By Toyin Oyewole
Nigeria presently has the sad distinction of being the country with the largest number of people living below poverty level. The low-cost program set out below could help lift a significant number of our rural poor out of poverty. And given that over 60% of the country’s population lives in the rural areas, a reduction in rural poverty, would shift the poverty dial for the country as a whole.
With farming being the major occupation of over 60% of our rural population, the intervention would be seeking to increase agricultural productivity. It would involve state governments encouraging young professionals, retiring public service officers and other interested individuals to go back to their villages as community mobilizers, who would get the farmers there to form cooperatives that would buy fairly used trucks (if need be, on hire purchase) and adopt a policy of trucking the bulk of their produce directly to markets in their state capital, or to Lagos or Abuja, as against selling them to middlemen.
A kilogram of produce that the middle men would have bought for about N100 in the village could easily sell for N300 when sold directly to the end consumer in Lagos, Abuja or their state capital. When aggregated, that differential would come to a substantial amount, a significant part of which should be dedicated to a community development fund that would be used to undertake various community development projects that would transform the community.
The development fund could be used to finance empowerment projects such as the following:
• Send young people in the community to the Songhai Center in Benin Republic http://www.songhai.org/index.php/en/ for training as Agric extension officers, who would bring farmers in the village up to date with modern farming techniques
• Acquire community owned small farming machinery of different types to reduce the drudgery of farm labour, make it attractive to youth and help correct the aging population of our farmers
• Undertake bulk purchase of fertilizer, hybrid seeds and other farm inputs for onward sale to members.
• Acquire mini drip irrigation kits for onwards sale to farmer. This would enable our rural farmers undertake year-round farming; cultivation is presently limited to about 7 month (March – September) across most of the country. Repayment for these could be spread over a 24 month period. These are all aimed at increasing farm productivity and bringing even more funds into the coffers of the cooperative.
In addition to the farming interventions above, the development fund would be deployed to execute infrastructural and social projects like the following:
• Construction of solar powered boreholes to bring safe drinking water to the people and the implementation of a WASH program; medical health statistics in the country show that over 60% of the outpatient cases in our hospitals pertain to malaria and preventable sanitation related diseases.
• Construction and staffing of a rudimentary health centre to provide basic primary health care to the people.
• Acquisition and sale of bicycles to cooperative members on credit https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bicycle_poverty_reduction; to provide their families with basic mobility. • Acquisition and sale of small solar powered light and other products to cooperative members on credit https://www.lightingafrica.org/about/ these bring about marked improvements in the home life of the parents and children.
• Undertake labour intensive road construction projects to improve access to market for their farm products.
• Undertake labour intensive water basin management projects to check soil erosion and harvest run off rain water.
• Refurbishment/construction of primary school where the teachers are provided proper training and undertake to ensure that the pupils achieve clear learning outcomes at every stage of the academic journey, and that all graduating pupils gain admission into Federal government unity schools or other top quality secondary schools around the country with affordable fees.
• Set up simple agro processing operations to add value to their produce and provide off farm employment for youths in the community. In some cases, this could also help reduce post-harvest wastage, which can sometimes be quite significant.
The above list can go on and on, once the funds keep coming in.
This is similar to the pattern of the Marketing Boards that the Regional governments used in funding the development accomplished during the first republic, and which can be used to fund the development that we desire and need across the country today, but which the state and federal governments do not presently have the wherewithal to finance with the crash in international crude oil prices and by extension, government revenues.
Toyin Oyewole is Co-Founder, Internet Technologies Ltd ([email protected])