From Chidi Nnadi, Enugu
The sleepy town of Heneke in Ezeagu Local Government Area of Enugu State came alive last Wednesday as 600 women and youths were certified to become farmers. It is the second and third batches of trainees under the pilot scheme of the World Bank-assisted agricultural programme put together by the Federal Government under the Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA) through state government counterpart funding regime.
Enugu, one of the five states selected for the pilot scheme had already trained 98 beneficiaries in the first batch thus swelling the ranks of farmers in the state with 698 “young” farmers. The programme supervised by the Commercial Agriculture Development Project (CADP), a subsidiary of the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources, will see thenew farmers accessing N2 million World Bank grant each as against the N2.5 million given to their counterparts in the first batch.
Also, while beneficiaries in the first batch were trained in the Songhai Farm, Porto-Novo, Republic of Benin and Itigidi in Cross River State, beneficiaries in the second and third batches received their training at the Songhai Enugu Initiative at Heneke and Jose farms in Abakaliki, Ebonyi State.
They were trained in the various value chains including, Rice, Poultry, Maize, Aquaculture, Tomato, Wheat, Sorghum, Apiculture, Soya bean, Cassava, Groundnut, Oil palm, Snail, Grass-cutter, as well as other multiple value chains like welding, fabrication, repair and maintenance.
One of the beneficiaries, Miss Jane Frances Ani, from Ogbuoka in Nkanu East Local Government Area told daily Sun that her dream to rear broiler fowls has finally materialized:
“I say a very big thank you to the World Bank and the Enugu State Government for making my dream come true, the dream of becoming a farmer, broilers production to be precise. I have not been into this type of farm business before I came for the training.
“I feel very excited, I feel very happy because before now I had wanted to go into poultry production, broiler to be precise, but because of some constraints I have not been able to achieve that, but going by the training we have undertaken and the empowerment that the government has promised to give to us, I believe that my dream is finally coming to reality.
“I am actually going to establish my farm in Amauzam Ogbuoka because we were told that it is not good to site a poultry farm in residential areas, so the location I have chosen is the best for the business. I actually intend to start big because from the empowerment they did in the past we discovered that the construction and everything they did were actually big, so we were told that we will be given that kind of structure, but I intend to start with 500 birds in other to accommodate the amount that will be given to me, but in the near future the building is one that can contain 1,000 birds and above.
“So, with 500 birds I can employ another person that will be on salary and other labourers to help, people you can always call to come and do cleaning, these will not be under salary. But as I progress in the business probably after a year I will employ more hands.”
President of groups two and three, Mr. Eze Felix Afam, said they started the programme on November 14: “We came into the camp and were registered, then on the next day we were divided into segments; some went into acquaculture, some poultry, some rice processing; and when the training began we did our investment plan within the first three days and after that we went into practicals after which we came back to do the mock; these took us 16 days and on the 17th day, which is today, we are doing the closing ceremony.
“I feel so great, I feel so real and highly empowered. I majored in the field of acquaculture; I am satisfied because I have now got all it takes to excel in acquaculture and even to train other people to enable us beef up the prodction of fish in this state.
“We will employ other people and this will relieve the government of the excessive demand for employment in the parastatals. So, definitely this initiative will reduce crime rate. I believe that this programme will boost the growth of the state economy.”
Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi who declared the training closed congratulated all the beneficiaries, saying that their selection for participation followed the due process of the World Bank whereby all the local government areas in the state were fully represented. He was represented by his deputy, Cecilia Ezeilo:
“CADP is really promoting agriculture in Enugu State by raising the output levels of agricultural produce, kindling the interest of youths in agriculture, stimulating economic growth, generating employment and guaranteeing food security in poultry, fruit trees, aquaculture, maize and rice.”
He noted that with the increase in population, commercial agriculture was the way forward to addressing the food challenges of the nation, as well as alleviating drudgery in agriculture:
“I wish to thank the World Bank in a special way for providing the training, as well as empowering about 700 women and youths from all LGAs in Enugu State. The programme is highly commendable and should be sustained in view of the present economic hardships in the country.
“I am also informed that the World Bank may not likely empower the last batches of the trainees due to issues of non-payment of state counterpart funds. I wish to re-assure the World Bank that Enugu State is fully committed to the programme and would meet all its obligations as soon as the finances of the state improves.
“It will be on record that this training and empowerment of women and youths is one of the best components of the programme of the World Bank through Commercial Agriculture Development Project in Nigeria.”
The state Project Coordinator of CADP, Mr. Robinson Ikenyina Nduaguba, disclosed that after the collection of certificates by the beneficiaries, the next line of action would be their empowerment in the areas they have been trained:
“They will receive grants from the World Bank and the state government and this grant will enable them to establish their own agro-enterprise. So, instead of them looking for jobs, they will now be employers of labour. For this batches two and three, the estimation is that each of them will be empowered with the sum of N2 million. For the first batch, the estimation was N2.5 million.
“And those of them that benefited are being empowered in the sense that they have already received this money in the commercial banks and implementation is now being done through a service provider to make sure that the money is being utilised to establish the particular enterprise for which it was established.
“So, it is not a question of giving them cash and they will divert it and use it for something else. CADP is monitoring the implementation stage by stage, so that at any stage we okay and then give instruction to the bank that you can pay the service provider and the beneficiary signs it.”
The coordinator said that the monitoring experience has not been easy: “It was not without some challenges because actually why some people are interested others are not interested, but the joy is that it is a few that are not interested; and how do you know those ones that are not interested?
“How we know is that for them, they are more interested in getting the cash. So, when you are telling the person this is the process that you will follow, he will always want to look for a way to get the cash, but it is not possible to get the cash. So, in the course of monitoring we saw that many of them have been established. In fact, some of them have been 100 per cent implemented and many are over 50 per cent implemented because it is in stages.
“For example, those of them in poultry will first of all build the structure, from foundation to roofing with a specific design, when that is completed you go into the inputs supply, whereby you source the day old chicks, the necessary feeders, drinkers, water banks and others, after which the service provider will now apply that the beneficiary be paid and the beneficiary will now request us to authorise the bank to pay the service provider, if he appends his signature, they take it to the bank and the account is credited.
“I am happy to announce that batch one, the implementation is in advanced stage and when you go on monitoring, you are happy because you see the things on the ground, the people that wanted to do sharp businesses by taking the cash were disappointed because it was not possible for them.”
The National Project Coordinator, Dr Amin Babandi, represented by the National Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist, Mr. Adekunle Adesoye, pointed out that the programme was introduced in 2014 to empower women and youths in the country saying that it will be ending in May next year.
Commissioner for Agriculture, Mr. Mike Eneh, expressed hope that those trained would in the long run equally train others and create employment in the value chain.
“It is a grant and they won’t pay back. It is built up in a way that the money is not diverted to other purpose for which it is established. Initially, it was only five states, but now they want to add about 18 states to make it countrywide, they are doing the appraisal now.
“The last World Bank study on poultry industry in Enugu for the sales of eggs alone was N1.44 billion to the net economy of the state and it is estimated that the poultry industry in Nigeria employs about 20 million people in the country which tells you of its potential. Agriculture is the biggest industry in the world today and it is through it you can be food secured, remove hunger, poverty and malnutrition. And the government has a role to play by engaging in those infrastructure, machinery that will help the farmers.”