The Ogoniland area of the Niger Delta region has experienced widespread contamination from petroleum hydrocarbons originating from Nigeria’s active oil sector. Following a report and recommendations published in 2011 by UNEP on the situation in Ogoniland, the Federal Government of Nigeria created the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP) to coordinate the restoration of Ogoniland’s environment and livelihoods, although it has taken years for the clean up to commence. It is hoped that the restoration of attractive livelihood options for young people in the region will also reduce incentives to participate in crude oil theft and artisanal refining, with the associated risks of violence, corruption, and re-pollution following environmental clean-up. SDN is leveraging its established networks and local reputation to work with young people in Ogoniland, to pilot a sustainable workers’ cooperative – a business owned by it workers – which will process locally grown cassava and sell the products to local markets. The project will showcase opportunities for home-grown economic development in Ogoniland, and beyond, that can be scaled up and rolled out more widely by injecting start-up capital and training, in a manner sensitive to the priorities of each community.
Many traditional livelihood opportunities have suffered as a result contamination from oil spills around the impacted communities in Ogoniland. Investment in livelihood generation is necessary to replace the livelihoods lost through pollution, and is likely to reduce incentives to participate in the artisanal oil industry, which may cause re-pollution after the HYPREP-led clean-up.
Following research carried out by SDN in 2017 that investigated the most viable livelihoods to pursue in specific regions and contexts of the Niger Delta, a feasibility study identified cassava processing as having high potential in the Ogoniland context. Cassava is a regionally widespread crop, and can be processed into popular products such as starch, garri, and flour, which has a higher value than unprocessed cassava. Currently cassava is sold at a lower value to be processed outside the region, and sold back to the growers in this region at a higher price.
SDN worked with HYPREP to select 15 young people (18-35) to benefit from this pilot, drawn from across the four Local Government Areas (LGAs), Eleme, Gokana, Khana and Tai of Ogoniland, with experience or interest in the sector, and with a good character reference.
SDN partnered with the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) One Field Station, to train the Ogoniland project participants in building cassava processing machines, and to provide post-training support to safeguard the project’s sustainability. A key advantage of partnering with IITA is that participants are skilled in building – and maintaining – the machines that their livelihood is based on, and have a stronger sense of ownership of it. If scaled up, this business model has the potential to increase the amount of cassava that can be sold, processed, and marketed locally, with the vital livelihood benefits accruing from keeping the entire value-chain within Ogoniland.
Delays in projects like this, which has many variables, are common. Acquiring title deeds to the land where the cassava processing centre will be built took longer than anticipated leading to delays in the business being established. Less than 3% of land ownership is registered in Nigeria, making the sale, purchase, and rent of land, a challenging process.
The young people participating in this project will form a cooperative that will own and manage the processing centre and run it as a growing business entity, sourcing for cassava to be processed from the surplus production in the Ogoni area. The cooperative will continue to receive support from IITA.
The enthusiasm and dedication of the participants already indicates the latent potential of the people living in Ogoniland to seize the opportunities they co-create. Following a full evaluation, SDN will go on to engage with HYPREP to see how the lessons learned and successes of this pilot can guide replication and scale up, within HYPREP’s remit. SDN will also approach potential investors, NGOs, and agencies of the Nigerian government, for future partnership work to further replicate and scale up the pilot potential, identified by its evaluation.
This pilot project has also gained national press coverage.
Published: 27.03.2019 edited 01.04.2019