Success Story of Women led Livelihood Programme in South East Niger Delta
- By Society for Women and vulnerable Groups Empowerment (SWOVUGE)
Located in Ikot Abasi Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State, South East Niger delta region in Nigeria, is a unique contiguous community mangrove forests that stretches across over 10 communities with an estimated 3,000 dwellers in Ukpom district. Major economic activities within Ukpom include farming, sales of fishery products, commercial sales of timber and firewood, wine tapping and peasant farming. The mangroves run parallel to the coast with the mangrove forest helping to protect Ukpom wetlands. However, the high level of hunger and poverty among the dwellers of Ukpom district is mounting excessive pressure on the mangroves evidence in decreased fishery resources and increased erosion; mainly the result of indiscriminate exploitation of mangrove resources caused by poor conservation knowledge.
Consequently, there has been need for urgent intervention to reverse the above trend, and Society for Women and Vulnerable Groups Empowerment through the support from the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund(CEPF) was right on time to salvage the situation after the official inauguration of Ukpom Community Mangrove Restoration and Tree Planting Project. The Project was designed with 3 main objectives including; (i) increasing community knowledge/capacity in sustainable mangrove forests management; (ii) reducing pressure on mangrove forests through creation of alternative livelihood activities for 150 community members (60 youths, 45 men and 45 women) on poultry farming, fruit trees cultivation and adoption of conservation practices (agro forestry harvesting); and (iii) restoring and protecting degraded mangrove in Ukpom community.
The project which started June 2017 targeted 5 communities; Eka Inwang, Nda Uko, Ikot Eteghe, Urua Essien Etuk, and Ukpom okon. The goal of the livelihood component of the project was aimed at creating a livelihood source for the community dwellers such that could reduce further pressure on the already degenerating mangroves. The community people were trained on various livelihood skills including aquaculture, snail farming and poultry farming with a pilot take off with poultry farming in the communities of Eka Inwang, Urua Essien Etuk and Ikot Eteghe. Poultry farming was preferred by these communities who considered it more lucrative in the state considering cost effectiveness, low maintenance, high demand and high prospects for sustainability. Following the approval from Regional Implementation Team (RIT), a 2-day refresher-training was carried out for the beneficiaries and with the communities members cooperation. Three pilot poultry farms were established in Eka Inwang Community followed by Ikot Eteghe and Urua Essien Etuk communities. Fifty birds were stocked and managed by the Project Management Commitee (PMC) in Eka Inwang and 25 birds each in Ikot Eteghe and Urua Essien Etuk communities for two cycles of 7 weeks per cycle.
Tree planting commenced on 27th July, 2017 at the project inauguration event which took place at Secondary Comprehensive School, Ukpom Okon, Ikot Abasi LGA. A total of 5,000 of improved variety seedlings of various economic fruit trees, comprising of ; 800 of Guava (Psidium guajava), 600 of oil palm (Elaies guinensis), 400 Bush mango (Irvingia gabonensis), 200 Sweet orange (Citrus spp), 200 African walnut (Coula edulis), 200 Sour sop (Annona muricata), and also 150 Almond fruit (Prunus dulcis) were procured and planted and some were distributed freely to community members in the 5 benefiting communities; Eka Inwang, Urua Essien Etuk, Ikot Etenghe, Nda Uko and Ukpom Okon. Presently, a total of 4,600 new stands of these species are common sights in public places (schools, markets, village square) and in individual farms. With more than 140 stands of fruiting guava, with one guava tree producing an estimated average of 25 fruits per cycle, 3 cycles in 14 months. A total of 75 fruits were harvested, recorded and sold from one guava tree at an average of 150 Naira (approximately $0.42). This is already producing food, income and livelihood source within the communities for the last 2 years.
Poultry farming is another important aspect of improving livelihoods. To this end, 50 beneficiaries from 3 communities (Eka Inwang, Ikot Etenghe and Urua Essien Etuk) were identified, selected and approved by village heads in partnership with the PMC for training on poultry farming. Procurement of all necessary equipment’s and items for poultry farming was done and 3 pilot poultry farms was successfully set up with 50 birds in Eka Inwang and 25 birds each in Ikot Etenghe and Urua Essien Etuk communities and managed by the PMC leader and Community Liaison Officer (CLO) for the project, Mr John Ewe in collaboration with the community heads. Presently, 2 poultry farms have been successfully managed in two communities; Urua Essien Etuk and Ikot Etenghe.
Mature birds have been sold and proceeds re-invested to restock the farms for another cycle. Interestingly, these pilot livelihood activities are of great value to the men, women and youths of benefiting communities. Aside from capacity building through training and retraining programs. Men, women and youth in Urua Essien Etuk community have embraced poultry farming as a preferred livelihood option.
From the sales of 25 birds from the pilot project, the community got a total of 37,500 Naira (about $100) and recorded a profit of 12,500 Naira (about $35) within 7 weeks of a typical poultry farm cycle. In addition, 13 bags of organic manure (poultry feces) was realized and sold at affordable rates to farmers within the community for increased plant yield at 500 Naira for one bag, giving another profit of 6,500.00 naira (approximately $20).
In the words of the community leader of Urua Essien Etuk, Chief Godwin Akpan “this project has opened our eyes to the gain from protecting our mangroves; men, women, boys and girls can now make lasting money through poultry and planting of good fruits.”
Chief Godwin Akpan and all community members from Urua Essien Etuk are very excited about the knowledge gained and have fully accepted agroforestry and poultry farming as a better and healthier livelihood option. For the past 14 months, indiscriminate mangroves exploitation in the community has reduced tremendously.
Personally, I want to affirm that there is a positive shift for mangrove resources conservation in Ukpom community with Urua Essien Etuk community as a model where the entire community has joined hands to protect an estimated 15 hectares of mangrove forest.
One of our beneficiaries Mr Akpan from Ikot Eteghe stated “I happy say this project come my village ooo, we don plant plenty fruit trees wey no been dey for our community”.
In the course of this grant implementation, key lessons have been recorded both at the project design and implementation phases, as follow:
- Livelihood components of any project should be jointly planned, agreed and decided by grantees and all stakeholders to enhance timely implementation.
At the project design, SWOVUGE had assumed that community members would outrightly go with livelihood options like aquaculture and snail farming and bee farming. The original proposal was based on these activities and not poultry farming as eventually decided by all the benefiting communities. This way, time and resources were initially expended in 2 structured trainings in aquaculture, snail farming and bee farming for benefiting communities who later outrightly rejected the option during the first site visit by the RIT. SWOVUGE team braced up and conducted another phase of training for the communities on their choice livelihood option; poultry farming success was recorded with great collaborations.
- Site visits by the RIT should be more regular as they are much needed to enhance networking contributions, capacity building of grantees and helps to identify gaps and fill them timely.
Our success story in all aspects and phases of the grant implementation is tied to this factor. The capacity of SWOVUGE team was greatly enhanced during the 2 visits of the RIT to our project sites.
- All projects including tree planting (economic and fruit trees) especially in the GFWA hotspots should prioritize timely commencement of tree planting in the first quarter of grant implementation.
This will enhance timely tree growth, monitoring, management and possible fruiting of improved varieties within the project life span. This has been of great impacts on the communities, schools and individuals that benefited from tree planting and free distribution. The very fact that they could eat from a tree we planted, while we were still on the project greatly inspires them.