July 28, 2013
I was in Nigeria for two weeks in July as a Winrock International volunteer with the USAID John Ogonowski and Doug Bereuter Farmer-to-Farmer program. The “host” was the Community Based Natural Resource Management Program – Niger Delta (CBNRMP-ND).
My assignment was to train farmers and cooperative leaders in group dynamics, association & cooperative development, record keeping, and business planning. The training took place in two locations in Cross River State in the southeastern corner of the country: Ogoja and Calabar. In Ogoja, 35 men and 23 women participated. In Calabar there were 32 men and 27 women. There were approximately 50 cooperatives or associations represented, as well as government officials taking part in both locations. The training participants are expected to go back to their organizations and “step-down” the training to their members.
What I found most impressive was the desire to learn and the active participation and note-taking. The Winrock-Nigeria Chief of Party, Mike Bassey, and the head of CBNRMP-ND, Innocent Ogbin, and his staff, provided great logistical support.
Nigerian State Television took video of the Calabar training and I was told it was recently broadcast.
Nigeria has many challenges as is evident from the daily news reports. It has the largest population in Africa and has very high unemployment, especially among youth. Programs like this one serve as a lifeline for those willing to participate. Time will tell how it will all play out and whether my efforts will make any difference, but I do know that it meant a lot to those participating. Many people came up to me after the training to thank me and say that they had learned much that will be useful to them. In Calabar, one woman came up to me and said, “I thank God that you came here and taught us these things. This is information we have badly needed.”