Roles and achievements of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in poverty reduction
- Background of the Study
In 2006, the United Nations Human Poverty Index (25) poorest nations of the world where a great majority of the population remain poverty-ridden. The poverty situation in the country has reached such a monumental crisis that it has become a great concern to governmental and Non-Government organizations (NGOs) at all levels (National Bureau of statistics, 2010).
It has been observed that one of the principal causes of poverty in the country is unemployment resulting from joblessness, and the rate of unemployment has been on the increase in the last few years. For example, the labour force sample survey conducted by the National Bureau of statistics (2010), reported that the overall unemployment rate amounted to 21.1% of the total labour force in July 2010, indicating an increase from 19.7% in March 2009, and 14.7% in 2008.
The poverty situation in Nigeria is galloping despite several attempts by successive governments to reduce the scourge. Eze (2009), explains that level of poverty is geometrically increasing. Poverty is deep and pervasive, with about 70 percent of the population living in absolute poverty (Okonjo iweala, Sambo and Mutalar, 2003, Punch News paper, 2009).
The bellowing poverty situation not withstanding, Nigeria is blessed with abundant resources. Chukwuemeka (2009), observes that the country is blessed with natural and human resources, but in the four decades of its independence, the potentials remained largely untapped and even mismanaged. Putting the problem in proper perspective, the country is rich but the people are poor. Given the above mentioned conditions, country (Nigeria) that should not suffer poverty entrapment has being having monumental increase in the level of poverty which has made the socio-economic landscape trail and fragile. Today, Nigeria is ranked among the poorest countries of the world.
The fight against poverty has been the central plank of developmental planning. Fifteen ministries, fourteen specialized agencies and nineteen donor agencies and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) have been involved in the decades of this crusade; about 70 percent of Nigerians still live in poverty. Soludo (2003), agreed that successive governments’ interventions have failed to achieve the objectives for which they were established for. The failure to effectively combat the problem has largely been blamed on infrastructural decay, endemic corruption, and poor governance and accountability.
With the recognition of poverty as a common denominator in the global community, Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were adopted in September 2000, as a report by social watch (2008). The overall goal of the millennium declaration which gave birth to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) was a reinstatement of commitment to free all men, women and children from abject poverty by the dehumanizing conditions of extreme poverty by the year 2015. With reference to sub-Saharan Africa including Nigeria, the inauguration of the MDGs, more or less represents an exit strategy from poverty trap.
The global participation for development which constitutes the substance of 8 reflects, the commitment of the industrialized North to the fight against poverty in the developing world through official developmental assistance. In view of the practical impacts of the MDGs on the different dimensions of poverty in Nigeria, the MDGs have been fully domesticated through the creation of MDGs’ office. Despite the implementation of the MDGs in Nigeria, and the activities of other poverty alleviation agencies, the scourge still remains widespread.
Therefore, given this background analysis, this paper critically examines the roles and achievements of Non-Government Organization (NGOs) in poverty reduction in Ebonyi state. A study of Abakaliki Local Government Area, Ebonyi State, Nigeria.
It is in the light of these realities that the Non-Government Organization (NGOs) as organizations responsible for government programmes and policies, thought it wise to gather stakeholders in the war against poverty to enable them cross fertilize ideas on how to win the fight against poverty.
According to Alliband, T. (1983), Catalysts of Development, voluntary agencies in India, since the late 1970s, Non-Government Organization (NGOs) have played an increasingly prominent roles in the development sector, widely praised for their strengths as innovative and grass root driven-organization with the desire and capacity to pursue participatory and people centred forms of development and to fill gaps left by the countries across the developing world in meeting the needs of their poorest citizens. While levels of funding for NGOs programmes in service delivery and advocacy work have increased alongside the rising prevalence and prominence of NGOs, concerns regarding their legitimacy have also increased. There are on going questions of these comparative advantages, given their growing distance away from low-income poor and communities and towards their donors. In addition, given the non-political area in which they operate, NGOs have had little participation or impact in tackling the more structurally entrenched causes and manifestations of poverty such as social and political exclusions, instead effectively depoliticizing poverty by treating it as a technical problem that can be solved.
Hibbard and Tang (2004), in their studies in Vietnam, have noted the importance of NGOs’ roles in sustainable community development. One of the roles was that NGOs balance the social, economic and environmental factors in promoting sustainable development. Another important role of NGOs that they discovered was decentralization of the central government which helps the local communities to acquire more power in order to make their own decisions. But sometimes the local communities lack specialists to do professional work and resources that are important for the particular projects. In this, situation, NGOs assist local staff with drafting sustainable development plans that are functional under the umbrella of a central government policy. Finally, they concluded that sustainable community development is process-oriented, and it requires network to share resources, knowledge and expertise.
Fadare and Oladapo (2006), how therefore, can NGOs return to their roots and follow true participatory and experimental paths to empowerment? As this paper explores increasingly, NGOs are recognized as only one, albeit important actor in civil society. Success in this sphere will require a shift away from their roles as service providers to that of facilitators and supporters of broader civic society organizations through which low-income communities themselves can engage in dialogue and negotiation to enhance their collective assets and capabilities.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Over the years, poverty affects many aspects of human conditions including physical, moral and psychological aspects. Though, the issues of poverty reduction is a continuing major subject of concern of NGOs in national and international developments. National attempts to ease the problem had been largely in terms of provision of basic needs (mainly food and shelter) in the early 1980s and “Safety Nets” for the poorest of the poor, since the mid 1980 within the context of economic reforms.
The efforts of Non-Government Organization (NGOs) were focused on wealth creation, reduction of unemployment, poverty eradication and also include provision of national platform for other agencies responsible for wealth creation and poverty reduction to play their roles actively (Nwankwo, 2005).
The research on roles and achievements of NGOs in poverty reduction can be achieved easily when the organizations relate with organizations such as National Poverty Eradication Programme (NAPEP), National Directorate of Employment (NDE), Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), Nigerian social insurance Trust fund (NSITF) and Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) in carrying out their initiatives designed to address the problem of poverty.
For many decades, poverty has been posing serious challenges to almost everyone that is a native of Abakaliki Local Government Area, Ebonyi State. It is very few of them that can be proud of three square meal in a day, living in a very comfortable homes and access to things that make life worth living, including access to information. The people have been clamoring for change of this poverty situation by government at all levels in the state (Ebonyi State). It appears governments have been paying no attention to the cry of the people. The poverty level in Abakaliki local Government Area has made it that one can easily say without mincing words that the governments have failed in ameliorating the suffering of the people undermining the fact that provision of basic amenities is part of their basic responsibilities. Therefore, since governments at all levels in Abakaliki Local Government Area appeared to have failed their citizens in terms of poverty reduction, this study is interested in roles and achievements of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in poverty reduction in Abakaliki Local Government Area Ebonyi State, Nigeria.
1.3 Research Questions
The following are the questions which this research work tends to provide answers to:
- What are the causes of poverty in Ebonyi State?
- What roles are NGOs expected to play in poverty alleviation?
- What are the impacts of NGOs on poverty reduction in Ebonyi State?
- What are the strategies employed by NGOs to alleviate poverty in Ebonyi State?
- What is the relationship between NGOs and other organizations in poverty reduction?
- How can the NGOs be encouraged to achieve poverty reduction in the study area?
1.4 Objectives of the Study
The general objective of this study is to evaluate the roles and achievements of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in poverty reduction in Abakaliki Local Government Area, Ebonyi State. The specific objectives are as follows:
- To identify the causes of poverty in Ebonyi State.
- To find out the roles that NGOs are expected to play in poverty alleviation.
- To evaluate the impacts of NGOs on poverty reduction in Ebonyi State.
- To find out the strategies that NGOs have being using to reduce poverty in Ebonyi State.
- To examine the relationship between NGOs and other organizations in poverty reduction.
- To identify ways NGOs can be encouraged to achieve poverty reduction in the study area.
1.5 Significance of the Study
This study will enable government to know the factors that made its plans on poverty reduction ineffective and see reasons and ways to go about them in order to be successful or achieve its aims and objectives. It will enable government at all levels to know why empowerment of its citizens is important to national growth and development.
It will enable NGOs to know the roles they are expected or supposed to play in poverty reduction in Abakaliki Local Government Area, Ebonyi State. It will enable NGOs to see reasons not to be left out in poverty reduction programmes for national development. This research work will enable policy makers to come up with policies that will serve the interest of the masses in order to avert uneven development and empowerment. It will not relent in educating policy makers on programmes that cannot work out properly in a particular situation as regard poverty reduction programmes in Nigeria in general.
To the people, this work will make them understand reasons why they should welcome and embrace governmental and NGOs’ poverty reduction programmes. In this research work, the academic world is not left out. It is quite understandable that scholars are always working tirelessly in making sure the conditions and nature of things in societies change for the benefits of the populace. Therefore, it will enable scholars to find out or know what has been done concerning poverty reduction in Abakaliki Local Government Area, Ebonyi State. Finally, the problems the researcher of this work faced in the cause of carrying out the research work and see possible solutions to such problems in order for them not to come alive any longer.
Theoretically, this study will go a long way in the following ways; most times it is not that the governments in our societies are not effective in their fights against poverty. Sometime, their inability to do so or fight against poverty is as a result of not having the right or working with the right literatures that really capture the socio-cultural and economic backgrounds of the people they are trying to change their conditions of living effectively. Therefore, this study will go a long way in providing a fundamental framework to Abakaliki Local Government Area in particular and Ebonyi State in general for the fight against poverty. It will help to bridge the gap of not having a document that contains who the people are, their problems and possible ways of provisioning of solutions.
To researchers who are struggling like my humble self to see that the poor in our various societies are given the best quality opportunities to maximize their potentials in life and build better foundations and hopes for even generations yet unborn, this work will serve as reference purposes and stepping stone to continue the research on the fight against poverty in our societies. That is to say that other researcher will continue to research on the areas of poverty this work did not fully capture. To the policy makers on the other hand, this work will act as a working document, instead of deploying researchers to work on the roles and achievements of NGOs in poverty reduction in Abakaliki Local Government Area, this work will serve as guideline for them. In will enable them to know the gap in knowledge that has been bridged by this work, and focus their efforts on other areas researches could be conducted in regard to poverty reduction in the society.
1.6 Definitions of Terms or Concepts
- Poverty: This is a state or condition in which a person or community lacks the financial resources and essentials to enjoy a minimum standard of life and well being that is considered acceptable in the society
- Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs): These are organizations or group of people working independently of any external control with specific objectives and aims to fulfill tasks that are oriented to bring about desirable changes in a given community, area or situation.
- Organization: Articulation of different parts which perform various functions. It is an active group device for getting something done.
- Empowerment: To give people more control over their own lives or the situation they are in.
- Government: The group of people who are responsible for controlling a country or a state.
- Role: The function or position that something has or is expected to have in an organization in society or in a relationship.
- Achievement: A thing somebody has done successfully especially using their own effort and skill.
- Impact: The powerful effect that something has on somebody or something.
- Strategies: Plans that are intended to achieve a particular purpose.
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