The federal government on Tuesday launched 129.17 million U.S. dollars (N46.83 billion) agricultural scheme to enhance food security and income generation in the country.
Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Sabo Nanono, said this at the formal launch in Port Harcourt that the scheme would take off in nine oil producing states.
The states are Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Imo, Ondo and Rivers.
The minister, who was represented by Mohammed Umar, Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, said the scheme, Livelihood Improvement Family Enterprises (LIFE-ND), was in collaboration with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).
“The project is part of the federal government’s drive to diversify the nation’s export earnings as well as alter its economic growth strategy.
“The project’s objective is to enhance income generation, food security and job creation for rural youth and women through agro-enterprise development.
“So, the target is for the states to benefit from a six-year implementation period and another six years financing gap, making a total of 12 years project cycle,” he said.
The minister said Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and IFAD would provide counterpart funding for the project.
“NDDC will provide parallel finance in the first phase of six years while the additional six years will be financed by IFAD with other additional support.
“The federal government has identified top agricultural commodities for implementation in the Niger Delta, such as cassava, plantain, rice, fish, cocoa, oil palm and poultry.
“This project over the years has witnessed poor access to land, poor access to credit as well as few reliable market outlets,” he said.
Mr Nanono called on the nine oil producing states to support President Muhammadu Buhari’s agenda to ensure food security, job creation and economic diversification.
He said the federal government was also planning to replicate the LIFE-ND scheme in the remaining five geopolitical zones in the country.
Speaking, the Acting Managing Director of NDDC, Joi Nunieh, said the LIFE-ND would transform the economy of the Niger Delta.
Represented by George Ero, NDDC Director of Agriculture and Fisheries, Mrs Nunieh said the commission would provide 30 million U.S. dollars (N10.89 billion) as part of its counterpart fund for the project.
“This project will reduce rural-urban migration and criminal activities in the region. It will make the people to realise how much government cares in improving their living standard.
“There is no better time than now for a project like this to be launched. So, we need to take it more seriously and maximally harness its expected benefits,” he appealed.
On her part, the Country Director of IFAD, Nadine Gbossa, said the initiative would create opportunities for the people, particularly the youth and women in the communities.
“LIFE-ND will enable the people to improve production and productivity, access to advisory services and link them to stems to make profit in their business,” she added.