By Heather Kulp, NDPI Executive Director

The Niger Delta remains a complex region, blessed with abundant natural resources and shoreline ripe for port development, plus a vibrant, youthful population. Yet, despite these gifts, the Delta has yet to capitalize fully on its potential and instead is often looked upon as a region where significant roadblocks to sustainable development persist. 

Peace BuidingDeborah Effiong is the president for Partners for Peace Rivers state chapter and Livingstone Membere Kalabari Youth Federation in conservation in Port Harcourt, Rivers state, Nigeria.
Promoting development efforts in such a complex, yet critical region has been the focus of the Niger Delta Partnership Initiative (NDPI) and its Nigerian-based implementing partner, the Foundation for Partnership Initiatives in the Niger Delta (PIND) since inception. Established in 2010 with a grant from Chevron, the organizations were designed to tackle the intertwined issues of poverty and conflict in the region not by working alone – but by working with a diverse network of individuals, organizations, and other companies. Through this approach, NDPI and PIND concentrated on linking and strengthening disconnected development efforts already taking hold, while catalyzing new organizations to join in creating widespread, long-lasting change in the Niger Delta.

After more than five years of implementing its programs, NDPI and PIND hired The Initiative for Global Development (IGD) to examine the progress they have made to date. Although many challenges remain in the region, results from the independent assessment are promising – validating the approach the organizations have taken and reinforcing the need to stay the course.

‘Moving the Needle’ in the Niger Delta

Even in such a complex environment as the Niger Delta, the report shows that through partnership with others, NDPI and PIND’s programs are moving the needle on achieving widespread change by helping bring significant international attention and resources to the region. IGD highlighted that the Niger Delta was once considered by the international development community too volatile for sustainable economy building initiatives. Now the region is receiving investment from private investors, bilateral donors and other aid agencies including USAID, DFID, UNICEF and the Fund for Peace as a result of NDPI and PIND’s work. IGD concluded that the organizations have catalyzed more than $92 million in additional investment into the Niger Delta, including $739,000 from new loans by local financial institutions.

EDP AQUACULTURE DELTA STATE, NIGERIAAkpobasa Benjamin, a member Catfish Farmers Association of Nigeria (CAFAN) holds catfish from the scale up aquaculture demo fish farm in Ughelli, delta state, Nigeria.
IGD confirmed the greatest impacts have been in the areas of economic development, peace building, and cultivating an enabling environment through advocacy and capacity building for economic growth and peace to take hold. Specifically, IGD noted that donor agencies and other development entities are now able to work more effectively with local non-profits, international organizations are contributing more funds toward economic development in the region, civil society organizations are better able to serve their communities and increased resources have flowed into the Delta to help mitigate conflict.

Creating and Cultivating Networks for Change

Calling the NDPI-PIND model “unique” and “an example of best practice in private sector-led development,” the report highlights key lessons for other private and public sector actors looking for innovative solutions to poverty in conflict-affected regions. By using a network-based approach to development, the organizations continue to create an interconnected web of individuals and organizations that can leverage each other’s resources, relationships, and technical skills for regional development.

PIND WECA MOUOndo State, Nigeria Wealth Creation Agency (WECA) Chairperson Bolanle Olafunmiloye (left) and PIND Foundation Program Director Dara Akala, PhD, exchange signed copies of their partnership agreement to develop the agricultural entrepreneurship skills of young graduates through the cultivation and processing of cassava, Dec. 22, 2015. Photo/PIND
“PIND is now connected to more than 500 organizations,” said PIND Executive Director Sam Daibo. “Of those organizations, 79 percent are local.” Adding that, “We place a high priority on working with partners and existing organizations because coordinated development efforts can achieve greater impact than each organization working alone.”

Creating, cultivating, and strengthening those foundational networks was found by IGD to be a critical element for NDPI and PIND’s success to date. Leveraging these extensive networks is key to diffusing the best practices, ideas and technologies NDPI and PIND are promoting to increase economic growth, reduce conflict, and support inclusive public policy development. By helping others understand and see the benefits of adopting certain practices, ideas, and technologies, project participants are able to carry them forward and share them within their own networks. IGD predicts this will eventually lead to a “tipping point” when systemic change is reached.

4 NIG080614357Ondo State, Nigeria Wealth Creation Agency (WECA) Chairperson Bolanle Olafunmiloye (left) and PIND Foundation Program Director Dara Akala, PhD, exchange signed copies of their partnership agreement to develop the agricultural entrepreneurship skills of young graduates through the cultivation and processing of cassava, Dec. 22, 2015. Photo/PIND
Strengthening those networks often involves connecting various individuals and organizations working in agricultural sectors to build up local markets in the Delta. One such individual NDPI and PIND have collaborated with is Ikechukwu Umeaku. Ikechukwu owns a local agricultural equipment dealership in the Niger Delta and was connected by PIND to a fabricator producing motorized palm oil harvesters and a network of local palm oil farmers. Umeaku, who imported nearly $65,000 worth of harvesters from the fabricator, now sells the equipment at cost to minimize the purchasing price for farmers. “I believe in a year we will be selling 100 or more,” Umeaku projects. Not only are the mechanized harvesters increasing Umeaku’s profits, they also raise palm oil extraction rates for palm oil farmers by 15% versus traditional, manual harvesting methods, leading to a 30% increase in their profits.

Looking Ahead

As IGD highlights, identifying and cultivating more opportunities like this will enable NDPI and PIND to generate even greater impact going forward. It will also help the organizations continue demonstrating that blending business and development approaches can foster the necessary innovation for creating new socioeconomic solutions in complex environments.

“This assessment reveals our efforts have been transformative, but much work remains to be done,” said NDPI Executive Director Heather Kulp. “In the coming years, we will be looking to organize resources to improve access to power and transport infrastructure. We need to identify additional technologies for improving productivity and create more linkages with processors and large off-takers who can purchase the resulting increases in supply.”

Going forward, IGD has also called upon the private sector and development institutions to closely examine the NDPI-PIND model for potential replicability and adaptability around the world.