Alabi Oluwatobi Joseph
Department of Sociology
Nigerian Society and Development: Constraints and Ways Forward Abstract
One of the main issues in development debates is how to tackle rural underdevelopment. The constraints to developing the rural areas as well as the problems of this critical sector have come to loom very large. For over four decades in Nigeria, all attempts to put the rural areas on course of development have failed. Conditions have continued to worsen and poverty has become a major issue in the rural areas in spite of their potentials. Therefore, a major concern to governments, multilateral institutions and policy makers in different countries is to identify appropriate strategy for poverty alleviation especially in the rural areas. INTRODUCTION
The rural areas however present problems that are a contradictory paradox of its natural resource endowment. As noted by Chinsman (1998), rural communities are seriously marginalized in terms of most basic elements of development. In addition, the inhabitants tend to live at the margin of existence and opportunities. Most rural communities lack potable water, electricity, health care, educational and recreational facilities and motorable roads. They experience high population growth rates; high infant and maternal mortality, low life expectancy and a peasant population that lacks modern equipment that can guarantee sustainable exploitation of the natural resources on which they live.
In line with the recent finding that poverty is a rural phenomenon (World Bank, 1990; Fields, 2000; World Bank, 2001), available statistics on the incidence of poverty in Nigeria have shown that, while urban poverty rate increased progressively from 3 percent in 1980 to 25.2 percent in 1996, that of rural areas increased from 6.5 percent in 1980 to 31.6 percent in 1996 (see Table 1). Beyond the fact that rural poverty rate was higher than that of urban rate throughout the period of 1980 and 1996, the range of urban poverty rate between 1980 and 1996 was 22.2 percent as against 25.1 percent for the rural poverty rate during the same period. Again, this confirms that rural poor are the worst hit by poverty in Nigeria.
To date, rural underdevelopment situation in Nigeria remains a paradox, at least from two perspectives. Firstly, rural underdevelopment in Nigeria is a paradox because the poverty level appears as a contradiction considering the country’s immense wealth. Secondly, rural underdevelopment situation has worsened despite the huge human and material resources that have been devoted to poverty reduction by successive governments in Nigeria with no substantial success achieved from such efforts. Nevertheless, since rural underdevelopment remains a vital issue, it has continued to capture the attention of both national governments and international development agencies for several decades. Indeed, since the mid–1980s, rural development has become a major policy concern for governments and donor agencies in all countries, Nigeria inclusive. CONCEPTUAL CLARIFICATION
Development is a complex issue, with many different and sometimes contentious definitions. A basic perspective equates development with economic growth. The United Nations Development Programes uses a more detailed definition- according to them development is 'to live long and healthy lives, to be knowledgeable, to have access to the resources needed for a decent standard of living and to be able to participate in the life of the community. Achieving human development is linked to a third perspective of development which views it as freeing people from obstacles that affect their ability to develop their own lives and communities. Development, therefore, is empowerment: it is about local people taking control of their own lives, expressing their own demands and finding their own solutions to their problems. COMMUNITY
The term, community, has more than one meaning,...
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