In February 2011, PIND signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with USAID/Nigeria for an integrated Peace and Development Alliance (IPDA) to reduce conflict, improve institutions and foster socio-economic development in the Niger Delta in which the two organizations provided a 1:1 match of $25 million each. Under the IPDA, PIND and USAID/Nigeria partnered to support the previously established ADVANCE program. The original USAID program covered several parts of Nigeria, primarily in the North. PIND worked with USAID to extend the program into the Niger Delta to build the capacity of local CSOs with small grants and technical assistance.
The ADVANCE program is focused on the following objectives:
- Strengthening the capacity of CSOs for more effective program and financial management
- Strengthening the capacity of CSOs to improve their advocacy efforts with Government officials on key policy reforms such as budget transparency, access to information, and judicial oversight
- Strengthening public-private partnerships to fight corruption through public oversight agencies and initiatives
Extending ADVANCE to the Niger Delta
Since USAID/Nigeria and PIND agreed to extend ADVANCE into the Niger Delta region, the two partners have decided to target CSOs that are primarily focused on implementing economic development projects aligned with community needs as those to support with the ADVANCE program. This will help to promote a more coordinated effort on economic development initiatives between PIND, USAID/Nigeria, and the selected local organizations to reduce poverty and promote peace within the region.
Helping CSOs to Improve Local Governance and Livelihoods Services to Communities
Under the ADVANCE program, seven CSOs were selected through a competitive process to receive training for representatives from their organizations and small grants following the training to implement activities based on what they had learned. Topics covered during the training included the promotion of civic education, enhancing awareness of peace building and transparency issues, and promoting inclusive community participation in governance and development planning. The selected CSOs were:
- Antof Rural Resource Development Centre (ARRDEC)
- The Bayelsa NGO Forum (BANGOF)
- The Community Initiative for Enhanced Peace and Development (CIEPD) Port Harcourt, Rivers State
- Forward Africa (FOFA)
- Nembe City Development Foundation (NCDF)
- Leadership Initiative for Transformation & Empowerment –LITE Africa *
- Justice Development and Peace Caritas – JDPCaritas
Capacity of the CSOs were strengthened in advocacy, financial management, and implementing of public oversight initiatives through public-private partnerships. The seven NGOs used the skills and small grants they acquired to train a total 449 individuals (81 male, 268 female) to participate in local governance, public decision making and various economic livelihood skills in 2013, bringing the total number of persons trained by ADVANCE to 3,069 (1,573 male, 1,496 female).
Empowering Women to Engage with Elected Officials
Mrs. Blessing Dike is an Amato-Amaraku community woman in Imo state. She shares how attending a workshop held by Forward Africa, one of the CSOs that received an ADVANCE grant, helped change the way her community’s women participated in government:
“In Amato-Amaraku my community, we the women receive wrappers, food items and money from candidates only to be neglected after the election. We saw those gifts as the only benefits we get as community members for participating in elections. I attended a workshop organized by Forward Africa where they taught us especially as women to begin engaging our representatives at the local and state levels, so that poverty can be reduced in our communities. As a result of the training, we the women are now aware that we can get much more benefits from our representatives as a community than the paltry sums politicians give out during campaigns. We now know we have been missing a lot just because we did not know that it is our right to interact with our representatives to bring to their attention what we need as a community, which when included in the budget will bring development to the community and gradually remove poverty.”
Enabling Farmers to Access FADAMA Grant Funding
Antof Rural Development Center (ARRDEC), one of the local organizations that received an ADVANCE grant, has focused on improving the ability of local farmers to access the World Bank’s FADAMA project grant funding, intended to increase the incomes of rural farmers. Prior to accessing the funding, farmers must meet requirements set by the World Bank. ARRDEC has been working to enable farmers to meet those requirements by raising awareness of the grant and facilitating the formation of Fadama User Groups (FUGs), assisting with registering the FUGs and training farmers on business management and leadership skills. In December 2011, a training session supported by ARRDEC was held in Akwa Ibom state. By the end of the training, which had an almost equal representation of men and women, a total of 964 local farmers had benefitted from the process and 15 FADAMA Community Associations (FCAs) were formed. In 2012, Eyulor Farmers Community Association (EFCA), one of the groups organized through ARRDEC support, received its first tranche of FADAMA grant funding that will support the livelihoods of the farmers within the association.