The Foundation for Partnership Initiatives in the Niger Delta is a Non-Governmental Organisation focused in addressing socio-economic problems in the region. In this interview, the Deputy Executive Director, Tunji Idowu, speaks on how the organisation contributes to the region’s development. Ugo Aliogo brings the excerpts:
Can you give us an overview of the foundation for Partnership Initiatives for Niger Delta (PIND) and what you achieved at the just concluded Nigerian Economic Summit (NES) 24?
PIND stands for The Foundation for Partnership Initiatives for Niger Delta (PIND). By the name I think you can see it focuses on Niger Delta region. It’s a Nigerian NGO, set up with initial funding from Chevron Corporation. The focus of the Foundation is building economic growth and reducing conflict in the region.
Why had a side event at NES 24 2018 because the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) is a private sector group that has successfully influenced policy and part of what we do now at PIND under our advocacy and analysis programme area is to see how best to use data to influence economic policies. We realised that NESG has done very well in that at the national level. We had that side event whereby we showcased what we have done, things that we have done along the way to continue building human capacity and growth especially in a sustainable manner.
What makes the PIND’s model unique and different from others?
First, all our four programme areas of economic development; peace building; capacity building; and analysis and advocacy do not function in isolation, they are all integrated. For example, you cannot really have peace where poverty prevails and it would be difficult to boost economic growth where conflict prevails. They are linked. Secondly, we are not engaging in interventions that are one-off, we are looking at things that can become systemic and that others will adopt after piloting. Another thing I would like to mention is that our model hinges on collaboration and partnership. No single entity can take on the issues of the Niger Delta to solve; we need all hands on deck. You need partners from the public and private sectors. You also need partners in academia, and civil society, so everybody has a role to play. It all works with partnership.
Will you say your model has revolutionised or has the capacity to revolutionise development?
To be modest, I don’t know if we have “revolutionised” but our model has worked and regardless of how much we have achieved there are still large needs and responsibilities to change things in the Niger Delta. We have affected over 50,000 farmers in improving their income and over 5,000 micro, small and medium scale Enterprises (MSMEs). We built the network of peace volunteers which have grown from 120 peace actors to 7,000 today. When we did our last assessment, it showed that we have brought about 60 percent increase in the income of farmers and MSMEs and that is a sign of what is working.
How has the model made your job more efficient and enhanced results in the life of the people of Niger Delta?
We made up our minds from the beginning that we would use the ‘market systems approach’ which were basically for the poor, although there are other approaches. We follow market systems and sometimes takes a lot of time. It’s just like building a house. The most attractive part of the house is not the foundation. Yet it is the most critical. We would rather not be in a hurry to build it because we want to understand the constraints and work with people who will adopt our interventions.
There are those who desire to key into this model, how exactly can they go about this?
One, you have to train, grow people and build their capacity to take on this approach. That’s why we decided to start offering our training programme that we call CAPABLE M4P (making market work for the poor) training. We made that available to other development partners as well so that people will understand this approach and grow their capacity in that area. Secondly, the people have to be able to identify viable sectors that they want to intervene in to get a change. And three, they must invest in a good enough monitoring and evaluation system to know if they are making progress and how much progress you are making.
For you, what has been the most memorable experience since the start of PIND?
I think one of the things that I am most delighted about is the recognition of our convening power, we are able to pull different entities together in the Niger Delta. People know we are the rallying point whether it’s in managing conflict, dealing with agricultural value chain issues, dealing with civil society development, we have strong convening power.
What should Niger Deltans be looking forward to PIND bringing forth in the next one or two years?
We will not create a programme or intervention for ourselves but where we see evidence, or a trend, we will see how we can come into those areas that are aligned with our mission. That said one glaring thing is the issue with unemployment in the Niger Delta and especially among the youth. The figures for the Delta are higher than the figures of Nigeria, and that’s scary. At least 40 percent of youth in the Niger Delta are unemployed. This is something that needs attention, and we are already working with the Ford Foundation in implementing the Niger Delta Youth Employment Pathways (NDYEP) project where we have started off with a pilot in three states of Akwa Ibom, Rivers and Abia. The goal is to train 1,000 youths from those three States in ICT (Information, Communication and Technology) Agriculture and construction.
In summary, what’s your dream and vision for the Niger Delta?
What we have always said is that we love to see systemic outcomes in the Niger Delta of reduced poverty and conflict, and not just short term but sustainable reductions in poverty and conflict in the region. On the economic development side, we will like to see people changing their attitude and practices around how they go about economic practices to ensure they are using modern cutting edge good practices that will increase yield and boost outcomes.