Poverty reduction in a decentralized framework: a case study of Abura Asebu Kwamankese District of the Central Region

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Poverty is arguably Africa’s most daunting development challenge. Access to jobs, quality education, health services, housing and water supply remain inadequate for the majority. Ghana has been experiencing growing and deepening poverty levels especially in the northern and central regions. Poverty is quite widespread in AAKD and that it is in many respects a structural problem, traceable to the district’s fl1TOW economic base, a small domestic market, and limited income generation opportunities and also that policies and programmes are insufficiently or inappropriately targeted at the poor. It is now widely acknowledged that significant changes in the quality of life of the poor can only be registered through greater empowerment of communities and more effective popular participation in decision-making at the community level. Decentralization has therefore been advocated by donors, development agencies and developing nations as an important mechanism for broadening citizen participation and improving local governance, thereby promoting poverty reduction from bottom up. GOG has been pursuing a policy of decentralization by devolution of authority and wide range of functions to DAs to facilitate local development since 1988. In addition the current national policy framework, GPRS also emphasized decentralization as a potential tool in achieving sustainable growth and poverty reduction. Notwithstanding the aforementioned, poverty reduction measures and strategies are not necessarily benefiting the poor. The study therefore is being conducted to find out the mechanisms adopted by the DA in translating the decentralization policy into action at the local level and to facilitate the design and implementation of pro poor decentralization policy in Ghana. The research procedure adopted for the study involved three levels of data collection and analysis. These are the National, District and Community levels. The case study approach was identified as the appropriate methodology for the research. Interview schedule were particularly, administered to key staffs of the DA as well as key decentralized departments including Education, Health and Agriculture to ascertain the actual translation of the implementation of the decentralization process into action for poverty reduction. Key informants like the Assembly members, Area Council Members, Unit Committee members, Opinion Leaders including Traditional Authorities were also covered. Focus group discussions were held for female groups, male groups and the youth for collecting data on their living conditions, availability and accessibility to key facilities and services. The result from the study shows that there are overlaps in the current legal and institutional structures affecting the smooth implementation of the decentralization policy for poverty reduction. There is also lack of local capacity to effectively and regularly participate in the decentralization process. In addition DAs do not have adequate resources and fiscal autonomy to perform it functions to the satisfaction of the people at the local level. Furthermore the sub structures put in place to serve, as transmission mechanism for development and grassroots participation in decisions affecting them are not functioning hindering the effectiveness of service delivery at the local level. Following from the findings, the study concludes that to enhance the effectiveness of local governance for poverty reduction will have to include increased people’s participation at) the local level in public policy making and implementation: bottom up planning, partnership and participation by all stakeholders, capacity building, accountability and responsiveness of the public service delivery and high degree for political and administrative leadership commitment for decentralization.
A Thesis submitted to the School of Graduate Studies, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science in Development Policy and Planning, 2005