COMMUNITY PARTICIPATION AND THE DRIVE TOWARDS ACCOUNTABILITY, A KEY TO REDUCTION OF RURAL POVERTY
Rural poverty remains a cause for concern for a developing country such as Zimbabwe. The poverty surveys in Zimbabwe since 2003 have been recording an exponential growth of poverty from 25 percent to over 70 percent levels. Rural areas have shown acute levels of poverty and high levels of under development. Most of the areas that have recorded high levels of poverty are located in the region 4 and 5 areas that is, Matabeleland, Masvingo and some parts of Midlands. Transparency International Zimbabwe (TI Z) is of the view that community participation, transparency and accountability in decision making processes at local level can significantly contribute in improving rural lively hoods.
The conceptualisation of poverty has attracted significant contributions from the academics and social scientists. In the process, various definitions and classifications have been identified. Some of the contributions have been the need not to view poverty within the lens of income based only where the poverty datum line becomes a yard stick of poverty. Others have focused on issues of social exclusion of communities and the measurement of society’s participation in development discourse. However, this article is not concerned about the definition but focuses on how issues of transparency and accountability can act as a springboard towards development for these communities.
Rural poverty has its own uniqueness that cuts across the Zimbabwe communities. A huge challenge faced by these communities is that they are not receiving adequate funds towards development initiatives. Most rural areas are remotely located at the periphery with members of the community having difficulties to access education, health care facilities, roads and markets. Being at the periphery means that these communities are socially excluded hence they rarely participate in the decision making process of the country. Owing to this marginal exclusion, resources for community development are easily diverted by the authorities and there is limited accountability. Another challenge occurs once the funds are received. Community members rarely get involved; they are excluded by the decision makers.
Most rural communities fail to participate and fully utilize the natural resources and mineral wealth at their disposal. The decision making powers with regards to these natural resources has been left to the central government and the local district councils who end up not prioritizing the immediate needs of the communities. Initiatives such as community share ownership trusts have also seen limited community participation and evidence of failures to utilize resources in rural areas to alleviate rural poverty.
In order for all these initiatives to succeed it is important for communities to participate and demand accountability from the duty bearers. There is need to create platforms for communities to be at the fore front of any development initiatives affecting them. Duty bearers should also have the political will to be accountable. This will minimize the misappropriation of funds and promote good governance.