The quest for achievement of desired rural development has remained a critical concern for most countries of the contemporary world. This is succinct because, available statistics shows that about 80% of the population of most nations resides in rural areas. Unfortunately, this population sometime do no benefit from the over- dramatized rural transformation agenda acclaimed by most countries particularly in the third world social formations.
Thus, some scholars have emphasized the imperative for according desired priority to the development of rural areas. However, such emphasis is rooted in several reasons. Four main reasons could be advanced for why greater attention should be shifted to the development of rural areas. First, majority of the population lives and finds their means of livelihood in the rural areas. Secondly, the rural– urban drift or migration has continued to be an issue of serious concern to governments largely due to the increasing spate of urban unemployment, food scarcity, housing problems, sanitation, health challenges and other attendant social problems. Thirdly, in most third world countries, the poor and disadvantaged people mostly reside in the rural areas. Fourthly, many scholars have persuasively argued that priority should be accorded to issues germane to rural and agricultural development implicit in their significant roles in a country’s economic growth and development.
To address the issues of rural backwardness, some countries have adopted and implemented certain policy strategies to tackle problems such as poverty, illiteracy, inequality, hunger, diseases, unemployment, among others. Consequently, such strategies have successfully worked in some countries while similar strategies did not work in others.
The World Bank conceives rural development as the process of rural modernization and the monetization of the rural society leading to its transition from traditional isolation to integration with the national economy. As a critical concept, Ollawa (1971) on his publication titled “on a dynamic model for rural development in Africa.” perceives rural development as “the restructuring of the economy in order to satisfy the material needs and aspirations of the rural masses and to promote individual and collective incentives to enable them participate in the process of development. Thus, this strategy involves a host of multi – sectorial activities including the improvement of agriculture, the promotion of rural industries, and the creation of the requisite infrastructure and social overheads, as well as the establishment of appropriate decentralized structure in order to allow mass production (Wilkin, 2010).
For, Obinozie (1999), rural development is “a multi- dimensional process aimed at uplifting the life of the rural dwellers in the society. This involves the creation of employment, access roads, health facilities, better housing, good water supply and equitable distribution of income among the rural people.
In view of the comparative nature of this articles, it is therefore imperative to examine the various models of rural development which have been put in practice in some developing countries. According to Ayichi (1995) on his concept publication on Nigerian Rural development, these models include: a, Urban Development Model, b. Industrial Development Model, c. Sectoral Development Model d. Area Development Model; and e. Integrated Rural Development Model.
In consideration of this situation of rural development in many countries in the third world, this article concentrates specifically on rural development programme and implementation particularly in rural areas of Areza sub zone in Eritrea.
In spite of numerous and diverse definitions the subject by scholars, one thing is imperative about the scope and boundaries of rural development as a field of inquiry. This analytical importance borders on the fact that rural development is directed principally and completely towards the total transformation of rural communities. The essence is to transform these communities to modern cities. The ultimate goal is to eradicate poverty and further reduce the persistent migration of people from rural to urban areas in search of better means of livelihood in the contemporary world.
In this part, I am only going to focus on the Integrated Rural development schemes, with in the particularity of-as I had mentioned above-the Areza sub zone.
Integrated Rural Development Model seeks to develop all the sectors of the economy and effectively link them to the urban economy (Pintrup- Aderesene, 2002). This model is usually prescribed by International Development Partners and Donor Agencies. This includes, United Nations Development Programmes (UNDP) among others.
According to Ijere (1993) on his “Leading issues in rural development in Nigeria: Strategies and challenges”, the integrated rural development model entails government– community co-operative participation in providing better health services, education and rural Infrastructure in such a coordinated and simultaneous manner in order to enhance the overall welfare of the rural dwellers. The beauty of integrated rural development approach is that rural development programmes are pursued holistically. Hence, embraces not only the rural areas, but also urban centers in a particular state.
Rural development in Eritrea is ultimately accorded desired priority. Thus, to achieve desired rural development objectives, several programmes and policy strategies were adopted by the Eritrean government.
A major focus of rural development in Eritrea takes cognizance of the imperative for involving the people in agricultural policies and programmes. Thus, the Eritrean government has over the years, involved the citizens in the following agricultural activities: a. large scale production of vegetables, b. Agricultural processing, c. Rural off-farm production, and; d. Procurement and storage of harvested grains.
In view of emphasis placed on agricultural development as a precursor of rural development, the Eritrean Government provides ‘policy loans’ to agricultural sector. This is done in order to promote self-reliance through Formal and Informal Institutions involved in Rural Development. A central policy strategy of the rural livelihoods approach in Eritrea is aimed at putting people at the center of development. This is to increase the effectiveness of development assistance from the government and international development partners.
This strategy was adopted to achieve at poverty reduction particularly in the rural Eritrea. Obviously, the involvement of the poor citizens in rural development programmes resulted to local empowerment of the people.
One of the institutions who are found engaged in the microfinance & loan sector is the autonomous Microfinance institution Mewl, which operates under the Ministry of Local Government. In an article I wrote back in February of this year I had stated that Mewl microfinance institution, in poor and remote areas in Eritrea have a stronger incentive to offer rural credit to its members. In the main, mewl is allowed to give credit facilities to households and enterprises within their geographic areas (their village), mainly to individuals who are in able to get access to money from formal banks. And as such this microfinance institution can be found in different part of the country administrative regions.
However, what I had found unique about the sub-zone Areza in particular and the Debub region in general was, micro financing was an initiative first taken by a non-governmental organization, Accord back in 1995. Accord injected 1.7 million Nakfa into the regions micro-finance institution to work as a microfinance body but once Accord left the, the region took sole responsibility of the money and had ever since been supporting the development of the regions rural development.
According to the general manager of Micro finance and loan division of Areza Sub zone Mr. Haileab Issac has about 1200 members, fully equipped with the idea to help individuals working in existing sectors such as agriculture, economics as well as other social services (shops, pubs as well as restaurants).
A potential borrower does not have to present co-signers or any physical asset as collateral. However, there are two conditions that serve as a form of collateral. The only condition is that solidarity group members will become eligible for loans only after having successfully accumulated mandatory savings equal to 10 per cent of the amount they want to borrow within a period of three months.
Debub region’s ‘People’s Communes’ as the basic unit of rural transformation agenda, is to organize and mobilize the rural population to develop their land and other resources in order to meet the essential needs such as principle of self- reliance. The essence is to reduce social inequalities by creating rural societies based on justice and equality.
Similarly, the rural development approach in Areza sub-zone is multi – dimensional. Its organizational elements and programmes are area- based. As a result, rural development strategies are strictly anchored on a defined population. Also, the Eritrean rural development reflects programme implementation and planning what could best be described as long-term planning. Thus, the essence is to enable both the government and the people pursue vigorously, rural development policy objectives in their best interests.