Transforming lives through improved Agriculture in Okpuitumo community

ActionAid through its local partner, Participatory Development Alternatives (PDA) has been working with Okpuitumo community for the past 13 years. One of the issues facing residents of the community was their belief that their soil was bad for farming because their crops were not growing healthy and the poor quality of the crops especially the cassava was also not making good sales. The poor sales being realized was affecting the finances of farmers in the community and as such, affecting the education of the children; parents could not provide their children’s school needs adequately and were forced to sell their poor quality of cassava at cheaper rates to clear their barn. It was in view of this that ActionAid organized various trainings for women farmers in Okpuitumo community who in turn, trained their husbands, youths and other farmers on their new learnings. Till date, over 400 farmers have benefited from these trainings.

One of the women farmers who is also the wife of the village head, Lolo Ugoeze Eucharia Ngozi Ukpa, 44-year-old mother of 3 says;

‘’Before ActionAid started working with us, our method of planting cassava was very different, we would we would plant as much as 8 cassava stems on a heap and we cleared our bushes and farms of weeds by setting fire on the weeds or grasses and thereafter prepare the ground for planting. It was ActionAid that sensitised us that the process of setting fire on the farm to clear weeds was damaging our soil and planting more than 2 cassava stems on a heap would limit the growth of the cassava.

Through ActionAid, the women farmers have learnt to make ridges to plant our crops like cassava and not just making heaps of sand. We have learnt about crop spacing to help our cassava grow healthy and we have also learnt about multiple cropping which allows us plant more than one type of crop on the ridges.  ActionAid through its local partner Participatory Development Alternatives (PDA) also trained us on the making of varieties of local meal and snacks using cassava especially the making of odourless fufu (staple food) which can be made and sold as an alternate source of income.

In the last 5 years, my cassava has been very healthy. The quality is also very good and sells for more at the market.  I invest the capital and profit made from the cassava into my rice farming as sales of rice is more profitable than cassava. The profit I make from the sales of rice because of the investment is always about fifty thousand naira (N50,000). Last year, the capital I invested into my cassava farming was N25,150 but the sold all my cassava for N87,550 which means I made a profit of N62,400 excluding the profit from my rice. ActionAid has changed my life and the lives of women and children in my community. With the boom in my business, I was able to support my husband to ensure that all our children went to school. My last child who we call Revered, just finished his secondary education and is about to proceed to the seminary because he wishes to be a Revered Father. My second child, also a boy is still in university and we have no issues with finances to support him through school. Also, recently, I adopted 2 girls from a neighboring village when I realized they were not going to school. I now support them to go to school by paying their schools fees and taking charge of their writing materials. They are on holidays now and they love helping me sort the cassava. I couldn’t have done this if my business wasn’t doing well. Thank you, ActionAid. On behalf of the women farmers in Okpuitumo community, I say Thank you! You have transformed our lives.’’

Photo 1 – Lolo Ugoeze Eucharia Ngozi Ukpa with her husband, Eze Ukpa Kiji

Photo 2 – Lolo Ugoeze Eucharia Ngozi Ukpa with her son (aspiring Revered) and her adopted daughters

Photo 3 – Lolo Ugoeze Eucharia Ngozi Ukpa and her daughters say Thank You for training them on cultivating healthy cassava

Photo 4 – Lolo Ugoeze Eucharia Ngozi Ukpa, her husband and ActionAid facilitator say Thank you!

 

 

ActionAid’s of health centre ends child delivery through Traditional Birth Attendants in Euphuenyin Community

 

‘’6 months ago, I gave birth to my 4th child at Euphuenyin community health centre which was built by ActionAid. It is the 2nd time I am giving birth at the health centre. I also had my 3rd child there. Journey to motherhood has been a smooth ride since ActionAid built the health centre in the community in 2008. Before, the use of traditional birth attendants (TBA) was the order of the day. Now, I haven’t heard about a delivery made by the TBA in the last 4 or 5 years. I had my 1st and 2nd children using the TBAs. I was given herbs to drink and bath with all through my pregnancies with both children. One thing I noticed on both occasions was that, the babies when born usually have some rashes all over their bodies and they were very tiny and didn’t weigh very much when carried.  I also eventually resort to taking them to the hospital to treat the rashes on their bodies. However, with the last two children that I gave birth to at the health centre, it was different, they looked fresh and health and I know it is because I attended antenatal at the hospital regularly and was given multivitamins to take.

 

The multivitamins are always free and antenatal checkup are totally free too. In 2010, ActionAid introduced another maternal health care organization to about 6 communities including mine, Euphuenyin community. The organization is called AMURT (Ananda Marger Universal Relief Team). Since AMURT got to the community, all antenatal and post-natal care are given free of charge including immunizations. AMURT team initially started operating from a room inside the health centre built by ActionAid but since the number of patient they attend too has increased over the years as women from various communities now come to Euphuenyin for ante and post-natal care, AMURT had to construct an open hall to be attending to patients. I am a beneficiary of these free care. Thanks to ActionAid, my community wouldn’t have had a health care and on behalf of all the nursing and pregnant mothers too, I say thank you for bringing AMURT to us. ‘’ says 28-year-old Endurance Orogwu.

The use of traditional birth attendants is no longer prevalent in Euphuenyin community and till date, over 500 women across Euphuenyin community and its neighbouring villages have given birth at the community health centre. ActionAid in its quest to continue to encourage pregnant and nursing mothers to use the health centre for the treatments engaged with AMURT who provides free treatment to nursing and pregnant mothers. Government has also been responsibly taking charge of the medical supplies of the health centre and has 4 health workers working at the health centre. With support from AMURT, the health centre has 15 other health workers being paid by AMURT who provides daily, weekly and monthly treatment to all the nursing and pregnant women.

The provision of the health centre by ActionAid to Euphuenyin community has saved thousands of women living in Euphuenyin and its environ from the use of traditional birth attendants and child/maternal mortality.

‘‘I am a mother of 4 boys; my eldest son is 10 years old and my last son is 6months old. I am a farmer and I cultivate rice, cassava and maize while my husband is a fisherman but also farms too. I finished my senior secondary school in 2006 as a science student and I look forward to going to the university to study Nursing. I intend fulfilling that dream immediately I finish weaning my son. The provision of the health centre by ActionAid coupled with the activities of AMURT has fueled my interest in becoming a Nurse. Thank you, ActionAid.’’

Photo 5 – Endurance says thank you!

Photo 6 – Endurance and her children

Photo 7 – Endurance on her farm

Photo 8 – Endurance and her last child at the health centre constructed by ActionAid

Income generating equipment helps Ovuoba women in promoting academic excellence.

In 2015, as part of its activities to promote enrolment and retention of children in school as well as promoting financial independence for women in Ebonyi state, ActionAid provided income generating equipment for Ovuoba community and 2 other communities across Abakaliki local government.

The chairlady of Ovuoba community women cooperative, Agnes Oshibe (30) and a mother of 4 (2girls and 1 boy) says ‘‘Within the last 9 years, ActionAid has continually trained us on human right and women’s right through our peer education training. Most importantly, I have learnt about the importance of sanitation, hygiene, business independence, importance of education, countering domestic violence and negotiation skills at the home front and with duty bearers. In 2015, ActionAid supported 100 women in Ovuoba community to form a cooperative group. The idea of setting up a group was to enable the women group to be structured which is one of the prerequisite for accessing loans and seed grants from government agencies and organisations, meeting with duty bearers as a group and not individuals amongst others. Each of the women contributed twenty naira each to get the group registered. Within the same year, ActionAid provided the group with a source of income – a complete set of party rental service which includes 110 chairs, 2 medium size canopies and 4 large tables. The essence of having these rentals was to enable the group to rent it out to people within and outside the community for a fee, the fee is then put into a communal purse.

A chair is rented for twenty naira each, a table at one hundred and fifty naira each and a canopy at one thousand naira each. Monies realized from these rentals at the end of each quarter is divided into 4 places; one part for repairs of the rental equipment, another part is used to buy more equipment, the third part is put into a purse for women to access loans and the fourth part is invested into the education of children within the community. These monies are placed in the care of a store keeper who is also one of the 10-woman committee in charge of the rentals.’’

In 2012, ActionAid constructed a block of six classrooms for Ovuoba community and in 2015, another block of six classrooms was added to the already existing one. In addition to this, a borehole was also installed for the use of the school and community alongside a block of gender sensitive toilet. Although, the schools are being taken charge by the local and state government, ActionAid supported the women in the community with the rentals so that they can also take partial ownership of the school by supporting the children and school with basic needs which otherwise would have affected the children’s education or the school.

When asked about how loans are disbursed to the women Agnes said ‘’The request for a loan comes to me as the chairperson of the group and I inform the other 9 members of the committee, thereafter the committee access the reason for the loan request before giving out the loan. So far, all reasons have been genuine, and loans given out are always paid back within the stipulated period given. Till date, 30 people have accesses loans from the women’s savings from the rentals. The highest loan we have given out is four thousand naira while the lowest amount is two thousand naira.’’

A member of the women group, Happiness Idenyi also had this to say ‘‘I sincerely thank ActionAid for the beautiful initiative of giving us rentals and the amazing idea of dividing the money realized into four. I have accessed loan from the women’s purse twice, the first time was to help me pay for my son’s entrance examination into senior secondary school. My son would have missed school by almost a year if I had not paid for him. At that period, I was very grateful we had a women’s group and communal purse I could run too. That opportunity saved my son’s education. The 2nd time I took a loan from was when I decided I wanted to return to school. I finished my primary education but couldn’t further my secondary education, so I got married. Haven interacted with ActionAid for so long, I have learnt the importance of education and I knew returning to school would save me and my family from poverty. So, I took the loan to register myself in junior secondary school. My son is in senior secondary school while I am in the junior school, but I am not ashamed of it all. I love going to school and I look forward to being a teacher in future.’’

Agnes concluded by explaining ways of how the rentals has supported the children within the community ‘‘Every year, we support the education of children within the community such as buying the yearly school materials (uniforms, books, shoes,) and paying the fees of the orphans in the community. Most of these orphans stay with foster parents so we take charge of these to relieve the foster parents. We also provide some of these materials to best student in various subjects across different classes to appreciate them for being studios, encourage others and to basically promote academic excellence. We will continue to do this.’’

Thanks to your child sponsorship, women in Ovuoba community are achieving their financial independence and helping children remain in school.

Photo 9 – Agnes proudly shows us the women rentals at the store where the equipment are kept.

Photo 10 – Agnes and her children in front of the house

Photo 11 – Women in Ovuoba community say thank you!

Photo 12 –  25-year-old Happiness Idenyi is happy she is on the right path to fulfilling her dream of being a teacher!

Photo 13 – Chidera Origbo, 7-year-old orphan and nursery 3 pupil is one of the beneficiaries provided with uniform and other school materials courtesy of the children educational fund saved from the rentals by Ovuoba women cooperative group.

Photo 14 – Chidera Origbo with her foster mother, Christiana Origbo

Photo 15 – Chidera and her friends fetch water from the school borehole

Photo 16 – Chidera and her cousin in front of the gender sensitive toilet

ActionAid’s education enlightenment programmes changing lives in Obegu-Odada community

 

‘‘My name is Ijeoma Ojeogu, I am 42 years old, a mother of 8 (4boys and 4girls) and I am a farmer, cultivating maize, cassava, yam, cocoyam, rice and okro. In 2012 when ActionAid was introduced to Obegu-Odada community, we had so many cultural practices which over the years, we have learnt through sensitisations, trainings and seminars organised by ActionAid are considered bad and harmful practices. Before, Obegu-Odada community practiced girl-child circumcision. We indeed believed that circumcision of the girl child was a very important part of a girl’s life. It was also our belief that a circumcised girl will never be promiscuous. Although, there were times were circumcised girls were died in the process or have problems with child birth subsequently; the practice continued for a long time, after all, it was our cultural belief and had been in practice from time immemorial.

ActionAid through the its local partner, Participatory Development Alternatives organised various sensitization programmes for us explaining the dangers of these practice such as death which we all knew of, diseases because of the cutting, trauma, diminished confidence amongst others. I am proud to tell you that Circumcision in Obegu-Odada has stopped! No one practices this act again.

Another issue we had in the community was the low enrollment of a girl-child in school. Girl children in Obegu-Odada community were rarely enrolled in school because it was our belief that girls would eventually get married and relocate to their husband’s house which could even mean relocating out of the community, as such, parents were not interested in sending girls to school as their importance and impact is believed to benefit the husband’s family and not her immediate family or community. ActionAid in the last 7 years has organised numerous sensitisation on the importance of education especially the girl child education for Obegu-Odada community. Today, girls in Obegu-Odada community are no longer seen as object of marriage, we have an increased number of girl-children who are now in school and gone through schools. Families have also learnt not to put work load and house chores on girls alone rather all kind of works should be for both sexes and I practice that in my house too.

It was because of these sensitisation, that I was motivated to also return to school. I had finished my primary education before I was married off to my husband, but I choose to return to school after the sensitisation by ActionAid and its partner PDA and I am now proudly National College of Education certificate holder popularly known as NCE. Before, I had no source of income and relied on my husband for all my needs alongside the needs of my children. Things have changed now! ActionAid taught me and over 500 women in Obegu-Odada community on the importance of being financially independent and I decided to start a garden in front and by the sides of our house. My husband tried to convince me prioritise work on his farm, but I wanted my own source of money, so I started the garden. I can no longer call the garden a garden but a farm now because I have grown from planting just okro and pepper to including yam, cassava, rice, vegetable and cocoyam which I alternate between dry and rainy season as taught by ActionAid. The large expanse of land beside our house is now regarded as my farm. Proceeds from the sale of all my produce were what I used in supporting myself while I was doing my NCE and I was also able to support my family from it. My eldest children, the twin girls have finished their senior secondary school and are both in a nursing school now. I have also enrolled 2 of my children in a skill acquisition centre while they are on holidays to learn how to sew clothes and knit wools. My finances and my husband’s are doing well and we hope to continue to support our children to realise their dreams. My husband is proud of how well I have come over the years. I finished with my NCE in 2016. I hope to go for another educational certificate at the college of education soon.’’

Thanks to your child sponsorship, bad traditional and cultural practices have been abolished on Obegu-Odada community and women like Ijeoma are helping their children fulfill their future ambitions.

Photo 17 – Ijeoma is happy she has her financial freedom through her one of her farms; the maize farm

Photo 18 – Ijeoma on her vegetable farm

Photo 19 – Ijeoma is happy she has her financial freedom through her one of her farms; the okro farm

Photo 20 – Ijeoma with her last child, Esther a primary 2 pupil enjoying the holidays with her mother.