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It is not restricted to Kwara alone, the ravage of the coronavirus pandemic is a universal calamity. Millions of lives have been lost. And truly, the entire home of man is still battling with the effects of this deadly disease. The world has been having it tough and appalling. Indeed, many survivors are still writhing in pain. The virus came, destroyed and left to mankind fear, despair, hunger and economic devastation. Since the virus sprang from Wuhan in the winter of 2019, there has not been peace in the world as all sectors of life are affected. But it began to be more annoying and devastating in the early part of the year 2020.

One thing that the poor and vulnerable still live with on a tremendous weight is abject hunger, coupled with heavy economic crush. With this unfortunate development, the status of the people under this category described as the poor and vulnerable has been aggravated. Hence, there are cries here and groans there. In every part of the globe, the call for a messiah for rehabilitation and social refurbishment is loud. The general knowledge or assumption is that the punch of the pandemic is harsher on the poor and vulnerable, this is due to their economic status. Thus, people believe that the poor and vulnerable may not be able to recover on time. For this reason, something has to be done.

It is against this backdrop that His Excellency, Mallam AbdulRahaman AbdulRazaq, comes to the aid of the vulnerable and poor through an agricultural panacea. Since his assumption of office, this gesture is not the first step the Governor will take to demonstrate his passion for revolutionising agriculture to open opportunities for youths and women and to enrich the food store of the State. This palliative gesture is coming as an elixir to the pain inflicted on mankind by the coronavirus pandemic even when the economies of countries in the world are swimming in recession. The scheme is an agricultural intervention centred on recovery, recovery from the loss imposed by the covid-19 plague.

In the messianic posture of Nigeria Covid-19 Action Recovery and Economic Stimulus (NG-CARES), here is a shower of benisons for the poor and vulnerable. In this mission of giving stimulus to those that have been affected by the coronavirus ravage (Note that only the poor and vulnerable are concerned), here is an operational convergence of both the State and the Federal Governments. This commitment reminds us of one of the times our government demonstrates to soften the hard path of the have-nots in our society, communicating to them that the government, despite all odds that may manifest at any particular time, owes it a duty to be responsible and responsive. There is no way to say governance in action than demonstrating the spirit of saving the paupers in society from the soulless enemy objectified in huger and abject lack of necessities of life.

The NG-CARES project is an initiative that will be funded via the loan secured from the World Bank by the State Governors across the country. This programme, which is an embodiment of different platforms comprising Fadama, LIPW, KWCSDA, Social Cash Transfer and SMEs, is initiated to address the attendant misfortunes brought to the poor and vulnerable by coronavirus. The pandemic has led us to a new normal; it has moved us from our former way of life to a new norm, a new system that is conditioned by the exigencies informed by covid-19. It is part of the specifications of the new normal that provides an environment for the emergence of the NG-CARES project. The benefits of the NG-CARES programme are open to different categories of citizens as beneficiaries will receive packages in different modes.

Particularly, there is something special about the Fadama wing of the NG-CARES initiative. Here, we are talking about using the agricultural arsenal to intervene in the lives of the poor, the vulnerable, women and youths. As it is also reflective in the other arms of the CARES project, the administration of Mallam AbdulRaham AbdulRazaq, with every sense of diligence and conscientiousness, is taking the bull by the horns to ameliorate the agony inherited by the victims of the pandemic through the agricultural intervention strategy of Fadama NG-CARES known as “Result Area2”, committed to increasing food security and safe functioning of food supply chains. The first advantage of this project is to give the beneficiaries a kind of relief by helping revamp their status. On the other hand, there are considerable tendencies that the programme, after being properly and consciously implemented, will elevate the pace of food production in the State. Interestingly, the project, which has two years as its life span, will capture Nineteen Thousand, Six-Hundred and Ninety-Five (19, 695) beneficiaries in Kwara State. To keep such a figure of farmers in the State in a recovery programme is a hallmark development in the agriculture history of the State, considering the wave of the damage the coronavirus pandemic has brought to humanity.

Preparation for the project started with the resumption of the PIU officers drawn from different ministries in the State.

Evidence of the Kwara State’s commitment to the Result Area2 project won people’s conviction when Governor AbdulRazaq released fund to carry out preparatory activities for the programme. Knowing that these activities will serve as a fulcrum for effective implementation of the project, the Governor made that step to assure the people of the State that “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.”

Immediately after the fund release, the State Fadama NG-CARES Coordination Office, under the auspices of Engr. Dr. Busari Toyin Isiaka, strategised and commenced massive sensitisation of stakeholders. To this effect, an audio jingle was produced in five languages – English, Yoruba, Nupe, Baruba and Bokobaru – and aired on three radio stations. The jingle was aired on three different radio stations across the state, with Seventeen slots on each station. Afterwards, members of the Project Implementation Unit (PIU) started touring the Sixteen Local Government Areas in the State on the 28th of June, 2021, the tour came to an end on the 8th of July, 2021. The tour enabled the team the opportunity to sensitise and educate local council officials, HODs (Agric), Local Fadama Desk Officers, Local Facilitators and representatives of LFAs (Local Famers’ Assocoiations). In every Local Government Area, the overview of the Fadama NG-CARES project was presented, and the necessary questions posed were answered to the satisfaction of the hosts. The State Project Coordinator, Engr. Dr. Busari Toyin, specifically harped on the objectives behind the project and the eligibility criteria. He noted that such was necessary to discourage those who are not qualified from registration, since the Government is only targeting the poor and vulnerable.

Along with the sensitisation mission, the State Coordinator endeavoured to have a session with Governnor AbdulRazaq’s Aides on the 8th of July, 2021, and brief the latter on the project overview. The Aids were Technical Assistant on Agriculture, Senior Special Assistants on Job Creation, Non-Governmental and Youth Engagement.

The said fund was also used to equip staff’s offices, repair two (2 Nos.) decrepit Hilux Vehicles, overhaul 1 No. 30 KVA Diesel Generator, rehabilitate three (3 No.) blocks of office accommodation, take care of maintenance and operations of offices and some other commitments. Equipment of the offices, procurement of staff furniture, sensitisation/advocacy and others, will serve as a fulcrum for effective implementation of the project. The Governor took that step to assure the people of the State that “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.”

As a project that must be delivered according to the World Bank’s standard, the office is ensuring that the ideal practice, which will set it free from sullying reputation, is being observed at every point of implementation. In the meantime, the Project Implementation Team led by the State Project Coordinator, visited and opened collaboration with the Kwara State Public Procurement Agency on the 13th of August, 2021. The interaction between the two agencies sealed a deal on institutionalisation of the procurement guidelines regarding the implementation of the Fadama NG/CARES Project. In essence, the trip to the agency was in the bid of the office to strictly adhere to the procurement tradition as well as put the agency in the know about the project. This, in other words, was to demonstrate that the mantra of the Kwara State Public Procurement Agency saying “To get it right, we must do it right” was foregrounded. Nothing vindicated Kwara Fadama NG/CARES than the issuance of a certificate of compliance by the Agency; that was after giving “No-Objection” approval. To further prove its vehement obedience to and comprehensive understanding of the procurement law, KWSFCO engaged the would-be service providers on the 17th of August, 2021, briefing the latter on the eligibility requirements to participate in the project (Result Area2).

On a specific note, the office came up with the proposal to start with livestock (both inputs and assets) farming since the season could no longer accommodate crop farming in that year. To this effect, Three Thousand livestock farmers were initially pencilled to benefit from the first phase of the project disbursement. To achieve this successfully, some exercises must first be conducted. Responding to this proposal, the Governor released another fund. The fund came like rain helping the plant to bud. Interestingly, this was to carry out the screening, validation and selection of the Phase One of the beneficiaries targeting 3000 farmers within the first six months of the programme.

On the 2nd of November, 2021, Facilitators and Local Desk Officers were trained. The training session was in preparation for the screening exercise of the potential beneficiaries. In his opening remark at the training session, the Coordinator noted that the training was necessary to gird the participants particularly on physical screening, verification and geo-tagging; safeguard (fieldwork and safeguard screening form); Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) and Public Service Rules before the exercise commenced.

Another shower came in the mode of surprise as Governor AbdulRazaq approved additional Three Thousand beneficiaries in the crop farming enterprise. With this complement, the number of the farmers (both in livestock and crop farming) in the first phase of disbursement of the Kwara Fadama NG-CARES now totals Six Thousand (6000). This gesture of stepping up the number proves stronger the passion of His Excellency for promoting food security and tackling poverty.

Generally, the NG-CARES Project is to be executed through the money secured from the World Bank, part of the imperatives involved as implementation qualification is to meet up with necessary conditions which include payment of the counterpart fund by the executive of the beneficiary state. In this regards, Kwara State came out as one of the few states certified (after a thorough assessment) by the Federal CARES Support Unit to be ready for effective implementation of the project and disbursement.

To demonstrate how meticulous the implementation process of the project is, the Kwara State Fadama NG-CARES Delivery Platform on 20th and 22nd of April held another training session with Community Facilitators and Local Fadama Desk Officers in respect of the committees of the various Farmer Communities’ Associations, particularly on how the committees – Management; Procurement/Maintenance; Monitoring and Evaluation; and Environmental and Conflict Resolution – will be administered effectively. The training was designed to be replicated by the trainees in their respective LGAs.

While the first day of the training covered presentation on Procurement; Fiduciary; Management and Evaluation System; and Minutes Writing, the second day (22nd of April) took care of Monitoring and Evaluation Clinic involving M&E Concepts, Framework and Planning; ICT Tools and Techniques for NG-CARES Data Collection; and Practical Demonstration to make the trainees accurate and efficient in data collection analysis, so that the whole process will be the satisfactory and fair; and no part of the state will be surcharged.

During the training, the State Coordinator revealed the Governor’s passion for the project. “Interestingly, this is a clear pointer to progress as far as the project of Fadama NG-CARES in Kwara is concerned. Governor AbdulRazaq deserves commendation for usual swift response to the imperative needs of the delivery platform every time. Kwara is one of the few states leading in the project out of the thirty-six states of the Federation.

His fervent support (both fund-wise and morally) for the project is tremendous. This agricultural intervention, I believe, will yield for farmers in the state another prosperous turn that will arrest poverty among them”, he declared.

Busari also thanked the Governor for approving Productivity Allowance for the PIU (Project Implementation Unit), Community Facilitators and Local Fadama Desk Offices.

The game is set, the Governor is writing a fine history for the State, his knack is action and transparency, the world is watching, and here flows succour to the masses through the Fadama NG-CARES Project.

This is a good way Governor AbdulRazaq will say there is no cause for alarm. It is now time for the poor and vulnerable in the state to rejoice because the Governor is in charge to drive away hunger, ans tackle poverty by enhancing food security after the damage made by the covid-19 pandemic.

Sangodare Ayinla,
Project Communications Officer,
Kwara Fadama NG-CARES Coordination Office

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