…As Oyo govt harps on economic diversification through the agricultural value chain

By Adeola Badru

NO fewer than 30,000 women in Oyo State will, within the next three years, benefit from an empowerment scheme of a Non-Governmental Organisation, Shea Empowerment Foundation (SEF) in partnership with Global players in the Shea industry with a view of optimising the potentials derivable from the local Shea value chain.

The initiative is aimed at promoting a sustainable business model for the women and youths in the Shea and agricultural sector of Oyo State.

To actualise the goal, SEF in partnership with Danida Market Development Partnerships (DMDP), AAK, Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA), Global Shea Alliance (GSA) and National Shea Products Association of Nigeria (NASPAN) with the support of the Oyo State government facilitated a stakeholder engagement meeting to enlist the support of the relevant stakeholders with a view to highlighting the operational challenges militating against the development of the industry in the state.

The stakeholders meeting held yesterday themed: “Developing the Shea Sector in Oyo State,” created an avenue for all participants in the local and international Shea industry to map out strategies for the implementation of best practices that would drive the development of a highly productive, diversified and market-led Shea sector.

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While speaking at the inauguration, the Executive Director of SEF, Mrs Mobola Sagoe, expressed optimism that the organisation and training of the local women within the communities in Oyo State would positively impact the local, state and national economies.

She said: “This project has multifarious benefits in that it would impart skills and improve competencies of the local pickers/collectors, improve the quality and grading of the nuts and assure traceability, all vital ingredients required to enhance the status of Nigeria on the Global Shea Map.”

“Engagement with the women and youths in the local communities over the last 6years caused us to carry out a training needs assessment early on. We had hitherto been involved in sporadic training specifically targeted at women processors to institute phytosanitary standards in the processing of shea butter under the auspices of Shea Origin Limited.”

“We were then advised by our long-standing partner and ally, USAID to set-up an NGO whose sole focus would be capacity development through training to significantly close the yawning skills gap at the community and state levels.”

“So, we came up with Shea Empowerment Foundation which has trained over 1,000 women within Oyo State.

“If we train 1,000 women, they are supposed to go back and train maybe another 5,000 or more women. Sometimes, we have repeated training”

“The current project to be executed by SEF, with the strong support of international donor agencies, has as its objective the training of 30,000 women over the next 3 years in Oyo State with a specific focus on picking, aggregation, business skills development and parkland management with an average of circa 200 sessions per annum”

In his remark, the Chief of Staff to the Governor of Oyo State, Chief Bisi Ilaka, lauded the initiative, while he stressed that the administration of Governor Seyi Makinde was out to expand the economy of the State, adding that agriculture was one of the veritable tools in that regard.

He pointed out that the Shea sector would have a lot to do with women in terms of capacity building, saying that, they would be afforded training to pick process quality shea nuts that could compete globally with the application best global practices.

Ilaka said: “Lifting our people out of poverty should be the drive of any administration; a lot of women are involved in this sub-sector and this will improve their financial wellbeing and that will bode well for everybody in the state.”

“We have challenges of mass unemployment in the state; this will also impact these figures, directly and indirectly. I hope this is the first of many other initiatives that will come to the state because it is important that we build up our people.”

“The biggest resource we have in this State is our people and if we make them better equipped to deal with the challenges of day today, with the vicissitudes of life, it will bode well for us as a people in the state.”

Some beneficiaries of the training who spoke with newsmen, attested to the benefits derivable in the picking and processing of Shea butter, describing it as a money-making venture for both old and the younger generations.

They, however, appealed to government at various levels, to grant loans to trainees to afford them the opportunities of expanding the scope of the Shea sector in order to boost the economy.

Vanguard News Nigeria 

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