By Terfa Hemen, Programme Officer, Governance, Christian Aid Nigeria
The journey to Fagachi Sabuwa, a small, interior and hard-to-reach village in Soba Local Government Area of Kaduna state was long and difficult, taking over an hour to drive through the dusty and bumpy road once the vehicle turned off from the main expressway.
Visiting the community for the first time in December 2016, it was obvious that the seemingly lack of government presence in this rural community was contributing significantly to the evident state of poverty. Made up mainly of farmers, hunters and petty traders, the community produces water melons, peppers and tomatoes, most of which they are unable to sell or store properly, leading to a loss of potential resources for the community. Clearly, the provision of an access road to the community would help its inhabitants to rise out of and break the cycle of poverty, as they would have access to increased amount of resources.
Children who should have been in school were either going to the farm or returning, while others were playing in the sand their bodies completely white from the dry dust of the harmattan, another evidence of the lack of basic public services such as schools that could contribute to pulling the community out of poverty. Investigating a bit further, the Voice to the People team discovered a tiny room lacking adequate ventilation that normally should not take more than 10 people. To our amazement, we were told that about 30-50 pupils ranging from primary one to three all take classes together in the small mud room. Even more surprisingly, that room serves as the only classroom for children from neighboring communities as well. On the other side was the village school which was in a dilapidated state, the roof completely blown off, and most parts of the building destroyed by weather and other natural factors due to years of neglect with grass covering the entire building.
The brief survey of the community clearly demonstrated the need for accountable governance and citizen-state dialogue for the purpose of development, given that according to the residents of the community, they only interacted with their government during election periods. To continue to live in this state without access to basic public services and infrastructure would be to continually keep the cycle of poverty spinning for the inhabitants of Fagachi and their future generations.
It is therefore significant that the Voice to the People project through its mobilisation and capacity building activities is bringing community members together to talk about community issues, and start a dialogue about the community driving development. Such dialogues represent the first step in community-driven development as lessons from the successful implementation of V2P in Anambra have shown. The platforms for dialogue in Fagachi have not excluded any group within the community, as both men and women had the opportunity to be vocal about expressing their development needs.
‘We are interested in education some demanded. Our young children are not even going to school, what future do they have?’ one of the women said.
‘We lack everything, no good water to drink; look there is no school here for our kids, no hospital for the women. Our youths have no jobs; our community is among the poorest you can find anywhere,’ said one of the men of Fagachi Sabuwa.
Fagachi Sabuwa reflects the sad reality of most of rural Nigeria. The lack of infrastructure, the level of poverty is heart breaking. In the community, the women we saw the desire for an improvement in their livelihoods and that of their children. The eagerness to participate and contribute in the decision making processes over issues that affect was reflected in the vehemence with which they contributed sitting in the scorching sun for the entire period of the first meeting we had in December 2016.
Driving away from the village, we felt a deep sense of satisfaction to have gotten the buy in of the community to actively participate in the V2P activities. The project has since then worked with the community to develop a charter of demand in a participatory manner which has been presented to members of the government. The project is also building the capacity of the community members to advocate and engage successfully for their needs to be met as it was achieved in Anambra state.