Assessment Of Community Participation In Rural Development Projects

Project and Seminar Material for Cooperative Economics and Management CEM

Assessment Of Community Participation In Rural Development Projects


The study sought to evaluate the challenges and opportunities for effective community participation in rural development projects in Nigeria using in Sapele LGA, Delta state as our case study, and in turn to test the credibility of the popularized supposition that almost all contemporary development efforts characteristically embrace local participation. This matters as public participation is widely assumed to be an essential ingredient for the fruition of rural development efforts. The case examined was to achieve this aim.

The research made use of quantitative and qualitative research methodologies in which various data gathering instruments were used. Among them were unstructured interviews, focus group discussions and questionnaires. The research found out respondents agreed that community participation is an effective tool for rural development projects. The study also established that community participation is an important element for speedy socio-economic advancement of the rural communities. It is recommended therefore that beneficiaries of any rural development project should be mobilized and sensitized to benefit of community participation in Sapele LGA and rural projects generally, selflessness and service to humanity should be fostered by traditional authorities.

Chapter One


1.1 Background to the Study

Rural development from a general point of view is the process of improving the quality of life and economic wellbeing of people living in relatively isolated and sparsely populated areas (Moseley, 2003) which are also known as rural areas. However, despite strategies put in place in form of projects provided for rural people, many do not benefit because of their non-involvement in the project planning process and implementation hence, the emphasis on community participation in rural development project. Rural development is more realistic when people participate in the process of infrastructure provision because at the heart of rural development projects are infrastructures and for the overall goals and objectives to be met, the principle for effective community participation must be adapted (Idachaba and Bankole, 2006). Community participation as a development approach for rural socioeconomic development is an alternative to the top – down approach which has failed to yield the desired result because rural dwellers who are target beneficiaries were not carried along initially (Bankole, 2007).

The term has been conceptualized in different ways in the literature as either public, people or citizen participation, however they all have the same focus, which is rural development (Oakley, 1991 and Afolayan, 2008). Participation is all about inclusiveness, social justice and common good which shows that rural development is community based when people in communities determine their needs and aspiration. The concept of local or community participation in development gained prominence in development discourse in the 1970s and since then literature on the subject has grown significantly, it was through the influence of Paolo Freire’s work on the concept of conscientization and analysis of the structural obstacles to the development of Latin American peasantry which stressed the dialogical approach to project work. His argument was that the peasant should be the subject and not the object of development, and this orientation helped affirm the importance of participation. Notably, according to Catanese (1984:124), the idea of community participation in planning had been a long standing and intrinsic part of the history of planning. Thus this words “participation‟ and “participatory‟ development (Rahnema, 1997:117) appeared for the first time in the development jargon during the late 1950s, Stiefel and Wolfe (1994:21) hold that the term popular participation entered into the international discourse on development during the 1960s and became most prevalent in the 1970s, especially in respect of the field of rural development. Thus at this time local participation became a major concern for United Nations agencies such as International Labor Organization (ILO); the World Health Organization (WHO); the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO); the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD); and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) (Oakley and Marsden, 1994:14). For example, the FAO identified participation as central to future strategies to tackle rural underdevelopment and more specifically, to realize the success of the Small Farmer Development Programme (SFDP) in Nepal launched in 1980, which included the People‟s Participation Programme (PPP) (Bortei-Doku, 1991:61). Since then, many resources have gone into the promotion of participation in rural development. Participation seemed to gain ground again in the 1990s with the hopes that it would emancipate people from the bedeviling crises of their collapsing livelihoods (Maser, 1997:12). This revival was marked by the International Conference on Popular Participation in the Recovery and Development Process in Africa which was held in Arusha, Tanzania in 1990. In the opening statement, of this conference, Adedeji was quoted as saying: “The democratization of the development process, by which we mean the empowerment of the people, their involvement in decision making, in implementation and monitoring process is a condition sine qua non for socio-economic recovery and transformation. African leadership and African people must not desire self reliance but must will it” (Shaw, 1990:20)

The incorporation of the local people in development projects has become a common phenomenon which almost every organization claims to embrace. . However, this acknowledgement seems biased since it has not been the case with “every‟ organization. For instance, at a macro level, the Economic Structural Adjustment Program (ESAP) for most developing countries was alleged by Kanyenze (2004:106) to be a mere imposition by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund which was deficient of local input hence their failure. The concept originated after it was realized that the top-down approach to development did not achieve its developmental goals, which were often very specific material outcomes, and this in turn may have been linked to the lack of inclusion of those people for whom these outcomes were designed (Brohman, 1996). This can be exemplified by the case of USAID which Chiome and Gambahaya (2000) showed as a clear illustration of the negative effects of the domineering role of development agents. In this context it constructed pit latrine toilets in a Bangladesh community without consultations and consent from the local community with the intention of preventing what the implementing agent foresaw as a potential hub for dieses outbreak since the community used to defecate in their rice fields. These efforts by the agent were futile since they were met with violent resistance from the community, which responded by destroying the toilets arguing that it was their cultural practice to use their rice fields as toilets for the sake of increasing productivity. In this context the agent did not consult the community in the first place and this is why the community did not take part and instead destroyed the constructed structures in protestation. Therefore, the current development efforts have been recommended to embrace local or community participation if they are to depart from repetition of the domineering and exclusivist orientation that characterized past development approaches and their negative effects. However, even though the discourse on participation has been widely accepted and emphasized as a feasible substitute for the unwarranted relegation of the local people in implementation of development initiatives, the rapid proliferation of the term and its myriad applications have sparked a great deal of debate and controversy (Chambers, 1992; Brohman; 1996). Consequently this served as a stimulus for more critical enquiry of the concept in the contemporary epoch as is the preoccupation of this particular research. Furthermore, despite its wide acceptance as a useful approach to rural development, Makumbe (1998) submits that its proclamation has been more rhetorical than it has been practical inasmuch as there have been overwhelming evidence of limited cooperation from local people due to their marginalization from participation in its proper sense, a case in point is the Bangladesh case alluded to by Chiome and Gambahaya (2000) above. As such, the concept of community participation has remained a key theme in development discourse for the past few decades, yet a variety of literature alleges that there is no significant transformation from development agents‟ notions of the local people as passive recipients of predesigned development projects (Makumbe, 1998; Kanyenze, 2004). During the preceding decades, African countries and many others in the developing world have witnessed an unparalleled surge in programs and projects aimed at providing solutions to development woes that have been troubling them (Howard, 1998). Conversely, these efforts have remained in vain since they have left out the „victims‟ in the identification, planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of projects aimed at averting their fate (Kottack, 2001). Coetzee, 2001 further notes that this logjam has precipitated from the failure of these programs to include analyses of social and cultural phenomena, which influence the relationship between people and development. Awori (1996:1) have noted that, fundamentally lacking in these approaches has been the peoples‟ dimension which incorporates their indigenous knowledge, experiences, technologies, aspirations, skills, wisdom, culture and local governance systems. This is best explained by the reasons why USAID failed in Bangladesh and ESAP failed in most developing countries as alluded to above by Chiome and Gambahaya (2000) and Kanyenze (2004).

1.2 Statement of the Problem

The research is premised on the understanding that the concept of community participation as widely advocated for by the participatory development paradigm has not lived up to its billing of ensuring the practical and meaningful involvement of the local people in development projects in rural communities. It is clear from evidence in the literature that the concept has not brought the results expected of it due to marginalization of intended beneficiaries from partaking. In fact, community participation has been largely rhetorical and has remained elusive in the realm of practice in rural development projects. Not with standing its theoretical popularity in the discourse of participatory development, the concept has been over-rated and oversold by development agents and governments in developing countries. These have fallen into the trap of taking the phrase participatory development at face value yet in pragmatic terms it has grossly been deficient in project implementation. What is even more salient is the realization that, community participation exercises are gradually and explicitly degenerating into distanced undertakings where ordinary people have mostly become recipients of pre-designed programmes, often a product of administrative manipulation. It would seem to mean that development agents are determined to impose their own version and understanding of community participation on particular communities (Brohman, 1996: 34). Therefore, it is against such a setup that the research aims to untie and redefine the concept of community participation as it relates to decision making in selection, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of development projects by the targeted beneficiaries, through exploring the challenges that could be militating against these realms of participation. The study sought to review community participation with the view to suggest specific remedies to inform more meaningful forms of engagement, dialogue and empowerment at local level. The research, therefore, shall evaluate whether the nature of community engagement in Sapele LGA, Delta State is promotive of local participation and suggest numerous conceptual and practical steps that development agents and the local people should adhere to if otherwise, for the institutionalization of effective involvement of local people in development initiative

1.3 Aim and Objectives of the Study

The research’s primary aim is

  1. To ascertain the meaning and practice of community participation in current rural development efforts.
  2. To elicit the challenges faced by development organizations and local residents in effective participation in development projects.
  3. To assess the extent to which it is possible to institutionalize effectively community participation and consequently account for the challenges and prospects of such efforts to directly involve the local people in development endeavors.
  4. To make recommendations on the solutions to problems encountered in community participation in rural development projects.

1.4 Research Hypotheses

Hypothesis One
  • Hi: There is no significant relationship between community participation and project planning process and implementation or result.
  • Ho: There is a significant relationship between community participation and project planning process and implementation or result.
Hypothesis Two
  • Hi: Community participation is not an effective tool for rural development projects.
  • Ho: Community participation is an effective tool for rural development projects.

1.5 Significance of the Study

Wilcox (1996) had noted that although the concept of community participation has virtually moved to mainstream development since the mid-1980s, many attempts at institutionalizing community participation have been characterized by partial success, because development practitioners are often unclear about where and which level of participation is feasible. However, suffice it to say that bringing communities to „talk about a community project is necessary, but not sufficient for communities to realize project gains (Kottack, 1998: 67). Therefore, participation is most likely to be effective when the different interests groups in a project are satisfied with the level at which they are involved. This research is aimed at exploring this gap to obtain the opinions of communities about what participation means to them – where and at what level participation should occur? This will then be useful to ascertain conditions that might promote or inhibit communities from attaining the full benefits of participation. The findings and recommendations could be used in rural development planning and implementation of rural development strategies. This particular research would be helpful in casting light on the nature of participation in this particularly community. This would ascertain whether the participation is active or passive, direct or indirect and voluntary or coerced. Besides, the research would also bear a positive effect in enlightening the community of its need to be directly part of activities that affect its wellbeing in the long run. It would also appraise the scant studies of community participation which have previously focused on the impact of participation on the overall project outcome and overlooking the need to ascertain whether there is that participation in the first place. As a consequence, this could be a positive point of departure for any endeavors to influence the nature of community engagement towards a more participatory orientation.

1.6 Scope and Limitations of the Study

This study attempted to assess community participation in rural development projects in Sapele LGA, Delta state.

1.8 Organization of the Study

This research work is organized in five chapters, for easy understanding, as follows Chapter one is concerned with the introduction, which consist of the (overview, of the study), historical background, statement of problem, objectives of the study, research hypotheses, significance of the study, scope and limitation of the study, definition of terms and historical background of the study. Chapter two highlights the theoretical framework on which the study is based, thus the review of related literature. Chapter three deals on the research design and methodology adopted in the study. Chapter four concentrate on the data collection and analysis and presentation of finding. Chapter five gives summary, conclusion, and recommendations made of the study.

Chapter Five

Summary, Conclusion and Recommendation

5.1 Introduction

It is important to reiterate that the objective of this study was the effect of community development in rural development projects.

In the preceding chapter, the relevant data collected for this study were presented, critically analyzed and appropriate interpretation given. In this chapter, certain recommendations made which in the opinion of the researcher will be of benefits in evaluating examine the effect of community development in rural development projects.

5.2 Summary

This study was undertaken to examine the effect of community development in rural development projects. The study opened with chapter one where the statement of the problem was clearly defined. The study objectives and research hypotheses were defined and formulated respectively. The study reviewed related and relevant literatures.

The chapter two gave the conceptual framework, empirical and theoretical studies. The third chapter described the methodology employed by the researcher in collecting both the primary and the secondary data. The research method employed here is the descriptive survey method. The study analyzed and presented the data collected in tables and the hypotheses were tested using the chi square to test hypothesis. While the fifth chapter gives the study summary and conclusion.

5.3 Conclusion and Recommendations

This study reveals that adult educational programmes will significantly influence family planning among couples, that the socio-economic status of couples will have significant effect on their level of family planning also that religious belief of couples will significantly have relationship with their level of family planning. We found that there is a significant difference between the attitude of the educated couples towards family planning and those who are illiterates. This shows that adult educational programmes’ has significance influence on the level of family planning among couples in Ikeja Local Government Area of Lagos State.

Level of significant relationship that exist between community participation and project planning process and implementation or result has a p-value of 0.0001 which shows a significant relationship. The findings also revealed that 60% of the respondents agreed that community participation is an effective tool for rural development projects. The study also established that community participation is an important element for speedy socioeconomic advancement of the rural communities. It is recommended therefore that beneficiaries of any rural development project should be mobilized and sensitized to benefit of community participation in Sapele LGA and rural projects generally, selflessness and service to humanity should be fostered by traditional authorities and NGO focusing on women should be deliberately organized to channel women empowerment and participation.

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