By Festus Ahon
DELTA State Coordinator of FADAMA III, Mr Anthony Abanum, in this interview, speaks on how the project is redressing poverty and enhancing agrriculture in the state. He also says the recent flooding in Delta has some positive impact on the project. Excerpts:
How have you fared in the implementation of FADAMA III Project?
We have fared well because, to begin with, majority of the projects are dependent on counterpart funds and, substantially, the state government has been compliant. As we speak now, we have established about 134 community sub-projects in different communities. In those 134 communities, we have 7,350 direct beneficiaries. Those direct beneficiaries are almost equal on gender basis, that is male and female. The male is about 51% and female about 49%. We also have about 15 rural infrastructural projects.
Those are projects that benefit substantial proportion of those communities and that one is beyond the boundaries of FADAMA User Group. But as I talk to you, because of the time-table of the projects, we are really concerned more not just on the disbursement profile but also in terms of meeting the real objectives because project implementation is a means of achieving the objectives of the project and I am happy to say that, at mid-term, we have established the income of direct beneficiaries to the tune of 36
The target is to achieve about 40% increase in income or 75% of those who are directly benefiting from the projects, but, midway, we are close to what we are supposed to achieve at the project closure. So we have also achieved a 12% increase in yield of primary produce. And then, if you look at the income too, you see that within the first year of commencement, about 45% of the beneficiaries had an increase of about 22% of their income while those who were not benefiting only had about 11% increase.
If you look at it, with or without FADAMA project, you will be able to see the extent to which the project has been able to impact in terms of income. And realize too that at that time many of our projects had not run the full circle. So now that many of the projects have run the full circle and began the second to the third round to the income generation attribute has begun to really show at the state level. We targeted 200 communities now we have crossed 157.
Talking about counterpart funding and considering the paucity of funds at the local government level, what is the involvement of local government councils in the FADAMA project in Delta State?
By design and considering that these projects are being implemented in the communities and local government is responsible for rural development, the project plays a very key role in the local government leadership. Local government leadership is responsible for approving all sub-projects before they get here. They are also expected to have a mandatory payment of N2m as their own counterpart fund.
Many of them did not come on early enough in terms of meeting this obligation but we did quite a lot in trying to reach out in terms of personal contact, group contact, involving the state government, involving Director of Local Government to get them to pay. And for the two local government areas that have not paid, we also don’t want to see a situation where because of either the inability or reluctance of the local government administration to pay, then the beneficiaries begin to suffer. So what we did was to take an initiative to fund the group that is vulnerable, that is another unique aspect of the project.
FADAMA I and FADAMA II, can you give us a brief on these projects, and what is the terminal period of FADAMA III?
Logically speaking, if you say FADAMA Three, there is a bright side because there was one and there was two. FADAMA one was the very first but that was not a poverty alleviation project; it was designed to take care of some water harvesting techniques. What I mean by that is that they had these pumps where you had to establish tube wells. They are small Indian technology of harvesting water underground for agricultural purposes.
Often when the water is there, crop farmers will have need for it, the livestock farmers will have need for it and other categories of the agric sub sector so conflict arising from this led to the design of another project that will be more broad based and addressed in addition to agricultural production to address poverty aspect of the country and so FADAMA two was designed. And the way the World Bank packaged it is that for every credit grant or loan you negotiate with the bank is a separate project. It is therefore regarded as a separate project.
FADAMA Two was only in 18 states and six of these states were anchored by the African Development Bank while 12 were by the World Bank; so Delta did not participate because the credit portfolio was not enough. Federal Government had to now package FADAMA Three to take care of all other states that didn’t benefit from FADAMA Two and those that benefited in FADAMA Two but to a limited extent. So it is because of the achievement of the projects that FADAMA Three came on board.
Unlike FADAMA One and Two that were limited and all that; FADAMA Three is national in scope. But the credit portfolios are not the same. For those in FADAMA Two, the credit portfolio was about three million dollars, short of what the new 18 states are getting. And the terminal period, it is five years, ending in 2013.
Agriculture in the mainstay of over 50% of Deltans; how supportive has the state government been in this project?
I think it is more than 50%. In fact, 70% and over especially now that we are talking about the state government posture on Delta without oil. I think we are lucky with the present political leadership: it is quite friendly. I think among the 36 states and federal capital territory, we are up there among the 10 that are most compliant with counterpart fund payment obligation. If the local government were as compliant as the state government, we would have long exhausted the World Bank fund that we had to disburse.
Talking about poverty alleviation; how has this project affected the lives of Deltans especially?
All what FADAMA is doing is geared towards enhanced living standard and income. So we have an increased output that will translate to increase income and higher level of livelihood.
How do you measure the impact of the project on the people?
This is done by empirical studies. When you have these finance agencies involved in all you do, at mid-term, you mount a study on where you are and at project closure too we also do the same so we don’t just give out these fund and go to sleep. As I talk to you now, the World Bank has approved that a study be done on the adoption of the technologies that the project is financing along with ADP. At regular intervals, studies are conducted to examine the variables that will lead to the achievement of project development.
We are drawing closer to the terminal period of this project. Do you have any dream beyond this terminal period and what is your vision for the FADAMA project?
The project closure is at hand, but the design provides for sustainability. First we have what is called FADAMA equity fund where they are expected to deposit some proportion, about 10% of their income, to replace their asset. We have a total of about N5.5m among groups that have done that saving. My dream for FADAMA is that I see a situation where the project will contribute not just income for beneficiaries but, on the aggregate in terms of food production, there will be self-sufficiency and the excess will go for export outside the state and country and contribute subsequently to the present vision of the state government of Delta without oil.
How would you score FADAMA so far?
FADAMA is a project with the widest scope in the World Bank now. In fact, some countries come here to study the project. Gambia was here, so it is a flag ship project by design and implementation.
Recent flood wreaked havoc in the state and also affected farmers. How much did it affect FADAMA projects?
It affected about six local governments. There are projects that have inputs of development agencies and all that. Immediately it started we went ahead and took an inventory of all the projects that were affected. The local governments, the communities, the sub-project types, the magnitude of loss and all our projects have GPS location, the loss was estimated at about N37.7 million.
We aggregated it and sent it to the federal committee on flood and, as a matter of fact, we had FADAMA representation on the flood. The flood was a disaster but it also had some positive impact in areas where we didn’t have investment, because, by the time it receded, we found that it left behind some even richer plots for crop production. We addressed it properly; we got our data and information and forwarded it to the appropriate authorities.
What word of advice do you have for beneficiaries of FADAMA as the terminal period draws closer?
They should internalize the concept. When we talk about empowering the community, it should not just be about fiscal or monetary means, when a community is aware of its right, it should ask questions. Then they will work closely with the local government and then we expect that there is another aspect of the FADAMA project that is very unique, that is the use of the local development plan, these are documents that capture all the information of the proposed projects that the community wants.
So you now find that the local government at the end of the projects would have imbibed the concepts of the local development plan in their own budget. So the beneficiaries should be able to ask and add the things of pressing needs in that particular programme of the local government. So in summary, I am saying that the beneficiaries should continue the way it is and they will be able to go into several circles of productivity.