Posted on Fri 7 Jul 2017, 03:14 PM

By United Nations (UN) estimate, 60 percent of the world’s population will live in urban areas in the year 2030. Most of the urban expansion will be in the developing world. Nigeria which currently ranks as 13th most urbanized African country will undoubtedly be part of this explosion. Projections are that by 2030, Africa will have more of its population residing in the urban cities. This will doubtless put a lot of pressure on available infrastructure like roads, sewage systems, electricity, public health, fresh water supply etc. To mitigate the situation, development agencies like the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) have advised governments to adopt as part of their national plans an inclusive rural development strategy. A report by the UN stated that one way to encourage mutually beneficial developments for urban and rural areas is to develop more efficient food systems and value chains.

Perhaps this recommendation was informed by tested strategies that worked in many other countries. One of such is South Korea under General Park Chung Hee. SaemaulUdong otherwise known as the SUMovement or the New Village Movement was introduced in Korea in 1971 by General Park. The aim of the community-driven development initiative was to overcome - through self-help and cooperation - the endemic rural poverty and to discourage rural-urban migration among the rural villages of the Asian country. To achieve that, the state supplied materials to the many cooperatives to develop infrastructure in their villages. It was a tremendous success in the area of rehabilitation of village infrastructure, improved environment and increase in household income. More than that, it challenged the will of South Koreans, changed their chronic defeatism and established an infectious enthusiasm sustained by volunteerism at the community level.

Development scholars have since written a lot about the success of the SU movement and have recommended it to many governments.

It would seem that the “choose-your-project” community-driven development initiative of the Governor Willie Obiano administration derived some elements from the Korean model. Perhaps the governor had studied the Asian model, was enthralled by it and decided on its application in the state as part of his government effort to stem urban drift, reduce rural poverty, regenerate rural economies and promote inclusiveness. The project which will run in phases is designed to bring development home to the people of the state.

The one hundred and eighty one communities of the state were asked to choose a project of their choice. Each of the projects, financed from a dedicated pool of about N3.6billion, was worth N20million.  The projects were as varied as the communities are different. Some embarked on building of school blocks, market stalls, health centres, doctors’ quarters, perimeter fencing, drainage sytems, while others rehabilitated existing projects like water schemes, police stations, etc. The projects are executed by contractors selected by the communities and jointly supervised by the state and a committee set up by the communities’ town unions. Funds were released by the state in stages in accordance with the progress of work. The idea is to curtail waste and check abuse of public fund.

Over a hundred and thirty communities (more than two third) have completed their projects and are set for the second round. About fifty of those that completed the first phase have commenced execution of the second phase. The whole idea as stated above was to ensure that basic infrastructure is brought home to the people, reduce unemployment and discourage rural-urban migration. It is fairly right to say the effort has hoisted the state on a pedestal for expeditious growth. Efforts in the past to shore up developments in the rural areas were non-starter. They made no impact as they were mere palliative work. Most of the problems confronting the communities like healthcare challenge, lack of pipe borne water, absence of community school, environmental degradation, treacherous roads and insecurity were not tackled with the decisiveness they required. The yearly intervention on roads and security was palliative rather than curative. Unfortunately, the effort did not yield the desired result for one or two reasons. One, the resources committed were paltry. Two, the communities were not carried along in the choice of projects for palliative work. Three and perhaps the most inhibiting factor was lack of check on spending. Most of the funds ended up in the private pockets of various community leaders. What was more, the communities were less than stirred to clear development as pressure continued to pile on limited facilities.

It is for these reasons, and probably more, that the Obiano government decided to intervene not just by injecting more funds, but by getting the people involved to select and execute projects and to also deploy strategy to check abuse. This does not detract from the government’s earlier intervention in developing the communities through the drilling of boreholes, building of community health centres, activation of palm oil processing factories, distribution of super water pumping machines, strengthening of internal security etc.

It is most likely that by the time all the communities have finished the first phase of their choice projects and embarked on the second, development would have been brought home to every nook and cranny of the state thereby minimizing urban drift and reducing pressure on urban infrastructure. Poverty will be greatly reduced through social capital let loose by empowerment of the communities. It will equally strengthen community leadership cum town unions and help to widen participatory democracy and inclusiveness. Already a palpable sense of ownership and new team spirit has been awakened in the communities where the projects are sited. Not to mention local skills hitherto in disuse that have gained employment at projects sites. There may be no glaring evidence of reduction in unemployment within this time but suffice it to say there was expanded role in social participation by the womenfolk. More than that, the project infused in most of the community dwellers some attributes of self-help, uncommon diligence and abiding sense of cooperation which facilitates social and economic transformation. By the end of the second phase of the project, and if the principle that guides the first applies, Anambra would have taken a giant leap in total transformation.

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