Abuja (ILO News) –The Director of the ILO Country Office, Abuja, Mr. Dennis Zulu, has identified Cooperatives as capable of creating a viable economic model that generates productivity and income. He made the observation in Abuja while welcoming participants to a 10-day Training of Trainers Workshop on cooperative development. He stated that cooperatives were well placed to help tackle social inequalities, discrimination and exclusion based on gender, age, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and differential abilities. According to Mr. Zulu, “cooperatives have also proved to be effective vehicles for realizing decent work for all”.
Emphasizing the importance of cooperatives further, Mr. Zulu stated that women, youth and indigenous peoples have been able to increase their income and their standard of living by using the cooperative mode of working. He stated that people in agriculture can benefit from economies of scale to lower their costs of acquiring inputs, hiring services such as storage and transport, improving productand service quality and reducing risks. He urged the participants to endeavour to use the knowledge gained at the workshop to empower grassroots farmers.
In his goodwill message, the FAO Representative in Nigeria, Mr. Suffyan Sanusie Koroma congratulated the participants for the privilege of being invited to attend the training. He informed the participants that the Food Africa Project “Empowering Youth and Promoting Innovative Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) through More Efficient Agro-Food Value Chains in Nigeria” was a joint public-private partnership involving Agencies of the United Nations (UN SDG Fund, FAO, ILO, ITC), Sahara Foundation, Rocha Brothers and the Kaduna State Government.
Mr Koroma identified the key deliverables of the project to include strengthened food processing capacities and value addition close to production, improved agricultural yields, strengthened capacity of farmers-based groups and cooperatives, local economic development and sources of new livelihoods created and improved policy and inter-sectoral coordination. He informed the participants that the project was adopting a sustainable enterprise development approach in project implementation focused on cooperatives. He was confident that participants would deliver training on cooperatives to needy cooperatives and other farmer-based groups in Jere and other parts of Kaduna State.
Speaking on behalf of Kaduna State Government, Mr Christopher Bitrus, thanked the implementing partners – FAO, ILO, International Trade Centre (ITC) and Sahara Foundation – for their commitments to the success of the project. He stated that Kaduna State Government has been working closely with the implementing partners since 2016 and was aware of the challenges facing Kaduna State in the area of agricultural value chain. He stated that the needs assessment conducted by the ILO revealed a lot of gaps in the area of cooperatives development and management and that the training was organized as a consequence of the assessment, to address the gaps identified. He enjoined the trainees to make the best use of the opportunity offered by the training with the aim of impacting agricultural value chain in Kaduna positively.
In her keynote address, the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, Mrs Ibukun Odusote acknowledged with thanks the ILO’s contributions towards the development of cooperatives in Nigeria. She observed that agricultural sector “generates a growth rate that is at least twice effective in reducing poverty as compared to other sectors”. Harping on the importance of agriculture to Nigeria, she stated that agriculture contributed between 30 and 40% of Nigeria’s GDP and engaged over 65% of the nation’s total workforce. She regretted that despite the contribution of agriculture to the country’s GDP, food production has not been able to keep pace with the growing population. She attributed this failure to inadequate viable, vibrant and sustainable cooperatives in Nigeria.
Acknowledging cooperatives as the solution that drives sustainable agriculture for increased productivity and food security, she reiterated the steadfast commitment of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment to work with relevant stakeholders on cooperative matters to reap its benefits. Declaring the training opened, she urged the participants to make good use of the training opportunity.
The 2-week (07 – 18 January 2019) workshop is being conducted using the ILO capacity building tools: “My.Coop, Think. Coop and Start.Coop”. Twenty three (23) trainees drawn from Academia, Government institutions, SMEs and Cooperatives in Kaduna State, Federal Ministry of Labour and Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association are taking part in the workshop conducted under aegis of Food Africa Project (Empowering Youth and Promoting Innovative Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) through More Efficient Agro-Food Value Chains in Nigeria). The project is jointly implemented by Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), International Labour Organization (ILO), International Trade Centre (ITC) and Sahara Foundation.