Deepening Decentralisation for Rural Development

Ghana’s struggle with development is not so much about the lack  of good road networks, quality health facilities, first class schools and rich human resource in Accra, Kumasi and a few urban areas; it is really about the extent to which rural communities have been left decades behind in respect of all development benchmarks.

Unlike the urban areas, rural communities lack basic necessities of life such as health facilities, potable water, schools, electricity, good shelter and jobs.

Surely, the huge urban-rural development gap is not insurmountable. Indeed, government has, over the years, been tinkering with many intervention programmes with marginal success. However, one project has made a tremendous contribution towards reducing the chronic poverty in rural communities; this is the Community-Based Rural Development Project (CBRDP), which was implemented from October 2004 to June 2011 under the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development.

Through this Project, health facilities and schools have sprung up in many rural communities, while hundreds of rural folk have found successful jobs after acquiring employable skills and credit through the Project.

There are many pointers to the success of the Project, but one that is most central is the direct involvement of the local people in the planning and execution of the Project. Needless to say that many interventions in the past had not succeeded simply because invariably, the people for whom the interventions were targeted were not given the space to contribute. With this approach, the CBRDP has proven to be a real project for Ghana’s rural communities.

What is CBRDP?

The Government of Ghana initiated the CBRDP in 2004 as part of its poverty reduction strategy aimed at using full community participation to reduce rural poverty and build capacity to strengthen the local government system. The Project aimed at contributing to the overall empowerment of rural folk to enable them participate actively in issues that affect their daily lives.

By strengthening the capacity of rural communities, the Project has succeeded in enhancing the quality of life of the people through the improvement of infrastructure and access to key support services from public and private sources.

The Project sought to achieve its goals through an increased transfer of financial and technical resources to the local people for the provision of basic infrastructure facilities that reflect their needs and aspirations. The objective, thus, was to reduce poverty through community empowerment and job creation.

The project collaborated with a number of ministries, departments and agencies notably the Ministry of Education, Ghana Education Service, ARB Apex Bank, Community Water Sanitation Agency, National Development Planning Commission, Ghana Health Services among others. Direct project implementation was handled by district assemblies and area councils, with regional coordinating councils harmonizing, coordinating and monitoring project implementation.

The US$ 95 million Project was co-financed by the Ghana government and the World Bank with support from Agence Francaise de Development (AFD) of France and district assemblies.

The initiatives under the CBRDP are categorised into five main components. These are Institutional Strengthening and Capacity Building (ISCB), Infrastructure for Agriculture Development (IAD), Rural Enterprises Development and Learning Centres (REDLC), Infrastructure for Social and Human Development (ISHD), and Community-Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM).

At the end of its implementation in June 2011, the outcomes of the CBRDP under its five components were very significant. This article takes a look at the Project’s achievements under two components, namely Institutional Strengthening and Capacity Building and Infrastructure for Agriculture Development.

Institutional Strengthening and Capacity-Building

In line with its objective, the Institutional Strengthening and Capacity Building component has strengthened and built the capacities of local government institutions in support of the Ghana Poverty Reduction Strategy (GPRS) through good governance and human resource development at the national, regional, district and community levels. This has enabled them to effectively play their crucial role in the implementation of the projects under the CBRDP and thereby become more effective players in the entire local government set up.

By the end of its implementation, CBRDP had provided training for all 10 Regional Planning and Co-ordinating Units, 170 district assemblies and 458 selected area/town/zonal councils in decentralisation policy and regulations, participatory planning and management, procurement, contract management, social accountability, rapid results initiatives, financial management, as well as monitoring and evaluation.

The CBRDP has also provided collaborative support to the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC), Public Procurement Authority, Controller and Accountant General’s Department, Ministry of Education and the Ghana Education Service, Internal Audit Agency, Ghana Health Service and the Environmental Protection Agency.

With support from CBRDP, the Public Procurement Authority has trained  personnel from 138 district assemblies and the 10 regional coordinating councils in procurement. Also, the accounting system for district assemblies has been reformed in collaboration with the Controller and Accountant General’s Department, with manuals prepared in readiness for the training of officers from the finance unit of assemblies. The Internal Audit Agency was also assisted to conduct orientation for newly recruited auditors for the district assemblies.

The capacity building training provided under CBRDP has already started bearing the anticipated fruits. Now, beneficiaries like district assemblies, area councils, communities and some public service providers are applying the Rapid Results Initiative (RRI) methodology in the implementation of their development projects with very impressive results.

It is remarkable how members of beneficiary communities have become alive to their shared community responsibilities and are eagerly participating in community activities, applying their new knowledge and skills for community development.

The Project also supported the training of community facility management teams in the operation and maintenance of such facilities as boreholes, dams, and school buildings among others. To date, 304 SMC’s/PTA’s, 1,588 Water and Sanitation Teams (WATSANs) and eleven Water Users Associations have been trained. Manuals for the training of Community Health Committees of Community Health Planning and Service (CHPS) Zones have been prepared and training has been conducted for trainers.

All 170 district assemblies are now able to prepare their medium-term development plans, using participatory approaches and in line with the National Development Planning Commission’s planning guidelines.

Through CBRDP’s facilitation, all 170 district assemblies have their Entity Tender Committees and Tender Review Boards in place. These committees and boards are carrying out their procurement functions independently and in line with the Public Procurement Laws of Ghana.

The Project’s support to the training provided on the use of the Public Procurement Act of 2003 (Act 663) has resulted in the ability of metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies to prepare procurement plans and carry out procurement activities in line with the provisions of the Act and the World Bank’s Procurement Guidelines. These include the preparation of procurement notices and placing them in national newspapers, carrying out tender evaluation and documentation of procurement activities.

Currently, all 458 area councils are using the Area Plans prepared by CBRDP in a participatory manner and in line with NDPC guidelines.

Infrastructure for Agriculture Development

The Infrastructure for Agriculture Development component of the Project had the aim of providing facilities and tools to enhance farm and non-farm activities. By so doing, the Project sought to increase the income levels of beneficiary rural communities.

Numerous sub-projects have been undertaken under   this   component   to   improve   upon agriculture. These include the provision of water for agriculture through the construction of irrigation dams, dugouts and wind pumps; construction and rehabilitation of important feeder roads and farm tracks; provision of intermediate means of transport to improve access to farms and markets by providing tracks, trails, carts and tricycles.

In addition, market structures and slaughterhouses have been provided in the rural communities. CBRDP employed the labour of rural communities in the execution of projects like the construction of feeder roads, thus creating jobs for the rural youth. This Component has provided facilities and resources to enhance agriculture and agriculture-related activities to thereby increase the incomes of beneficiary communities.

Projects implemented under IAD include the following: two wind pumps, eight dams, two dugouts, 219 feeder roads, 49 market structures and 16 slaughterhouses.

Regarding the outcomes of CBRDP, the investments made in road construction and rehabilitation have increased rural people’s access to social and economic facilities and services. This has not only facilitated the transportation of agricultural inputs to farms, but it has also made easier the transportation of farm produce from farms to homes and market centres.

With better roads, vehicles now have easier access to rural communities. This improved access has reduced the delay in moving farm produce to market centres. For instance, roads that used to be impassable for an average of 173 days in a year now have the duration reduced to 14 days. Similarly, communities that had only three vehicles on market days also see up to 10 vehicles after the roads were improved.

Averagely, there has been a reduction in travel time from 15 minutes to four minutes for covering a kilometre stretch of road in the beneficiary communities.

Also, an average of 500 people use water from the dams and wind pumps provided under CBRDP for domestic and farming purposes daily. Also, these dams and wind pumps are satisfying the water needs of about 1,490 livestock each day.

The Project has promoted training and transfer of responsibilities for operation and maintenance of dams and wind pumps to organized local user groups called Water Users Associations. Now, these facilities are managed by local people who were trained by CBRDP.

Also, the construction of market centres has drastically improved the gains of farmers and traders. Most importantly, the centres have provided improved shelter and larger space for vendors. The market structures also grants them increased security for their wares.

The construction of slaughterhouses has also provided hygienic and clean environments for the handling and storage of meat, thus promoting healthy conditions for the people.

Last but not least, area councils and district assemblies generate revenues through the collection market tolls from the markets and slaughterhouses. This has boosted the revenue of the assemblies and councils. Part of this revenue is used in the management and maintenance of the facilities, while the rest goes into other development ventures at the local level.

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