Makurdi — Life was extremely difficult for Esther Oota at the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camp in Abagana along Makurdi-Lafia highway in Benue State for over one year.
Oota, alongside her husband and eight children, had fled their Ukpam village in Guma Local Government Area of Benue State in early 2018, after suspected herders invaded the locality and rendered the villagers homeless.
The middle-aged woman's family was among thousands of others that trooped into several camps set up by government across the state to provide temporary shelter for its homeless citizens, a development which marked the beginning of hardship for many whose livelihood were abruptly truncated.
To this end, Oota and her children lived miserably for several months in the camp - unable to eat one meal per day, clothe themselves or take care of minor expenses, until a non-governmental organization came their way. Today, she has a business of her own to cater for her family.
"I'm so excited. This entrepreneurial skill has helped me to fend for my family. I can boldly tell you that I now eat anything I want to eat with my children because I can afford it. I learnt tailoring for one year and after that, Mrs. Afatyo's Initiative gave me the start-up sewing machine which I now use for business.
"I sew for people in the camp and for those outside as well. We have been in camp for two years and three months. We attempted to go back but the armed herders are still attacking us, our homes are not yet safe," Oota said.
Similarly, Comfort Apu, 23-year-old mother of four who also stays in the IDP camp in Abagana with her husband after they deserted their Ikpam village in Guma LGA over a year ago following suspected herders' invasion, can now smile.
Apu had returned home with members of her family after many months of surviving hardship at the camp but they were sadly chased away again by the invading suspected armed herders.
She said after they fled the second time, they worried about what they would eat and how to start life all over again because they couldn't access their farms any more for fear of being killed.
However, the Afatyo team came to her rescue at the camp with a helping hand for mostly women who benefitted clothes, food, seedlings among other palliatives.
"I was among those trained for gardening. After the training, I was given N10,000 as start-up capital for the vegetable garden which I proposed to do. I planted vegetables such as pumpkin, spinach and tomatoes. I'm looking forward to a bumper harvest," Apu added.
Apart from the beneficiaries at the camp, there were other vulnerable people in the society whose lives had taken a remarkable dimension following the intervention of the NGO, which recipients described as a life saver.
Tersoo Sai, married with two kids, has become self-employed in addition to a monthly merge income from the state government.
He narrated, "I benefitted from the Initiative through study. I studied Industrial Electrical for almost two years at the Metrological Training Institute Onitsha in Anambra State through the recommendation of Mrs. Afatyo. I work on Public Private Partnership with the state government. The knowledge has been very gainful as I can now work on industrial machines.
"The state government gives me a token as salary at the end of every month but what is really sustaining me are those outside works. I do a lot of field work and earn well from that source."
The dreams of these women, Sai and many other youths, as well as rural dwellers across six local government areas of Benue State are becoming realities on daily basis because they are breaking barriers through financial literacy education for entrepreneurs and farmers powered by the Initiative for Empowerment of Vulnerable Persons (IEVPS).
Chairperson of IEVPS, Mrs. Rebecca Afatyo, told our correspondent that the success story for the beneficiaries begins from the point where her organization looks at what the vulnerable are doing so that they will know their exact needs by training them to become entrepreneurs while providing alternative livelihood for the farmers.
She explained that the vulnerable are encouraged to save money in small sums with their local meetings while the organization trains them on financial literacy and assists them with money as start-up capital to venture into micro and small-scale businesses. The farmers, within the window period after farming, are encouraged to learn a trade so they can have dual sources of livelihood.
"We tell them to save towards what they want to do, and we assist them in doing contribution in their local meetings. From their local meetings we encourage them to register a coperative society and we assist them to get a certificate so that from there they can get other sources of funding.
"Sometimes, if they contribute up to N10,000, we lend them up to N100,000 which is enough to start a business. We monitor them to do the savings and as they progress in the business, they pay off their loans and continue with their businesses.
"We have trained over 100 women, mainly at the IDP camp in tailoring, computer education, gardening, poultry, fishery and catering services," Afatyo added.