A total of 30,000 rural women in Oyo State are billed to benefit from an empowerment scheme on optimising the potentials derivable from the local shea value chain with the view of empowering the locals and improving the economy.
The training and empowerment of the 30,000 beneficiaries by the Shea Empowerment Foundation, a Non-Governmental Organisation, in partnership with leading global players in the shea industry, would be held within the period of three years.
Mrs. Mobola Sagoe, Executive Director of SEF, who made the disclosure on Friday in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, during the launch of the initiative, said it is aimed at promoting a sustainable business model for the women and youths in the shea and agriculture sectors of the state.
The stakeholders’ engagement meeting by SEF, in partnership with Danida Market Development Partnerships, AAK, Mennonite Economic Development Associates, Global Shea Alliance and National Shea Products Association of Nigeria with the collaboration with the Oyo State Government highlighted the operational challenges militating against the development of the industry in the state.
She expressed optimism that the training of the local women within the rural communities of Oyo State would positively impact the local, state and national economies.
The stakeholders meeting themed, ‘Developing the shea sector in Oyo State,’ availed participants in the local and international shea industry to map out strategies for implementing best practices to drive the development of diversified shea market sector.
Sagoe said, “This project has multifarious benefits in that it would impart skills and improve competencies of the local collectors; improve the quality and grading of the nuts and assure traceability to enhance the status of Nigeria on the global shea map.
“Engagement with the women and youths in the local communities over the last six years caused us to carry out a training needs assessment. We had, hitherto, been involved in training specifically targeted at women processors to institute phytosanitary standards in the processing of shea butter.
“We were then advised by our long standing partner and ally, USAID to set-up an NGO whose sole focus would be capacity development through training to significantly close the yawning skills gap at the community and state levels.”
“So, we came up with Shea Empowerment Foundation which has trained over 1,000 women within Oyo State.
“If we train 1,000 women, they are supposed to go back and train, maybe, another 5,000 or more women. Sometimes, we repeated trainings.
“The current project to be executed by SEF, with the strong support of international donor agencies, has as its objective the training of 30,000 women over the next three years in Oyo State with specific focus on picking, aggregation, business skills development and parkland management with an average of circa 200 sessions per annum.”
In his remarks, the Chief of Staff to the Governor of Oyo State, Chief Bisi Ilaka, lauded the initiative, saying that the administration of Governor Seyi Makinde was out to expand the economy of the state, as agriculture is one of the veritable tools in that regard.
Ilaka said the shea sector would have a lot to do with women in terms of capacity building, saying that they would be trained to pick quality shea nuts that could compete globally.
Ilaka said, “Lifting our people out of poverty should be the drive of any administration; a lot of women are involved in this sub-sector and this will improve their financial wellbeing and that will go well for everybody in the state.
“We have challenges of mass unemployment in the state; this will also impact these figures, directly and indirectly. I hope this is the first of many other initiatives that will come to the state because it is important that we build up our people. The biggest resource we have in this state is our people and if we make them better equipped to deal with the challenges of day to day, with the vicissitudes of life, it will bode well for us as a people in the state.”
The beneficiaries of the training however, appealed to government at various levels to grant loans to trainees so as to afford them the opportunity of expanding the scope of their trade.