Contribution of Non-Governmental Organisations to improving the living conditions of the people of Northern Ghana

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The need for rural development has caught the attention of development economists the world over and has been on the increase since the end of World War II. This has been so because of the realisation that a development strategy tied primarily to economic growth will not by itself improve the conditions of the poorest of the population. This emphasis of economic growth and the past strategies tended to ignore the manner in which benefits of growth were distributed. These strategies assumed that increased growth lead to a reduction in poverty because the benefits of an expanding economy spread to all. The assumptions of this trickledown effect of economic growth resulted in the lop sided development of the economies of developing countries. There have been a lot of unequal opportunities between the rural areas and the urban centres in almost all developing economies. In response to these unequal opportunities the tendency for rural dwellers to migrate to urban centres remains high. The main purpose of this study was to examine the contribution of Non-Governmental Organisations to improving the living conditions of the people of Northern Ghana as a way of arresting the phenomenon of north-south migration. it was also intended to identify the problems that these NGOs face in their various development strategies in the districts that they operate and to offer useful suggestions where necessary. At the grassroots level, the study was carried out among certain selected NGOs (32 in number) operating in the 13 districts of the Northern Region of Ghana. Discussion and interviews were held with a selected number of beneficiary communities of NGO projects, especially, in the Tamale rural of the Tamale Municipal Assembly, Tolon Kumbungu District, Savelugu Nanton and West Mamprusi Districts. Indicators of measuring the improvements in living conditions of’ the people were used. These indicators are: • Food Security • This includes both the availability of food and people’s ability to claim title to food either through storage or means of exchange for food. • Provision of social infrastructure such as Schools, Clinics, Potable water, roads, places of convenience etc. • Increase in income levels of the people through income generating activities provided either directly or indirectly by NGOs. • Reduction in the level of diseases, especially water related ones such as cholera, guinea worm, bilharzias, etc. • Awareness creation about the need to conserve and preserve the environment. • increase in literacy levels and school enrolment rate, especially, the girl-child and • Human Rights awareness creation among the people by NGOs. The study revealed that much has been achieved by the NGOs and other Civil Society V Organisations by way of contributions to the development of the areas in which they operate. However, inspite of these achievements much needs to be done and thus the cooperation of other governmental agencies such as the various District Assemblies is required. It was revealed by the study that budgetary constraints especially on the part of the local NGOs constituted a major obstacle in their developmental efforts. Institutional ability to reduce poverty was discovered to be constrained by inadequate staffing and lack of qualified personnel especially iii the case of local NGOs. The way forward in reducing poverty and for that matter improving the living conditions by NGOs in the study area, the study recommended among others that with respect to the nature of projects undertaken, there is the need to integrate socio-economic ventures and income generating activities into their programmes. Such projects will yield income to the beneficiaries and will be able to finance development projects in future. Since most of these communities engage in agricultural based activities, projects/programmes should to a large extent be possibly directed towards increased production consciousness, though this calls for comprehensive integrated planning. The study concluded that there is the urgent need to develop not only the study area per se but the entire rural communities in view of the important roles they play in the national economy. Governmental institutions, the rural people and NGOs must take collective action towards alleviating poverty.
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 Policy and Planning, 2000