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Regional themes > Poverty reduction frameworks and critiques Last update: 2020-11-27  

Policies and programmes for poverty reduction in rural Nigeria

Olugboyega Oyeranti, Kolawole Olayiwola

October 2005

SARPN acknowledges the African Economic Research Consortium (AERC) as the source of this document:
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One of the main issues in development debates is how to tackle rural poverty. The constraints to developing the rural areas as well as the problems of this critical sector have come to loom very large. For over four decades in Nigeria, all attempts to put the rural areas on course of development have failed. Conditions have continued to worsen and poverty has become a major issue in the rural areas in spite of their potentials. Therefore, a major concern to governments, multilateral institutions and policy makers in different countries is to identify appropriate strategy for poverty alleviation especially in the rural areas.

The rural areas however present problems that are a contradictory paradox of its natural resource endowment. As noted by Chinsman (1998), rural communities are seriously marginalized in terms of most basic elements of development. In addition, the inhabitants tend to live at the margin of existence and opportunities. Most rural communities lack potable water, electricity, health care, educational and recreational facilities and motorable roads. They experience high population growth rates; high infant and maternal mortality, low life expectancy and a peasant population that lacks modern equipment that can guarantee sustainable exploitation of the natural resources on which they live.

In line with the recent finding that poverty is a rural phenomenon (World Bank, 1990; Fields, 2000; World Bank, 2001), available statistics on the incidence of poverty in Nigeria have shown that, while urban poverty rate increased progressively from 3 percent in 1980 to 25.2 percent in 1996, that of rural areas increased from 6.5 percent in 1980 to 31.6 percent in 1996 (see Table 1). Beyond the fact that rural poverty rate was higher than that of urban rate throughout the period of 1980 and 1996, the range of urban poverty rate between 1980 and 1996 was 22.2 percent as against 25.1 percent for the rural poverty rate during the same period. Again, this confirms that rural poor are the worst hit by poverty in Nigeria.

To date, poverty situation in Nigeria remains a paradox, at least from two perspectives. Firstly, poverty in Nigeria is a paradox because the poverty level appears as a contradiction considering the country’s immense wealth. Secondly, poverty situation has worsened despite the huge human and material resources that have been devoted to poverty reduction by successive governments in Nigeria with no substantial success achieved from such efforts. Nevertheless, since poverty remains a development issue, it has continued to capture the attention of both national governments and international development agencies for several decades. Indeed, since the mid–1980s, reducing poverty has become a major policy concern for governments and donor agencies in all poverty–stricken countries, Nigeria inclusive.

Table 1: Population and Rate of Poverty in Nigeria (1980–1996)
Sources: (a) National Population Commission; Central Bank of Nigeria: Annual Report and Statement of Account (various issues); Federal Office of Statistics Annual Abstract of Statistics (various issues). (b) Computed by the authors from (a) and (c). (c), (d), and (e) Federal Office of Statistics (FOS) (1999): Poverty Profile for Nigeria 1980–1996 and Federal Office of Statistics National Consumer Survey (various issues).

Realizing that rural communities are always the worst hit by poverty, the focus of this study is on the various efforts in form of policies and programmes put in place by the government in order to reduce rural poverty in Nigeria. In specific terms, the study has two objectives; these are:

  1. to undertake an inventory of rural poverty reduction policies and programmes;
  2. to evaluate the rural poverty reduction policies and programmes with a view to establishing their impact on poverty phenomenon in the rural economy of Nigeria.
In order to achieve the objectives of the study, the World Bank’s approach to appraising poverty reduction programmes and policies is adopted. The focus of the study is therefore limited to policies and programmes that have direct impacts on the rural economy of Nigeria. The study employs the use of content analysis coupled with existing empirical findings of various studies in its analysis.

The study is structured as follows: Section 2 is devoted to the review of related and relevant literature. In section 3, poverty reduction policies are reviewed. Section 4 contains the review of poverty reduction programmes and institutions. In section 5, the focus is on the international experiences in terms of poverty reduction efforts. An evaluation of the various porgrammes and policies designed to help reduce poverty in Nigeria is carried out in section 6. Section 7 presents the summary of findings, recommendations and conclusion.

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