By Simeon OSAJIE
The African Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ) has inaugurated poverty alleviation project and reduction of the impact of climate change in rural communities in five states of Nigeria.
The project titled “Tackling Poverty Through Livelihood Support, Advocacy for Social Protection, and Anti-Corruption” came out of the ashes of an earlier project titled ‘Enhancing Social Protection Programme in Nigeria’ (ESPPIN) which ended a few months ago.
The Executive Director of ANEEJ, Rev David Ugolor while on a visit to Oghara, one of the benefitting communities of the project in Ethiope West local government area of Delta state, solicited the support of the Ovie of Oghara Kingdom, His Royal Majesty, Noble Oyibo Eshemitan, Uku Oghara Name, Orefe lll and that of his chiefs and entire people of Oghara.
Addressing the Ovie and his Chiefs at Oghara Royal Palace, Rev. Ugolor briefed them of the issues in Oghara that necessitated the formulation of the project to be implemented at Otefe in Oghara.
He pointed out that a lot of advocacy was done around issues of poverty reduction, social protection and alleviating the plight of the poor hence this second phase that will now centre around livelihood support for the people and mitigation of the adverse effects of climate change on the people’s livelihood.
Ugolor who named Anambra, Ekiti, Bayelsa and Edo as the other states where the project would be implemented noted that there is obvious energy crisis within the rural communities as the women now travel more than fifteen kilometers in search of fire wood to cook.
Rev. Ugolor who went on the visit with officials of the project partners, “Bread for the World” Berlin, Germany also intimated the Oghara Royal Father that the Delta State Polytechnic has been co-opted into the project implementation.
According to him, “You will recall that in this Oghara community, those days as a young boy, we use to go and catch fish in the river, but it’s not like that these days, you can’t see fish to catch any more.
“And we use to get fire wood which was our source of energy very close by, but now women go up to fifteen kilometers to just get fire wood to survive.
“So all these we have put together in our initial scooping that the level of poverty among the women and the children in Oghara and the suffering is too much.
“And gradually the land is not even as fertile as it was before now, so what can we do? We said we’ll adopt the community as a starting point as part of the project, this new project we are going to be implementing in about five states.
“That’s why I said let my partners come and see the King, because we cannot just bring a project to the community without first of all seeing the King of the area.
“Now we are talking about livelihood, particularly to address the serious challenge of climate change. It is a real burning issue, if you see where the women go to get fire wood now.
“Can’t we get alternative source of energy? How do we educate them, how can we impact on their livelihood? This is the real major trust of this project and I thought that our project manager from Bread for the World, should have an insight and see the community themselves”.
While addressing the Rector and management of the Delta State Polytechnic, Oghara, Ugolor enumerated the reason the school was chosen to include insulation of the project from political interference, availability of egg heads in the scholarly environment among others.
“The polytechnic has deeper knowledge of the community here. We identified the polytechnic as a viable partner because we don’t want it to be politicized, we want the project to benefit the right poor people, that’s why we have taken it away from traditional platform and put in a more scholarship environment to meet the criteria in data collection”.
In his response, the Ovie of Oghara, His Royal Majesty, Noble Oyibo Eshemitan, Uku Oghara Name, Orefe lll, appreciated Rev. David Ugolor and ANEEJ’s partners from “Bread for the World” for bringing the project to his domain and assured them of his support.
“What you have told us now is a thing of joy and in my community so many people are going through these challenges about energy and the challenge is very, very critical.
“Am so happy you are bringing the project to my community. I thank you for this project and I want to thank you specially for bringing them to do the project right in my domain and I wish you success and urge you to expedite action and take the project serious for the benefit of humanity”.
Also responding, the Rector of Delta State Polytechnic Otofe, Oghara, Prof. Emmanuel Ufughu- Biri assured ANEEJ and its partners of the readiness of the Polytechnic to be part of the project.
“I appreciate you for choosing the polytechnic for this project as a partner. We’ll ensure you don’t regret your choice of the polytechnic.
“In the area of data collection, we have a lot of scholars here who are versed in data collection and understand the principle of objectivity and the ethics of data collection”.
Sharing her experience after the visit to the project site, the Program Officer Nigeria for “Bread of the World”, Ulrike Bergmann noted that climate change has actually have impact on the income of the women in Oghara, adding that agricultural productivity has also been affected.
According to her, “As we have seen in the communities, the climate change have some impact on the income chances of the women like we’ve seen along the road and nowadays it’s becoming more difficult for them to collect fire wood for example, and the growth of agricultural products is affected by climate change.
“So, in order to make additional income the women have to travel far distances to collect their fire wood from the fields, bring it back and then sell it”.
Also speaking, another member of the delegation from “Bread of the World”, Carola Jawish commended ANEEJ for the good job they are doing and expressed satisfaction with the way the input of beneficiaries of the project will be factored in.
“We were very impressed to be able to see for ourselves what life is like in the communities and to talk to some people there as well.
“Our impression is that ANEEJ is doing a professional job to really support people and to ask them what they need and what is required to improve the situation.
“This is an important point definitely, do not decide over the head of other people what should happen, but to ask how can they see the chance to change their lives and to change their future”.
Speaking to newsmen after the visit the Monitoring and Evaluation Manager of ANEEJ, Sandra Eguagie pointed out that emphasis was placed on social protection policy framework in the first phase of the project, adding that this second phase will go beyond that to actually impact on the livelihood of the people in rural communities.
“In this second phase we are looking at how we can impact in the livelihood of the community members who are really suffering the impact of climate change. That is why we want to through this project, see how we can assist members of communities, especially women that are suffering in those communities with livelihood projects that will help them”.