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The Green River Project in Nigeria

Launched in 1987, the project aims to promote entrepreneurial development within the agribusiness sector in Nigeria through a variety of initiatives.

Agriculture and vocational training for young people

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.

Objectives for Sustainable Development (SDGs)

The UN’s Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development is an action programme with 17 goals relating to communities’ and countries’ social and economic development. Through the Green River Project, we aim to contribute to four different goals: the eradication of all forms of poverty (Goal 1) and hunger by improving nutrition and promoting sustainable agriculture (Goal 2); promoting sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all (Goal 8). Our commitment to supporting female entrepreneurship in the agricultural sector and facilitating women’s entry into the world of work also helps meet (Goal 5).

The technologies we use

The Green River Project is based on a unified and integrated system of services (MIUES) designed to improve traditional agriculture by introducing modern techniques and new food crops that can be sold, and scaling up the production of improved varieties of other local crops. One example is the Green River Project’s Plant Propagation Center (PPC) laboratory in Obie, in Rivers State, which carries out tests on soil and water to help inform how much fertiliser to use and offers advice on best practice for land conservation and management.

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Not for a second have I regretted the time I dedicated to the GRP’s training courses. I have also benefitted on more than one occasion from the microcredit system, which has given a huge boost to my farming business. I decided to involve other women from my community so that they too could join the project and change their lives.

by Celestina Aaron - GRP project

The impact on the environment and communities

The Niger Delta region, one of the largest river deltas in the world, covers around 70,000 km2. It is made up of a mixture of wetland and dry areas and is subdivided into nine states: Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers, Imo, Edo, Cross River, Akwa Ibom, Ondo and Abia. The region, which is home to around 40 ethnic groups and more than 30 million people, has an annual growth rate of around 3 per cent and is one of the most densely populated areas in the country. It plays an important role in the local economy. As well as possessing enormous reserves of oil and gas, it is rich in other natural resources that make up a complex and thriving ecosystem with vast areas of mangrove swamps, humid tropical forests and freshwater swamp forests. The discovery of oil and gas heralded change for the local communities, offering them the opportunity to improve their living conditions. 

The project’s main impact on communities concerns the diversification of crops, with the introduction of new inputs and technologies. We have increased productivity levels, set up new co-operative societies, increased work opportunities and income per capita (particularly for young people and women), promoted study courses in agricultural sciences in secondary schools and provided grants for students. Finally, we have generated income from auxiliary services and have conferred new skills in agritech thanks to our training courses. Both the Federal Government and local governments have recognised and expressed their appreciation for the NAOC’s commitment to corporate social responsibility in their work.

In the rural areas in which NAOC operates, the high numbers of women working in agriculture are evident. It is women who are most involved in growing vegetables and crops, weeding fields and rearing, processing and selling livestock and fish, especially at the subsistence level. That is why women are the main beneficiaries of our activities. For example, GRP organises an annual farmers' day, on which outstanding farmers from the previous season are rewarded with cash prizes and new equipment. GRP therefore plays a key role in activities for thousands of women, like the enterprising members of the Olugbobiri Women Multi-purpose Co-operative Society, who make bread for their community as well as selling it in neighbouring villages. This initiative lets them earn a weekly wage.

Our partners

We collaborate with the following research institutions: the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), the National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI), the National Stored Products Research Institute (NSPRI), the West African Rice Centre (WARDA), the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), the Rivers State University of Science and Technology (RSUST), the National Horticultural Research Institute (NIHORT) and the African Regional Aquaculture Centre (ARAC). The programme is aligned with the current National Development Plan and we (through NAOC) support this work by promoting innovation and skills acquisition programmes.