Decentralisation as a step towards rural community empowerment - a case study of Atwima District

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The demand for democracy and good governance at local level has led The Republic of Ghana to adopt a decentralised oriented development policy. The major objective is to empower the rural local communities to achieve popular participation in decision making process. As a result the district has been made the focal point of local level development. Below the District are other institutions of local governance at both the sub-district and village level. However, the local governance system is faced with a number of problems. There is poor communication between the assembly and communities and likewise within the communities. There is poor delivery of services to the communities in addition to being inadequate. Furthermore, most of the rural communities are inaccessible. There is unequal distribution of service facilities between urban and the rural areas. There are abandoned community projects and other projects are complete but have not been put into use. Community project structures deteriorate fast after their completion. Sub-district and village institutions of local governance have not been operational. To analyse these problems, a field survey was conducted targeting the communities, District assembly staff and community opinion leaders. The major objective of the study was to analyse whether decentralisation facilitates community empowerment. Participatory decision-making processes as well as possession of information, knowledge and skills are used as the major indicators of empowerment. The findings of the study signified that, there is low community participation in DA decision-making processes. There is also low involvement of communities in the District Development plan preparation as well as in management of service facilities and natural resources. As result, this has created a bad relation and conflicts between the DA and the communities, poor delivery of community services, low community commitment and support to assembly activities. The communities lack capacity to steer local development in terms of technical skills and knowledge. This negates the community self-help initiative. There is weak linkage among the development actors at the local level which is coupled with poor supervision of development of activities. This has resulted in abandoned projects and completed projects which are not operational. The communities through self- help initiatives undertake small community projects either independently or sometimes with assistance from external agents including the DA. However, there is no good link between community and DA hence the assistance hardly comes at the right time. To solve this problems an integrated effort is needed between all development actors at the local level as well as other external agents. A number of training programmes have been proposed for the community to build their capacity of managing local development. For example, the District planning and coordinating unit should conduct community workshops on project planning, costing techniques as well as monitoring and evaluation. In addition, various methods of involving the communities in the decision-making process have also been proposed. This includes incorporating community members in monitoring and evaluation committee and other management committees. Other proposals entail subjects such as co-operation/coordination among different development actors and alternative sources of resource mobilisation. From the study it can be concluded that the early deterioration of structures is due to shoddy work done on projects which are poorly supervised. Low community commitment and support to district assembly is due to low involvement at the decision-making process. The poor service provision has been propagated by low involvement of communities in the management committees. The communities are unwilling to pay taxes due to low involvement in fee fixing and lack of tax education. The Assembly Members are not able to champion community aspirations with versatility due to lack of knowledge and skills. The communities cannot undertake big development projects due to lack skills and capital. Finally, the study concludes that, the achievement of decentralisation process in facilitating community empowerment has been minute. Hence, more is yet to be done in the community empowerment process.
A thesis submitted to the Board of Postgraduate Studies, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, in partial fulfilment of the requirement for the award of the Degree of Master of Science in Development Planning and Management, 1998