Promoting Community-Led Development In Nigeria

Building a Chapter for the Movement of Community-led Development in Nigeria


MAY 10, 2018



Development programs have followed a top-down approach with majority of the inputs for projects coming from outsiders who do not have adequate knowledge of the problems faced by locals. Outside actors including governmental, non-governmental and multilateral organizations have funded large-scale projects with good intentions that have failed in various countries. The failure of these projects is partly due to the lack of adequate knowledge of the needs of communities who are aid recipients. Moreover, local actors have not been significantly involved in decision making at all stages of planning and execution. The result has been a lack of ownership and sustainability in the program or project. In recent times, a movement towards community and locally focused development has evolved; a model of development that focuses more on empowering locals and encouraging participation from the beneficiaries of the program.

While some organizations use the term community-led development (CLD), others use the term community-driven development (CDD) to describe this new model of development. Although various organizations use different terms, the purpose of community-led development and community-driven development are much the same. The World Bank defines community-driven development as “programs [that] operate on the principles of transparency, participation, local empowerment, demand-responsiveness, greater downward accountability, and enhanced local capacity” (World Bank 1). Community-led development focuses on programs that are collaborative and based on the actual needs of people that live in a specific community and not their perceived needs by outsiders. It amplifies the voice of the locals over other voices and ensures that they play an active role in planning and implementing various goals and visions. It essentially “puts local voices in the lead, builds on local strengths (rather than focus on problems), promotes collaboration across sectors, is intentional and adaptable and works to achieve systematic change rather than short-term projects” (Movement for Community-led development 1) Community-led development is based on five principles:


  1. Shared local visions drive action and change.
  2. Using existing strengths and assets.
  3. Many people, groups and sectors working together.
  4. Building diverse and collaborative local leadership.
  5. Working adaptively, learning informs planning and action. (Inspiring Communities 1)

Community-led development is especially important in countries with a vast diversity of languages, history and culture such as Nigeria where certain voices are more prominent than others. The Federal system of government in Nigeria lends itself to a more top-down approach than  a bottom-up approach of development. While various poverty eradication programs and policies aimed at improving the lives of people exist, the lack of participation by the affected communities leads to uneven and one-sided development. Most of the development in Nigeria has benefited urban, high-income and middle-income areas rather than rural and low-income areas even though fifty-one percent of Nigeria’s population live in rural areas that are often less developed (World Bank Data) and even impoverished. For Nigeria to develop and grow, it is important to address the problem of rural and low-income development. Community-led development is an avenue by which Nigeria can achieve even development and encourage participation in the development process from citizens. It can also help in enhancing transparency and improving accountability of government officials.


Community-led development is not a novel idea in Nigeria and the government has explored various strategies such as the National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS) to promote participatory development (Nigeria National Planning Commission 1). However, there has often been a gap between vision and achievement. This paper aims to explore various ways in which Nigeria can achieve community-led development on a large scale. It builds on existing initiatives in Nigeria and discusses why these initiatives have been unsuccessful. By building on but improving existing initiatives, this paper argues that community-led development is achievable in Nigeria. I describe and evaluate four policy options for promoting community-led development in Nigeria. These options are; a national top-down model, an international-national non-governmental model, a purely local model and the balanced and integrated approach model. This paper also makes recommendations and suggests steps forward for the Hunger Project to establish a chapter of the Movement of Community-led Development in Nigeria. Below, I discuss each model in detail and evaluate them based on a specified normative framework.



The normative framework discussed below will be used in evaluating each model of community-led development. It is important that the chosen model of community-led development prioritizes communities as agents of their own change, promotes sustainable rural development and is pro-poor and equitable.

Communities as Agents of Their Own Change 

The premise of community-led development is closely connected to the principle of agency and the ability of community to be agents of their own change. Agency signifies ownership and direct involvement. It is the “capacity to create, reproduce, change, and live according to [one’s] own meaning systems, the powers effectively to define themselves as opposed to being defined by others” (Bhattacharyya 61). Locals should be actively involved in the creation and implementation of policies and programs that affect them. Their opinion should come first and should be paramount in all forms of decision-making. This is especially important in ensuring that development follows a bottom-up approach. Any model that focuses or relies more on a top-down approach defeats the purpose of community-led development. Community-led development is only effective when the locals are active agents and participants in their own change. However, outsiders such as international non-governmental organizations may also play important roles in advancing community-led development.


The effective model of community-led development must be sustainable and effective not just for today but for the future. Sustainable here does not refer to the concept of environmental sustainability. Rather, if refers to the long-term rather than short-term effect of the chosen community-led development strategy. With the implementation of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, there has been a global shift towards sustainable development. The chosen model must “meet the needs and aspirations of the present without compromising the ability to meet those of the future” (UN General Assembly). Community-led development programs in Nigeria have aimed towards the short-term and not the long-term and have been excessively influenced by change in political leadership. The chosen model must include a creation of policies to ensure that all programs and government initiatives have a community led-development aspect to them. Additionally, clearly laid out implementation strategies must be included. Community-led development must become part of the culture of development projects and strategies rather than a trend or part of an often transitory political manifesto.

Pro-Poor and Equitable

Despite the wealth, resources and potential in Nigeria, more than half of the population live in poverty and inequality is on the rise (Oxfam 1). The right model of community-led development must focus on pro-poor and equitable development especially for those in rural and low-income areas with limited access to amenities and basic infrastructure. Development projects especially those led by the government have been one-sided–or have been captured by an elite– and benefited those in urban areas even though a large part of the population resides in rural areas. The chosen model must be able to effectively reach those at the rural (and deprived urban) grassroots and not just benefit communities in urban areas and with higher income. Moreover, the heterogeneous nature of the Nigerian society is marked with problems of tribalism. It is therefore important that the adopted model does not favor one ethnic group or part of the country over the other but rather benefits the entire country.



The evaluative criteria below are based on the normative framework and will be used to evaluate the possible policy options for community-led development in Nigeria.

  1. Does the community-led development approach directly empower communities especially those in rural and low-income communities?
  2. Is it politically feasible?
  3. Does the community-led development approach benefit one part of the country or the entire country?
  4. Is the community-led development approach sustainable?



Below, I describe in detail the four possible models for promoting community-led development in Nigeria. These four models are;

  1. The national top-down model
  2. The international-national non-governmental model
  3. The purely local model
  4. The balanced and integrated approach model.

Using the normative framework and evaluative criteria discussed above, I will evaluate each model stating the advantages and disadvantages of each. It is important to note that the models discussed here are not exhaustive but simply examples of ways that community-led development can be implemented in Nigeria. They are also not novel as there are various examples that exist in Nigeria currently albeit under different names. This paper only aims to present these options in a coherent and comprehensive way and evaluate them against a specified normative framework.

Model 1- National Top-Down Model

The first model is the national top-down model. This model would require support from the Federal, State and Local governments, but the most important component is the Federal government. It requires the institutionalization of community-led development in all Federal policies and programs in the country. The members of the executive and legislature would need to be educated about the importance of community-led development for the country and ways in which it benefits the nation. This model requires the most political support and agreement. It is important that this model transcends partisan lines. Ideally, the model will start at the Presidency and move to the House of Representatives, the Senate and all government Ministries. It will require a change in policy to ensure that all programs have a community-led development approach to them. A community-led development evaluative and normative framework by which all policies and programs would be evaluated would have to be developed. Alternatively, a government Ministry can take the lead on ensuring that government policies are community-led. The Ministry of Budget and National Planning seems well suited to take the lead on developing policy strategies that are community-led and implemented across all levels of government. The Ministry of Budget and National Planning’s functions include the following:

  • To undertake periodic review and appraisal of the human and material resources capabilities of Nigeria with a view to advancing their development, efficiency and effective utilization;
  • To formulate and prepare long-term, medium-term and short-term national development plans and to coordinate such plans at the Federal, State and Local government levels;
  • To monitor projects and progress relating to plan implementation (Ministry of Budget and National Planning 1)

Federal Government

State Government

Local Government

These functions are vital for integrating community-led development into the daily running of the government and the functions of this Ministry make them a strategic partner for making community-led development mainstream.

Various community-led development programs have been implemented on the national level.One of these programs in the National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS) aims to eradicate poverty in Nigeria. The Nigerian National Planning Commission describes it as “Nigeria’s plan for prosperity” and it was developed after three years of various meetings with people all over the country about their needs and aspirations for the future (Nigerian National Planning Commission viii). The National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy represents an example of community-driven development supported by all tiers of government. It is described as the “people’s plan” and the implementation is viewed as a joint venture between the government and the people (Nigerian National Planning Commission). The National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy was developed allegedly based on input from the citizens including “farmers, laborers, factory owners, teachers and university professors, community-based organizations, charities, and other stakeholders” (Nigerian National Planning Commission xiii). The Local and Community-driven Development Approach (LCDD) introduced by the federal government is another example of the national top-down model (Daniel 1). This approach led by the federal government supposedly results in a bottom-top approach where development is led by the local government. It is designed to empower the locals and give low-income people a voice and the power to participate in their own development (Daniel 102). However, there is a gap between national aspirations and rhetoric prioritizing community led development and the actual achievement of such development.


This main advantage of this model is its ability to aspire to and ideally ensure that all tiers of government focus on community-led development projects. And with a national commitment there is the likelihood of the model’s political feasibility. This model, if realized, would also be sustainable because the community-led development framework would be embedded in the public policy sphere at all tiers of government and the higher tiers would support the lower tiers.


However, the problems of corruption, poor implementation from higher to lower levels, and the lack of transparency and accountability presents problems for this model. The creation of programs such as the National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy and the Local and Community-driven Development Approach although functional on paper, encounter problems at the implementation stage. For example, although the National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy had a plan that looked like it would work and be effective, it has been criticized for various reasons including the lack of poverty eradication. Additionally, corruption and embezzlement of public funds by government officials make it hard for meaningful change to occur (Ja’afaruBambale 21). The funds of local governments are linked to those of state governments and there have been complaints of state governments not delivering all the funds to the local government (Stuti 6). This model’s promise has been compromised by the inefficiencies and corruption rampant in the government.

Below, I summarize these points based on the evaluative criteria:

  • Does the community-led development approach directly empower communities especially those in rural and low-income communities?

The national top-down model although in principle politically feasible, does not differ significantly from the current status-quo. The only difference is that it rhetorically moves the government towards policies and programs that are more community-led and makes communities agents of their own change. For this model to benefit those in rural and low-income communities, inefficiencies in the delivery of government programs need to be addressed. In addition, collaboration with more people on the local level is needed to ensure that programs and services being implemented are based on their actual need and not their perceived needs. It requires a lot of advocacy from the local government and multiple checks will have to be put in place to ensure that the programs and policies are truly community-led in practice and not just in theory.

  • Is it politically feasible?

This approach is – or would be politically feasible as various community-led development policies and strategies exist already. Existing community-led development strategies such as NEEDS and LCDD discussed above show that there is political will to establish community-led programs. It is however important to make the community-led development strategies not just be a part of temporary programs or quickly phased out after a set target but a part of the routine and day to day workings of the government at all levels. Proper implementation would be necessary and as part of the implementation of policies and plans, a true commitment to sustainable and pro-poor development that is outside of political propaganda is paramount.

  • Does the community-led development approach benefit one part of the country or the entire country?

This model, if realized, would benefit all parts of the country because it ideally requires the cooperation of all tiers of government. The actual implementation of community-led development would however differ from state to state. Development outcomes vary across the regions in Nigeria. For example, 78.1% of births in South-east Nigeria occurred in a health facility while only 11.5% of births in North-west Nigeria occurred in a health facility in 2013 (Izugbara et al. 8). Other development outcome variations occur in differences in literacy rates between boys and girls.

States with better implementation plans will have greater success in achieving pro-poor and equitable development. In addition, some local governments may be more effective in knowing the needs of the people. It is important to note that states with crucial security concerns such as those in the North-east who are tackling Boko Haram may have difficulties implementing this due to setbacks in development because of prolonged conflict.

  • Is the community-led development approach sustainable?

With proper implementation and entrenchment in the daily workings of the policy system, this approach would be sustainable. The agreement on all political levels and the willingness of the government to commit to community-led development would help in influencing non-governmental organizations and private enterprises to ensure that development programs are people centered and help in empowering people. However, there is abundant evidence that corruption and inefficiency imperil sustainability.

Model 2- International-National Non-Governmental Model

This model focuses on the influence of international and national non-governmental organizations (NGO) on community-led development. Various local and global non-governmental organizations work in communities across Nigeria on issues ranging from electricity provision to gender equality. Many of these organizations focus their work in rural areas and aim to fill the gap by providing services not provided by the government. Non-governmental organizations have played various roles in the development in rural areas. These roles include human capital development, agricultural training, provision of basic amenities and conflict resolution (Ngeh 111).



Local non-governmental organizations in Nigeria have been criticized for various reasons including the lack of transparency, lack of accountability and corruption. The establishment of non-governmental organizations as money making schemes is a joke that has been told repeatedly and undermined the existence and role of non-governmental organizations (Smith 1). This negative reputation stems from the proliferation of non-governmental organizations run by the elite in society who can get funding from large international organizations (Smith 6). Wives of political appointees such as Governors and Ministers establish non-governmental organizations to advance their husband’s political agenda (Smith 6). These organizations owned by the elite engage in philanthropic activity and contribute to the development of society but they are also used as covers to embezzle public funds (Smith 6). However, some responsible and reputable non-governmental organizations exist and continue to bridge the gap in services not provided by the government.


These responsible local non-governmental organizations amplify the voices of those in hard to reach populations and ensure that development programs are representative. Non-governmental organizations in states such as Kano in Northern Nigeria help in advocating for women, who are often left out of public spaces and cannot advocate for themselves (Adryan 294). These women especially Muslim women in seclusion, kulle, based on religious beliefs benefit from this model of community-led development as local non-governmental organizations can reach them readily and advocate for them (Adryan 289). As a populace that is usually maligned and viewed as having little or no agency, the presence of non-governmental organizations with similar viewpoints enable these women to be agents of their own change and define development based on their religious and sociocultural beliefs.

International organizations such as the World Bank have succeeded in implementing community-led development projects with a strong focus on empowering locals and making them agents of their own change. The World Bank funded Fadama Development Project in collaboration with the government of Nigeria is an example of this model in action. The Fadama project focuses on agricultural production and farmers especially those in rural areas (Nwachukwu et al. 1). Fadama is the largest agricultural project in Nigeria and there have been 3 phases of this project. The first phase called Fadama I lasted from 1993-1999 (Nkonya 1825). Fadama I focused on crop production but had some shortcomings including reduction in crop prices (Nkonya 1825). Fadama II was scaled up to include 18 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and a community-driven development (CDD) approach was introduced (Hima et al. 10). At first, the community-driven development approach was not welcomed by the Nigerian government because of the division among various ethnic groups in Nigeria (Hima et al. 11). However, after extensive research into models on community-driven development in other countries including Sri Lanka, World Bank officials and Nigerian government officials tailored community-driven development to communities where Fadama operates (Hima et. al. 11).


The implementation of a Local Development Plan (LDP) was an essential community-driven development component of the project (Nwachukwu et al. 10). The Local Development Plan is an “approach whereby all users of Fadama resources are encouraged to develop participatory and socially” (Nwachukwu et al. 10). This plan required the input from all the interest groups of the project from farmers to widows and required active participation such as collective decision making on the use of project funds from all of them. (Nwachukwu et al. 10; Hima et. al. 12). The third phase of the project- Fadama III (2009-2019) is currently in place and continues to promote community-driven development through the implementation of Fadama in all 36 states and the FCT (Hima et. al. 5).

While this model presents a viable solution, it also has some disadvantages. Local non-governmental organizations suffer from various financial constraints due to the lack of consistent funds. These organizations depend on member’s contributions that are irregular and vary among organizations (Ngeh 111). Non-governmental organizations are usually born out of passion and interests in various societal issues and many of those who begin these organizations lack the adequate skills needed to operate them effectively (Ngeh 111). In addition to this, the corruption and embezzlement of funds make non-governmental organizations risky ventures (Ngeh 111). While international non-governmental organizations are more credible, have better structure and some anti-corruption monitoring, their programs usually have expiration dates, are not widespread and most organizations usually focus on one area of the country.

Below, I evaluate this model based on the evaluative criteria.

  • Does the community-led development approach directly empower communities especially those in rural and low-income communities?

This model empowers low-income and rural communities especially as non-governmental organizations usually work more in these communities because of the greater need. Programs such as Fadama have benefited more rural and low-income areas than urban areas. In Adryan’s study on non-governmental organizations in Kano, the author finds that religious organizations who are knowledgeable on the plight of those in those communities are better able to identify problems and proffer solutions to them when compared to government institutions (294).

  • Is it politically feasible?

This approach is politically feasible because non-governmental organizations are pretty much independent of the government politics. While international non-governmental organizations may need to go through the government for approval of their initiatives or may need them to help in identifying areas to work in, local non-governmental organizations are a


ble to identify areas to work independent of government input. Nevertheless, as international non-governmental organizations gain in-country experience, they become less reliant on the government. Often, even non-governmental organizations started by wives of political office appointees outlive and more or less neutralize their husband’s political positions and many of these organizations continue to exist independently and affect the lives of those in need. To a large extent, non-governmental organizations in Nigeria are free to conduct their activities without interference from the government as non-governmental organizations fill the gaps in services not provided by the government.

  • Does the community-led development approach benefit one part of the country or the entire country?

Non-governmental organizations exist and work in various parts of the country. Both international and national non-governmental organizations establish projects that function in diverse parts of the country. However, the strength of local non-governmental organizations varies from place to place. Non-governmental organizations are more likely to have their head offices in urban areas where donors are readily available compared to rural areas. This does not mean that they do not have projects in rural areas, it only means their main base is in urban areas. International non-governmental organizations on the other hand usually work in various parts of the country and target their projects more to rural areas. So, the influence of the international organization is one counter-weight to urban bias.

  • Is the community-led development approach sustainable?

The sustainability of this model rests on the continued existence of non-governmental organizations and their continued projects in various parts of Nigeria. Many of the local non-governmental organizations in Nigeria are small, young and do not have the structure of global non-governmental organizations that enables them to exist after the founder exits the organization. Non-governmental organizations established by wives of political appointees may also fizzle out after their husbands leave public service. Additionally, international non-governmental organizations usually have specified end dates for their projects. Although some projects such as the World Bank funded Fadama Development Project are renewed over time and have benefitted from a long-standing partnership with the government, other organizations have projects that end after five to ten years. The instability in the existence of organizations make this model unsustainable.

Model 3- Purely Local Model

The third model is the purely local model and this model focuses on people in local communities coming together to find solutions to problems affecting their communities. It seeks to leverage existing traditional community structures and community-based organizations in society. This model thrives on ideas of traditional Nigerian societies and takes advantage of long-standing groups among people in local communities. Various indigenous institutions such as “town unions, age grades and women’s social-cultural, religious organizations” (Ibem 127) and cooperative organizations make up the local model. A major advantage of this model is that it avoids the intricacies of government policy and allows for greater accountability as members of the community can closely monitor how funds are spent. In effect, everyone in the community has a s take in the success of the projects. The continued incidences of corruption in the government has led to distrust in the system and this model avoids – or, at least, seeks to avoid that.

There are various examples of purely local community-led development projects across the country. Usually, communities come together at town hall or annual general meetings where all sectors of the community are represented to decide on projects to focus on. These projects cut across sectors and include roads and bridges, primary schools, wells and water tanks and hospitals (Akpomuvie 93). Funding for projects come from voluntary donations, interest on loans to group members, donations and fines (Ibem 128; Akpomuvie 100). Different communities have various ways of deciding on projects to sponsor and models of accountability. In Ohafia, Abia state in Southeastern Nigeria, decisions are made during general meetings on projects to focus on and project-planning committees make proposals (Ibem 128). These proposals are presented at annual general meetings and members of the community can debate and argue for necessary changes that need to be made (Ibem 128). During the implementation stage, monitoring committees are set up to look after the project and ensure that the projects are being duly implemented (Ibem 128). In addition to financial contributions, members provided free professional services (Ibem 128). In some cases, these community organizations collaborate with international organizations and governmental organizations to provide funding for projects. Nevertheless, these projects focus mainly on the needs identified by the communities.

Despite the advantages of this model, it has its shortcomings. One of the disadvantages of this model is the problem of scale. These local organizations exist mainly in rural areas with people who have lower income than those in urban areas. While the money generated from the organizations can be used for painting schools and providing scholarships to students in secondary schools, it is harder to generate funds for capital-intensive projects such as those involving electricity generation or specialty hospitals (Ibem 130). While some communities may be able to generate large funds because of connections to members in urban areas or higher income members, other communities may be able to execute only small-scale projects and – due to lack of secure funding – sustainable projects (Akpomuvie 105). Community-based organizations are made up of people from different socio-cultural backgrounds and this can lead to tension and conflict with these communities and affect the outcome of projects (Akpomuvie 106). Also, community elite and leaders of community-based organizations may use may use their roles for selfish reasons such as furthering their political aspirations (Akpomuvie 109).

Below, I evaluate this model based on the evaluative criteria.

  • Does the community-led development approach directly empower communities especially those in rural and low-income communities?

Members of the community are empowered directly as they benefit from the projects directly. In addition, the projects that are embarked upon are those that are actually needed in the community. Akpomuvie finds that unlike government projects that focus highly on the agricultural sector, members of the community in Delta State focused on projects that were beneficial and crucial for their survival (Akpomuvie 104). In the study conducted in Delta state, members of the community reported satisfaction and happiness from the completion of the projects and saw themselves as active members who contributed to the development (Akpomuvie 104).

  • Is it politically feasible?

This model avoids the intricacies of the political system and focuses mainly on the community-based organizations. Community-based organizations usually have no political affiliations and are purely community run and facilitated. Just like non-governmental organizations who fill the gaps by meeting the needs that the government are unable to, community-based organizations do the same thing and do not pose a threat to the government.

  • Does the community-led development approach benefit one part of the country or the entire country?

Some parts of the country have stronger age groups and local groups than others. For example, members of the southeast have strong age groups that are passed on from generation to generation. The purely local model may work better here when compared to other parts of the country. However, the success of the purely local model may help in strengthening community-based organizations in other parts of the country.

  • Is the community-led development approach sustainable?

Many of the indigenous organizations have existed for decades and continue to exist. This model’s sustainability is thus conditional on the continued existence of the indigenous organizations. It is important to note that community-based organizations are not homogenous and suffer from conflicts based on religion and tribal differences (Akpomuvie 106). These tensions can affect the continued existence of these organizations and impact their contributions. The lack of funding for large-scale projects also makes them unsustainable.

Model 4- Balanced and Integrated Approach

The balanced approach draws from the merits of the three models described above and is a combination of both government and civil society approaches. This model also makes up for the disadvantages and shortcomings of the models described above by introducing a public-private partnership for the promotion of community-led development. Similar to the national top-down model, it will require support from all tiers of government and an implementation of policies to support community-led development. One of the problems with the national top-down model is the lack of implementation and accountability caused mainly by the disconnect between the government and the people. In this model, the government will work together with non-governmental organizations and community-based organizations to implement community-led development strategies.


Non-governmental Organizations

Community-based Organizations

One of the shortcomings in the purely local model is the problem of scale and danger of local elite capture. By working with indigenous community groups, the government can identify projects that communities need and provide funding to achieve them. Local and state governments who have direct access to these organizations should spearhead the collaboration between the community-based organizations and the government. The needs of the communities can be communicated to government representatives through town hall meetings. First, community-based organizations would need to meet to discuss important and pressing projects that need to be addressed in their communities. Then, they would identify the projects they can fund independently and those that are too expensive. Projects such as energy and health services that are too expensive will be presented to the local and state governments for funding assistance.

It is important that the community-based organizations still fund the projects that they are independently able to fund, as the government may be more willing to release funding for a few big projects than multiple small projects. Additionally, by funding the projects themselves, the communities would be active participants in their own development. It will however be important that local and state government and the communities come together to design an effective process for grouping community-based organizations to avoid the receipt of duplicate requests from the same area/locality.

One way to do this will be by funding community-based organizations from each local government area. For this to work effectively, community-based organizations in each local-government area would need to come together to articulate their interests. This should not be a problem as local governments tend to have similar needs due to geographical proximity and the implementation of large-scale projects such as schools and hospitals would benefit them all.

Non-governmental organizations can help in the delivery of services and in providing funding for community-based organizations. The government may not have the skill and expertise that local non-governmental organizations have on various issues and projects in low-income and rural areas. In addition, it may be cheaper to outsource some projects to non-governmental organizations that are doing well in these areas. The collaboration between the government, non-governmental organizations and community-based organizations can help in improving accountability and transparency about development projects. The awareness of the expected projects and the agreement between all parties will make it hard for any of them to fail on their promises. This essentially puts in place a system of checks and balances. A possible disadvantage of this model is that it makes it easier for corrupt politicians to embezzle public funds through non-governmental organizations headed by their spouses. But the checks and balances would seem to make such corruption difficult.


Nevertheless, the involvement of the community-based organizations in the process will aid in minimizing this. For instance, if a community-based organization approaches the government for help in building a one hundred-capacity hospital specifically for pregnant women and young children and the government agrees to provide a certain percentage of the funding in conjunction with a non-governmental organization and the community-based organization. If the stipulated period for the project is twelve months and all funding is provided up-front, the community-based organization can confront the government and the non-governmental organization if no hospital is built or only a smaller clinic is built. They can do this because all parties know the details of the project and everyone has an investment in the project. The government and the non-governmental organization will be forced to provide an explanation and build the agreed upon hospital to avoid being embarrassed by the people. Also, the inclusion of international non-governmental organizations who have better structures for accountability and transparency will help in reducing this likelihood.

Below, I evaluate this model based on the evaluative criteria.

  • Does the community-led development approach directly empower communities especially those in rural and low-income communities?

This approach empowers those in rural and low-income communities by giving them the opportunity to engage and choose projects that they believe are needed by their communities to be funded by the government. It gives the communities the power to engage in the political process and advocate for the services that they need. Since the communities have a stake in the development projects and may invest some of their money into the projects, it helps in establishing a transparency and accountability process. Many times, the government claims to have spent large number of funds on projects that communities do not need or cannot view the benefits. With this model, the people can point at agreed upon projects and assess their effectiveness and the extent to which the government delivered on their promise.

  • Is it politically feasible?

This model is politically feasible because it builds upon the already established government commitment to increase community-led development initiatives. It does not require an increase in funding or significant changes. Rather, this model helps in ensuring that programs reflect the actual need of the community and not the perceived need. As a result, it helps in achieving tangible progress towards development and not frivolous projects that are not needed and appreciated by those towards whom they are directed. Also, it helps in breaking down the problems of development that abound in a diverse nation like Nigeria.

  • Does the community-led development approach benefit one part of the country or the entire country?

Many communities have community-based organizations and non-governmental organizations. The government involvement in this model makes it expandable to various parts of the country. State and local governments in all parts of the country will benefit from collaborating with community-based organizations. Although some communities have stronger community-based organizations compared to others, this model will help in encouraging other communities to develop stronger community-based organizations especially as they see results in other communities. Some state and local governments may be more receptive to consulting with community-based organizations more than others consult. However, the federal government can help in ensuring that state and local governments collaborate with community-based organizations and non-governmental organizations.

  • Is the community-led development approach sustainable?

This model is sustainable because of the establishment of policies by the government and the role of well-resourced international organizations. Unlike the non-governmental organization approach that is dependent on the existence of the fragile organization, this approach is sustainable. However, a change in policy may reduce the commitment of the government to the community-led development approach and the ongoing role of international organizations. The existence of initiatives such as the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the move of various international non-governmental organizations to a community-led development approach may reduce this. Also, this model can help in strengthening the role of community-based organizations and non-governmental organizations who represent civil society and can lobby against the abandonment of under-resourced community-led development programs.


Above, I have discussed three models for community-led development in Nigeria namely: the national top-down model, international-national non-governmental model, purely local model and balanced and integrated approach model. I have evaluated all the models based on a normative framework and discussed the advantages and disadvantages of each model. While each model has both advantages and disadvantages, the balanced approach is the best approach for community-led development in Nigeria. It builds on the merits but reduces the risks of each approach.


The national top-down model ensures that community-led development is politically feasible, and has the capability of benefiting the nation. Its sustainability is however dependent on the mode in which community-led development takes in the policy formation. The major weakness of this model is the lack of implementation, lack of accountability and the danger of corruption. The international-national non-governmental organization model has the advantage of directly empowering communities in rural and low-income communities. However, problems with accountability and transparency of the operations of local non-governmental organizations make it unsustainable. Also, most local non-governmental organizations are young compared to international ones and so do not have the same structures. Additionally, international non-governmental organizations have projects with short lifespans. Although they put in place structures that allow for continuity, the continued success of the program is not guaranteed due to problems such as the lack of funding. This short lifespan makes it an unsustainable solution in the long-term. Community-based organizations exist mostly in rural and low-income areas and work directly with locals to decide what projects to focus on. The community members have a stake in it and are most actively involved in this model. This model is the most community-led as members of the community are coming together to proffer solutions to their problems. However, the lack of adequate funding means that only small scale projects and sometimes unsustainable can be embarked upon.

The balanced approach combines all these models and builds on the strengths of each

model. This model requires the cooperation and partnership of the government, non-governmental organizations and community-based organizations. Partnerships between the government and international non-governmental organizations are frequent occurrences. With this model however, the government must implement policies and programs nationwide that support community-led development and projects by non-governmental organizations focus on making communities agents of their own development. The most important aspect of this model are the community-based organizations. They present a unique opportunity and structure that the government and non-governmental organizations can consult, emulate, replicate and scale up. As discussed above, these community-based organizations come together to solve problems facing their communities. The first-hand knowledge of these organizations of the amenities and programs needed to ensure development are invaluable. They represent a model of community-led development that truly makes the communities agents of their development and is pro-poor.


Community-led development is achievable in Nigeria and as discussed above there are already existing initiatives that support its implementation and success. To achieve community-led development nationwide and at all levels, it is important to take the following steps. These steps are divided into two. The first set of steps are for Nigeria and the second are for the Hunger Project.

For Nigeria:

  1. To increase political feasibility successive governments must build on the achievements of community-led development policies implemented by past administrations instead of creating something entirely new.
  2.  A collaboration and loose consolidation of community-led development programs and projects must occur to allow for effective implementation and control.
  3.  Community-based organizations should be brought to the forefront of the development discourse.  
  4. Local non-governmental organizations need to change their structures to make them more sustainable.
  5. Community-led development should be mainstreamed in all government projects.
  6. Evaluate the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) 2016 Human Development Report on Nigeria ways in which this HDR Report might both benefit from and in turn strengthen this paper’s “balanced and integrative model” for Nigerian development.


For the Hunger Project:

  1. The Hunger Project should meet and engage with other non-governmental organizations operating in Nigeria.
  2. Meetings with stakeholders especially government officials should be arranged to emphasize the need for community-led development.
  3. Community-based organizations should be brought to the forefront of the development discourse.
  4. The Hunger project should leverage the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. It represents a unique opportunity for Nigeria to reach these goals while moving towards community-led development.



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