By EJIKE ANYADUBA
IT may not be public knowledge, but the Anambra State Community and Social Development Agency- Additional Financing (CSDP-AF), one of the World Bank assisted projects in the state, has empowered a lot of poor communities in the state without attracting attention to itself.
These communities, scattered across 12 local government areas of the state, are among those considered as economically vulnerable and in dire need of assistance based on the state’s poverty map. Shorn of basic infrastructure, the communities are almost always in struggle against need – often improvising to get round them. It took the intervention of the Agency to ease some of the pains and get the communities working again.
The areas of intervention by the Agency were as many as these communities, but vary according to their individual needs. The intervention has been mostly in health, education, environment, water, transportation, socioeconomic development etc. Every intervention made was in strict adherence to the World Bank protocol on project execution.
By the end of April this year, the Agency had completed in 53 communities over 147 micro projects out of 182 so far undertaken. The remaining 35 are at various stages of completion.
Among the benefiting communities are Enugwu Aguleri, Amanuke, Awba Ofemili, Inoma, Ndiowu, Ohita, Okpeze, Umueri, Umunankwo, Umumbo etc. Some of these communities either do not have basic infrastructure or where they do are totally in ruin. At Enugwu Aguleri for example the civic centre was in decrepit condition. The Agency had to pull it down at the request of the community and built a new one in its stead. The story is not different in all the communities mentioned above where the Agency intervened to improve the living standard of the people.
The case of Amanuke was most pathetic. With its major road halved by gully erosion, access to the community became rather circuitous. A journey of an hour takes perhaps two or more to make. An improvised bridge of long stretch of woods was laid precariously across the sinkhole to ease movement. It took the construction of a feeder road and a box culvert by the Agency to stave off constant mishap on the “bridge.” Elsewhere, the Agency provided the communities, each according to their needs, such projects like teachers’ quarters, water borehole, corpers’ lodge, rural electrification, market stalls, box culvert, retaining wall, health centre etc. No community was provided with a project outside of its choice. And no implementation was secured outside of the established protocol.
Although it is not every need of the communities as captured in their expression of interest order has been met due to time constraint and dwindling resources, but suffice it to say that the Agency board has been most diligent and resourceful. Imbued with Governor Willie Obiano’s philosophy of doing more with less, the board, led by the traditional ruler of Nteje, Chief Rowland Odegbo and superintended by Mr. Chudi Mojekwu applied a lot of prudence in the management of the limiting factors.
Unfazed, the management had worked round the clock to pull through the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. As a matter of fact, time and counterpart cash contributions have been the Agency’s major constraints. The latter, especially has been few and far between since the pandemic and its attendant lockdown. But however the challenges and even occasional threat of nature through rain and flooding, project implementation by the Agency has been 80.8 per cent completed. The remaining 18.1 per cent ongoing and 1.1 per cent yet to commence have great promise of completion.
It is fairly right to say that a lot have been achieved through the collaborative efforts of the World Bank and the Agency. First, the economies of the communities since the Agency’s intervention had received a shot in the arm. Two, governance and capacity building have been strengthened within the benefitting communities as well as their social capital base. Over 2000 jobs (direct and indirect) have been created in the course of building and managing the projects. More than that, reliable data and information on the developmental needs of the benefitting communities, groups were created as were smart team of community development managers, practitioners for the state public service.
Beyond control of perennial flood menace, provision of potable water supply, building of access road, provision of conducive learning environment and health services, etc which are some of the tangible achievements, the Agency has clocked important mileage in data procurement for use in future development of the state. With the benefit of hindsight, the direct empowerment of the communities reflects the publicly acclaimed Obiano’s model of development called community-choose-your-project. This has led to faster and more sustainable development. It can be pointed with justice that this pattern of development has not just improved efficiency and effectiveness, but it has handed the ownership of the projects to the communities. The beauty of this is that the projects are jealously guarded and any attempt at violating them vehemently resisted.
It is expected that by the time the Agency is done with implementation of its programs in the communities most of the challenges would have evaporated into a puff of illusive smoke. It is may not be easily admitted, but a lot of the development programs of states do not percolate to the communities. What the Agency has done was to isolate the peculiar challenges of the focal communities and solve them. Those it could not solve due to time and resources, it has its data kept for future engagement.
It is assumed that soon when the pressure of the pandemic would have subsided, implementation of the remaining projects would come through and new ones engaged. The partnership has great promise.
Anyaduba, a commentator on national issues, writes from Abatete.