No fewer than 900 youths in Abia are to benefit from the next session of capacity building and empowerment in agribusiness by the Livelihood Improvement Family Enterprises for Niger-Delta (LIFE-ND).
This is even as the projected has graduated over 250 beneficiaries, otherwise referred to as incubatees, in the state.
The National Project Coordinator of LIFE-ND, Engr. Abiodun Sanni, made this known to newsmen in Umuahia, when the national project coordinating officers visited Abia.
He said that the national officers were in the state to interact with the beneficiaries who are incubatees (trainees) and incubators (trainers), on the challenges they were facing, in a bid to improve on the project.
He disclosed that the project’s target was to empower and build capacity of 4,250 youths in selected agricultural enterprises in the state.
The national project coordinator explained that those who were graduated had already been settled, stressing that most of them were already in their respective farms, doing their businesses.
Sanni said that the probect had injected close to N400 million into the incubation process for the incubatees in the state.
He said: “The lifespan of the first set of project is six years.We are approaching the mid-term and we have already put structures in place to ensure that we meet our targets.
“We are moving ahead and we expect that by the time we get to mid-year we will be hitting 50 per cent in terms of the target project.
“We are embarking on high level advocacy and we are also reaching out to our stakeholders, that they should be able to provide what is required, to support these incubatees, to deliver on time.
“With this, largely, the issue of high income, food security and job creation can be easily achieved.”
Sanni said that he was quite impressed with the performance of the project in the state, stressing that Abia was always on top and had been quite responsive to the duty calls of the national office.
According to him, the major challenge we have gotten from Abia is the slow pace at which funds are released to the beneficiaries due to some bureaucratic bottlenecks and we have already instituted a process to ensure that the time lag is minimised.
Sanni, who led his team on a courtesy visit to Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu in Aba, after the interaction with the beneficiaries in Umuahia, commended the governor for being supportive to the project.
He said that the national project coordinating office was on a thank-you visit to the governor, as well as to solicit for more counterpart fund contribution.
Sanni said that Abia ranked first among the states the project is operating, in terms of counterpart fund contribution.
Responding, the governor lauded the national project coordinator and his management team, for bringing out their time to visit the state, as well as interface with the beneficiaries of the project.
The governor, who expressed satisfaction with the performance of the project in the state, promised that the counterpart fund would be released within the shortest possible time.
The State Project Coordinator, Dr. Uchenna Onyeizu, told newsmen that the national project coordinating office’s interface with the beneficiaries, was part of the enlarged monitoring and evaluation activity.
He said that beneficiaries had the opportunity to express themselves, adding that the feedbacks they got we very instructive and helpful.
“We will try as much as possible to mainstream them in our activities going forward.
“We had a nice interaction and part of it was a platform for the incubatees to express their challenges within their incubation centres,” Onyeizu said.
Onyeizu thanked the governor for supporting the project in all ramifications, saying “Our implementation has been unhindered by any form of interferences and that has helped us to achieve what we have achieved so far.”
The LIFE-ND project is being funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), in collaboration with the Federal Govermnent and the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
Its mandate is capacity building and economic empowerment of youths in agribusiness, especially in cassava production, rice production, oil palm processing and poultry.
The project is working in 100 communities in 10 local government areas in Abia.