By Precious Akutamadu
Mrs Dede Ekoue, the Country Director, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) Nigeria, has commended the Federal and State Governments’ commitment to the LIFE-ND youth programme.
Ekoue gave the commendation on Wednesday during the FED/NDDC/IFAD Livelihood Improvement Family Enterprises-Niger Delta(LIFE-ND)Mid Term Review Wrap-up meeting in Port Harcourt.
LIFE-ND, a programme which is on promoting youths entrepreneurship in the agriculture sector, was initiated by IFAD, assisted by the Federal Government and NDDC in 2019 to end in 2025.
According to Ekoue, the programme has been successful with the outreach plan to empower 25,000 small holder entrepreneur farmers by the year 2025.
She said the programme had impacted 14,000 youths to prove that the target of the project had been met more than 50 per cent at mid-term of the programme.
She said that IFAD regarded the contributions made on the project by the the Federal and state governments as a good sign.
“If you have a project that is financed by only international donor without commitment from national, and state authorities or local community, it means the project may not be addressing the need of the people.
“So, we appreciate the Federal and state commitment,” she said..
Ekoue said that the project was also implementing some projects that were critical for the community to help in reducing post harvest loss.
She said the projects would also generate income for the farmers at the cassava processing mill in Agbor and provide jobs for the youths of the area.
She said it would also be a catalyst for rural transformation of the economy because the projects were owned by the rural community in Agbor managing to put the money in the system.
The country director also commended the progress of LIFE-ND selected as one of the projects to share their experiences at the level of West and Central Africa.
“It means that something innovative is happening in the country. One of the innovations is the introduction of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for farmers,” she said.
She thanked the incubators who are coaching the young entrepreneurs in the communities, saying that LIFE-ND had trained youths and boosted businesses in the region.
She listed some of the challenges as financial inclusion for entrepreneurs to start up businesses which the project is committed to.
She called on financial institutions to invest in the young entrepreneurs.
She also said that the NDDC’s Managing Director had assured that the Commission would soon contribute its counterpart funding to replicate the success achieved through LIFE-ND in the six states to three other states normally funded by NDDC.
Furthermore, Dr Peter Kukwi, a Director from the Federal Ministry of Agriculture’s Project Coordinating Unit, said that the federal government had provided funds for start up in spite of the general challenge posed by funding.
“We know the position of our banks but we are still looking at individuals and Micro finance banks that can support the project, also looking at trainings and other ways to fast track the project,” he said.
Kukwi said that Federal government also set policies to facilitate the process, adding that state government should look inward and provide the land to carry out the agriculture projects.
Also Mr Babatunde Adebayo, a Director at the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and Planning, said that the ministry stood in for states as borrowers for the fund from the donors.
Adebayo, who applauded IFAD for providing the funds for the youths and the women in the country, advised the project managers to keep all the documentation about the project for account purposes.
Mr Kelechi Nwaelu, the NDDC, Director on Agric and Fisheries, said that the commission would meet its obligation on counterpart funding of the project.
Nwaelu said that IFAD’s management had met with the commission’s management to discuss issues of the counterpart funding.
He also assured that the programme would be fast tracked in the three other states to empower the remaining 13,000 participants.
Abiodun Sanni, the National Project Coordinator Federal Government, NDDC, IFAD-assisted livelihood programme, said that they got a strong commitment from the NDDC management.
He said the commitment would further hasten the funding of the project in three remaining states of Imo, Rivers and Akwa-Ibom before the end of the month.
Sanni said that Nigerian youths would be able to trust in government to fulfil their promises at the end of the programme.
He said that this was demonstrated by the overwhelming patronage and demand for participation in the programme by youths in the Niger Delta region.