Judex Okoro, Calabar
As part of the drive to create employment for the youths, Lafarge Africa and CUSO have trained 200 indigent members of Cross River communities and empowered 50 with starter packs.
The young entrepreneurs drawn from the host communities in Calabar South, Calabar Municipality, Akpabuyo and Akamkpa local government areas where Lafarge operates, were trained in various skills.
The programme is aimed at ensuring that young entrepreneurs who have the intellectual capacities to manage private enterprises are trained and empowered with the requisite technical capacities and funds to run their chosen businesses.
Out 50 beneficiaries of starter packs, 64 percent were females. For the distribution across local government areas, Akamkpa has 16 females and six males, Akpabuyo four females and nine males, Calabar Municipality 11 females and three males while Calabar South has one person.
Speaking Calabar during a ceremony to mark the award of Starter pack and presentation of grant to beneficiaries, the Plant Manager of Lafarge Africa, David Brown, said the partnership is critical in order to impact on the community.
He said the partnership with CUSO is based on the outstanding role it played over time in empowering youths as well as enhancing their entrepreneurship development.
“We entered into this partnership because as an organisation, we recognise our host communities as partners, building together for the future, while ensuring that we leave positive footprints that will build skills, improve livelihoods and impact the society.
“At Lafarge, we are committed to sustainable development with special focus on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. We believe that through this support, the beneficiaries will have better chances to improve their lives and that of the people in their communities,” Mr. Brown said.
Ebrimo Sonko, CUSO Country Representative for Nigeria, said CUSO shares similar objectives with Lafarge and as experts in community development, the partnership will help stimulate development in the region.
“We are the experts in providing community development and they are the ones with the financial ability to support so the partnership is mutual and together we are supporting youth employment in the region, stimulate development in the community as well.
“Actually the partnership with Lafarge can be traced a little bit backwards; it’s currently an offshoot of the projects that CUSO is currently implementing which is called YouLead. YouLead is a fifteen million dollar project that CUSO is implementing in Cross River to address youth unemployment.
“We are trying in the project to implement entrepreneurship training to 5, 000 young people and also to try and support them to begin their own businesses and we have succeeded in over 3,000 businesses being created. This goes quite well with the intentions of Lafarge to support the communities where they work in. the partnership is very smooth one which we are proud of.
“We work with Lafarge and the communities to train youths in the host communities and we have trained over 200 youths in various skills and also go into technical training with them and we are able to support about 50 of those with grants and that should not be the end because we know from experience that they need our continuous support as young people as well as business people,” he said.
CUSO International Project Team Leader, Jerry Nwigwe said the project started last year with the aim of training youths from Akpabuyo, Calabar Municipality and Akamkpa on entrepreneurship development and the value chains
“But so far we have more people in poultry followed by oil palm, cassava processing. The idea like we all know is that the grant is not going to be disbursed to individuals by cash. We are talking to some vendors and processors so that they can deliver the items to where the beneficiaries want to set up”, he said.
One of the beneficiaries of the CUSO/Lafarge Entrepreneurship Development Training (EDT), who spoke on behalf of the female beneficiaries, Bridget Bassey Edet, from Essien Town in Calabar Municipality, said the knowledge acquired will go a long way in helping the women entrepreneurs start off their businesses.
She said a number of them were lucky to scale through considering the sheer volume of applicants who submitted business proposals stressing that the knowledge acquired will not be a waste.
“From what I learnt in the programme, 400 were called for the training after which 100 were selected for the technical training and 50 for the grant.
“We were taught to start small and dream big so with the little funds they have given us, I can start up something, though it will be small but in future it will be great and this will help us women to scale up our contributions to the development of our communities,” Edet said.
The Cross River State Commissioner for Police, Austin Agbonlahor, said the empowerment would go a long way in entrenching peace in the communities as without peace there is no guarantee for public safety.