Civic Engagement: PIND as Private Sector-led Success Story

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    Adeshola Komolafe highlights a pertinent example of successful Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) initiatives to promote private sector-led inclusive growth approaches and their beneficial effects and contributions to sustainable economic growth in the Niger Delta

    All nations (developed and underdeveloped) are populated with people with diverse needs and wants. While the developed countries are constantly developing innovative ways of finding solutions to their problems, little progress is being made in the developing countries including Nigeria.

    Since resources and technical knowhow constitute huge problems in developing countries, private sector led initiatives spearheaded by foreign aid groups working closely with key Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) have been seen and described as panacea to the plights of developing world by developed countries.

    Among NGOs supporting a portfolio of socio-economic development programmes for the improvement of communities in the Nigeria and especially in the Niger Delta is the Foundation for Partnership in the Niger Delta (PIND).

    PIND supports projects in collaboration with a diverse range of partners including development agencies, federal and state government agencies in Nigeria, private companies and foundations to take full advantage of the synergies of involving diverse organisations and interests.

    The NGO’s partnership with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) for the Strengthening Advocacy and Civic Engagement Project (SACE) has developed tools to promote transparency and accountability of Niger Delta Institutions for inclusive economic growth in the region.

    PIND’s Capacity Building Programme Manager, Ms Bose Eitokpah, told a SACE Niger Delta Institutions (NDIs) Learning Event titled “Participatory and responsive governance for sustainable development in the Niger Delta” in Benin City, Edo State held in the first week of August that two of such tools; Niger Delta Institutions Transparency and Accountability Index (NDITI) and Citizens Report Card (CRC) were being used to monitor performance of NDIs. The tools were introduced by the African Network for Economic and Environmental Justice (ANEEJ).

    Eitokpah who informed the guests that PIND was established in 2010 with funds from Chevron said two mid-term evaluations of the SACE project in 2016 and 2017 reported progress in engagements between civil society organisations and NDIs.

    “Achievements included involvement of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in joint monitoring of projects implemented by NDIs, adoption of open government practices, introduction of transparency and accountability tools and frameworks and increased collaboration among CSOs to engage with NDIs,” she said. The reports also recommended further improvements in order to achieve the objectives of the project.

    The Edo State Deputy Governor, Mr. Phillip Shaibu, who was represented by the Chairman, House Committee for Budget and Cooperation, Hon. Lawani Damian, commended ANEEJ and LITE-Africa for introducing the NDITI and CRC to NDIs. He called on CSOs and the public to engage with such reports and hold government accountable as such actions will improve development in the region.

    The Chief of Party of the SACE project, Mr. Charles Abani, said the partnership between USAID and PIND has succeeded in strengthening civil society abilities to improve transparency and accountability and good governance in the Niger Delta region.

    “We have been involved in the kind of collaboration that improve citizen participation. In Ondo state, for instance, we are at advanced stage of drafting agriculture policies that will impact women in the value chain working with the Ministry of Agriculture and Budget office in the state,” Abani said.

    Also speaking at the event, the Executive Director of Life and Peace Development Organisation, Mr. Franklin Olaniju said he was excited that with the support of USAID and PIND the policy environment in the Niger Delta is improving and increasing support for women.

    According to him, USAID and PIND support created a platform for the voice of the women to be heard, a cooperation which has led the Ministry of agriculture to provide finance and budget plan to be dedicated to women.

    Participants included representatives from the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, Niger Delta Development Commission, Oil Producing Areas Development Commission from Abia, Imo, Ondo and Edo State; members of the NDIs Project Independent CSO Monitoring Group which has monitored over 200 projects; the media; Communities and community-based groups; CSOs and the public.

    A Chain of Success Stories

    Apart from the Strengthening Advocacy in Civic Engagement (SACE) Project, PIND is also growing businesses across the Niger Delta, boosting productivity and profits for small-holder farmers and SMEs in the region. It does this by using the Making Markets Work for the Poor (M4P) approach, which focuses on developing market systems.

    Through a robust systemic analysis of economic opportunities, PIND selected the palm oil, cassava, and aquaculture sectors with a significant growth potential and identified the drivers and constraints within the sectors.

    Using the data, the NGO partnered with the various market actors (farmer associations, private companies, government agencies, service providers amongst others) to pilot and scale up value chain projects in aquaculture, palm oil and cassava to improve agronomic and business practices of farmers, increase their access to and use of efficient technologies and facilitate linkages between market actors.

    PIND’s economic development work also extended to improving the business outcomes and competitiveness of small businesses by providing access to market, finance and business advisory services to select Niger Delta-based small and medium-scale enterprises (SMEs).

    By the end of 2017, the organisation had cumulatively leveraged over N1.3billion in new investments from both the government and private sector through fostered partnerships in aquaculture, cassava and palm oil sectors, business linkages and appropriate technology.

    These investments catalyzed adoption of best agronomic and business practices and use of efficient technologies that increased the productivity of 31,677 farmers, and 1,527 SMEs which led to a net increase in income over N3.7 billion for thousands of them and facilitated the creation of 5,167 new full time equivalent (FTE) jobs.

    The private market actors (agro-input, agro-dealers, fabricators and agro-service providers) PIND catalysts are leading the scale up of interventions to more locations across the region, independent of the Foundation – they are sustaining and spreading the benefits beyond PIND (sustainability).

    The business service providers trained by PIND to support the farmers and SMEs are continuing to serve these businesses, selling their services to them without our involvement (sustainability).

    Some assisted SMEs are supplying goods to markets within and outside the region, without PIND as a middleman (sustainability). They also attract loans for business expansion due to their improved business skills and systems.

    Knock-on Effect

    PIND’s interventions have had a domino effect on the growth of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in the Niger Delta region. Smallholder farmers’ businesses who hitherto fall below their profit potentials because of poor agronomic practices and lack of access to new technologies and market are now smiling to the bank.

    Problems arising mostly from inadequate agronomic and business information and lack of coordination with other value chain actors have been tackled headlong with initiatives such as training services, financial services, provision of information/advice for farmers and small businesses – that helps the core value chain functions (production, processing and marketing) to grow, develop, learn and adapt.

    The Deputy Executive Director of PIND told reporters penultimate week that the organisation leveraged over N1.8b in new investments from government and private sector through fostered partnerships in aquaculture, cassava and palm oil sectors, which increased the productivity of 49, 830 farmers and 5, 601 SMEs.

    “The investments catalyzed adoption of best agricultural and business practices and use of efficient technologies that increased the productivity of 49,830 farmers and 5,601 SMEs,” Idowu said.

    He expressed delight at the number of farmers that have been empowered, emphasising that PIND’s interventions facilitated poverty reduction for thousands of farmers by a net increase in income of over N7billion and the creation of 8,220 FTE jobs.