services. Particularly, deaths during pregnancy have reduced in the community.”
Chairman of Akam Development Union, Njor Harding, said the projects executed in his community were done with their contributions through counterpart funding while the bulk of the funds was brought by the agency for the educational support through the laboratories and standard examinations hall.
“My son now wants to study medicine rather than law because of the standard laboratory that has been provided by the agency. I solicit government’s continuous support for the agency so that this can be extended to other parts of the state that need similar interventions,” Harding said.
For the Village Head of Begiayem in Omale, Ugbe Gregory, the bridge constructed by the agency has brought sucour.
The Clan Head of Itege Ekpudu, Arkwa Community in Yala, Ogam Odey Inaku, also commended efforts of the agency in providing classrooms blocks as well as a solar powered borehole for the community.
At Ajassor community in Etung, the clan head, Anthony Etta II, said the projects executed by the agency in collaboration with the community has improved the economy of the area, particularly at the international market and the Monyam Bridge has equally helped the community in evacuating agricultural products from their farms to the market.
“More people now come in to buy, sell. Before now, we had an average of 1,500 people coming to trade, but now, we have over 4,000. People from Cameroon come in to buy and sell at Ajassor market.
“On the Monyam Bridge, before now, the road was inaccessible and all our farm produce passed through this route and can now transport their produce to and from the farm and also to the market.”
According to him, the community provided local materials like water, sand, gravel and participated in the course of constructing the projects as part of its counterpart funds while the government through the agency provided the bulk of the funds.