Thursday, October 14, 2010

Akorshi, The Moulder

Through the contours of these undulating hills of Bendi is Akorshi sandwiched, my birth place. The 4th in a stream of ten villages. Boasting of civility and accommodation, its landscape permannetly marked with evergreen forests that serrate during the dry season.From them came smokes billowing from the farmlands into the atmosphere in our inadvertent corruption of the ozone layer. Subsistence farming being our mainstay economy uptil this day. Here, it is a harmonious blend of man with environment.

Akorshi is sliced by two rivers-Athlelekor and Bekwang. In them we took our early swimming lessons in their even- shallowed depths where we competed with strings of frog eggs, spirogyra and burnt debris of "Arku" during their heats.The rivers complemented the harmattan with their emissive chills in December and evaporated steamy heat during February. In December, we must take our showers in the open streams before we wore our Christmas dresses, shaking vigorously in the harmattan cold. Sometimes, our smart dads gave us our brand new school uniforms as Christmas dresses. After Christmas, we continued using them at school.

The farmlands were usually far away for no man desiring good harvest cultivated the famished surrounds.Through the rugged roads, we learnt the art of survival from the fertiled soils of farway farmlands stoically. Now I know, these rugged roads were the roads of life and through stoicism, we achieve in our various endeavours. Survivng them in Akorshi means surviving them in faraway places.

On days we were miscreants and no food for the day was the meted punishment, we took to the forests where we hunted for rabbits and prepared for ourselves food from wild cassava. Then, we will steal salt and complement the ingredients with okro, 'whouna' or 'whodjun' depending on the season in the bush. Looking back, I reminiscence this unadulterated beauty and persistently ask why did I leave to this urban hostility? Where there are no neighbours and we must sleep with open eyes.

If you appreciate my mould, then give it to Akorshi for its socialization. Where we were told not to make love in the day time because we will run mad and not to pee on the road. If that happened and someone crossed it, your penis will be infested with an incurable sickness. We never dared because we wanted to remain sane.But during the moonsongs, hide and seeks, what we lost during day was fully compensated for. Even at that, we always adhered to "it is not my safe period" instructions from them. Herein lies the shaping of moral rectitude in its offsprings through fearful retributions for callous actions.

Out of this mould came Julius Unimnake Agiopu, my late daddy, Dr. Joseph Ushie, Sen. Musa Adede, Barristers Mike Aniah, Emmanuel Ubua Agiopu, Daniel Ushie, myself and an army of so many achievers I can not exhaustible list here. In all these, no Akorshi indigene has been named in armed robbery, cultism, corruption, prostitution, human trafficking and other vices. This is the measure of the extent of socialization in Akorshi village. This is my village where a good name is better than money.

Now I know that not all villages are called Akorshi. If that were the case, the Police Force will be absent, EFCC will not be established, Prisons will not be there and the crime dictionary will be extinct. So many villages marched on without "Akorshi" and bequeath a distorted society to us, even to Akorshians, that contributed not to it to bear. Out here, we are told it is right to covet, do human rituals and etc but the guarding spirit of Akorshi hovers over and constantly reminds me that my umblical cord is buried in Akorshi.

This is Akorshi, a village in Obanliku local government area of Cross River state. Akorshi gave me so much and I owe it so much more. One day, I shall begin to repay my huge pile of debts.That is the dream. And dreams come true.

- By Paul Agiopu

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Perception of the CTA/UNAAB Web 2.0 workshop

This is my perception of the CTA/UNAAB Web 2.0 Learning Opportunities workshop from 20-24 September, 2010 in Abeokuta, Nigeria

My perception
The organizers/initiators started on a good note by making the application process an online exercise. This is excellent because the very basis of web 2.0 resolves around the internet. It also served as a basis to reward loyal visitors  to CTA website.It also made it easier for individuals to apply by just ticking away at the soft form. Were it not for these things it would have practically impossible for genuine participants to fill the vacant positions.The food was fantastic but we needed more drinking water and better timing. The lectures were learner centered which is good for a practical course of this nature. The CTA branded items really gave us a sense of belonging. The workshop bag was poor while the participant tags ought to be carrying the name of the participant. Accommodation would have reserved for those coming from outside Abeokuta  within the campus because it is not easy to find a place to lay ones head here.

It was worthwhile fun to  attend the first CTA organized Web 2.0 learning opportunities workshop in Nigeria

Thank you

Meeting the Need for Meat and Micro-Credit: Ubam Cooperative System to the Rescue

Bendi is a community of about 8,000 people in Obanliku Local Government, Southeastern Nigeria. The soil is clayey; the terrain is rugged and mountainous with signs of poverty obvious to a visitor. Agriculture is purely subsistent. Even with these vulnerabilities, social ties and extended family system are strong. Meat consumption in average households is rare. Plant proteins and carbohydrates dominate daily diets. Wildlife was the main source of meat but with intense deforestation and infrequent supplies, frozen fish has taken over. The fish is low in quality yet very expensive. Maximizing daily meat consumption is the people’s desire, but rarely a priority, when meeting basic carbohydrate requirement is still a problem. However, the use of meat for entertainment during the New Yam, Christmas and, Easter festivals is a must in order to preserve the integrity and respect for the family head. Cooperatives are common phenomena in Bendi. They are formed to carryout arduous farm work, buy peer uniforms and rotationally contribute money. Under the Ubam cooperative system, groups are formed usually by persons of common interest and similar social, economic and occupational class like market women, civil servants, farmers, church members amongst others. People join Ubam in order to save money and buy meat for entertainment during key annual festivals. Other reasons include; source of microcredit to build or repair a house, pay education and medical bills, buy seeds, or start a business. Loans are granted on first come first served basis except during emergencies like burials, medical and school bills amongst others. The interest rate is 10% per annum. No collaterals are required yet repayment rates are high. Loan guarantors are members of the cooperative and family members and friends of the borrower. Meetings hold on Sundays which are work free. Mandatory contributions made on shareholding basis, include savings and meeting dues. Failure to contribute attracts a fine of 0.66-0.33 US cents. Each share unit cost 6.66-33.33 US cents, depending on agreed terms. The amount saved each Sunday depends on what the individual can afford. Total shares range from 10-200 units. Ubam leadership includes the Chairman, Savings Secretary, Meeting Dues Secretary, Major Treasurer, Minor Treasurer and Provost Marshal. The total dues at the end of the year, ranging from 133.33-3,333.33 USD per group are used to buy fattened animals. The number of animals purchased depends on the total dues and interest realized. On the eve of the festival, the animals are slaughtered and the meat shared. Each person, according to the shareholding, gets as much quantity of meat. The experience of the Ubam cooperative system is unique because loans are easily granted, interest rates are affordable and loan repayment rates are high compared to government and private financiers whose books are full of bad debts. Members empathize with each other in emergencies. The system provides cheaper meat to members and so saves them the embarrassment of not affording meat for the festivities. The system is relevant to society’s vulnerable groups once unity of interest is assured.