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Poor performance of government in meeting the socioeconomic needs of citizens has been identified as one of the reasons behind the proliferation of community based

Organizations (CBOs) in the world today.  Along this line, Wahab (2000) observed that people in developing nations have until recently looked up to their governments to meet their basic socio-economic demands. Of a truth, governments in African nations have evolved both top-down and bottom-up approaches to achieve sustainable development of their people. These include establishment of lead industries at key centres so as to create job opportunities, provide basic infrastructure and utilize regional natural and man-made resources to stimulate growth and economic development that would spread to lagging regions (Perroux, 1955; Abegunde, 2003). Besides, Agbola (2002) noted that successive Nigerian governments have responded to both rural and urban problems by evolving poverty alleviation programmes to help stir development simultaneously at the grassroots. These programmes include the national directorate of employment (NDE), community banks, directorate of foods and rural roads infrastructure, better life for rural women, national poverty alleviation programme (NAPEP) among others.

The failure of governments’ top-down approach and lack of involvement of the people at the grassroots in the bottom-up strategy have weakened the confidence of the public in central authorities. The inadequacy of government to make provision in respect to the growing population has led to the adoption of self- help techniques by the

People through collective action known as Community based organization, which arises as a result of the needs of the people to be met. Here, people organize themselves based on appropriate institutional arrangement; mutual agreement and shared understanding to plan and execute public goods and services that directly touch their lives (Ostrom, 1990).

Communities therefore seek solace in indigenous institutions, which pressurize government for attention to development problems in their communities and/or undertake development programmes and projects that they observe that are very needful in their immediate communities.

From the primitive stage of man’s existence to the time of civilization, development has always stemmed from the coming together of people or groups for the common interest of members. Grouping for mutual help and improvement of lives of community members has been accepted as a strategy of community development. This goes to show that the involvement of the people in addressing the felt-needs of their community is not a recent phenomenon.

Ever before the advent of colonialism, the ‘we’ consciousness that existed among the people made it possible for them to come together and articulate their efforts towards action for meaningful development.  There has been association of titled men, married women, hunters, age grades, secret societies etc. these groups willingly, without any form of payment and without compulsion and anticipation of one form of reward or the other, joined together for a particular purpose; usually for the improvement of their lives and community. They help tremendously in meeting the welfare needs of the people.

The communal lifestyle that existed among the community members also made it possible for them to assess their problems, plan and ensure successful execution of projects. Ekpeyong (1993) affirms that affiliation creates passion, shapes behaviour and induces action. We make effort to live but we need the support of others to improve. As infants born into the world cannot survive without the support and assistance of adults, in the same vein, some communities cannot improve on their living conditions without the effort and assistance of other people and corporate groups in the communities.

Thus the development of the communities through the mobilisation of the people and their resources has remained one of the greatest and oldest strategies of transformation in the African community. The most significant attribute of this strategy is that it is based on the philosophy of self-determination, self-reliance and self-help (Ejionye, 1995).   They constitute the media for resources mobilization to confront local challenges. These include the finance and execution of projects, lobbying and nomination of representatives to government offices to air their views and press their needs and developing of human resources against future developmental needs of their immediate communities. Thus, their impacts have been felt in the areas of economic development, policy matters, health and infrastructure, environmental and physical development among others (Agbola, 1998; Akinola, 2000; Akinbode, 1974; Onibokun and Faniran, 1995).

Self-help projects undertaken through voluntary efforts and the active participation of individuals and corporate groups in communities constitute an important nucleus in grassroots development. This process involves organizing community members for identification of their needs, plan; and for action to meet these needs with maximum reliance on their initiative and resources, with or without the assistance of government or non-governmental organizations (NGOs). According to Dike (1979) the growth and development of a town is mainly a reflection of the population growth, location of industries, specialization and organization of the inhabitants of the community.

In Nigeria most people believe that it is the responsibility of the government and its functionaries to provide for the needs of the communities. It was maintained that government could, and should develop communities, provide basic infrastructure, social and physical amenities.

Though the government is seen by some as a greater provider with unlimited resources, Sociologists and development experts see collective efforts and self-help as inevitable tool in community development. Okodudu (1998) argues that the failure of government in their traditional role of developing rural communities to enjoy developmental facilities gave rise to social institution and organization aimed at mobilizing local resources for the provision of the amenities with the cooperation of other agencies like the non-governmental agencies (NGOs). The collection of these social institution and organization is what is referred to as community-based organizations (CBOs).

The purpose of CBOs is to plan, implement, and monitor social and economic development programs and provide technical and financial help to the communities. CBOs positively affects the process of rural change i.e. increase in income, improvement in health, nutrition and literacy status of the populations. Various communities have been transformed through self-help, cooperation and mutual assistance.

The Federal republic of Nigeria (1970:38) in recognition of the vital role of self-help approach to community development outlined its objectives to include the sustenance of self-help community development; to foster development in the rural areas; and to coordinate what was described inarticulate self-help community development effort.

Adamu, Sodiya, Adeogun and Ogunbameru (2005) community based organizations provide mechanisms by which people relate with their environment. They also serve as forum where people come together to discuss their socio-economic problems and decide on strategies for bringing about desired changes.

Traditionally, community development was anchored on the voluntary effort from time immemorial. The Igbo age grade system is one of the social institutions that contribute immensely towards the coherent administration or governments of the people from time immemorial. It does this by bringing the people and their administrators together and sponsoring some basic developmental projects.

Age grades are traditional grass root gents of community development. It plays crucial role in virtually all aspects of community development. In traditional societies, the Age grades perform such tasks as the construction of market squares, village squares, clearing of farm paths that led to the stream, maintenance of roads and policing the community (Nsugbe, 1974). Various Age grade associations mobilize resources for physical infrastructure and basic social amenities. Udum (2007) observed that Age grades perform diverse functions in the society, apart from traditional attributes; it combines the functions of political parties, administration, bureaucracy, judiciary, legislature, diplomatic services and defense.

Community development which is the basis of community based organisation is now recognized as an educational process in which groups of people, through the initiative and prompting of an internal or external leadership cadre, organize themselves, identify their development priorities and determine their strategies for meeting the needs identified. Whether internally or externally induced, the role of leadership is central to the overall success of the process. The manner in which the peoples’ needs are identified and their priorities determined, all depend to a large extent on the types of leadership which their community has (Anyanwu, 1982).

It is worthy of note that if the accomplishment of objectives requires collective efforts, human beings try to form associations designed to coordinate the activities of many individuals backed up by incentives, so that the objectives for which the associations are formed are achieved. As a matter of fact, society will cease to exist if members do not interact. This means that they must come together to give meaning to certain social phenomenon, establish a “commonness” with one another and develop a strong spirit or feeling of “we together” which implies a transfer of meaning and some level of mutual understanding. The feeling that the programme or project is “our work” adds advantage to the success of community-based organizations in community development.

In Nkanu East, community-based organizations include Age grades, town unions, women associations, social clubs, credit groups, committee of friends etc. Community-based organizations are those organizations within the communities which come together for attainment of desired objectives in the interest of the group.

The Age grade group in Nkanu East usually have these categories of work at their jurisdiction: they embarked on the renovation of the hall in the village, the wrestling (play) ground, construction of linkage culverts and maintenance of road network within the town to link to other villages and neighbouring town; they also provide the community with Army they need for security against attacks from neighbouring communities. Though the activities of community- based organizations may not be very elaborate is size, their impact on the development of communities has far reaching effect. It challenges wealthy men and even other non-governmental agencies to embark on similar development projects. The truth remains that no matter how small a self-help project is, it has the capacity of provoking further development. It triggers group competitions within communities and among the stakeholders in community development.

According to Okodudu (1998), social clubs, cultural organization and cooperative societies (community-based organizations) are major actors in the community development scene. In most cases the work we do help others regardless of whether the work is paid for or not. Those who develop this selfless attitude to fellow men and to the nation do so under voluntary associations which the community- based organization share characteristics with. They are sometimes described as humanitarians or help agents; they render help to communities without seeking any rewards.

In various part of Nkanu East, the Age grades have directly or indirectly influenced development activities in their area of operation. They have not only encouraged development activities, but have also embarked on development projects.  Recently the Age grade in Nkanu East has embraced modern standards of the society. They now embark on development projects such as building of bus stop stands in places where people stay in the sun or rain waiting for vehicles; market stalls, traffic control booths, classroom blocks and furniture for people in primary and secondary schools and so on.  The age grade association remains a formidable force to reckon with in terms of community development.

Community based organization play prominent role in initiating programmes and project, mobilizing resources and educating the grass root populace. The influence of local indigenous actors in community development cannot be neglected. Local initiative stemming from the felt needs of the people remains very important in grass root development. This study therefore concerns itself with the influence of the activities of community based organization with focus on the age grade association; have on grassroots development in Nkanu East, Nigeria; to examine the activities of community based organization in grass root development in Nkanu East.



Community development has its root in self-help efforts hence the Age grades. This research work is concerned with the problem of ascertaining the role that CBOs (Age grade system) play in the process of development of the rural areas. The CBOs were already playing dominant roles in various rural communities. It has been seen as agent of development under the local government. The need of the people to build a strong rural economy and development has been bypassed by the local government. This consequently implied the extent of neglect experienced in the rural areas by the local government that has necessitated the formation of the CBOs (age grade) to help foster development where the local government has failed. The people of Nkanu East just like   most rural areas in Nigeria have suffered gross neglect and deprivation over the years.

The people have waited too long for the government to provide them with these basic infrastructures and thus have resorted to self-help efforts in form of the CBOs. With their collective efforts, many rural communities have built primary schools, market squares, bridges, culverts, bole-hole waters, health clinics and even rural electrification. The success recorded by age grade association in community development has not been made without some cost.

Ejionje, (1995)  observed that competition between age grades and other voluntary association in communities has led, among other things to the duplication of efforts and some waste in the utilization of scarce resources, owing mainly to lack of co-ordination and central direction. Successive governments over the years have been unable to provide the appropriate encouragement to maximize the utilization of the dynamics of local resources in community development.

Poostchi, (1986) attributed the problem of self-help association such as age grades, to uncoordinated development projects. Granted that the CBOs are playing dominant roles in various rural communities, there is, however, there is huge deficit in basic infrastructural services to the people; it is necessary to strengthen the coordination of management of community development.

Despite the seeming strengths the Age Grades in Nkanu East have projected, there is need for government intervention. This study therefore sets out to diagnose and ascertain the role of the CBOs (age grade) as a vehicle for rural development in Nkanu East local government their achievements, capacity building and the way forward.

With these issues in mind, the following questions were developed

  1. Does the age grade system foster rural development in Nkanu East L.G.A.?
  2. Does lack of fund hinder the age grades from contributing effectively to rural development?


The broad objective is to assess the effects of the activities of age grade system on rural development in Nkanu East local government area.

The specific objectives are as follows:

  1. To examine if the age grade systems foster development in Nkanu East L.G.A.?
  2. To examine if lack of fund hinders the age grades from contributing effectively to rural development?


This study has both academic and practical significance. Academically, this study will promote a better understanding of the concept of CBO. Most Nigerians are unaware of the existence of Community Based Organizations and their roles in rural development; it is therefore expected to enlighten and/or educate persons who are ignorant of the CBOs, its essence, its compositions (Age grades, town unions, women groups, social clubs etc.), its operations and organizations.  The study will also contribute to the existing literature on CBO and stimulate further research on the concept of Rural Development.

Practically, this study will help us understand the immediate and remote causes of underdevelopment in the rural areas which has triggered the self help means hence the age grade system. It also helps in understanding the activities of the age grade in Nkanu east and ways by which they help in solving the problems paralysing the local communities through  the joint effort of the age grades in every community which has helped in providing the much needed social amenities for the rural dwellers. It provides information on the influence of the activities of age grade system on rural development; it also provides the insight on the level of community participation in self-help projects as a means of supplementing the efforts of government. It will make us to be in a better position to formulate a strategy which will take care of those factors that had for long time block Nigeria’s’ development and most especially the rural areas.

It also provides us with useful hints for further research on the activities of age grades in Nigeria and Nkanu East in particular. Finally, lessons derivable from the findings and recommendations of this study will be useful to patriotic individuals and organisations preoccupied with the present and future operations of the local people at the community level for total liberation of the nation from her underdeveloped status.



  1. The age grade system foster development in Nkanu East local government area.
  2. Lack of fund hinders the age grade from contributing effectively to rural development.