Wednesday, 30 September 2020

Bad Roads and their Connection to Poverty: A CASE OF LELEYI GWARI COMMUNITY IN ABUJA

Bad roads
Cars struggling on very bad road.
Image Credit: Guardian Nigeria Newspaper

By Ojonugwa Yahaya from HipCity Innovation Centre

In every given geographical area occupied by a population of people, either large or small, the first thing that indicates the presence of said people is an access road. Road is very important to human development and the importance of it cannot be over-emphasized.

Roads make a crucial contribution to economic development and growth and bring important social benefits to every society. Good road networks are of vital importance as they provide access to agricultural market, opens corridors to employment when businesses spring up along paved roads, attracts social, health and educational services to a given area, therefore serving as a good catalyst in fighting against poverty. Roads open up shadowed areas to new business opportunities and stimulate economic and social development. For these reasons, road infrastructure is the most important of all public assets.

Across many states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory, the lack of access roads, especially in agrarian communities, contributes to the huge post-harvest loss experienced by farmers. The deplorable conditions of many of our roads in the hinterlands inhibit farmers access to markets, therefore impacting on food supply and as well as discouraging farmers from cultivating in commercial quantity. This is the exact scenario Leleyi Gwari community people find themselves in.

Roads in Leleyi Gwari. They Get progressively worse when the rains come in.
Image Credit: Ojonugwa Yahaya

BACKGROUND (LELEYI GWARI)

Leleyi Gwari is an indigenous agrarian community under Pai ward, located in Kwali Area Council of the Federal Capital Territory. Leleyi Gwari has existed for over 50 years before the geographical space known as Abuja became Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory. The people of Leleyi are predominantly the Gwaris’, though they have other ethnic group dwelling among them which includes the Gbagyis’, Nupe, Hausa, Tiv, Ibos, Ganagana, Birom, Bassa, Angas, Mada, Fulani and Tarok. Leleyi Gwari has a population of over 4000 people. 

The common agricultural practices in Leleyi are crops planting (Maize, yam, rice, pepper, okra, soybean, watermelon, tomatoes, guinea corn, cassava, groundnut, melon, and bene seed); Animal husbandry (fish farming, cattle, goats, poultry and sheep).

In the over 50 years of Leleyi Gwari’s existence the people have not enjoyed good access road, and this has placed huge limitation on the marketability of their farm produce. It is hard for interested buyers of agricultural products to access the community and those that managed to find their way to the community tend to price the products at very low and discouraging prices, making a mockery of the sacrifices and work done by the farmers. The option of moving their agricultural produce to the market such as Kwali and Gwagwalada is another hard nut to crack due to the bad nature of the Leleyi road and when they manage to take the product to the market, the cost of transportation takes a huge chunk of any profit they make from sales as transportation charge is high due to the bad road. 

This is everyday experience of the Leleyi people and other farmers across many communities in Nigeria who go through the rigors of farming to make food available to the nation. Many of them live in poverty; barely making enough profit after all the hard work to take care of their needs and that of their family who are dependent on them. According to the people of Leleyi Gwari, they have written letters to the Kwali Area Council on several occasions seeking for intervention but no response till date.

Poor road infrastructure in communities does not only affect production and distribution of farm products. It also negatively impacts the development of rural areas generally. The poor road condition in Leleyi Gwari community makes it difficult for the farmers to have access to intervention aid and agro-services such as training and education, fertilizers, improved seedlings etc.

The construction of well-paved standard roads in Leleyi Gwari community will have direct impact on the productivity of farmers; because of the ease in transporting farm products to markets and quicker access to farms output would largely increase. With good access road, agricultural extension workers can easily reach the people with information and agricultural innovations that will help the farmers prevent and control disease outbreaks, improve crop growth, new improved seed varieties etc. Research has shown that farmers who have access to high yielding crops that are resistant to pests and diseases tend to produce more and avoid losses, but how will rural farmers such as the leleyi people become aware when they cannot be reached?

Good access roads have multiplier benefits and the absence of it also have multiplied consequences, it is on this grounds that the people of Leleyi Gwari community are calling on the Kwali Area Council, Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) to commence plans for the construction of the Leleyi Gwari Road which also serves as a feeder road to neighboring communities. 

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