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SUCCESS STORY OF COURAGE

The Apani Agro and Allied Investment Cooperative Society Limited

located in the oil palm belt of Rivers State is not your typical CDF group. The twelve-member group based in Elele district, Kelga, was registered in 1991 and owns 50 hectares of land on which it has seven thousand, five hundred (7,500) palm stands. It also has two mills where palm produce is processed into oil. At the time of CDF intervention, the group business was worth about N6M.

Having started out with palm oil processing alone, the group decided in 1998 to expand its business to include the processing of palm kernel, a by-product of the palm oil extraction process. A feasibility study was conducted. The economic climate at the time was in their favor. Their business plan forecasted that they would make N30.8M in sales in the first year of operation.

The group pursued its new project with vigor, investing heavily in raw materials, new milling equipment and the construction of a second mill. Then, trouble struck.

Some commotion arising from theft at RISONPALM Limited, an oil palm farm in Elele caused the State government to shut down all mills in the district. This was indeed a hard blow on the group. Virtually all they had was tied up in their mills. Their new machines had not yet been installed and the raw materials now bound to waste, were already on ground. Unemployment stared their workers in the face. (Eventually, everybody except the security personnel had to leave.) No, they decided, they were not going to fold their arms and watch their investments go down the drain. They fought tooth and nail to get their mills reopened. Detractors mocked, friends failed, but the battle continued. Failure was not an option.

Eventually, after eleven hard and trying months, they won the battle. Thanks to the leadership and drive of Chief John Amadi, President of the group. and the vision, strength, determination and entrepreneurial drive of the group,. their mills were reopened.

They were however faced with a fresh challenge funds. All the raw materials they had purchased had gone to waste. Equipment had run down. All the money they had was still tied up in their investments. They desperately needed money. Banks were unwilling to help.

It was at this point that the Rivers State Government nominated the group for a UNDP/CDF project. The group however did not meet up to the gender ratio required to qualify them for the project. Nevertheless, CDF took an interest in the group and decided to intervene on their own.

A loan of N1M and an institutional capacity building grant of N180,000.00 was approved for the group. The group however ended up taking only half of the loan it was all they needed to resuscitate their business.

They bought raw materials, and expanded their productive machines, fabricating a steam boiler, a hydrolic press, a clarifier and a sterilizer.. In a short while, they were back in business, thanks to CDF intervention.

Today, the business has a yearly turnover of at least N45M, 7% - 10% of which represents their profit. They also have a newly completed soap factory, which they expect to double their turnover when it goes into operation. Plans are underway to establish a refinery for processing vegetable oil. They have certainly come a long way. The group is an example of how an organization can grow from micro to small to big.

In designing its intervention at Apani, CDF drew from its experience with the Elele-Alimini Oil Palm Processing Company Society. This story will be told at a later date.

 

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