The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), has established a commercial farm worth about N7million for Bakassi returnees in Cross River
Mr Julius Mensah, UNHCR’s Programme Officer in Nigeria, stated this when he led a team of UNHCR officials on a monitoring tour of the farm.
The farm is located in Ikpa Nkanya, Eyo Edem in Akpabuyo Local Government Area of Cross River.
Mensah said UNHCR established the farm in partnership with Rhema Care, an NGO, in conjunction with the Cross River Government “to render some assistance to persons in need like Bakassi returnees.
“We are here to see some of the activities funded. This mission is very enlightening. It exposed to us some of the things we did not know before we came here.
“The reports we have been getting had been validated because we are now on ground to see what the returnees have done with the minimum resources we have provided so far.
“We have also seen their challenges, their intentions and their needs for greater help to alleviate the situation.
“ We have provided them with 42,000 dollars (N7million) for this particular project since January.
“Of that N7 million provided through Rhema Care, only N2 million has been devoted to Bakassi returnees to assist in this livelihood activities so far,’’ he said.
Memsah said that there were prospects for the project and called for necessary support from government and other international agencies for the returnees.
He said the farmland was acquired for the returnees through the support of Cross River state government and local communities.
He added that the challenge for the refugees was that the farm “ is too far from where they stay at St Mark Primary School Ikot Eyo Edem.
“It takes three and half hours every day for them to go and come from their camp’’, he said.
He also listed distance in transportation, insufficient agricultural input as fertilisers, seedlings and difficulty in getting water and shelter on the farm in case of rainfall as other challenges.
“Lack of access road is a big challenge because if the access road is open from their camp it will reduce the distance by three hours’’, he said.
Mrs Vivian Odu, Director. Department Of International Development Cooperation in the state, said government would provide the returnees with modern farming equipment.
“ The way they embraced the opportunity shows that their future is bright. Already, we are talking with a partner to train them on greenhouse farming and they are ready for it.
“This project is about to change the lives of over two 2,000 Bakassi returnees living at Ikot Eyo-Edem
The Camp Leader, Mr Etim Ene, urged government to support the returnees to sustain themselves.
“If government will support us to solve the challenge of distance, equipment and shelter, 965 households will live and be able to pay their children’s school fees,’’ he said.