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The purpose of this study was to examine the relevance of self-help projects in rural development in Nigeria, with a focus on some communities in the Ado-odo/Ota LGA. It has been observed that successive governments in Nigeria have neglected rural communities for too long. There is very little evidence that previous government policies have had a significant impact on improving the quality of life of over 70% of Nigerians living in rural communities. The main objective was to define the role of self-help efforts in the development of rural communities to sensitize rural communities to initiate and implement self-help projects. A combination of primary and secondary information sources was used to identify the data required for the study. A total of 200 questionnaires were completed, of which 183 were considered valid and suitable for the study. Data was also collected in the relevant revised literature, including magazines, manuals, newspaper sheets and other printed and electronic materials. Three hypotheses were formulated and tested to provide verifiable answers to the problems and objectives of the survey. The result showed a significant correlation between community self-help projects and rural development. between the willingness of people to participate in self-help measures and the state of rural development; and between the government's insistence on rural communities and effective rural development efforts. The key finding is that planning and implementing self-help projects has stimulated the development of rural communities despite opposition to rural development in Nigeria. While the government was distancing itself from rural areas to meet the needs of the population, it had to take the initiative to meet their needs. As a result, this study called for greater involvement of local communities in project planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation. The study concludes that the introduction of the self-help philosophy will bridge the gap in economic and social development between urban and rural areas of Nigeria, thereby improving the economic and social conditions of the rural population.



1.1 Background To The Study

Rural community development through self-help approach is an age long social activity in our society. Even before the advent of the colonial administration, people had at different time in history organized themselves into group and had employed communual resources to provide physical improvement and functional facilities in their respective localities. For example communual labour was employed in constructing homesteads, clearing farm lands, roads and even some public utility, building such as “Obas” palace, market stalls and town halls (Journal Central European Agriculture volume 7 2006).

Some past attempts to achieve rural development in Nigeria failed due to the oil boom in the 1970s which gives the people erroneous impression that government should provide all their needs. Consequently the spirit of self- help was relegated. However, the present economic reality in the country has made the people find a lasting solution to the social and economic problems of their communities through self-help approach. The community development association develop their rules and regulations themselves, plan and execute their programmes with very little or no interference from external bodies. Specifically their activities involves holding meetings to discuss their programmes and projects, identification of their felt needs, participation in their community development project activities through supplying of labour, contribution of money and ideas. Their focus is to enhance community infrastructure through improved education, access to more advance medical treatment, increased economic opportunities and myriads of small community development initiatives.

The use of self-help approach in community development is considered as a process of social action in which the people of the community organized themselves for planning action, making groups and individual plans to meet their needs and solve their problems. They execute the plans, with a maximum reliance upon community resources and effort. Self-help approach involve the fullest participation of all the members in the community. Participation of individual in rural development activities is an act of involving residents in a project which requires a democratic approach. The belief is that, all members make their contribution to those problems which affect them.

Community self-help projects are very important intervention strategies for social empowerment, alleviation of poverty, income generation and provision of employment. They act as a catalyst for social development in the rural areas. Self-help projects in rural areas may consist of infrastructure projects such as water, sewer and solid waste, community facilities to housing, essential services such as health care, public safety and education, as well as affordable housing projects. In cities, these types of projects are typically planned ahead of need, and services are often provided by a single governmental body. In rural areas, however, services and infrastructure may be provided by a number of different entities, including non-profit corporations. Thus, the main idea of self-help projects and rural development is that a community should help itself by providing its felt needs (Okwakpam, 2010).

In many rural towns, lack of critical infrastructure limits other forms of community and economic development.  Poor performance of government in meeting the socioeconomic quests of citizens has been identified as one of the reasons behind the proliferation of self-help projects. It is in this regard that the rural community jointly complements or fills the shortcoming of government efforts in the development of the community. It is the belief, therefore, that through self-help projects our various communities can develop better.

1.2       Statement Of The Problem

It has been observed that in spite of abundant natural, physical and human resources Nigeria is endowed with, there is still high incidence of poverty in Nigeria especially in the rural areas. A quick glance at the communities within the Ado-Odo/Ota Local Government Area will reveal the neglect of these communities by the government, and the larger society. Some of its problems include unavailability of motorable roads, poor housing conditions, irregular power supply, inefficient communication systems, absence of relaxation centres, dearth of job opportunities, as well as intolerable living conditions.

Only about 30% of the Nigerian population have access to portable water supply. Very few rural communities are undoubtedly inclusive of this figure. Most of the communities lack or have poor access to portable water, and are consequently faced with high rate of diseases associated with water and unhygienic environment. These include skin diseases (basically eczema), malaria, typhoid, and diarrhoea. Other factors are: increased absenteeism from schools; increased physical burden on the elderly women; and so on.

There are some communities that have water schemes, but do not have access to the water due to insufficient electric voltage to power the borehole. Even the transformers are overloaded and could hardly serve the power demands of the community members let alone powering the boreholes. Consequent to this, many small and medium scale enterprises leave the communities in search of electric power to support their businesses. Some of the indigenes that own salons, welding businesses and other small and medium scale enterprises are put out of job. This has contributed to the increasing unemployment and increased crime rates. 

The road network is generally in poor condition with the problem being more with the quality and maintenance than with the number of roads. For instance, the road that links LagosAbeokuta Expressway to Owode via Ota town very close to the palace of Olota of Ota is in a very dilapidated state.

Most rural communities are in dire need of affordable housing, judging by the large number of homeless individuals on the streets, under the bridges, and in every nook and corner of the communities. Majority of those with houses merely have a shelter to roof their heads at night, and not necessarily a comfort zone that the word ‗house‘ connotes. Very often, it is heard that buildings collapse, as a result of the cheap and low-quality material used in erecting the buildings. A lot of lives have been lost to collapsed buildings. This situation ought to be addressed by community associations as well as the government to set standards for building construction and housing arrangements. In respect to housing arrangements, buildings generally are not planned, and are scattered all over. This makes it impossible to identify certain places in the community. Such areas need to be re-arranged, numbered and addressed to allow for easy identification. From the foregoing, it can be inferred that matters of land and housing are not quite within the reach of community self-help projects, and eventually requires the intervention of government.

Providing essential services like health care, education, and public safety in rural areas is difficult principally due to lack of economic feasibility. Primary facilities or services may be available in larger communities within a reasonable distance, but localities may only be able to support smaller scope facilities. For example, most small communities lack a hospital but may be able to support a small clinic, and students may need to go some distance to attend school. To finance even these smaller scale projects, rural communities often need to find innovative ways to leverage financial resources. Chigbo (2001) opined that most of the rural development projects failed because of faulty goal specification, fraud, and inadequate funding. In the same vein, most of these projects were either borrowed or merely forced on the people, without due consideration of the political and cultural norms, which of course resulted in failure (Adagba, 2002). This study is therefore focused on addressing community self-help projects and rural development in Nigeria with special focus on selected communities in Ado-odo/Ota LGA.

1.3 Aim And Objectives Of Study

The aim of this study is to identify the ways in which community self-help projects can enhance the development of the rural areas. The following are the objectives of this study:

•           To know how individuals and groups in the various communities in Ado-Odo/Ota LGA have participated in rural development programmes and self-help projects in particular.

•           To see what roles community participation by involvement of non-governmental organizations has played in self-help projects in Ado-Odo/Ota LGA.

•           To know if the self-help projects have boosted and complemented government development efforts in the rural communities in Ado-Odo/Ota LGA.

•           To create awareness in the rural communities so that they can envision and conceive self-help projects as well as implement them.

•           To evaluate to what extent self-help projects can positively affect the rural communities in Ado-Odo/Ota LGA.

1.4 Research Questions

This study seeks to provide answers to these questions:

•           Are there ways in which community self-help projects can enhance development of the rural areas?

•           How can individuals and groups in the various communities participate in rural development programmes?

•           What role has non-governmental organizations played in self-help projects in AdoOdo/Ota LGA?

•           Have the self-help projects in the area boosted and complemented government development efforts?

•           In what ways can awareness be created so that the people can initiate and conceive selfhelp projects?

1.5 Significance Of Study

Past attempts at national development ended up dividing Nigeria into two distinct socioeconomic dichotomies which are the urban and the rural. The urban-bias approach to development gave rise to decades of rural neglect because government programmes for rural development never succeeded. Most communities in Nigeria are poverty stricken. Development efforts aimed at reducing the poverty level have not included local people at the conception, implementation and monitoring stages of such programs. The main reason for programme failure was the non-inclusion of programme or project benefiting communities in the entire programme planning and execution. This has often resulted in non-sustainability of many development efforts. 

As espoused by Ajayi (2006), ―one of the primary aims within rural communities in the developing nations is to attain basic amenities such as roads, health centres, school buildings, good market centres and community facilities‖ (Gardener, 1973; Ajayi, 1995). These amenities are needed for a better standard of living. Unfortunately, there is little available government finance, materials and manpower to satisfy the demands of rural dwellers. It is true that persons to whom people living in these areas entrust their power are responsible for making these social deficiencies available. In a country where every man thinks for and of himself alone, the rural people are forced to take initiative with everyone working hand-in-hand to improve living conditions. They are bound to embark on assisted self-help development project in order to strengthen their rural development.

A sound rural community development can revolutionize rural life into fast-growing urban centres (Williams, 1978; Adamolekun, 1991). In an agrarian country like Nigeria, rural development is of prime importance. There cannot be national development without rural development. This study is aimed at identifying ways to build the capacity of local people to realize their potential and, collectively, become more self-confident and self-reliant so that they can take a lead in developing their own communities.


The following hypotheses stated in the alternative form are presented below:

Ho:  There is a no significant relationship between community self-help projects and rural development

Ha: There is a significant relationship between community self-help projects and rural development

1.7 Clarification Of Concepts

Development: Development can be defined as the act of improving by expanding or enlarging or refining. It is a process in which the society passes by degrees to a different stage.

Community: A community constitutes a group of people with similar culture and belief system who agreed together to be living in accord in order to achieve common goals. 

Participation: This is the act of sharing in the activities of a group. Participation in social science refers to different mechanisms for the public to express opinions—and ideally exert influence— regarding political, economic, management or other social decisions. It can be said to be the process by which individuals, groups and organizations are consulted about or have the opportunity to become actively involved in a project or program of activity.

Community Participation: This involves the community playing participatory role, involving in developmental programmes for the rural people particularly disadvantages groups. This is stimulated by their thinking and deliberation which they can effectively influence through nongovernmental organizations (N.G.O.)

N.G.O.: Non-governmental organizations are private groups and individuals that are involved in assisting, supporting and financing developmental programmes and projects to increase and improve the standard of living of the poor and less privileged in a society. N.G.O. is a term that has become widely accepted as referring to a legally constituted, non-governmental organization created by natural or legal persons with no participation or representation of any government.  

Self-help: This is the act of helping or improving oneself without relying on anyone else, that is, the practice of bettering oneself without relying on the assistance of others; an act of redressing or preventing a wrong by one's own actions rather than through legal proceedings. 

Project: A project in business and science is a collaborative enterprise, frequently involving research or design, that is carefully planned to achieve a particular aim.

Rural: This is a widely used term for various organizations that are not part of government, particularly those focusing on development, environment and human rights.

Rural Development: Rural development in general is used to denote the actions and initiatives taken to improve the standard of living in non-urban neighborhoods, countryside, and remote villages.

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