Planning for and funding rural infrastructure
The 2006 National Population Census figures showed that 51% of the country’s population lives in the rural areas. Majority of these people are predominantly peasant farmers who eke out their living from subsistence farming. The average rural dweller’s life is characterised by poverty, illiteracy, lack of access to basic necessities of life, income inequalities, high maternal and infant mortality to mention but just a few. In order to stem the tide of rural poverty and its related challenges, there is an urgent need for an accelerated infrastructure development in the rural areas and this has to be done in an environmentally sustainable manner.
To begin with, project planning process is made up of two major components, namely: the problem components and the resource components. The problem components can be categorised as follows: the scale, the purpose and the time frame while the resources that are needed to carry out the planning process include the following: institutional arrangements, personnel, financial resources, plan implementation tools, legislation and facility resources. Basically, planning of rural infrastructure involves the following essential steps namely: defining basic aims; determining the current situation; forecasting how that situation might change; identifying resources and constraints; defining and evaluating possible lines of action; deciding on a line of action and taking appropriate action. The starting point in any planning activity is the definition of the outcome towards which efforts are to be directed. Goals are ends expressed broadly; these are explicitly defined in objectives and criteria for project identification, development and evaluation.
The task of determining the goals of a project usually becomes part of the overall planning process. Having determined the goals and objectives of the project, the next step is to identify the local development needs. This could be done through a survey of or consultation with the local people, representatives, officials and professionals. In recent decades, there has been a growing awareness of the detrimental effects of development on the environment through deforestation, soil erosion, exploration and exploitation of natural resources. In order to ensure development without destruction, the Federal Government has put in place various environmental laws to guide both the planners and developers.
One of such laws is the EIA Act Cap E12, LFN, 2004 which makes it mandatory for proponents of all new major development activities to carry out an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of their proposed projects. The EIA Act sets to consider the likely impacts (both positive and negative) of the proposed project on the environment. In addition to the EIA Act, The Federal Government has also developed sectorial guidelines for the following sectors namely: power, water, health, housing and transportation. Once a project is identified, the next step is to subject it to an EIA. This is to ensure the sustainability of the project.
Funding of rural infrastructure is always a critical issue. However, there are various international organisations that do fund rural projects. In order to seek international financial support for a rural project, it is important that one should be aware of the objectives and policies of the funding agencies interested in rural development. The commonly used objectives and criteria for rural development vary, depending amongst other factors on the level of planning at which they are considered. The following are some of the objectives that are employed namely: maximization of economic benefits, minimisation of economic costs, attainment of equitable distribution of development benefit, improvement of accessibility of social services and employment generation.
Finally, it is important that the local community should be involved at each stage of the planning process from project identification to implementation. This is to ensure the success of the project.
Oladele Oladipupo wrote from Ede, Osun State.
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