One of the Federal Government programmes that has so far impacted positively on the lives and improved the general well-being of rural masses, especially the poor, vulnerable and indigent households in Nasarawa State, is the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) programme.
The programme established in 2017 is a unit under the state Ministry of Women Affairs that is responsible for implementing cash transfer programme in the state. The cash transfer programme is an arm under the National Social Net Programme that was domesticated in the state, after a memorandum of understanding was reached between the Federal and the Nasarawa State governments in 2016.
The programme, which is being implemented in phases, was initiated by the Federal Government and is being supported by the World Bank and other financial institutions to reduce the rate of poverty, prevent vulnerable persons from falling below the poverty line, building resilience to withstand shock and risk, ensure access to health and improving the education of the poor in the societies.
The first phase of the programme ended in June, 2022 and will be rolling over into the second phase, which ought to have commenced from July, 2022, with the remaining 7 local government areas waiting to be captured in the second phase.
Being one of the implementing states of the intervention, the programme did basically improved human capital development, increased households consumption and alleviated poverty of the poorest and vulnerable households.
Since the commencement of the programme in 2017, the beneficiaries, who are mostly indigent women and widows have so much to share of the positive impact and experiences that transformed their livelihood for good.
The intervention which has three elements; basic, top up and livelihoods for enrollment and disbursement to selected beneficiaries, built their capacity, as well as coaching and mentored them on financial management, life skills and savings.
The cash transfer programme is being implemented in 6 local governments, namely Akwanga, Kokona, Lafia, Awe, Nasarawa and Wamba, covering 37 political wards in the state.
There are about 48, 687 beneficiaries of the conditional cash transfer in Nasarawa State. Of this figure, only 942 persons formed cluster groups that have engaged in sustainable projects in all the implementing local governments, while about 67 cluster groups are registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission and the state ministry of Trade and Investments.
The programme is designed in such a way that, even when the support is over, the beneficiaries will be better off, as the direct beneficiaries are taught about livelihood, self-reliance and sustainable venture.
According to the Programme template, 94percent of the beneficiaries should be women, because, according to the poverty index, women are the worst heat, hence they are target for the intervention. They are good managers and entry point of the money to the households.
The money, which is being disbursed to the women bimonthly, are paid directly to the beneficiaries by the payment service provider, who are contracted by the World Bank.
In Nasarawa State, the company engaged to be paying the stipends to the poor and vulnerable women is E-transact, while the state office of the cash transfer only supervises payment, and to ensure the right beneficiaries get the money.
It was gathered that in the second phase of the programme, payment to beneficiaries will be cashless and debit cards will be issued to them in line with the global best practices.
Already, the state cash transfer unit is collaborating with the state Ministry of Trade and Investments to reduce the registration fee to a more affordable rate, so that more groups can be registered.
It is certain that once more groups are registered, they will have access to credit facilities, expose them to financial inclusion and literacy and will coach them how to develop business plan so as to expand their production and processes.
Some of the groups in the implementing local governments, who spoke to BusinessDay on their successes recorded since the commencement of the programme, expressed gratitude to God and the Federal Government for initiating the programme for the vulnerable women in the state.
Esther Mailafiya, leader of one of the benefiting groups, who are into Garri processing in a suburb of Lafia Local Government Area of the state, said they are a group of 10 women that have benefited from the N5,000 monthly stipends to poor rural women in the state.
She said, before the Federal Government’s intervention, their effort was not yielding fruit enough to meet the needs of their families, as they often run into deficit.
Mailafiya expressed gratitude to God and to the Federal Government for enlisting their group among beneficiaries of the cash transfer programme to poor women in the state.
According to the group leader, the intervention was timely, and an answered prayer for the rural poor, as the money really helped them to expand their business and to supports their husbands.
“In achieving our target as a group, we decided to be contributing some amount of money, where we invested it into the garri processing. If not for the money, our company business would have collapsed by now.
“From our initially supply, we started with one truck of cassava for the garri processing and today, we are happy to inform you that, we have increased our production capacity, increase number of trucks supplying us cassava to 10, and we have engaged more hands in the production processing. We also pay them daily, with the Baba Buhari money,” she said.
According to her, “Sometimes, we even supply more than 10 trucks of cassava for garri processing and the cost of each truck of cassava is between N45,000 to N50,000, depending on the availability of the cassava and in a truck of cassava, we get sometimes four bags of garri. Then in a month, we do produce over 100 bags of garri to markets.
“Our earnings do varies, and aside from saving N50,000 monthly incase of any eventuality, we reinvest our interest to get more supply of cassava and production.
“It is from our savings that we bought 10 plots of lands in Lafia, and we also have a large farm land where we grow cassava, we have alternative source of power, built a 1000 capacity bags of garri store.
“As far as Nasarawa State is concerned, our production capacity is the largest and the quality of our garri is one of the best.
“The support came to us at the right time and we thanked God and the initiators of the programme, for having the poor and vulnerable persons at heart.
“This money has brought us relief and has addressed the issue of lack among us. It has made us people that can add value and contributed to the well being of our community.
“One of the challenges we face at the production site is lack of good access road, lack of water to wash cassava, even as part of the land is being threatened by erosion.”
Esther Mailafiya then appealed to the state government to come to their rescue.
Mama Zainab Ishaku, a 75-year-old woman from Gbata community in Wamba Local Government Area of the state, who mobilised women in the community to save part of their N5,000 Cash Transfer to fix the only borehole in the area.
Before the borehole could be fixed, women in the community usually trek several miles in search of water, as access to good water has been a major challenge to the people of Gbata.
Gbata is one of the oldest and largest communities in Wamba Local Government Area of Nasarawa State with about two thousand households as residents.
The community has over the years, been faced with hard times due to non-availability of portable water, as residents especially women trekked long miles in search of water from any available source for their daily domestic use.
However, succor finally came the way of the community following efforts of a group of 20 women who utilised their savings from the N5,000 Conditional Cash Transfer monthly payment to reactivate the only borehole in the area to provide water to the community.
The borehole was dug many years ago when the community witnessed cholera outbreak.
Zainab Ishaku said, she was inspired to make a difference in the community considering the hardship she had to go through in search of water.
She explained that, since they were enrolled in the Conditional Cash Transfer Programne in 2016, she introduced a local thrift fund and mobilised the women to be saving N2000 each to the fund from their N5000 for the water project.
The women also installed water tanks and taps at strategic places in the community, such as the Government Primary School, Health Care Centre, the central mosque as well as major settlements to supply water in all fetching points in Gbata.
The Village Head of Gbata, Zakari Yahaya said the borehole was donated by an anonymous person during the outbreak of cholera in the area which claimed many lives five years ago.
He said that since the borehole broke down, several appeals to Government and their elected representatives could not yield any result until the women who are beneficiaries of the Conditional Cash Transfer came to their rescue.
Hellen Rabo is the leader of Zumunci Group of 76 women in Dari village in Kokona Local government area of Nasarawa State. The women who are mostly elderly have embarked on a long term project that if completed, will be one of their great source of income.
Helen Rabo, who was surrounded by the women, are happy that the government of President Buhari was able to design a programme specifically for them, hence they are appreciative of the monthly stipends.
She said, “Apart from meeting the needs of our families, such as paying our children school fees, supporting our husbands in terms of feeding, paying health bills and other needs, we also tasked ourselves in a monthly contribution of N5,000 each.
“We decided to embark on a project that will fetch us money if completed. It’s a long term investment. We noticed that our community lack good accommodation for visitors, and so, we decided to build a guest house of four rooms, so that, whoever comes to the village will not be stranded on where to sleep or spend the night at an affordable rate; more so, that the village now has electricity.
“When we came up with the idea, we approached our village head to inform him of our plan and he couldn’t delay allocating a parcel of land to us, which today we erected a structure on it and we believe that by the time the remaining one year arrears is given to us, we will be able to complete the project. The building is more or less a community project, because everyone in the community was not left out in the building process.
“Our group also produces palm kernel oil and black soap, and we intend to use proceeds from the sales of palm kernel oil and soap to furnish the guest house to a standard.
“We do produce four jerry cans of palm kernel oil in a day, and 15 to 20 jerry cans in a week while we get 6 bags of soup in the production.
She said, it is rewarding for the group to have ventured into the production of palm kernel oil and soap and they supply their products across Nigerian markets and outside the shores of Nigeria.
Mary Sunday is the leader of group of 130 women in Marke community, Kokona Local Government Area, who have provided 17 desks for the pupils of Baptist Transfer Primary School, Marke.
She explained that out of their monthly stipends, they decided to contribute N1,000 each to get those desks and donated it to the school.
According to Mary, their decision to support the school with the chairs was to ensure their children do not sit on the floor any longer.
“We donated 17 chairs to the school, because we don’t want our children to continue to sit on the floor. We want them to learn on a conducive environment, that is why each of us, about 130 women contributed N1,000 to get those desks.
“For government to support us, we felt there is need to say thank you by reciprocating the gesture, hence why we supported the school with the chairs. If you look at the school, there are no chairs and the pupils sit on the floor to learn and those are our children.
The Head of Unit, Conditional Cash Transfer Programne in Nasarawa Stste, Rhoda Agbawo called on beneficiaries to venture on a sustainable programme to reduce poverty to the barest minimum.
She urged other beneficiaries of the programme to emulate the women groups in Lafia, Kokona and Wamba by investing part of the monthly stipends into productive venture and sustainable projects in their communities, that will add value in their livelihood.
According to her, “The cash transfer programme is targeted at poor and vulnerable households and are entitled to a bimonthly transfer of N10,000. We don’t only give them the stipend, we ensure that they utilise it properly and from what I have seen in the fields, the women have performed beyond our expectations.
“For instance, the group in Lafia used their stipends to start a garri processing company and to our surprise, they were able to purchase ten plots of land, built a warehouse for storage, a power plant, which they bought from the proceed of sales of the garri.
“These are our direct beneficiaries, that were able to provide indirect benefit to the community. They are employers, because those that came to process are employed and we been paid.
“The women are really wonderful and the programme is speaking for itself. These women added value to the stipend that was given to them and have made their lives better. They now eat better food, enroll their children in schools and have free access to health services.
“One of the challenges we encountered and still facing is pressure for inclusion. We have 13 local governments in the state and only six are picked as pilot local government areas based on the poverty mapping and geographical distribution
“We are happy that the programme has met its objectives, as some of the people are now out of poverty. A situation where beneficiaries are building guest house, marketing their produce across Nigerian markets is a plus not only to themselves, but the Federal Government and the World Bank.