Judex Okoro, Calabar
In its commitment to simulate sustainable development in various host communities, Lafarge Africa has empowered over 100 youths with scholarships, starter packs and sewing machines worth hundreds of millions of naira.
Lafarge Africa, a member of LafargHolcim and one of the leading cement manufacturing companies in Africa, has over the years been organising a community day to support its 15 host communities, especially the youths.
Some of the host communities are Mfamosing, Ekong Anaku, Mbobui, Akansoko, Akwa Ikot Effanga community, Diamond community, Kasuk, Obutung, Ikot Oyom and Camp II.
The community day organised by Lafarge Africa and Mfamosing Plant Host Communities was held at Women Development Centre, Calabar, with the theme “Partnering with Host Communities and Promoting Enabling Business Environment.”
The event, which was marked with pomp and ceremony, as there was cultural display of Efik dance, witnessed the inauguration of some community projects, including Government Primary School, Ekong Anaku, two primary health centres in Mfamosing and Mbobui, three boreholes at Camp II Abimfem, Ikot Oyom and Kasuk, youth training centre at Oban and two tricycles (Keke NAPEP) in Obutung.
The event also featured debate by secondary school bursary beneficiaries and presentations to pioneer community block moulding trainees. Other presentations were from NYSC Teaching Support Initiative, Girls’ Power Initiative and bursary awards to indigent students.
Welcoming the host communities, the chairperson of Lafarge Afric’s Community Realtions Committee, Mrs. Christy Ise, said the community day has become a unifying force among the host communities and commended the company for supporting the socio-economic development of the people as demonstrated by the various projects and programmes executed so far.
In his welcome address, the Lafarge country chief executive officer, Michel Pucheros, said that the support was part of its corporate social responsibility and to boost the economies of members of its host communities.
Pucheros, who was represented by the plant manager, Adamu Maaji, said the company’s commitment to community development was in line with its 2030 sustainability ambitions of Lafarge, which includes climate and energy circular economy, environment and community.
He said: “As an organisation, we are in partnership with human capacity development organisations such as Mediatrix Foundation, Girls Power Initiative and Cuso International. We are happy to provide funding and assistance to our host communities.”
According to Pucheros, the Mbobui community near the border between Nigeria and Cameroon has been given a new primary health centre fully equipped, while new primary school blocks and a range of other projects have been constructed in other areas.
He disclosed that the company had, in 2019, given bursary award of N100,000 each to 30 indigent students in public tertiary institutions and N25,000 each to 100 students in public secondary schools, adding that, apart from providing desks and sandals to students, it was renovating schools across the communities.
“In addition to our health and safety commitment to the people, we carried out a two-day health outreach for members of communities, and distributed drugs to community members. Over 100 youths have also benefited from our skills acquisition capacity enhancement and business development programme. Beneficiaries received starter packs to enable them set up and run successful businesses of their own.
“We have started our block moulding and interlocking academy, which is set to develop technical skills of youths in host communities and set up community-owned block factories in three locations.
“Lafarge Africa Plc would like to use this opportunity to reaffirm its commitment to its host communities. Our investment in CSR will continue to meet the needs of the people and simulate sustainable development in our various communities,” he said.
Declaring the day officially open, the wife of Governor Ben Ayade, Dr. Linda Ayade, represented by the Secretary to State Government, Mrs. Tina Agbor, lauded Lafarge for improving the socio-economic lives of its host communities.
Mrs. Ayade said: “Through the various programs/projects initiated by the cement company, a number of indigenes in the host communities had witnessed a turnaround. That through the company’s engagement of youths of host community in the company various programs introduced, youth restiveness and poverty has drastically been reduced.
“I can say that the company has made serious impact on the socioeconomic lives of youths of host communities through schools’ renovations, funding of small/medium-scale entrepreneurs as grant and starter packs to given to beneficiaries.
“I urge you beneficiaries to make good use of these supports you have gotten today. It is not easy to have partners, who can readily provide such support that covers small business management training, equipping and grants.
“All our effort, which Lafarge Africa is supporting, is geared towards curtailing restiveness and in line with President Muhammadu Buhari’s agricultural drive as well as the governor’s agricultural revolution,” she said.
Commending Lafarge for its contributions to the growth of host communities, the Speaker of the Cross River State House of Assembly, Hon. William Eteng, said the educational support, starter packs and bursary given to the youths would really build their capacity curtail youths’ restiveness.
On behalf of host communities, the village head of Diamond Hill community, Dr. Etim Caiafas said, “Lafarge has not only employed our indigenes, it has given scholarships and embarked on youth empowerment programmes.”
He noted that the company has assisted in building/furnishing town halls, sinking boreholes and providing electricity transformers to host communities, which has greatly impacted on the lives of its host communities and people of the state.
One of the trainees in block-moulding, bricks and concrete work, Mr. Edwin Etta, form Mbobui community, expressed gratitude to the company for the skills acquisition, promising to make use of the facilities given him to empower others.