Right from the start, the Green River Project (GRP) aimed to improve the living conditions of Niger Delta communities, ensure food security, increase food availability, create employment and improve access to social services. On top of that, the project was also designed to promote co-operative societies and associations, and teach about agriculture, good nutrition and the conservation and management of the soil. It has introduced microcredit to farmers, increased the employability of young people and women and is committed to developing sustainable businesses as well as promoting small and medium-sized enterprises in large commercial centres. It also offers help to mechanise agriculture and in crop selection, and supports productive partnerships between local and international development agencies, research institutions and universities to improve services and standards.
In 1996, through Nigerian Agip Oil Company Joint Venture (JV NAOC), we appointed Enichem Agricoltura to develop a project for areas where we had concessions. Working off studies and analyses conducted in 1986 by Rivers State University of Science & Technology, the project was initially launched in an area within the OML 61 Oil Concession in the Rivers and Imo States. In 1992, it was extended to OML 62 in Delta State and in 2000 it was extended again to OML 63 in Bayelsa State. The activities cover four regions in five locations in wetland areas. During the project’s early years, from 1990 to 1995, our goal was to increase awareness among farmers about the opportunities offered by the agricultural sector. As part of these initiatives, we distributed high-yield agricultural crops and multifunctional tool kits, set up fisheries, trained women in home economics, set up co-operatives and organised schemes to show how to increase capacity.
Year after year, more and more young people have shown an interest in the agricultural sector. Thanks to the support offered by the project, we launched a microcredit programme in 2001 worth more than 145 million naira to support young people and women’s co-operatives and associations in the Rivers, Imo, Delta and Bayelsa States. The programme has been an outstanding success with regard to the application of funds and their prompt distribution, with a growth rate between 85 per cent and 95 per cent in employment and re-employment for loan recipients.
Similarly, since 1999 we have focused on training young people and women in technical and vocational skills. We have trained around 3,800 young people and women in a range of sectors, including woodwork, fashion design, IT, hairdressing, marine engine repair, household electrics, catering and event management, and plumbing. Everyone who participates in a course is also enrolled for the Ministry of Labour and Productivity’s practical exam, and those who successfully pass receive a start-up package for their business.
In addition, we have made farm work less strenuous by providing 130 kits to help prepare the soil and move crops. Finally, we have managed an integrated system of vocational and technical training to equip young people from the communities within NAOC areas with the necessary skills to set up and effectively manage small businesses.