AGRIC INITIATIVE (SPONSORED BY TPMS-USA)
The initiative was conceived by Rev. Fr. Andrew Small, OMI, National Director of Pontifical Mission Societies, USA, after the address of Pope Francis to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) delegates in Rome in 2013. The Pope’s appeal was to help reduce food insecurity through sustainable systems and structures in Africa. The Initiative is therefore meant to increase food production, improve livelihoods through positive social impact, make best use of available idle or underutilized Church owned farms and also generate income to support evangelization work of the Church.
The initiative envisages:
- Use of participatory approach to improve livelihoods according to the local needs of each diocesan institution / congregation in line with their identified economic activities.
- Development of clear business plans for implementation as determined by availability of market.
- Collaboration with key stakeholders in Agriculture in each place for better coordination, production and best returns.
- Change in mind set from grants and donations to social impact investments.
This initiative is meant to provide an opportunity for the Catholic Church in Nigeria in particular and the Church in Africa as a whole, to be economically stable and self reliant.
NIGERIAN CHURCH URGED TO EMBRACE AGRICULTURE AND PARTNER WITH PMS
The National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies (PMS), Nigeria, Rev. Fr. George Ajana has stated that the Agricultural Initiative put in place by his office in Partnership with the American Pontifical Mission Societies will go a long way in helping to alleviate poverty in Nigeria and enable Nigerian farmers have sustainable means for livelihood. Fr. Ajana made this remark in his address at the flag off ceremony of the Agricultural Initiative six months training programme for the beneficiaries of the loan scheme for Catholic farmers in the country.
While calling on all dioceses in the country as well as farmers group or individuals to take advantage of the opportunity provided by the programme, the PMS Director further disclosed that participation in the programme by Catholic farmers or groups will enable them to successfully key-in into the Federal Government National programme in this respect. Noting that agriculture is now a priority project and business which the government intends to refloat the nation's economy, Fr. Ajana noted that the opportunity provided by the American PMS Sponsored project must not be allowed to slip-away.
According to the national PMS Director, “The campaign for this loan to help farmers eradicate poverty and ensure food security in our land started since 2014. Since then we have been sensitizing our Bishops during their annual plenaries, priests, religious (male/female) and the lay faithful during my Mission animation visits to dioceses. The climax of this awareness creation came last year September, when we invited Rev. Fr. Andrew Small, the PMS National Director of the United States who actually is the brain behind the agricultural initiatives, to Nigeria when he addressed the Catholic Bishops' conference of Nigeria (CBCN) at their second plenary meeting in Jalingo.”
Speaking further on the advantage of the programme, Fr. Ajana declared: “This initiative and intervention is coming at a time when the foreign grants are going down. Most especially now that the PMS funds are dwindling. This has made the subsidies to seminaries and other houses of formation to be cut down very drastically! The number of projects to Dioceses is now being reduced and even the amount given for the projects are no longer as high as before. Therefore, the best solution to this problem is to go the way of self-reliance! To go back to the farm or be engaged in agriculture therefore is one of the best ways to sustain the people of and the Church in Africa.”
Fr. Ajana disclosed that the pioneer participants at the training programme are from different dioceses and congregations who have keyed-in into the programme and called on those who are qualified add are yet to join to make up their minds and join the project. While thanking all those who have made the realization of the programme possible, especially the America PMS and Bishops' Conference; the authorities of the Federal University of Technology, Akure, the Bishop of Ondo Diocese, Most Rev. Jude Arogunda and others who have contributed in one way or the other; Fr. Ajana called on the participants to live up to expectations and ensure the success of the programme. He reminded them that apart from the fact that the money involved is a loan and not a grant, the responsibility trusted on their shoulders is enormous and they cannot afford to fail and disappoint those who sent them there.