Seefor: A Bottom-Top Approach To Rural Development

BY EMUJI MAGNUS
Rural communities are very critical segment of the society, yet, over the years several administrations have undermined in totality the need for the infrastructural and human capital development of the grassroots. By and large, the violent disposition of the youths of these neglected communities has often be traced to this factor– which is lack of infrastructures.
In a bid to enhance rural development in Delta State, the Community-Driven Development Social Implementation Unit, a sub component of the State Employment and Expenditure for Results (SEEFOR) Project came on stream. The Community-Driven Development Project is domiciled in the State Ministry of Women Affairs, Community and Social Development, obviously as a result of its well established and already existing CDD structure in the Ministry, with the target of driving development to those areas which were, hitherto, seen as begging for government attention; thus resulting in the effective and efficient execution of projects in tandem with the World Bank standard and expectations.
Most interesting is the unique approach employed so as to ensure that the community not only gets a project, but gets their topmost priority through selection and prioritization. Added to this, they are, to a large extent, the executors as well as benefactors of the project, hence they are left with no choice but to ensure the best quality of resources are used for the projects, as they would be the same ones to suffer any compromise of any sort.
The fundable projects open to communities to benefit include building of modern markets, electricity distribution, rehabilitation and equipment of science laboratories, water supply, erection of culverts, construction of classroom blocks, staff quarters among other fundable micro-projects that may contribute economic value to the community. The total package for at least three micro-projects in one community is ten million naira, out of which the community will provide 10 percent counterpart funding while the state government and the World Bank take care of the remaining nine million naira which is 90% percent.
First stage of this bottom-top approach is the first entry visit to the community and advocacy visit, where community leaders and elders are adequately sensitized about the projects. The second visit is one called the Participatory Rural Appraisal visit; where the entire community members are gathered because they are expected to participate actively in key decision issues bothering on the project and then the preparation of Community Development Plan (CDP) that will be sent to the World Bank for approval.
At this stage, after approval had been secured, the Community-Driven Development Social Implementation Unit is therefore, tasked with the responsibility of training the Members of the Community Project Management Committee(CPMC) and the subcommittee members. The climax of it all is the Project Launch where the very first tranche of cheque is given to the community to start off the actual execution of their micro projects.
By and large, 19 communities have been entered and project execution is ongoing in 8 communities; Oreba-Uwheru, Oviri-Ogor, Unenurhie, Orhokpokpo-Agbarho, Uruwghelli, Oviri-Olomoro, Uhuwhre-Igbide and Ibabu communities in Ughelli North, Isoko South and Ndokwa West Local Government Councils. Others are perfecting their CDPs to enable them get approval from the World Bank so that their project will commence.
Very recently, two communities-Oguname-Agbarho and Ewvreni both in Ughelli North Local Government Area have keyed into the CDD project just as the Community-Driven Development Social Implementation Unit (CDDSIU) now has a new Project Director, Mr. Ekpo Friday Ufuoma, who until his appointment was the Chief Community Development Officer in charge of Ughelli North. His appointment as Project Director was occasioned by the elevation of the pioneer Project Director, Mrs. Alice Akpoghene and her swearing-in as the Permanent Secretary in the State Ministry of Women Affairs, Community and Social Development
Delivering his speech during the Participatory Rural Appraisal visit to Oguname-Agbarho and Ewvreni communities in Ughelli North Local Government Council, the Delta State Project Director of the Community-Driven Development Social Implementation Unit, Mr. Ekpo Friday Ufuoma, who traced the historical antecedent of the CDD-SEEFOR Project to 2012 when the stakeholders and community leaders of the 3 Pilot LGAs- Ughelli North, Isoko South and Ndokwa West were sensitized at the councils’ headquarters about the CDD-SEEFOR Project, said that the initiative, which is a World Bank intervention in rural communities in collaboration with the state government will impact positively on the lives of the communities.
The Project Director applauded the State Governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan for keying into the Project with a view to enhancing rural development across every length and breadth of the state, just as appreciated the uncommon determination of the Commissioner for Finance, Chief Kenneth Okpara and his counterpart in the Ministry of Women Affairs, Community and Social Development, Chief (Mrs) Betty Efekodha as well as the SEEFOR Project Coordinator, Mr. Benson Ojoko whose efforts he described as critical factor that led to the success recorded so far in the Project.
While describing the Project as bottom-top approach that provide enabling environment for all categories of individuals in the community such as the elderly, women, youth and men to select and prioritize their micro-project needs and vote members of the Project Management Committee that will oversee the Project, Mr. Ekpo maintained that the approach was a paradigm shift from the usual method where government award contract for projects. He said that the community members were directly involved and in charge of the Project, adding that by so doing, they will take ownership of the project after completion, just as he stressed the urgent need for them to embark on effective and efficient delivery and ensure persistent maintenance and sustenance of the projects.
He advised them not to compromise on standard, saying that World Bank projects must be carried out in accordance with the laid down specifications. The Project Director disclosed that rural communities-Oreba-Uwheru, Oviri-Ogor, Unenurhie, Orhokpokpo-Agbarho, Oviri-Olomoro, Uhuwhre-Igbide and Ibabu communities had benefitted from the intervention, adding that actual project execution had reached advanced stage in these communities. The Project Director, Mr. Ekpo further stated that 19 communities have so far been entered,
Also speaking, the Head of Operations, Mrs. A.A Orubu, who had inadvertently shown proficiency and unwavering commitment towards Community works and her counterpart in the Department of Monitoring and Evaluation, Mr. Shadrack Azemohor highlighted the kind of micro-projects communities could tap from the intervention to include building of civic centres, modern market, water supply, electricity distribution, construction of classroom blocks, rehabilitation and equipment of science laboratories among others.. The two heads of departments reiterated the conditions for communities to qualify to benefit to include the registration of their Community Development Association (CDA) with the state Ministry of Women Affairs, Community and Social Development, and more importantly, the readiness of the community to pay its 10% counterpart contribution, saying that the essence of the project is to empower the people, hence, the need for them to procure materials for the project from any member(s) of the community whose price is moderate as well as serve as a mechanism to create job for the people.
On his part, the Chairman of Ughelli North Local Government Area, Hon. Kenneth Ibru represesented at Oguname-Agbarho by the leader of the Legislative arm of the council, Hon.(Elder) Jefrry Okperin and his colleague from Ewvreni community, Hon. Desmond Duke, who is a Councilor in the area enjoined the people of Oguname-Agbarho and Ewvreni communities to reciprocate government’s gesture by ensuring that quality job is delivered rather than embarking on shoddy jobs that will not last.