10.02.2004 Feature Article

The Question of our Origin and Sustainable Rural Development

The Question of our Origin and Sustainable Rural Development
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By making a critical analysis of the above topic, we should be dealing with one of the most enlightening and challenging issues of our time. For one reason or another, most Ghanaians are fascinated by city life and often look down upon the rural areas. This attitude is prevalent among people who have the misconception that claiming to originate from a city is more prestigious than identifying oneself with a village or small town. The situation is the reverse in most developed countries where most people are proud to acknowledge that they come from small towns or remote areas because both big and small towns have the same infrastructure.

As Ghanaians, most of us come from towns and villages that are characterized by things we are hardly proud of, such as, unhealthy drinking water, bad road networks, schools and hospitals/clinics with inadequate logistics, lack of electricity and others, which often embarrass us. Rather than contributing towards providing social infrastructure for our towns and villages to make us proud of them, we seek solace in the cities and bigger towns, which often lead us to misrepresent our origins.

The reason for this mentality of cherishing city over village or small town life cannot be far-fetched. The colonial government’s policy on settlement and employment discriminated against villages and small towns. Such inequitable and unsustainable development policies were regrettably continued by some post-colonial governments. While there have been partial initiatives by some governments to help develop the rural areas in contemporary times, with the exception of President Nkrumah and Prime Minister Busia’s governments’ aggressive rural development policies, none of the military governments (NLC, NRC, SMC, and PNDC regimes) that dominated Ghana’s political scene over the last three decades was fully committed to developing the rural areas in terms of the provision of social infrastructure. In this regard, most development resources were often channeled to the cities and urban areas at the expense of the rural settlements. Without paying enough attention to the rural areas where majority of Ghanaians live, the colonial administration and more especially, our governments have made life in the urban areas preferable to the rural areas. This trend has promoted the mass migration of people from the rural areas to the cities and this has greatly contributed to increasing rate of unemployment, congestion, and above all, high crime rates in our cities and major towns. Undoubtedly, some of our local communities are also to blame for this situation. The lack of community initiatives due to the negligence of the civic duties and responsibilities of both local residents and those abroad has immensely contributed to the lack of development in the rural areas. By failing to meet our civic obligations toward our places of origin, we often tend to look up to the government alone for socio-economic development and in so doing, blame the government solely for simple problems in our communities, which we could be solved through community participation.

I think our rural settlements deserve better, if not more than our cities because that is where our hardworking farmers who continue to sustain Ghana’s economy through food and cash crops production reside. If we should look for examples from abroad, we would notice that governments in Europe and North America strive to transform their rural areas to the standard of the urban centres for the benefit of all the citizens. For example, in Canada, the federal government has a harmonization policy whereby the rich provinces and municipalities make transfer payments to the poor areas for fair and equitable redistribution of national resources. Most of the developed countries realized from the onset that you cannot build an equitable and just society by neglecting some of the most productive parts of the society. There is no question that rural development has the benefit of higher levels of education, literacy rate, and good healthcare facilities to facilitate productivity and economic development. While it is no secret that the social and economic policies of governments in most developing countries are constrained by the hegemony of institutions like the World Bank and some foreign governments, we as Ghanaians should realize that the ultimate solution to our socio-economic problems lies in internal mobilization of our social capital, human and material resources. More importantly, it is based on reforms, especially in terms of reducing the government's administrative expenditure. Through this, we can direct most of our national resources towards providing our rural communities with the much needed social infrastructure in order to achieve a sustainable form of development in Ghana.

I am therefore appealing to Ghanaians both home and abroad, especially those who have been fortunate to achieve some level of prosperity in the cities, to make pragmatic efforts towards alleviating some of the problems plaguing our rural communities. I am also imploring the New Patriotic Party (NPP) government to take the challenge and make redistribution of the economy’s resources to the rural areas one of its key priorities. In addition to maintaining its commitment to rural development, the government should invest in research and create the enabling environment for increased partnerships with local and international non-governmental organizations, especially Ghanaian civic groups abroad, and also provide appropriate incentives for the private sector to help them expand their roles in Ghana’s socio-economic development. Focusing on an aggressive social policy could attract considerable attention at both the local and international levels and provide a significant framework for rural development in Ghana. We should always remember that all Ghanaians – both home and abroad – as well as the government have the responsibility to help make Ghana a better place to live.

Nick Fobih, Doctoral Candidate Queen’s University Kingston, Ontario, Canada. Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

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