Agric option opens to oil bunkerers with support from Alluvial, SDN, UK govt

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Most of those including governments who shout against oil bunkering hardly provided alternatives to the ‘kpo fire’ boys (artesanal refiners) also called oil bunkerers. Some private sector organizations that have done anything at all only gave skills acquisition schemes and starter packs that may not attract the illegal refiners who make about N50,000 per day, according to those that have investigated the dangerous business.

Now, a non-governmental organization, the Social Democratic Network (SDN) working with Alluvial and with support from the UK Government, has a stronger message for the artesanal refiners. Soon, the refiners may have a chance to invest their energies in agric products.

SDN said it recently conducted a research and found that the burgeoning artisanal oil industry in the Niger Delta has encouraged instability in the regional environmental health and stability. The report found that many persons were propelled into the illicit industry through a lack of alternative livelihoods.

Now, SDN, with funding from the UK Government, seeks to test and showcase viable alternative livelihoods in the Niger Delta by undertaking agricultural pilot projects, according to Florence Keyamba, the programmes manager.

The focus is said to be on swamp rice in the creeks which would be implemented with ex-participants of the artisanal oil industry, building on research and engagements which indicate productive alternative livelihoods can remove actors from the industry, and deter new entrants. “Another pilot project seeks to reduce the barriers of land ownership, access to capital, and low interest credit to commercially viable initiatives developing in the Niger Delta”, she stated in a statement made available to BusinessDay.

The NGO said a team of agricultural specialists will test and compare the results of the rice grown in 12 separate plots of land across six hectares and report to inform future varieties and inputs to maximise return on investment and make this a viable livelihood alternative for communities living in the creeks of the Niger Delta.

SDN says it is working with Alluvial, a private sector provider, to reduce the risks and barriers to 100 smallholder and unemployed farmers, using different methods to maximise crop yields over 200 hectares.

She said: “The results of these pilot projects are expected to indicate the potential of these innovative approaches to deliver commercial viability, quality employment, and to alleviate some of the drivers of conflict and instability in the region.”