Social capital, empowerment and development needs in South Eastern Nigeria (a case study of cooperatives in Owerri, Nigeria)
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
Their poverty condition and inadequacy of government assistance at all levels (from federal to state to local) in Igbo communities of South-eastern Nigeria propels the locals to explore the self-help pathway in cooperative association as an alternative means for addressing their collective and individual needs. Over the years, the cooperative ideal has become a sustainable model of support for the Igbos of this region particularly in the rural village communities. However, the advancement of this form of livelihood in the area is fraught with many difficulties ranging from members’ distrust of government development policies, ‘nominal’ (defunct and struggling) cooperative formation, poor membership education/illiteracy, group leadership problems, youth urban migration, group patron clientism, urban-rural encroachment and group gender disparity issues. Social capital is arguably the dominant concept for examining cohesion and cooperative acts among people (Bourdieu, 1997 and Putnam, 2000). ‘Trust and reciprocity’, as principle attributes of social capital that condition most sustained cooperative interactions among members of the groups, is examined in this thesis. This research also assesses the inter-linking (bridging) bond that exists between the cooperative groups, their communities (including dispersed community members elsewhere in Nigeria and abroad) and the government. For example: Why do the ‘nominal’ cooperatives in the study communities lack this attribute? Does ‘trust’ determine the type of attention that community cooperatives receive from their government? What factor(s) facilitate assistance from the government and other community development groups especially the diaspora? Are there avenues to achieve best practice in these relationships for sustained cordiality? The thesis applies the Igbo cultural understanding of social capital as ugwu in discussing relational bonds within select cooperatives and non-cooperative farmer groups in the study communities using field tools adapted from the World Bank’s Social Capital Implementation Framework (SCIF). Previous studies conducted by some African scholars such as Uchendu (1965), Mbiti (1969), Njaka, (1974), Ekeh, (1975), Iroegbu, (1997), Ohadike, (1994), Korieh (2006), Nwagbara, (2007) were drawn upon in the discussions. The researcher adopted a mixture of qualitative (un-structured interviews) and quantitative methods (questionnaires) in gathering and analysis of data. The research found that members of active smallholder cooperative societies uphold their mutual integrity (ugwu) and membership ties but contrastingly adopt a prebendalist attitude (similar to the ‘nominal’ cooperatives) in interactions with the government. Cooperative societies’ ‘ugwu’ - social capital - bond did not necessarily antecede bridging social capital particularly at interactions with the government. The research recommends that since ‘ugwu’ is central in Igbo cooperative life; the government could work closely with local institutions to formalize and strengthen this and in the process rebuild bridging trust with the locals. The churches and other traditional community institutions are mediators that could help in this process. It is hoped this study will help encourage best practice in smallholder cooperative functions and rural development practice.