THE Livelihood Improvement Family Enterprises – Niger Delta (LIFE-ND) programme of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) joint project with the Federal Government is yet to commence in three states, three years after the project launch in 2019, findings by The ICIR have shown.
Though nine states were to benefit from the $130 million agricultural project, the three states lagging behind are Rivers, Imo and Akwa Ibom states.
They were to provide counterpart funding through the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
LIFE-ND is a joint project being implemented by the IFAD, the Federal Government through the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), Federal Ministry of Finance, state governments as well as the NDDC.
It is a 12-year project with an overall cost put at $130 million.
The project, with support from IFAD, is expected to run from 2019 to 2025 as the first phase while the second phase would commence from 2026 to 2031.
The objective of the project was to create employment and reduce restiveness through agricultural interventions for youths in the Niger Delta region.
A breakdown of the funding showed a $60 million loan from IFAD, $30 million from the NDDC, $4.60 million as contributions from the Federal Government, and $4.91 million as counterpart funding from the state governments.
The second phase would attract $30 million from IFAD also as a loan, and $500, 000 as a grant from the same international organisation.
“The chunk of the counterpart funding from these three states ought to come from the NDDC. And we are engaging our stakeholders that would put pressure on the commission to meet up with the commitment made to support the livelihood of the youths in the region,” the national coordinator of the programme Abiodun Sanni told The ICIR on Thursday in Abuja.
He acknowledged that some riverine communities were yet to be assessed but disclosed plans to procure boats to reach the locations.
However, Sanni said 4,500 agropreneurs have benefitted in the six states currently participating in the project.
He identified the total direct beneficiaries to include unemployed and underemployed youths aged 18-35, as well as vulnerable groups. These, he noted, would include women-headed households with children under the age of 15 and people with disability willing to engage in the production, processing and marketing of selected farm commodities in respective communities.
“Collectively, within the six states we are working, we expect that NDDC will come on-board so that the other three states not yet captured will be fully beneficial to the project.”
“We are talking of the states of Akwa Ibom, Imo and Rivers which are not yet participants in the project.”
The IFAD Country Programme Manager Patrick Kabamenshi described the initiative as imperative to addressing the problem of unemployment in the region.
He identified insecurity as a notable problem, as well as inaccessibility to other parts of the benefitting states, mainly the riverine communities.
However, Kabamenshi advised the government to intensify efforts towards addressing the challenges.
He said about 3,316 hectares of land across Abia, Bayelsa, Cross River, Edo, Delta and Ondo were already secured for cultivation.
According to him, “895 hectares have so far been surveyed of which 241 hectares are at various stages of development including clearing and harrowing”.
Earlier, the Director of Project Coordinating Unit (PCU) in the ministry Ubandoma Ularamo, expressed satisfaction with the project delivery, except for a few challenges in the payment of counterpart funds.
The counterpart funding, he stressed should be financed through the NDDC budgetary allocations but had been stalled due to non-passage by the lawmakers.
Ularamo, however, pledged to assist within the shortest possible time in order to ensure the three other benefitting states are captured.