International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), has urged the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), to provide $30 million counterpart funding to fast-track implementation of the Livelihood Improvement Family Enterprises in Niger Delta (LIFE-ND) project.
National Project Coordinator, LIFE-ND, Abiodun Sanni, made the call at the Third Joint Implementation Support Mission Wrap-up meeting, on Thursday, in Abuja.
LIFE-ND is being implemented by IFAD and the Federal Government to support the Nigeria Green Alternative Roadmap for Agriculture and Strategic Framework, aimed at enhancing youth empowerment and job creation as well as support the NDDC master plan for the development of the Niger Delta region.
The strategies were motivated by the waste of potential and growing restiveness among estimated 22 million unemployed youth especially in rural areas, which need economic opportunities to improve their livelihood.
Sanni said the LIFE-ND was targeting nine states including Akwa Ibom, Rivers, Imo, Abia, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo and Ondo.
He said the NDDC at the inception of the project in 2019 pledged $30 million to fund three states of Akwa-Ibom, Rivers and Imo.
“However, from the commencement of the project in 2019 till date, the Commission is yet to meet up with its commitment, the lapses are a major challenge to the timely implementation of the project,” he said.
He urged the NDDC to match its commitment with action by providing its quota to the development of the region.
The project is supported by a strategic Project Development Objectives (PDO), to enhance income, food security and job creation for rural youth and women through agribusiness development on a sustainable basis.
Sanni said the overall goal of LIFE-ND is to realise a transformed rural economy in which the local population can derive prosperity and equal benefits.
He said the central thrust of the project was to use the incubation model to drive and promote agribusiness enterprise development among women and youths in rural areas of Niger Delta region.
According to him, the project is supported by a strategic Project Development Objectives (PDO), to enhance income, food security and job creation for rural youth and women through agribusiness development on a sustainable basis.
“IFAD, the donor agency is to fund the project with the sum of $60 million loan, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) is the lead implementing agency, and the Federal Government is to contribute $4.6 million.
“Benefiting states are to contribute $4.91 million, while the NDDC co-implementing agency is to contribute $30 million.
“The chunk of the counterpart funding is supposed to have come from the NDDC and we are engaging our stakeholders to link up with the Commission so that they meet up with their commitment to support the LIFE-ND project in the region.
“The target of the project is to ensure we have at least 4,250 agro entrepreneurs in each of the nine Niger Delta States.
“We will be able to move in that direction bearing in mind the release of funds for the project so far,” he said.
Prices of goods and services have doubled since the design of the project in 2016, the initial estimate of working capital and stipend ceilings at the moment are obsolete and need to be reassessed.
In his remarks, Country Programme Manager, IFAD, Patrick Habamenshi, said the amount available for stipends and working capital for incubators remained one of the biggest challenges of the project, which needs to be addressed to achieve set objectives.
He further frowned at increased risk of dropping the three NDDC funded states during the midterm review due to the failure of the Commission to mobilise its counterpart funding.
The Programme Manager, who stressed the need for strong advocacy in Cross River State, said IFAD is exploring viable options to bridge the $32 million funding gaps from co-financing partners.
He said the project would adopt proactive steps to address the impact of inflation on the support available for incubators and salary structures of operating cost to fast track the commencement of the project in Akwa-Ibom, Rivers and Imo states in 2022.
“Prices of goods and services have doubled since the design of the project in 2016, the initial estimate of working capital and stipend ceilings at the moment are obsolete and need to be reassessed.
“Another impact of the increased cost of living is that the salary structure of the project is not competitive with the labour market conditions in the region, which makes it difficult to attract the most qualified candidates or retain them.
“There is a need to develop closer integration of the technical, entrepreneurial and mainstreaming content of the incubation process to grow young entrepreneurs ready to operate at various links among others,” he said.
Also speaking, Director, Project Coordinating Unit, Federal Ministry of Finance, Ubandoma Ularami, assured of the Ministry’s commitment to ensuring availability of funds for full participation of the nine benefiting states.
Ularami said the Ministry would collaborate with the National Assembly to ensure adequate funding of NDDC to meet its counterpart fund of the three states lagging behind. (NAN)