Awka — It was jubilation all the way in 12 communities in Anambra State when officials of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development reeled out the government's programme for the Livelihood Improvement Family Enterprises (LIFE) targeted at rural farmers. Part of the condition to benefit from the programme is that the farmers must belong to cooperative societies.
The 12 communities that would enjoy the programme in Anambra State were drawn from six local government areas of Nnewi North, Awka North, Awka South, Anambra East, Ayamelum and Orumba South.
It was a programme initiated by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to promote community-based activities for job and wealth creation among unemployed and underemployed youths and women in rural and suburban households.
Four states were selected from each of the six geopolitical zones for the pilot project and Anambra is one of them. To sensitise the would-be beneficiaries, officials of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development spent five days in the rural communities to assess their readiness to participate.
The Deputy Director in the agro-processing and marketing department of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Mr. Macus Ogunbiyi led a team of experts on the assessment of cooperative societies in the 12 benefiting communities in Anambra State.
Essentially, the team briefed the community farmers on the LIFE programme and its short, medium, and long-term goals; promoted the importance and benefits of the programme to state officials and potential beneficiaries; identified agribusiness gaps in sample communities through the conduct of needs assessments and verified available structures in the communities.
According to Ogunbiyi, those targeted were the unemployed and underemployed Nigerian youths between 18 and 40 years with a minimum qualification of secondary school certificate, as well as unemployed and underemployed women, especially widows and single mothers.
He said: "They shall be chosen along ward lines based on interest to improve their lives, especially through agriculture and its value chains.
"All the beneficiaries of the LIFE programme shall be organised into cluster groups comprising youth and women cooperatives having a leadership platform from the community to the national apex level.
"These beneficiaries shall consist largely of young people selected across several complementary disciplines in a gender-balanced manner."
He explained that the overall goal of the programme was to contribute to the attainment of food security and economic growth of Nigeria through job creation, value addition, and business enterprises in agriculture, rural income generation and improved livelihoods for youth and women.
Other objectives of the programme, he added, include increasing family livelihood through the development of agricultural enterprises to reduce rural-urban migration among the youths, promoting community-based farming as a business and to create on-farm and off-farm jobs for unemployed youth and women promoting import substitution through enhancing production and productivity of competitive crops.
Anambra State Commissioner for Agriculture, Mechanisation and Export, Mr. Afam Mbanefo, who received the team in his office before they moved to the rural communities, said the state government had adopted transparency in its dealings with the various cooperative societies, adding that the era of one family dominating a cooperative society was gone.
He said that following the process which the state government had put in place, it had become easier to identify cooperative societies that meant business.