By Helen Ugo Chimezie
Lifeline may soon come to the Livelihood Improvement Family Enterprises- Niger Delta (LIFE-ND) as the strings holding back the $30m counterpart fund is said have been cut.
The fund ought to have come from the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) more than three years ago. Now, the Commission has assured the stakeholders of its commitment to pay the first phase of their counterpart funding for the project as promised.
The commission gave this assurance during the mid-term review of the LIFE-ND project recently held in Port-Harcourt, Rivers State.
Speaking at the event, the Director of Agriculture and Fisheries of the Commission, Mr Kelechi Nwelue, thanked the LIFE-ND team for what he termed wonderful performance recorded so far. He wished them well, while hoping that at the end of the first phase of the project which would end in 2025, they would have recorded tremendous results as expected.
He further said that NDDC management has made the commitment to ensure that they met their own part of the agreement, so as to ensure the success of the project.
Earlier speaking, the Country Director of the International Funds for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Mrs Dede Ekoue, in her opening remarks, said; “The mid-term review is an opportunity to access the progress that were made by the project, to identify the additional opportunities for improvements, and to draw the pathways to achieving higher performance.
“LIFE-ND is a project that we can call a flagship programme. This programme is helping at least 14,000 youths set up their businesses through an incubation model that is based on having someone who has done it, someone who knows how to do it successfully, coach a young person committed to tapping into the agriculture potential, to set up his own income opportunity and to create also an opportunity for employment of other youths.
“So, the youths we have for this programme are selected because of this strong potential of entrepreneurship, the catenation to tap into the agriculture economic potential in respect to their environment, and ensuring also that we boost the food security of Niger Delta, and the country in general.”
She thanked the incubators that were coaching and strengthening the capacities of the incubatees (apprentices) for their leadership and commitment to boosting rural economic development and youth entrepreneurship while adding that the FG in Nigeria is committed to supporting the youth in the Niger Delta. The project is to leverage youth potential to boost agriculture production and transformation.
Also speaking, the Director of the Project Coordinating Unit (PCU) at the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr Kush Peter Kukwi, lauded the National Coordinator of the LIFE-ND project and his team for the achievements recorded so far in the project, while commending Aboh community in Delta State for taking ownership of the project.
He emphasized the importance of individuals improving their economy, so as to boost the national economy.
On the issue of the funding challenge of the LIFE-ND project, Dr Kukwi told journalists that they were still looking at individuals and micro finance institutions that can support the project because agriculture has a lot of risk involved.
Ruth Ayebatari Forcebray, a beneficiary of the project in Bayelsa State, also lauded the project for giving her the opportunity to be self-reliant and an employer of labour.
She said the project has equipped her with a vast knowledge that affords her the opportunity to diversify. She further expresses delight that someday she would be an incubator, considering the incubation model of the LIFE-ND project.
LIFE-ND is a Federal Government initiation, in partnership with International Funds for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the nine Niger Delta state governments, although currently being implemented in six Niger Delta states (Abia, Bayelsa, Cross Rivers, Delta, Edo and Ondo) partly due to the delayed release of NDDC counterpart fund.
The project is focused on developing the Agricultural sector of the economy to reduce youth unemployment.