Rural Access and Agricultural Marketing Project, RAAMP is an international partnership project, sponsored by the World Bank, WB and French Development Agency, AFD. Only recently, however, the European Investment Bank, EIB indicated interest to key into the project, following the noble objectives and indeed the success stories realized by the project over the years.
The World Bank has 189 member countries, with headquarters at Washington D.C. and provides loans to countries for capital projects. The Bank also seeks to fight poverty worldwide through sustainable projects and programmes.
The French Development Agency is a public financial institution that implements France’s policies as well as fights poverty to promote sustainable development, while the European Investment Bank, founded in 1958, with headquarters at Luxembourg, prides itself as the world’s largest multilateral lender for sustainable development.
These institutions do not operate in isolation in pursuing poverty reduction, but through some structured, well-defined strategies, one of which is the Rural Access and Agricultural Marketing Project, RAAMP. RAAMP is a scaled up project, which came into Nigeria initially as Rural Access and Mobility Project, RAMP about a decade ago in 2008 and was piloted by Kaduna and Cross River states.
The objective of the project in Nigeria was to improve transport conditions and bring sustained access to the rural population, through rehabilitating and maintaining key rural transport infrastructure in a sustainable manner, geared towards poverty reduction.
The project had a 5-year tenor and thereafter progressed to its second phase, when five more states keyed in as participants. They were Imo, Enugu, Osun, Taraba and Niger. The Second Rural Access and Mobility Project, RAMP-2 was designed to leverage on the experience from RAMP-1.
The fact that participant states have had plausible success stories to tell for embracing the project cannot be dismissed as an exaggeration. Thus ranging from construction and/ or rehabilitation of rural roads to river crossings; capacity building programmes; community empowerment schemes; among other things, the stories are indeed many and varied – all being products of an individidual’s foresight to embrace the project, pay counterpart funds and reap bountiful dividends in return.
Similarly, following the experience from RAMP-2, it became imperative to review the project to cover the development of agricultural hubs and marketing indices. This was aimed at reducing various cases of post-harvest losses suffered by farmers, hence the scale up to Rural Access and Agricultural Marketing Project, RAAMP to substitute the supposed RAMP-3. 18 states identified with it and are currently participating in the project. They are: Akwa Ibom and Abia from the South; Kano, Katsina, Sokoto, Kebbi, Bauchi and Plateau (North) as well as Kogi, Ogun, oyo and Ondo (West).
The overall objective of RAAMP is to improve rural access and agricultural marketing in participating states, while enhancing sustainability of the rural and state road networks. This would be achieved through four major components:
Rehabilitation and maintenance of rural access and state roads;
Connecting farms to rural agro-logistic centres:
i. Establishment of agro-logistic centres;
ii. Support to farm level post-harvest activities;
iii. Support to Small and Micro Enterprises (SMEs) operating model facilities at the agro-logistic centres;
iv. Technical assistance to enhance the performance of farm level post-harvest activities and SMEs at the centres.
Institutional Development, road safety and project management support.
Under the project, over 60million dollars would be made available for each of the participating states to develop about 500km of rural roads in the respective states. This is in addition to development of agro-logistic hubs / centres as well as markets along the road corridors. It must be stressed that despite the dense road network across the country, rural accessibility index stands at just 25.5 percent and is rated very low. Out of about 194,000km roads in Nigeria, Federal roads constitute 34,00km; state roads – 30,000km, while rural roads retain the largest -130,000km, indicating that over 92 million rural people in the country are unconnected to good roads.
It is at this juncture that Governor Udom Emmanuel’s vision to key into the project deserves commendation. As earlier noted, the project had been around in the country for over a decade, yet the state did not participate, until 2016, when the present administration indicated interest and proceeded to paying the statecounterpart funds of 1.6 million dollars (N833 million) at the twilight of 2017.
The question regarding why previous administrations had dismissed a noble development option such as this, which required a paltry ratio of less than 3:7 as counterpart funds, relative to the multiplier benefits associated with the partnership, remains a topic for further discussion. This therefore underscores the political economic approach adopted by the governor’s administration of the state in which prudence constitutes the watch word in approaching development indices.
In fact, there is a healthy interaction between economics and government policies, under the present administration in the state, such that the barest minimal resources are used to realize set objectives. Thus this international partnership in which relatively little is invested, yet bountiful returns on investment is realized remains one of such strategies.
However, the partners have defined criteria, procedures and standards that must be met before effecting the project in participating after the payment of counterpart funds. This is to ensure that necessary safeguards are put in place to guarantee sustainability for the project at the long run.
The pursuit towards attaining these standards are encouraging and very promising such that during the recent Due Diligence Mission of the Bank to Akwa Ibom State in April, this year, the team announced that the project would become effective in the state by September, 2019.
The mission team were drawn from sponsors of the project – representatives from the World Bank, led by Mr. Farhad Ahmed; European Investment Bank – Mr. Moussa Nakoulima; while the French Development Agency team was headed by Mr. Francois Giraudy. Other members of the team were Mr. Mohammed Aliyu; Mrs. Malaya Zumel, Mr. Jaime Barragan and Mr. Laurent Jean.
The National Coordinator of RAMP, Engr. Ubandoma Ularamu and the representative of the Federal Ministry of Finance, Mr. Steve Ohaeri were also members of the delegation.
A cross section of participants during the Due Diligence Mission of the World Bank, WB; French Development Agency, AFD; and European Investment Bank, EIB to Akwa Ibom to assess their level of prepared or otherwise, ahead of the effectiveness of the Rural Access and Agricultural Marketing Project, RAAMP in the state.
The visit was to evaluate the level of preparedness or otherwise, ahead of the project’s effectiveness in the state. It is worthy of mention here that already, out of the 18 participating states in RAAMP, three have been earmarked to pilot the project. They are: Akwa Ibom, Ogun and Bauchi states. This is not unconnected with the state’s rating so far, following the prompt release of counterpart funds and other requirements as prescribed by the Bank.
Notable achievements recorded by Akwa Ibom RAAMP include successful prioritization of 500km rural roads across the 31 Local Government Areas of the state for intervention under the project; Environmental Survey Mapping Plan, ESMP studies for the state; Agro-logistic studies of the state; and the commencement of pilot Rural Road Maintenance, RRM scheme for the 12.5km Mkpat Enin – Ikot Abasi – Ufon – Nkikara – Ikot Abia – Ikot Ekpuk – Ikot Edeghe – Minya road.
The road is maintained and managed by selected community people from the respective villages living along the road corridor. They are established under a cooperative group called Nyaknno-Abasi Rural Road Maintenance Cooperative Group, Mkpat Enin Local Government Area. They have been well trained on the basic rudiments of road maintenance and basic equipment provided for them. They are paid monthly stipends.
Other achievements are provision of a standard office accommodation for the project; constitution of the State Project Monitoring Committee, SPMC and State Project Implementation Unit, SPIU, headed by Prof. Edet Joshua Udoh and Elder Gideon Cephas Akpan respectively; as well as completion of design for the 12km Nsie – Utine Ndoung – Uruting pilot road at Okobo Local Government Area; and capacity building programmes; among others.
The pilot road is expected to serve as a template to guide during the construction of 500km network of rural roads when the project becomes effective in the state.
Thus at the long run, the rural areas would become more attractive to live. Rural – urban drift would be reduced.
Farmers would gain more from their businesses, following the enhanced connectivity to markets and other agro-logistic centres. In the course of the project, there would be more than fifty (50) RRM groups, spread across the thirty-one Local Government Areas of the state. These groups would be responsible for maintaining the five hundred kilometer (500km) rural roads already prioritized under the project. Over five hundred (500) indigenes, resident along the various road corridors would be employed directly in the process. The multiplier development effects cannot be quantified. Of course, a concurrent number of inindirect employments would be generated, following the massive construction activities that would be generated to deliver the 500km rural roads.
Development of markets and agro-logistic centres will equally constitute another source of indirect empowerments for our rural population to improve their livelihood. Indeed the positive ripples of the project would go a long way to promoting the infrastructural profile of the state, lay a solid foundation for industrialization to thrive, grow agriculture from subsistence to business practice, as well as create jobs and wealth for the people of the state, among other notabilities.
The foregoing notwithstanding cannot be realized under an atmosphere of apathy, rancour and resentment to the project. It therefore becomes imperative that a conscious, well – coordinated effort be mobilized towards our collective embrace and ownership of RAAMP activities. This would go a long way not only to promoting the State Governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel’s completion agenda but for overall best results. The right time is now.
By Akan Esiwang