Community Participation and Project Sustainability in Rural Nigeria: A Study of Bauchi State Local Empowerment and Environmental Management Project
The concept of participation in development projects is gaining prominence by the day. The rationale is often that community involvement can help to reduce the degradation of biodiversity, address resource use conflicts, improve the community.s quality of life and provide opportunities for economic activities. Other goals include improved governance through building stronger community institutions and increased community capacity, empowerment and voice, which can in turn provide a vehicle for strengthening local governance in other spheres of social and economic development. Thus, participation has now become an established orthodoxy in development thinking and practice. However, the challenge remains on how best it should be pursued in development interventions to improve the livelihoods of the poor. The present study was aimed at finding out how participation is perceived among local communities and how they participate in development interventions in their communities. Data for the study was collected from project documents, project staff, community committees and community members using open ended questionnaires and focus group discussions. A total of 90 respondents participated in the study. Research findings indicate that the nature and extent of participation for the majority of local communities is generally limited to information giving, consultation and contribution. Local
communities are generally not actively involved in decision making, planning, monitoring and evaluation processes. Factors identified as key in promoting stakeholders. participation are the long term commitment in working with the local communities, staff with knowledge and skills on participatory approaches, continuous community sensitization and mobilization, and perceptions that interventions being implemented are addressing participants. needs. Poverty was seen to be the main factor limiting local communities' participation. Other factors are non flexible organizational policies, poor community leadership and
dependency syndrome. Based on these findings, it is concluded that participation of local communities in development interventions is generally limited to .contribution. and therefore not .empowering. to the local communities to take control of the process. The researchers recommend some changes in terms of management structures and human capacity to help widen the scope of participation for local communities.
Key words: Empowerment, governance, perception, poverty & livelihood