By Eme Offiong
The Agro-Processing, Productivity Enhancement and Livelihood Improvement Support (APPEALS) has in the past five years empowered 7,700 Nigerians including women and youths in three priority value chains of rice, cocoa and poultry.
The Project Coordinator of APPEALS, Dr. Marcel Agim made the remark at a media parley with the theme “Accurate Information: Recipe for Robust Relationship/Successful Project Branding” in Calabar, the capital of Cross River State, southern Nigeria.
Dr. Agim said that the project, which started in 2016 with six pilot states of Cross River, Enugu, Kaduna, Kano, Kogi and Lagos, was developed by Nigeria’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and the World Bank.
According to him, “the main objective of the project is to enhance small and medium scale agric-businesses looking at priority value chains and interest of the state. The priority value chains for Cross River are rice, cocoa and poultry.These are the three significant value chains for the state because there is a cocoa processing factory in Ikom, here in Calabar is the poultry processing factory called Calachika and the ultra-modern rice processing mill in Ogoja. So, APPEALS Project keyed into the interest of the state and that is what we are working with,” he stated.
The State Project Coordinator said the total number of beneficiaries also included beneficiaries of the sub-component targeted at women and youths as well as persons with disabilities.
He explained that 5,969 farmers organized were organized into Commodity Interest Groups (CIG) or Cooperative Societies and provided with specific enhancements since these were already into some form of farming.
Agim stated, “in Cross River State, we have more than 5,900 farmers as direct beneficiaries because our target is that if we hit 10 thousand direct beneficiaries these number would equally impact positively the lives of others, which are the indirect beneficiaries.”
Speaking further he said, “the other component is the Women and Youth Empowerment Programme where 1,700 beneficiaries including people with disabilities were assisted. In fact, Cross River has the highest, a total of 98 persons with disabilities captured in the programme, while other states have 85.”
Further, he said, “approximately, we have empowered 7,700 beneficiaries in the state, which is about 77 percent. You would recall that when we called for applications some years back, thirty-three thousand people applied to be part of this project.We had to rundown the selection process till we got 1,700 women and youths. That is the number we are working with like other states in the project.”
The State Project Coordinator also hinted that the project besides empowering the beneficiaries established a grievance redress mechanism to settle disputes within and between the interest groups to avoid litigations.
Other ventures undertaken in the project to assist the beneficiaries, he explained were the development of critical infrastructure such as 13.2 kilometres of rural roads and construction of 6 grid extension for the provision of electricity to 15 Aggregation and Processing Centres built to enhance processing of the produce.
He noted that the major challenge of the project was the release of the 300 million naira counterpart fund from the state government besides other challenges meted on the team following the 2020 ENDSARS protest.