A burgeoning artisanal oil industry in the Niger Delta is endangering regional environmental health and stability, according to a recent research by Stakeholder Democracy Network (SDN)
“Many people are propelled into the illicit industry through a lack of alternative livelihoods. SDN, with funding from the UK Government, seeks to test and showcase viable alternative livelihoods in the Niger Delta by undertaking agricultural pilot projects,” Florence Kayemba, programmes manager at SDN, said.
One pilot project will test a variety of approaches to swamp rice farming to establish the most effective method that can be scaled-up in other creek locations. It will be implemented with ex-participants of the artisanal oil industry, building on research and engagements which indicate productive alternative livelihoods can remove actors from the industry, and deter new entrants.
Another pilot project seeks to reduce the barriers of land ownership, access to capital, and low-interest credit to commercially viable initiatives developing in the Niger Delta.
Testing innovation in agricultural methods
SDN seeks to test a variety of approaches to swamp rice farming to establish the most effective method that can be scaled-up in other creek locations. This pilot project employs and provides training to ex-participants of the burgeoning artisanal oil industry in the region who are looking for safer and more legitimate livelihood alternatives.
A team of agricultural specialists will test and compare the results of the rice grown in 12 separate plots of land across six hectares and report to inform future varieties and inputs to maximise return on investment and make this a viable livelihood alternative for communities living in the creeks of the Niger Delta.
Testing innovation in agricultural models
Alongside testing what agricultural methods perform best, SDN has partnered with Alluvial, a private sector provider, to reduce the risks and barriers to 100 smallholder and unemployed farmers, using different methods to maximise crop yields over 200 hectares. Alluvial uses the Community Block Farm model that involves the provision of a full range of services to farmers, including land preparation, project management, inputs, and market access - in exchange for an agreed percentage of the final crop sale.
SDN’s partnership is intended to test how the productive potential of the private sector can be harnessed for development gains by incentivising ‘social investment.’ In this case, access to credit has been provided by SDN, with funding from the UK government, to Alluvial to facilitate their engagement with youths, women, and men in a socio-economically disadvantaged community impacted by oil spills.
Potential for livelihood diversification and development
The results of these pilot projects are expected to indicate the potential of these innovative approaches to deliver commercial viability, quality employment and to alleviate some of the drivers of conflict and instability in the region. The outcomes of the pilot projects are expected to be of particular interest to civil society organisations, international agencies, and Federal government agencies involved in development processes within the Niger Delta.