Assessing the Impacts of Limbe III Council on Community Development in the Limbe III Sub-division
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1.1 Background to the Study
Developmentis a process that creates growth, progress, positive change or the addition of physical, economic, environmental, social and demographic components (Society for International Development, 2018).
The purpose of development is a rise in the level and quality of life of the population and the creation or expansion of local income and employment opportunities, without damaging the resources of the environment (Society for International Development, 2018).
Development is visible and useful, not necessarily immediately and includes an aspect of quality change and the creation of conditions for a continuation of that change.
Through the years, professionals and various researchershave developed a number of definitions and emphasis for the term development.
AmartyaSen, for example, developed the capability approach which defined development as “a tool enabling people to reach the highest level of their ability through granting freedom of action, that is freedom of economic, social and family actions”(Society for International Development, 2018).
This approach became a basis for the measurement of development by theHuman Development Index (HDI) which was developed by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in 1990.
In contrast, Society for International Development (2018) says professionals like Jeffery Sachs and Paul Collier focused on mechanisms that prevent or oppress development in various countries and cause them to linger in abject poverty for dozens of years.
One of the emphasis in the work of Jeffery Sachs is the promotion of sustainable development, which believes in growth and development in order to raise the standard of living for citizens of the world today.
In this global framework of development, the concept of Community Development has emerged to describe development within specific contexts, notably from the grassroots perspective.
Community development is a continuous process through which community members come together to take collective action and generate solutions to their common problems (Society for International Development, 2018).
Community development ranges from small initiatives within a small group to large initiatives that involve the broader community.
According to Walzer (2010), community development initially focused on poverty alleviation at the initial stage; but later, as development thinking expanded, the focus shifted from poverty reduction to social transformation.
The present interest in community development has resulted from its proven capacity to provide proper solution to community issues and problems. Community development is also understood as a professional discipline.
The International Association for Community Development (the global network of community development practitioners and scholars)defines community development as “a practice-based profession and an academic discipline that promotes participative democracy, sustainable development, rights, economic opportunity, equality and social justice through the organization, education and empowerment of people within their communities, whether these be of locality, identity or interest in urban and rural settings”.
According to Vincent II (2009), community development is a comprehensive process for managing community change that involves citizens in a dialogue on issues to decide what must be done to share their vision of the future, and then to involve them in implementation activities.
This definition points to the notion of participatory development and the necessity for development measures and actions to be taken closer to the people they are meant to benefit.
In this regard, the idea of decentralization has emerged as strategy to boost this perspective of development.
Decentralization entails transferring some powers, tasks and resources from the central government to the base, such as regional governments and local authorities (Cheka, 2007).
There is a widespread agreement among development practitioners, government officials and foreign donors that local government plays an increasingly proactive role in participatory community development.
The World Bank’s World Development Report (2003) strongly supports devolution for making service delivery work for the poor.
Recently a number of scholarly books, articles and panels at conferences have dealt with the growing importance of local government as providers of local services, valuable partners in community development arena and a successful laboratory for local democracy (Sisk et al., 2001; Forbrig, 2011; Rondinelli, 2006).
In Cameroon, decentralization took different forms before the 1990s, but its current form is based notably on the Constitution embodied in Law No. 96/06 of 18 January 1996, of which article 55 provides that, “decentralized local entities of the Republic shall be regions and councils…
They shall enjoy administrative and financial autonomy in the management of local interests. In Cameroon, therefore, decentralization constitutes part of the framework of national policy on democratization that started in the 1990s” (Cheka, 2007).
Cheka adds that prior to July 2004, local entities were endowed with largely social functions like celebrating marriages and delivering birth and death certificates, as per the 1974 law relating to councils;
but since 2004, the decentralization laws (Law N° 2004/017 of July 22, 2004 on the Orientation of Decentralization; Law N° 2004/018 of July 22, 2004 laying down rules applicable to Councils;
Law N° 2004/019 of July 22, 2004 laying down rules applicable to Regions) voted by Parliament allowed for the transfer of powers for local development to local authorities (10 regions and 339 urban and rural councils), assigning them the task of promoting economic, social, health, educational, cultural and sports development at local levels.
Gwaibi (2016) adds that within this new framework, “municipal councils which had existed for many years were turned from bodies with minimal responsibilities such as performing civil ceremonies into fully fledged agents of local development”.
In 2007, a new law increased the number of local governments to 374. The 2007 law transformed the urban and rural councils to 360 sub-divisional (municipal) councils, with some of the urban councils in large cities mapped as city councils serving as umbrella councils to some of the sub-councils.
There are 14 city councils with a total of 43 sub-councils under their auspices. The municipal councils are managed by local elected councilors, headed by Mayors, while the city councils were headed by Government Delegates appointed the President of the Republic.
In the last quarter of 2020, the post of Government Delegate was suppressed and replaced by City Mayor, which is an elected position, within the framework of government’s aspiration to accelerate the implementation of the decentralization law and policy, and to devolve more powers and autonomy to local authorities.
The Councils were initially under auspices of the Ministry of Territorial Administration and Decentralization, though in August 2018, the President of the Republic created the Ministry of Decentralization and Local Development as the supervisory authority for local governments.
The Limbe III Council is one of the 3 sub-councils that were created under the Limbe City Council, replacing the former Limbe Urban Council.
1.2 Problem Statement
The Limbe III Council, like any other council in Cameroon, was created with the aim of accelerating development at the local level within communities in its geographical scope.
The Council is expected to serve as a decentralized entity of government, with some degree of autonomy, facilitating growth in various sectors in order to enhance socioeconomic development within its communities.
This Council is one of those that were created under special consideration, as the geographical scope mapped out for this council area did not have the required population to qualify for the creation of a local council of its own.
The law allows that, for the purpose of accelerating development in areas which are clearly suffering from high level of underdevelopment, when compared to neighboring communities, government can map out and create a council for such underdeveloped areas, even if they do not have the required minimum number of inhabitants to qualify for a council area.
Therefore, the Limbe III Council from inception was a small council, with limited resources, but having the huge responsibility of sourcing for funding and resources to meet the development aspirations that were the motivating factors for its creation.
Besides generating resources to stir development, the Council also had (and continues having) the duty to devise and apply strategies and methods, in line with conventional standards, to adequately and satisfactorily propel and champion local development in the area, with the available, but limited, resources, taking into consideration the specific social, environmental and political constraints of the council area and the needs of its people.
While the management of the Limbe III Council has been making efforts to attain its development aspirations for its communities, there is a general perception that the level of socio-economic development in the communities leaves a lot be desired.
Against this backdrop, it is important to assess the amount of contribution the Limbe III Council, as an institution, has brought to community development in the area, 13 years after its creation.
There is need to assess the concrete, tangible and visible impact the Council has made in this regard.
It is also interesting to understand how local people, particularly the poor, are included in the development processes, notably decision-making, and how their capacities are built and their skills developed to ensure they utilize resources in better, sustainable and innovative ways to contribute to their livelihood.
It is equally imperative to have a proper understanding of the existing and potential challenges facing the Council in its development aspirations and efforts, so as to be able to define appropriate measures that could enable the Council to yield the intended results and achieve sustainable socioeconomic development within its communities. .
1.3 Research Questions
The research questions for this study include:
- In what ways has the Limbe III Council contributed to the socioeconomic development of communities in the Council area?
- What are the perceptions of people in the communities regarding the response of the Council to their community development needs?
- What are the various challenges faced by the Council in its efforts to ensure the development of the area?
- What are the potential s measures that could enhance sustainable development in the area?
- Research Objectives
1.4.1 Main Objective
To assess the impact of the Limbe III Council on community development within the Council area.
- To examine the measures taken and the contributions made by the Council towards the socioeconomic development of the area.
- To examine the perception of people in the communities regarding the response of the Council to their community development needs.
- To examine the challenges faced by the Council in its efforts to advance socioeconomic development in the area.
- To identify possible measures that could be undertaken by the Council and key stakeholders to enhance sustainable development in the area.