2 September 2012

Nigeria: Advancing the Fortunes of Rural Communities

The rural communities in Nigeria over the years have been neglected in terms of basic amenities which can bring about development at the grassroot. This is inspite of their numerous contributions to the economy. In this report, OSBY ISIBOR writes on the need for governments to double efforts in advancing the fortunes of rural communities.

The inhabitants of rural communities are primarily engaged in agriculture. Their widespread involvement in agriculture makes the rural areas most distinct and a hallmark of their dignity in labour. The rural areas constitute over 90 per cent of the land area of the earth surface and in spite of the rapid rate of urban population growth in many developing countries including Nigeria, the vast majority of the population still resides in rural areas.

Most significantly, the urban population depends on the rural areas for food as well as supply of basic raw materials for industrial production. Economic activity in most rural areas revolves around the exploitation or utilisation of land. It centers principally on farming, animal husbandry, poultry, fishing, forestry, food processing and cottage industry.

A lot of useful natural resources, which can be harnessed for socio-economic development also abound in these rural communities. This underscores the importance of the rural economy to any nation.

Agriculture is the most important economic sector in terms of its contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the nation after oil. According to report, the sector contributes about 41 per cent of the country's GDP, employs about 65 percent of the total population and provides employment to about 80 per cent of the rural population.

Agriculture which was the mainstay of Nigeria's economy prior to the discovery of oil has been relegated to the background leading to the country's mono-economy status.

However, it is worthy to note that agricultural activities occupy significant proportion of the rural population in Nigeria. But unfortunately, the non-availability of basic economic and social infrastructure such as water, roads, electricity and health facilities, has over the years, constituted major causes of low rural development, low agricultural productivity and low standard of living of rural people.

Regrettably, rural dwellers have continued to bear the brunt of the incidence of fluctuating prices of their agricultural products on the world market. The consequent effect of this is the depreciating levels of income generated by rural dwellers.

Again, it is mainly in the rural sector that much under-spending of planned expenditure by governments occur, as evidenced in the relatively low level of private and public investments in the rural areas. Therefore, government must execute projects that would improve the living conditions of rural dwellers.

As a major contributor to the growth of the Nigeria economy, the need to develop the rural communities cannot be overemphasised. The Nigerian government's efforts in agricultural development over the past three decades have failed to improve the country's economy.

A review of the sector depicts a gloomy picture. Performance is only reflected in environmental degradation, mounting food deficits and decline in both gross domestic product and export earnings. Retail food prices and import bills have continued to increase. The effects of this entire scenario have further impoverished the smallholding farmers, thereby placing them in poverty net.

The rural economy no doubt, is one of the contemporary issues of rural development planning in the developing countries of the world and Nigeria cannot be an exception. Poverty is largely situated in rural areas where the poorest people live and for this reason, efforts to reduce poverty must be targeted at these areas.

Considerable attention and resources should be focused on improving deteriorating condition of rural settlements with a view to alleviating poverty and reducing the spate of rural-urban migration. The gesture would not only fast track development, but also reduce rural-urban migration and arrest social and economic dislocations.

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