What It Means To Be A Rural Woman And A Rural Farmer In Nigeria (1)

(By Mamun Mallam)

If you have not come into contact with a woman that spends four to five hours of her daily life fetching water with a baby strapped to her back and River Niger just about seven kilometers away, or if you have not watched a helpless woman watch her helpless child die from malaria or diarrhea, or a farmer that could go half of the year in hunger because there is no road that could easily link his produce with the market, you could be excused for dismissing attempt to empower community members to address these needs themselves.

NIGERIAN governments have at various times, consciously or unconsciously, tinkered with different development models with insignificant results relative to the massive resources expended. When the Whiteman berthed at our shore some centuries ago, he must have assumed that we lack any valuable knowledge and so he produced his own prescriptions for our spiritual, political and socio-economic malaise. These prescriptions, packaged in the models of development that have been used, were evident in the various development plans, programmes, projects and schemes that have been deployed to tackle our challenges. The Urban Development Model, for example, favoured the concentration of development efforts in the urban areas. The implicit assumption in this model being that the benefits of urban development would trickle down to the rural areas. Therefore, our colonial masters situated industrial and commercial centres in urban areas to serve their commercial and administrative interests. And as noted in a report submitted to Africa Economic Research Consortium (AERC) by Oyeranti and Olayiwola (2005), little attention was paid to rural development as it had little relevance to imperial interests. This approach occasioned rural-urban drift, rural neglect and urban decay and over-population with all its attendant consequences, but development never trickled down to the rural areas.

   Another model tried was Area Development Model. This model entails identifying areas endowed with resources and modernising features of human endeavours through a development agency that implement a programme. In Nigeria, this has been tried through River Basins Development Authority and Farm Settlement Schemes amongst others. This tends to create conduits for diverting funds meant for implementing the programme into pockets of officials that implement the programme.

   Sectoral Development Model, which involves yearly budgets drawn up on sectoral basis that takes into account government policies, strategies and projects, has been tried and the results have stubbornly refused to be in step with the efforts. Even the Structural Approach, which advocates transformation of major institutions and structures of the society and tends to tilt towards element of liberation, has been tried with little or no success. Better Life Programme for the Rural Woman of the Late Maryam Babangida and the Family Support Programme of Maryam Abacha, for example, were commandeered by wives of the military officers and other elite that did not wear the rural woman shoes and could not possibly have known where they pinched.

   A major feature of attempts at rural development in the first four decades of our independence is their supply driven nature, which almost always keeps development up there at the top in mansions and bank accounts of policy makers but hardly at the bottom with the intended beneficiaries. The situation was so sad that even some researchers became disenchanted as evident in, for example, Isah Mohammed Abbas’s (1993) Challenges of Rural Development in Nigeria in which he lamented that rural development strategy would continue to remain a strategy, a mere political rhetoric and propaganda. But can the nation afford to let it remain just that? Oyeranti and Olayiwola (2005) exhort that poverty reduction strategies should be worked out based on each country’s economic, sociopolitical, structural and cultural context. And, as stated in the Project Implementation Manual of CSDP (2009), the search for service delivery mechanisms that are demand driven, covering multiple sectors and depending on specific community needs became increasingly necessary.

   Community Driven Development (CDD) is a development initiative that provides control of the development process, resources and decision making authority directly to community groups. The underlying assumption of CDD projects are that communities are the best judges of how their lives and livelihoods can be improved and, if provided with adequate resources and information, they can organise themselves to provide for their immediate needs, (Naidoo and Finn, 2001). According to Susan Wong (2012), the philosophy behind CDD is that involving communities in local decisions is not only an inherent citizen’s right, but that participation can often lead to a better use of resources geared towards meeting community needs. CDD has become a popular development intervention because of its approach towards empowering local decision and its reputation for getting resources to communities efficiently.

   From the participatory paradigm of development that is CDD emerges approaches like the Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) besides the Need-Based Community Development. Some proponents of ABCD have dismissed any CDD approach that is not asset-based and, ironically, from which ABCD has evolved. Instructively, they come from parts of the world that are not in touch with the level of deprivation that Africa wallows in or the paradoxes that the continent is brimming with. If you have not come into contact with a woman that spends four to five hours of her daily life fetching water with a baby strapped to her back and River Niger just about seven kilometers away, or if you have not watched a helpless woman watch her helpless child die from malaria or diarrhea, or a farmer that could go half of the year in hunger because there is no road that could easily link his produce with the market, you could be excused for dismissing attempt to empower community members to address these needs themselves.

   Again if you have not caught a glimpse of joy in the eyes of community members that have just completed implementing their development plan or even a micro-project, or share the infectious satisfaction from the knowledge that they did it themselves, then you can be excused for concluding as John C. Allen (2007) concluded that these method demoralizes local residents because it focuses on negative characteristics. And I do not know where to situate Alison Mathie’s (2002) assertion that the needs-based approaches have often compromised rather than contribute to community capacity building, given that capacity building is not only an important element of CDD, but that community members’ skills and capacity for self development are greatly enhanced as they implement their own articulated Community Development Plans.

   Among the interventions that have utilised the CDD approach in Nigeria are the World Bank Assisted Community and Social Development Project and Fadama II and III. These two projects converge on approaches, but there are marked differences in both mandate and tools. Whereas the Community and Social Development Project (CSDP) is the CDD social, Fadama II and III are CDD economic. Alison Mathie (2002) reported that John McKnight and Jody Kretzmann at the Institute for Policy and Research (IPR) at Northwestern University articulated ABCD as a way of counteracting the predominant needs-based approach to development. Counteracting! The mandate and tools of CSDP may present it as a need-based CDD even though some elements of asset based approach are employed while the mandate and tools of Fadama III may present it as asset-based but some elements of need-based approach are employed. So in Africa it is apt to use one to complement the other instead of counteracting it.

• To be continued

Mallam works as development practitioner in Minna. 

“Opinion pieces of this sort published on RISE Networks are those of the original authors and do not in anyway represent the thoughts, beliefs and ideas of RISE Networks.”

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