Home / News / Local / (OPINION) MADE: An interesting experiment in helping the poor by Idang Alibi

(OPINION) MADE: An interesting experiment in helping the poor by Idang Alibi

Oil palm production
Oil palm production
Fish farmers
Fish farmers

An interesting experiment in helping the poor worth copying by other Non Governmental Organisations, NGOs, is currently taking place in the nine states of the Niger Delta region of our country. The experiment has been initiated and is being run by an NGO called Market for Development (MADE) Project in the Niger Delta. MADE is a DFID-funded intervention agency whose main goal is to help create market and provide other critical help for poor farmers, fishermen and other unskilled workers engaged in agriculture, fishing and other means of livelihood in the Niger Delta.
The NGO commenced its operations last year and their efforts consist of linking farmers to new and improved technology; new markets for their products and better ways of improving their agricultural or fishing practices in order to earn higher yields and subsequently, higher incomes. Its core concern is to particularly help farmers engaged in cassava, oil palm and fishing and fish processing and the core goal is to improve the overall socio-economic circumstances of the target beneficiary groups.
MADE also seeks to develop linkages or build partnerships among them. For example, poorer farmers are linked to richer ones; fish smokers are linked to modern kiln fabricators and oil processors to improved oil processing equipment makers for mutually beneficial relationships. Currently, the commonest oil palm processing technologies fabricators make for the processors in the region an engine powered digester and manual press which is inefficient and leads to 25-50% loss of oil. Many smallholder processors are not aware of an improved equipment designed by the Nigerian Institute for Oil Palm Research (NIFOR) called the Small Scale Processing Equipment (SSPE) which is capable of extracting more oil and reducing the time spent on processing.
MADE took up the challenge of the information gap with respect to this equipment by facilitating the training of nine local fabricators in Akwa-Ibom state on the fabrication of SSPE with slight modification in order to suit smallholders’ production and financial capacities. Both farmers and fabricators have seen the tremendous business opportunity facilitated for them by MADE. Such is the nature of the type of help MADE is giving to those it has sought to assist.
It has identified the fact that farmers, fishermen and other low-income earners among the non-white collar workers are poor basically because they are not organised into a cohesive group to benefit from new knowledge or skills, new technology that can facilitate their operations and increase their production or the processing of their products. They are also not collectively made aware of how they can gain access to credit facilities, farm inputs, improved seeds and seedlings.
These challenges are some of the reasons the poor remain poor. Managerial ability may be another but it is certainly not lack of hard work on their part. They work hard enough but lack the knowledge of how to engage in smart and more profitable work. A man’s dire circumstances can only be changed for the better if his mindset or his usual ways of doing things and getting poor results are replaced with new information or knowledge. And this is the core approach of MADE who wants to change the behavior of the target group by changing their approaches to the way they have always farmed or fished, using traditional ways.
The problem of poverty and wealth creation are not tackled from the root in our country and that explains why in spite of the fact that trillions of Naira have been spent on the anti-poverty fight, poverty is increasing rather than decreasing in Nigeria. MADE believes it must go down to the roots to tackle the problem of inability of the poor to increase their incomes through better ways of producing, processing and preserving their produce.
MADE has chosen as its theatre of operational experiment the Niger Delta region for obvious reason. While the region is rich in natural resources, especially hydrocarbon, it is also home to some of the poorest persons in the country. What better lab to carry out an experiment designed to reduce poverty?
For its intervention in the Niger Delta, MADE has chosen nine key areas outside crude oil to focus on and develop to make the point that the region is not only about crude oil but that it also has vast potential for other socio-economic activities that can uplift the economic status of the people as well as contribute to Nigeria’s overall economic growth and development.
The nine areas it chose for itself are: oil palm, agric inputs, fisheries, traditional poultry, cassava, helping ‘’Konkri’’ women (women who work as contractors in the construction industry carrying sand, gravel and mixed concrete to realize greater benefit from their involvement in such a masculine job), waste recycling of aluminum and plastic products, bioremediation of polluted areas and helping especially those involved in the key value chain of cassava, fisheries and oil palm to gain access to finance.
Its implementation strategy is to carry out demonstration workshops where farmers are assembled and trained to acquire new skills in farming particularly of cassava, oil palm and fish processing. As an amateur farmer interested in becoming a major player in the crop farming sector, I have been a participant in one of their agricultural demonstration workshops and can testify to the usefulness of what they are doing to better the life of the poor in the region that is like Nigeria: rich in resources but with a mass of poor and dispossessed citizens.
Its approach to citizenship empowerment is innovative because it seeks to address the common or root problems that affect the real grassroots people: how to market products, where to obtain improved seeds and seedlings and fish and fingerlings; how to get modern knowledge for agriculture and aquaculture practices; where to get access to credit in order to expand operation; where to get modern equipment that can hasten processing, etc.; where to get agricultural inputs and those other concerns that may not be real challenges to established large scale operators but which are very huge obstacles for the average farmer to overcome.
I find MADE’s focus spot on. I was in one of their cassava farmers’ sensitization workshops which held in Calabar in June and saw first- hand their hands -on approach to achieving their stated goal of increasing the farmers’ income through efficient cassava production and linkage to the market. An expert mentor, in a demonstration plot, taught farmers how to achieve higher production by the use of modern technique; the use of improved varieties of cassava and where to source them from and where to get finance and market for their produce and products.
This is very useful work that will have immediate and direct impact and will touch millions of lives in the region in a manner that many can testify to. I say so because one of the greatest challenges facing the average farmer in Nigeria, and not just in the Niger Delta, is how to get knowledge of modern techniques of production; where to easily get improved seeds and seedlings or fingerlings in case of fishery; where to get agro inputs and at affordable rates; where to access capital and, above all, where to get a good market for their products. The middle men and marketers tend to get the better deal of the labour of most average farmers.
Mr. Alibi is an Abuja-based journalist and amateur farmer.

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