How we lifted 2.5m people out of poverty – Chudi Mojekwu, General Manager, ANCSDA

From Obinna Odogwu, Awka Chudi Mojekwu is the General Manager/Chief Executive Officer, Anambra State Community and Social Development Agency (ANCSDA), an agency created in 2009 to fight extreme poverty in the rural communities. The agency, under him, joined the World Bank-assisted community and social development programme (CSDP) in 2018, nine clear years after it took […] The post How we lifted 2.5m people out of poverty – Chudi Mojekwu, General Manager, ANCSDA appeared first on The Sun Nigeria.

How we lifted 2.5m people out of poverty – Chudi Mojekwu, General Manager, ANCSDA

From Obinna Odogwu, Awka

Chudi Mojekwu is the General Manager/Chief Executive Officer, Anambra State Community and Social Development Agency (ANCSDA), an agency created in 2009 to fight extreme poverty in the rural communities. The agency, under him, joined the World Bank-assisted community and social development programme (CSDP) in 2018, nine clear years after it took off in other states. In this interview with Saturday Sun, Mojekwu talks about what the agency has been doing.

 

What really is ANCSDA about? When was it established, and what is its mission? What have you been doing with it?

Well, like the name indicates, Anambra State Community and Social Development Agency, is a full-fledged parastatal established by law of the Anambra State House of Assembly. That was in March 2009. The mandate of the agency is to provide services that are targeted at poverty reduction at the community level. In other words, we assist poor communities and vulnerable groups in various poor communities to deal with the challenge of poverty so that they will be able to have a sense of belonging by living a life worthy of human dignity. These are people that government’s policies and programmes may not adequately address.

You said something about reducing poverty. How do you do it? Do you give them money to start businesses of their choice or something?

We follow an approach called CDD – Community Driven Development approach whereby the communities are placed on the driver seat. They assess themselves, appraise themselves and come up with their own priority needs. They implement, monitor, supervise, evaluate and maintain it; everything from A to Z. What we do is give them necessary technical, administrative, managerial training and support them with funds. With this training, they use the funds in a responsible manner for their own development. He who wears the shoe knows where it pinches. We these communities as people who have some capacities and competencies; and all that they’re looking for from government is help, and they move on with their lives. You see a community that produces all manner of foods but a culvert of N200 to N500, 000 won’t allow them to evacuate those produce from their farms to the market. And for that they sell it off at giveaway prices in the farm. The middlemen will come and take the money and they remain in their poverty. Some of them, their problem is not having simple market stalls or open market stalls as the case may be where they can keep their goods and sell at premium price. Basic primary healthcare centres, they don’t have; education facilities, schools are not there. The ones there are dilapidated and not equipped. Roads; we are not talking about highway roads but passable roads; earthen roads so that they will be able to ply their motorcycles, tricycles, bicycles and even those that still use head loads, they’ll be able to move along the roads. It is a multi-sectoral approach to poverty reduction. And the focus was on infrastructure so that they can move some rungs higher in their effort to escape the trap of poverty.

From the time you came on board as the head of this establishment, how many communities have you covered? What would you say is your mileage?

Although the agency was established in 2009, it actually commenced operation in 2018. And we came in to implement the World Bank assisted Community and Social Development Project (CSDP). About 125 communities expressed interest to participate in the project. Given the very limited time available to us, we were able to intervene in 62 communities. We were able to assist them to come up with their community development plans or group development plans. When we say group, we are referring to vulnerable groups. We were able to assist them to complete 250 micro projects. I have already mentioned the kind of micro projects that cut across sectors in these 62 communities. To the glory of God they were fully completed. Jobs were created. About 81 permanent jobs were created while 3,600 temporary jobs, directly or indirectly, were created through various livelihood provisions and so on. From our survey, over 2.5 million people, directly or indirectly, benefited. The direct beneficiaries were over 957,605 from the micro projects.

Since you came on board, doing all this, what have been your challenges?

One was that we were overwhelmed by the number of communities and groups that wanted our intervention and there weren’t much we could do in that respect because we had limited time. You can imagine a project that took off in 2009 and you only came on board in 2018 just towards the end of the project. And so, available resources and time in particular, didn’t allow us to intervene or support as many communities as we would have loved to. The second challenge was the COVID-19 pandemic. It erupted with the attendant disruption of the economic activities. That, again, was an opportunity for us to think outside the box because even during those lockdowns and sit-at-home we were still working. We were using ICT. Communities were able to continue with their works, use their WhatsApp and other social media platforms to send us what they were doing. So, with that communication, we were able to monitor and evaluate what they were doing and continued to send money even during the lockdowns. It was a challenge in the sense that we were not in the field as much as we wanted to during those lockdowns. Like I said, money is never enough. We wish we had enough money and time to continue with what we were doing.

You mentioned the challenge of funding. How is this organisation funded?

We have two major sources of funding – the World Bank (the development partner) and the state government. Those were the two major sources of funding for the project.

Now that the project has ended, what is the way forward for your organisation? Are you expecting more projects?

Another programme is on board. It is called COVID-19 Action Recovery and Economic Stimulus Programme. It has a lot of components. Some are in the agric sector, some are in the SME sector, cash transfer and so on. But also, the basic infrastructure is still part of the programme. That’s where we are going to continue. But it has not yet fully taken off. We are hoping that by latest this month, January 2022 that one will take off. That’s the programme we are getting set to implement. It will, to a large extent, sustain what we did under CSDP and also create more opportunities.

When it eventually starts, how long is it going to take?

We envisage it will last for two years. You know everything about COVID-19 is emergency. We are looking at those who were badly affected in terms of their livelihood and income because of the COVID-19 disruptions. The worst hit was the poor and the vulnerable. That’s our target. Whatever support you are going to give to them will be a matter of emergency before it further deteriorates. After the two-year programme, we will see what happens. But it is going to be very intensive and massive in terms of attacking the consequences of COVID-19 on the poor and the vulnerable.

What number of people are you targeting to reach? What number of communities do you intend to cover?

I just told you that it is a programme that has agric, small and medium enterprises (SME), cash transfers to the very poor elderly and so on and basic services components. When you talk about people like that, that tells you that it is quite massive. It is attacking the impact of COVID from various angles. We are hoping that by the time all these are implemented, the poor and vulnerable in Anambra will benefit. This time around it is going to run across both rural and urban because there are rural poor and there are urban poor. COVID-19 actually increased the rate of urban poor more than it increased the rate of the rural poor.

The project you mentioned and the programme that will soon start, who designs them? Is it the World Bank, the state government or this organisation?

Usually, it is always a partnership between the World Bank and the client. The client is usually the Federal Government of Nigeria which we are part of. It is usually a partnership. The bank is assisting with funding but the client is implementing, that’s the Federal Government of Nigeria.

You’re the one on the field. Apart from the ones designed and given to you to execute, are there areas that have not been touched and which you feel should be looked into?

The point is that I don’t see poverty ending in Nigeria tomorrow. The poor will always be with us. What we are looking at is to end extreme poverty. And it is a dynamic thing. The face of poverty will continue to change on a daily basis. Usually, as the face of poverty changes, you think of what next to do.

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