Buhari, rural development and RAMP challenge
The president’s remarkable comment on implications of poverty coincided too with his reported regret on the failure of the elite to address the welfare and educational needs of the less privileged in the society.
Similarly, during his speech on the maiden June 12 democracy day, the same president of Nigeria noted that 100 million Nigerians could be lifted out of poverty in the next 10 years. Expectedly, numerous citizens have criticised him for not explaining the mechanisms and his strategy papers for achieving the projected poverty reduction in Nigeria.
Poverty reduction is Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) N0.1: a global fight against poverty targeted at halving the proportion of the world’s people with income of under one dollar a day.
Reaching this target requires specific strategies, programmes and tools. So, to achieve sustained poverty reduction as projected by Nigeria’s leader, the country must pursue economic growth programme that involves and benefits poor people such as infrastructure development. Although it was not identified as a direct SDG target or indicator, the provision of infrastructure is an essential facilitating measure for economic growth, local development and poverty reduction.
This may account for why the Federal Government has given priority to the provision of adequate transport facilities to meet the needs of the rural population through the Rural Access and Mobility Project, phase two (RAMP-2), and its successor, the Rural Access and Agricultural Marketing Project (RAAMP).
The Project is domiciled in the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) with the Federal Project Management Unit (FPMU) overseeing; while the State Project Implementation Unit (SPIU), implement the Project in the State.
The four components of the Project are farm to local agricultural market connectivity, connecting of farm to rural agro-logistics centres, strengthening the financial and institutional base for sustainably maintaining rural access and state roads, and enhancing road safety, project management and institutional development support.
Essentially, Nigeria’s rural transport infrastructure has been identified as a crucial component for the economic development of the country; and hence the need to link the rural communities to the urban areas.
Ipso facto, infrastructure development and poverty reduction are linked as investing in infrastructure creates income opportunities and generates jobs. Directly, employment can be created during the construction and maintenance of infrastructure, while the utilisation of local materials, skills and tools to the extent possible also support the local economy and create indirect job opportunities for local people.
Furthermore, rural roads provide access to markets and employment centres and have a sustainable impact on employment. Again, it is easier, faster, more convenient and less expensive for people to travel this expands opportunities to sell produce, find work; and increase productivity and profits.
So, for Nigeria to achieve SDG N0.1, there should be a special focus on rural poverty reduction. Therefore, states should cash in on RAMP-2 and RAAMP; and invest their counterpart funds, because for the project states to access the funds from World Bank and French Development Agency (AFD) under the guidance of the Federal Government’s Rural Travel and Transport Policy (RTTP); the affected state governors, must provide the counterpart funds. However, delay in the approval of counterpart funding and release have been hampering the Project.
Therefore, the effective use of RAMP-2 and RAAMP as mechanics for poverty reduction, the select project states, should latch on this opportunity by providing their counterpart funds, to facilitate the provision of rural roads to improve the livelihood of small holding farmers and micro agro-processors, especially women; and improve rural access and agricultural marketing in the states, while strengthening the financing and institutional base for sustainable management of the rural and state roads network.
Furthermore, while the projects are expected to be implemented participatorily with the communities, improving states transport conditions through the construction, rehabilitation and maintenance of roads and river crossings is one that requires constant nurturing and persistence.
Therefore, the project implementation team should constantly engage with the communities using community dialogue for improved relations and cooperation by the community members, often enabling cooperation with RAMP-2 and RAAMP team. That leads to community-driven constructive solutions, hence community buy-in, ownership and project sustainability.
Similarly, gender should be mainstreamed from conceptualisation to implementation of projects.
As such, gender perspective should be incorporated into mandates and project activities through the development of concrete action plans and programmes.
This requires taking the interest of women, such as agricultural production and roles into account; and encouraging dialogue between local women’s associations and networks, and RAMP and RAAMP team on technology design and implementation that fits women’s knowledge, priorities and perspectives. Also, listening to the perspectives of women, may lead to the re-design or revision of the time line for the construction of a road, for instance.
In addition, it will give the RAMP and RAAMP team the opportunity to engage women on the benefits of the project to their access to key productive resources such as farmlands, markets, taking their children to school. So, dialogue on the supply side should focus on targeted infrastructure and transportation linking farmland, markets, worksites and community, or workplace, childcare facilities.
While, demand side should promote rural employment and enforcement of gender equality in the labour market i.e. how women can get employment during the RAMP life span through supplies and working on sites.
Again, on the importance of self-employment for rural women, attention should be focused on upgrading women’s low-productivity with the infusion of infrastructure improvement and ease the double burden of domestic labour.
So, RAMP-2 and RAAMP Projects, which are already existing mechanisms, are strategies, that the Nigerian state can utilise to achieving poverty reduction. Reason: agriculture remains the backbone of Nigeria’s rural economy and employs the bulk of the labour force, especially in the rural areas. Similarly, agriculture business remains the only business that can effectively replace oil and gas as the mainstay of the country’s economy.
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