Assessment of youths involvement in self-help community development projects
This study assessed the involvement of youths in self-help community development projects in Nsukka Local Government Area of Enugu State. Five research questions and two hypotheses guided the study. The research questions were analyzed using mean and standard deviation, while the t-test statistics was used in testing the hypotheses. The population for the study was 4, 012 respondents, comprising 4, 004 registered members of community based youth organizations and 8 community leaders. The sample size for the study was 408 respondents, comprising 400 registered members of community based youth organizations and 8 community leaders. The instrument used was a well structured questionnaire. Focus Group Discussion (FGD) was also used in the study. Simple Random sampling technique through balloting was used to draw the sample size. The following major findings emerged: Rural electrification, construction of community health centre, construction of community market among others were some of the self-help projects embarked upon by communities in Nsukka, Local Government Area. Extent of youth’s involvement in the planning of self-help community development projects was low. Youths were not effectively involved in the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of self-help community development projects in Nsukka, L.G.A. A number of constraints prevented youths from effectively involving in self-help community development projects, poor educational background of majority of the youths, incompetent community youth organizations among others. Gender was not significant in youth’s involvement in community self-help projects. There was no significant difference between the mean rating of community leaders and youths on the constraints to youth’s involvement in self-help community development projects. Discussion of the findings, major recommendations and conclusion were also stated.
Background of the Study
The concept of community development was first mentioned internationally in 1948 at the Cambridge Conference on African Administration at which community development was viewed as a movement designed to promote better living for the entire community. Community development is viewed as a process whereby community members come together to take collective action and generate solutions to their common problems. Frank (2004) opined that community development is a process of allowing the community members to identify their problems and also work towards solving the identified problems to improve the living conditions of the people.
Community development is a coordinated approach whereby the community members undertake projects and programmes to better the living condition of the people residing in that community (Shaw, 2007). In Nigeria, community development is not new either. Available records show that before the advent of colonial administration various communities designed development oriented activities on their own in order to improve themselves. In the past and even in contemporary society of ours, people in different communities articulate and sought different ways of coping with their challenges in order to improve upon their lots within their community without seeking for external assistance. Such challenges could be in the area of improving the socio-economic, health or political status of members of the community.
In this regard, people collectively make use of available local resources (human and material) at their disposal to improve their standard of living. They may form community based development unions which would enable them participate in community development projects. The spirit of self-help guided the zeal of the people and in no time, roads, for instance, were constructed through virgin forest to link up villages and other neighbouring communities.
People also undertook self-help community development projects like building of markets, community halls, road expansion and maintenance, tree planting to check erosion and communal palm fruits harvesting, amongst others (Nzeneri, 2008). Self-help community development projects are those tangible ventures that the inhabitants of the community embark on in order to improve the living condition of the people residing in that particular community. For example money realized from communal palm fruit harvesting is usually used to sponsor the education/scholarship of indigent students in the community as well as foot the bills of other development activities. Community development projects may comprise both small and large scale development projects spanning across a variety of fields.
These community development projects may be in the areas of improving health care, agriculture, nutrition, human settlements, literacy, women services, sanitation, rural credit, youth services and so on. In such community development projects, no segment of the populace is exempted. In fact, the youths who constitute the most active labour force of every community are indispensable resources in such development efforts. World Bank Report (2003) indicated that there are about 1.2 billion 15-24 year olds in the world and about one billion live in developing countries. Similarly, World Youth Data Sheet (2010) stated that nearly 50% of developing world population are youth and children. This is often referred to as the youth bulge since young people constitute a high proportion of many country’s population as evidenced in Nigeria with a population of 170, 124, 740 people (Nigeria National Bureau of Statistics, 2012).
The increase in youth population represents both a challenge and opportunity for community development stakeholders which includes community leaders and community development practitioners. The lingering effect of youth bulge creates an unconducive atmosphere for effective and efficient participation of youths in community development projects in their various communities (Rowland, 2009). Youths therefore, could be effectively involved in community development activities which abound in various communities, instead of involving and displaying their unruly behaviours.
An adage says, “an idle mind is the devil’s workshop”. Youths therefore, can involve in community development activities as beneficiaries, partners, and leaders. Interestingly, participation in community development of the entire population and all individuals including youths was the theme of the United Nation Declaration on the Right to Development (1986). Understandably, young people are innovative and creative in problem solving and solution finding. A right based approach to youths participating in community development has been advocated and widely adopted by many countries and bilateral donor agencies.
Currently, there is a shift in working with young people towards positive direction and valuing them as assets, advisors, colleagues and stake-holders. In development parlance, community leaders are real change agents. They are responsible for executing, influencing, directing and coordinating the activities of people/projects in the community or organized group youths inclusive, towards goal setting, goal achievement and problem solving. There is a believe that involvement of youths in self-help community development projects by the community leaders may to a great extent make them realize that they also have a commitment to themselves, their communities and nation at large.
Unfortunately, in developing countries like Nigeria, effective involvement of youths in community development projects has not been given much consideration. This is because often time youths are socially excluded from the societal plan of action (World Bank, 2007). The social exclusion of majority of the youths in community development activities is prevalent in the developing parts of the world including Africa and Asia.
Youth involvement in community development activities is very important because they are assets and wealth of human resources endowed with vast potentials that could be harnessed for project implementation. The involvement of youths in community development projects is action oriented, a process rather than an end in itself and therefore is embedded in managing relationships effectively. The involvement of youths in self-help community development projects will give them confidence and sense of ownership of the projects. They will be proud to be associated with viable community development projects that can stand the test of time. They will be proud to own such projects as theirs because of their effective involvement.
However, when working with youths, it is vital to consider and acknowledge the decision-making dynamics of any given situation, because young people are often in a situation where decisions are been made for them and exerted over them by older adults and this scenario is pathetic. Larson (2006) opines that the processes of allowing young people to determine something that may have an impact on their lives and others, which may be more readily accepted, are usually overlooked.
Understanding the dynamics of youths in every local context is therefore essential for effective community development activities. This is because each generation of youths faces different challenges. Being young is a transitional phase of life which carries with it increased vulnerabilities and delinquencies. No wonder Kelly (2008) noted that in most developing countries of the world, the youths have not been properly integrated into community development activities of their various governments and communities. Development involves the participation of all, (irrespective of age, sex or status) directly or indirectly without any segment being isolated. The effective involvement of youths in community development projects may to a great extent make them realize that they also have a commitment to themselves, their communities and nation at large.
In fact, the concern is that the various institutions including the education system that exist in developing countries are not helping matters too as many youths are continually being excluded from community development activities (Adefemi, 1998). The exclusion of youths from community development activities has negatively affected their contribution towards so many development projects that abound in various communities including those under study in Nsukka Local Government Area, Enugu State. For example in the communities under study, one can observe some abandoned self-help community development projects such as rural electrification projects, massive erosion sites without appropriate drainage and bore-hole water projects among others. Studies have shown that involvement is an effective strategy for execution of self-help community development projects.
Involvement is the act of participating in the achievement or accomplishment of a particular task or objective. The involvement of youths in community development projects is very essential for any community that is aspiring for massive development. Adefemi (1998) also reiterated that youths generally are capable and known to have so much energy to expend in the implementation, monitoring, supervision and evaluation of community development projects.
Youths are equipped with indigenous knowledge, skills and resources that can be utilized in making sure that community self-help projects do not die a natural death or abandoned if they are given free hand (Mbagwu, 2006). Mbagwu (2006) further indicated that youths are important facilitators of community development projects because of their roles in discussion, continuous dialogue during ongoing projects to forestall anomalies at the early stage which if not rectified will cause irreparable damage to the projects.
Another critical factor that may impede youth involvement in community development is that in developing countries like Nigeria, and particularly in Nsukka communities’ majority of the youths are still dependent on their parents for the provision of basic needs which include food, shelter and clothing. In situations like this, it could be perceived that most youths may decline from community development activities as they are still tied to the apron-string of their parents and would not be taken seriously for any responsibility.
Thus, it is imperative to re-position the youths by engaging them in meaningful development activities in their various localities instead of community self-help projects being paralyzed or abandoned. While the youths who could have expended their energy in participating effectively in community development projects, turn around to becoming a burden to their families, community and society at large. This negative approach of youths will drastically hamper their effective involvement in self-community development projects. There is a belief that when youths are effectively utilized in community development projects, there would be reduction in the number of abandoned projects in our rural communities.
Could it be that communities, parents and other stakeholders are not aware of the dividends that may accrue to various communities if the youths are adequately involved and utilized in decision-making, planning, execution and evaluation of community development projects? Even though they may not be able to contribute financially towards community development projects, they could be involved in the planning, execution/supervision and evaluation of the projects. Pilot study in the area of study showed that there are many abandoned self-help projects such as community road expansion, collapsed bore-hole, civic centres, community recreational facilities and community co-operative ventures.
These abandoned community development projects may be attributed to poor supervision and evaluation of the community development projects whereas the youths would be very useful in this regard because of their wealth of knowledge, technology and so much energy they can expend in performing developmental tasks. Youths are a heterogeneous group and their life experiences, cultural background, education, gender, social group and economic status can make positive impacts in the community depending on where they live (Smith, 2000).
Assessment is the process of gathering information using various methods to systematically determine the effectiveness and efficiency of the object being assessed. Assessment according to Maxwell (2010) is the coordinated process of evaluating, investigating and examining a given phenomenon in order to ascertain useful information and feedback that will be used to address pertinent problems about the phenomenon. Thus, an assessment will provide information on the self-help community development projects embarked upon by communities in the study areas, ascertain the extent of youth involvement in the planning of self-help community development projects, find out the ways youth involve in the implementation of self-help community development projects, ascertain how youths involve in the monitoring and evaluation of self-help community development projects and finally find out the constraints to youths involvement in the execution of self-help community development projects in Nsukka Local Government Area of Enugu State.
It has been recognized that the youths are the key to helping most communities meet their subsistence needs and in doing so, improve local people’s long-term security and control over their own lives. Evidence abounds to show that there may be need for all hands (youths inclusive) to be on deck in the execution of these self-help projects, so that tangible results will be realized. It has been adjudged that effective involvement of all beneficiaries, in community development activities give them the opportunity to have ownership of the projects, develop their potentials/talents, and acquire more relevant skills that would help them to grow and contribute meaningfully to development activities in their community or society at large. Hence, the need for this study which seeks to assess the involvement of youths in self-help community development projects in Nsukka Local Government Area of Enugu State.
Statement of the Problem
Many community development officers and experts have frowned at the low involvement of youths in community development projects especially in the developing countries of the world, Nigeria inclusive. So many reasons have been attributed to the cause of this ugly situation, of which the main one is the exclusion of youths in the decision-making process, planning and implementation of community development projects by community development stakeholders. These community development stakeholders include parents, community leaders, other community members including youths, community development practitioners, government and non-governmental organizations.
These community development stakeholders believe that involving youths in community development projects is tantamount to a waste of time and resources. In some rare occasions in which they involved the youths, they do not give them the freehand to participate in vital issues such as in decision-making, project implementation, supervision and evaluation.
Considering the fact that there are lots of abandoned self-help community development projects in the communities under study, one begins to wonder why the youths would not be adequately utilized in the execution/facilitation of community development projects if all things are being provided for the projects. Could it be that communities are not aware that effective youth’s involvement in community development projects would make significant impact on the development of their communities? Or could it be that they have not realized that effective youth’s involvement in community development projects would to a very great extent help to curb various social vices in the community and society at large? Therefore, the problem of this study was to assess the extent of involvement of youths in self-help community development projects in Nsukka local government area of Enugu State.
Purpose of the Study
The general purpose of the study was to assess the involvement of youths in self-help community development projects in Nsukka Local Government Area of Enugu State.
Specifically, the study sought to:
- Identify the self-help community development projects embarked upon by communities in the study Areas in Nsukka Local Government Area.
- Ascertain the extent of youth involvement in the planning of self-help community development projects in Nsukka Local Government Area.
- Find out the ways youths involved in the implementation of self-help community development projects in Nsukka Local Government Area.
- Ascertain how youths involved in the monitoring and evaluation of the self-help community development projects in Nsukka Local Government Area.
- Find out the constraints to youths involvement in the execution of self-help community development projects in Nsukka Local Government Area.
Significance of the study
Astin’s theory of involvement posits that youths or students learn more when they are involved in both academic and social aspects of the activities they embark on. The theory was propounded in 1984. This type of involvement will help the youths to involve effectively in the execution of self-help community development projects in the study area.
The findings of this study will be useful to community leaders, traditional rulers, and community members including youths, government, donor agencies, future researchers, Local Government Chairmen, in the area of study and beyond.
The findings of the study will provide useful information to the Community leaders on the best way to mobilize their youths to actively involve in self-help community development projects. This will be done by intimating the youths with the necessary information on the various self-help community development projects that communities are embarking on, right from the decision-making process, projects execution, supervision and evaluation and how to address the challenges that could be encountered.
Community members including youths will find the results from this work very useful because, through this means, they will realize that it is also their responsibility to participate in the development of their communities. Through the findings of this study members of the communities will be aware of the desperate need for massive involvement of the people in self-help community development projects instead of isolating any group, persons or waiting for external assistance from government which may not be realized.
The study will provide useful information to the government on the present condition of most rural communities and the need for them to partner with these communities to improve the living standard of the people in the community in order to reduce the sufferings that they are passing through, thereby helping in curbing the menace of extreme hunger, underdevelopment and other societal vices. From the findings of this research work donor agencies will see that there is dire need to assist in funding community development projects in Nsukka Local government Area as a way to ameliorating the socio-economic challenges the people are experiencing in their various communities. Thus, the study will provide them with useful data with which to enhance the living standards of their host communities.
The findings from this study will be beneficial to local government chairmen, who might not be aware initially that the involvement of youths in community development projects will improve the standard of living of the people. This is because youths have a lot of potentials which can be useful to community development projects when properly integrated into the community development activities in their various localities in the local government area. The study will also be beneficial to future researchers who will like to research further on the involvement of youths in self-help community development projects. Thus, the study will provide relevant information for these future researchers.
The following research questions guided the study:
- What are the self-help community development projects carried out by communities in Nsukka Local Government Area?
- What is the extent of youth’s involvement in the planning of self-help community development projects in Nsukka Local Government Area?
- In what ways have youths been involved in the implementation of the self-help community development projects in Nsukka Local Government Area?
- In what ways have youths been involved in monitoring and evaluation of the self-help community development projects in Nsukka Local Government Area?
- What are the constraints to youth involvement in self-help community development projects in Nsukka Local Government Area?
The following null hypotheses were formulated for the study and will be tested at 0.05 level of significance.
HO1: There will be no significant difference between the mean ratings of the male and female respondents on the self-help community development projects involved in by communities.
HO2: There will be no significant difference between the mean rating of community leaders and youths on the constraints to youth’s involvement in self-help community development projects.
Scope of the Study
This study will assess the involvement of youths in self-help community development projects in Nsukka Local Government Area of Enugu State. It will also cover the self-help community development projects involved in by communities in Nsukka Local Government Area; the extent of youths involvement in the planning of self-help community development projects in the area; the ways youths were involved in the implementation of self-help community development projects in the area; how youths were involved in the monitoring and evaluation of the self-help community development projects in the area and the constraints to youth involvement in self-help community development projects in Nsukka Local Government Area of Enugu State.