Acceptability of Awango Solar Energy as Rural Development Enabler in Benue State, Nigeria
18 Pages Posted: 20 Nov 2017
Date Written: October 30, 2017
Total Exploration and Production Nigeria Limited (TEPNG), one of the leading Oil and Gas Production Company in Nigeria has a mandate of exploring hydrocarbons. Her operations in Niger Delta region is faced with human challenges of kidnappings, vandalization, armed robbery due to acclaimed high level of poverty amongst host communities. Many developmental interventions had been implemented in most of these host communities under Memoranda of Understand and Corporate Social Responsibilities. Instead of lowering expectations of the youths, community demands had been at the increase. Developmental budget had been on the increase without commensurate value for money. It became imperative to try acceptability and sustainability of intervention in a non oil and gas producing environment. To this effect, TEPNG decided to re-create her CSR to test acceptability, affordability and marketability of Awango Solar energy for sustainable rural economic development in Benue State. Most rural communities in Benue state are into peasantry agriculture. Unfortunately these activities were not supported by micro finance institutions hence credit availability imposed constraint to economic prosperity. This phenomenon had increased incidence of poverty which is predicated on nature and system of rural economic activities. The communities were expectant of assistance, especially from the private sector. Objectives of the research were to; Unravel acceptability and commitment to pay for Awango Solar energy by non oil and gas producing communities in Nigeria, Identify characteristics of rural economy at the Bottom of Pyramids (BoP) to ensure sustainability of Awango project and ascertain available market potentials for Awango solar products to justify impactful CSR to rural communities.
Methodology adopted was Participatory Exploratory Research (PER) where proponents of rural development model were based on context of social dynamics prevalent in the study area. Purposively, non oil and gas producing region was chosen. Ten (10) rural communities close to State capital (Makrudi) without electricity for years were randomly selected namely; Uchen, Adaka, Lower Basin Makurdi farm project, Kpeifi, Tse Kwenyi, Tse Akpum, Tse Upaha, Tse Mbatem Tyomu Yande Ne Km 12 and Tyomu Yande La Km 14. Communities were accessed without traditional structure of permission from traditional rulers. Introduction of Awango product strategically mobilized interested persons from where respondents were selected. Data were collected using Semi structured interview (SSI), transect walk and quick Focused Group Discussion (qFGD). Quick in the sense those communities had frequently been attacked by Fulani Herdsmen. Houses roofed with grasses burnt several times. Therefore, presence of enumerators could trigger reprisal attacks.
A total of 600 respondents were involved in the study. Data analysis was carried out using descriptive statistics (averages, percentages and frequencies) including Likert type scale to produce results that were presented in tables, pie charts and histograms. Results showed basic night economic activities to be processing (43%), petty trading (26%), food vendor (21%) and security (10%). The need for safe solar energy to extend business time without additional cost was unprecedented. This phenomenon heightened acceptability, willingness to pay and ready market for Awango to sustain rural socio-economic businesses.
Typical of Nigerian rural communities, Benue state rural communities were very poor. Food was abundant in poor living conditions. Enterprise knowledge and economic support were lacking hence, middlemen took advantage of the situation to perpetuate incidence of poverty in the area. At the BoP, farming (31%), processing (36%) and Artisans (13%) fuelled the circle of poverty. This created additional source of likelihood to boost income generation potentials of the respondents. A local based Non Governmental Organisation, Gender and Environmental Risk Reduction Initiative was identified and built into an Enterprise model to enhance sustainability through availability, capacity development, access to credit and market linkages. It was recommended that each community should form and register cooperative group to attract access to credit. Functional members of the groups should be trained and mentored by the NGO. Awareness should be created through road-shows. TEPNG should deploy this CSR model to her host communities in the Oil and Gas rich Niger Delta region of Nigeria.
Considering revealed impact of Awango solar energy to socio-economic development of rural communities, its enterprise development potential and job creation, it was concluded that deployment should not be delayed before marketers would import sub-standard products. TEPNG was advised to lunch Awango solar energy as CSR model in the Niger Delta, especially in rural schools.
Keywords: Awango Solar Energy, Corporate Social Responsibility, Oil and Gas Rich Niger Delta, Participatory Exploratory Research, Rural Development Model
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