Analysis and Critical Review of Rural Development Efforts in Nigeria, 1960-2010

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INTRODUCTION

Rural development in the world generally and in the third world in particular has assumed the front-burner status since early eighties because governments have realized that except given the seriousness it deserves and closing the gap between theory and practice in this area, the goals of achieving accelerated national development especially at the rural level which is the grassroots base, will remain elusive at least in the third world. One major reason for this assertion is that taking Nigeria as an example, the bulk of the population lives in the rural areas, which is the grassroots where development is most desirous. Apart from this lopsided population ratio, the bulk of the rural areas are poor and hardly live above the poverty line of one American dollar per day. More importantly, development is measured mostly on the scale of per capita income of nations, which is the ratio of the gross national income to entire population. Therefore, the development of rural areas signals to a greater extent the level of national development and the situation of the nations in the development ladder.

Buttressing this assertion, Idode (1989), citing a portion of the 1975-80 Nigeria National Development Plan stated that:

   It is necessary to recognize that about 70% of the Nigerian
   population live in the rural areas and have benefited relatively
   little from the rapid economic growth of the past few years. The
   improvement in the welfare of the average Nigerian will therefore
   require substantial increase in rural income. Accordingly, in the
   allocation of scarce resources, in the course of plan
   implementation, priority will be given to programmes and projects
   directly benefiting the rural population, particularly projects to
   increase the income of small holder farmers and to improve the
   economic and social infrastructure to the rural area.

There is therefore, reason to believe that the question of how to accelerate expansion in the agricultural sector and how best to improve welfare for the masses of the people in the rural areas is now the focus of considerable government attention. It is however sad to observe that from independence to date, there has been a great disparity between successive government pronouncements and the establishment of various development agencies towards attaining rural development and the actual results of implementation efforts. The concern of this chapter is to explore the meaning of rural development, how it can be accelerated; its sustainability in Nigeria especially at the local government level; examine the major institutions involved in the task of rural development in Nigeria and proffer the way forward for accelerated and sustainable rural development in the country with specific reference to Cross-River State Local Government Councils.

1. CONCEPTUAL CLARIFICATION OF RURAL DEVELOPMENT

The word "rural" means different thing to different people. The American Bureau of Census classifies a group of people living in a community having a population of not more than 2,500 people as rural, whereas in Nigeria, the Federal Office of Statistics defines a community with less than 20,000 people rural.

Generally speaking, according to Afolayan (1995), rural areas are easily identified by other various criteria, apart from population. Such criteria include:

a) Level of infrastructural development i.e. road networks, educational institutions, water supply, electricity, health facilities, communication, etc. The rural area lacks most if not all of these infrastructures and where they are available the quality as well as quantity is usually below desirable standard;

b) Occupational differentiation: Most rural dwellers earn their living by engaging in subsistent agriculture production;

c) Housing: Housing in rural areas are generally below the standard an average person will be proud of;

d) Extent of community planning: Community development activities in the rural areas are often carried out with little or no planning at all, such that future development activities cannot be undertaken without interfering with the existing structures;

e) Arising from the combination of the above factors is a characteristic abject poverty when related to the economic buoyancy of urban centers. …