The gains and strength in participation: a case study of Mbiabet Ikpe rice farm project in Nigeria
This article looks at government operated rice farming in Mbiabet in the state of Akwa Ibom, Nigeria. Government operation of the Mbiabet Ikpe rice farm enabled expansion of the cultivable rice paddy, building of drainage systems, provision of silos and generators, improved infra-structure, and gave access to technical expertise. But it also generated massive fraud in allocating rice plots to farmers leading to conflicts and killings; inadequate maintenance of drainage systems; silos that remained unused and vandalised; and farmers refused to maintain their plots effectively as they could not keep it to the following year. In 1994 an Africa Development Bank (ADB) project funded a rice development survey in the area and a PRA (Participatory rural Appraisal) approach was applied with public meetings, workshops and action research involving the local community. The villages of Mbiabet were encouraged to set up Village Development Associations (VDAs) which were later coordinated in the Mbiabet Ikpe Community Development Association (MICDA). Within this network of organisations a framework was set up for participative identification of the main community problems their possible solutions. The MICDA then requested the handing over of the operability of the Mbiabet Ikpe rice farm and their proposal was accepted by the government. The authors conclude that the overtake of the rice farm has been successful and that the intensive nature of the facilitation where community members played active roles, coupled with long periods of engagement, which accorder people time to adjust to new challenges, contributed to the success of the programme.