The Federal Government says it is planning to set up a cassava processing centre in Ogoniland to serve as alternative source of livelihood for the people of the area.
Dr Marvin Dekil, Project Coordinator, Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP), under the Ministry of Enviroment, made the disclosure on Friday.
He was speaking at the graduation of 15 Ogonis from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in Onne, Rivers.
According to Dekil, who was represented by HYPREP’s Head of Legal Services, Mrs Grace Ekanem, the centre will be used to generate income and make Ogoniland become an economic hub for cassava processing in the Niger Delta region.
“To this end, the 15 Ogonis whom we are graduating today were trained on fabrication of cassava processing machines.
“HYPREP will ensure their skills are put to good use with the set-up of a cassava processing centre that would generate income and create economic hub for the communities,’’ he said.
Dekil, said the training was in line with the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Report recommendation on Ogoniland.
According to him, the UNEP Report recommended that the Federal Government should provide alternative source of livelihood for oil impacted communities of Ogoniland.
“So, HYPREP, in a tripartite collaboration with the Stakeholders Democracy Network (SDN) and IITA, developed the template for the training aimed to empower Ogoni youths.
“Three months ago, we ushered in 15 young men and women into a life transforming training in the fabrication of machines for the processing of cassava.
“It has been a long journey for the trainees, who have had previous training in machine fabrication. The trainees are the first batch of the programme,” he said.
Dekil urged the trainees to leverage on the opportunities provided by the training to change their lives and become good ambassadors of their communities.
He commended the IITA and SDN for supporting the programme and assured the FG’s commitment to full implementation of the Ogoni clean-up exercise.
He added that no fewer than 400 women, 100 from each of the four local government areas that make up Ogoniland, would be trained on vocational skills in agriculture.
“The women will be trained for six months in different skills by the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) at the Songhai farms (in Tai LGA of Rivers).
“The training will be in batches until a total of 1,200 Ogoni women are trained in the livelihood programme,” he assured.
Also speaking, Dr Richardson Okechukwu, Head of Station of IITA said the 15 trainees were taught how to fabricate basic processing machines for roasters, graters, presser, bhurr mill, sifter, peeling and cabinet dryer.
He said the centre specialised on agro-business and crop value-chain processing in cassava, plantain, maize and banana as well as post-harvest processing.
On his part, SDN’s Senior Project Officer, Jesse-Martin Manufor said that cassava is a staple food for many Nigerians as well as important cash crop that produces garri, starch and flour.