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Opinions of Friday, 25 September 2015

Columnist: Adase-Adjei, Foster

Influencing community development

An insight from a development advocate

Imaginations and realities are not the same. I never fully understood the concept of community development until I was placed with the reality, thanks to ActionAid Ghana.

In my years as a development worker, I have tried to study the concept of community development with the aim of analysing it in my own way. In my mind’s eye, I see community development as a force that brings people together to critically examine an area, issue, or a situation and take a collective action to generate solutions to the challenges that confronts it.
Community development has and will always continue to have a domino effect on the overall growth of a country. In order to reach the status of a “developed country”, the focus and emphasis must be on the community level, diverting upright and expanding into a bigger picture nationally and globally.

For community development to be effective, it must challenge and improve the status quo, disregarding old and bureaucratic norms and practices whilst improving holistic, inclusive participation of developmental strategies.

I agree with other schools of thought that believe that community development goes outside the physical locations of people, instead of extending and reaching beyond to people of common cultures, languages, shared beliefs and values. However, for the purpose of this article, I would focus on the geographical location.

As stated in my previous articles, the essence of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and our donors remains the same: to provide basic services to those who are deprived of essential resources. In particular, we aim to support people living in poverty and marginalized communities. I realise that when it comes to economic development, quality of life, access to opportunities, standard of living and other developmental benchmarks, the gap between rural and urban communities is very wide. This, along with many other factors, necessitate that we have a critical look at community development fully.

The process of community development takes into account the conditions and factors that influence members of a community and changes the lives of its people. Just as Rome wasn’t built in a day, rural development is not a one-off phenomenon that happens overnight. It is a gradual, progressive and continuous effort made towards transforming lives with dignity. It involves long term and holistic approaches with concerted efforts towards an increase in rural resource productivity to enhance and better the lives of rural dwellers.

As a country, we ought to accord rural development to be the highest priority on the ‘must-do-list’ of our government. This is crucial, if we really want these communities to contribute meaningfully to the social, cultural and economic development of our country.

Let me emphatically state once more that no country can develop without taking into consideration the people and stakeholders who constitute it.
The World Bank estimates that more than three-fourths of the world’s poorest people, totaling 1.2 billion, live in rural areas, attributing the importance of urbanization to combating poverty. This results in rural folks lagging behind in development benchmarks.

In some communities, children have to trek over 5km to school and back, fetch water from unsanitary waterways, while agrarian communities lack motorable roads, resulting in post-harvest losses of their produce.

These people, confronted with the challenges and hardships of rural living believe migrating to the cities will provide them with better conditions of living. Unfortunately, they are unaware of the non-existing jobs in urban areas. The neglect and failure to develop our villages is resulting in an exodus of people to the cities, depopulating the villages and making it less attractive for socio-economic investment. As a development worker, I know that the little financial contributions we make results in massive changes in some deprived communities.

In our quest to improve living conditions in deprived and rural communities, ActionAid Ghana, with funding from international donors and sponsors, has supported over 2 million people living in various communities. We guarantee community development by taking sides with the poor and working together to build their power within, facilitating change through community structures, and human rights-driven interventions to inspire sustainable development in the communities. ActionAid Ghana has built over 100 school blocks, facilitated the formation of Parent Teacher Associations (PTAs), School Management Committees (SMCs), trained voluntary teachers, and provided teaching and learning materials as a way of increasing educational facilities in deprived communities.

This is what has been undertaken for the past two and a half decades, however we believe a new era has emerged. With the awareness raising and education creation that has been done over the issues affecting rural areas and the solutions recommended, majority of Ghanaians have a good understanding of how to contribute and affect change in these communities.
We believe that with adequate communication, transparency and accountability, we can work with benevolent Ghanaians who are reaching out to assist people living in poverty.

The time that we depended on foreign aid and assistance has passed and we, as a country and people, need to be the change that we wish to see. This is the idea behind the introduction of our new campaign; Local Community Sponsorship, to give fellow Ghanaians the opportunity to partner with ActionAid Ghana, in extending sustainable community development. We target entire communities, taking into account the needs expressed by the local citizens, without forcing any solution on them. We at ActionAid are noted for initiating projects that create long-lasting and positive change for posterity.

As a society, the willingness to assist others has been ingrained in us for centuries and we believe people will help, so long as you give them a reason to.

This is the aim of our Local Community Sponsorship program, to assist Ghanaians who have the resources to impact the lives of people living in poverty in a more structured and effective way.

Written by: Foster Adase-Adjei
Fundraising & Marketing Officer, ActionAid Ghana