Recently at the Kwara Hotel in the ancient city of Ilorin, history was made when three non-governmental organisations signed a memorandum of understanding to bring sustainable development to and reduce poverty in Nigeria.
Although Kwara State is to be the pivot of the scheme, the MoU between these three organisations is aimed at extending the project to every part of Nigeria and ultimately Africa.
Village Earth, which came with Cosmopolitan Allied Health Institute from the United States to collaborate with The Wellbeing Foundation in this project, has been in the business for more than fifty years.
Founded by the trio of Dr. Edward Shinn, Mrs Marian Shinn and Dr. Maurice Albertson, Village Earth has worked in developing countries like India, Indonesia and some others in South America. The organization has devised a model for sustainable development in every country where it has worked.
On the arrival of the team in Nigeria, founder of The Wellbeing Foundation, Mrs. Saraki showed the team of the two America based organisations the needs of communities in Kwara State. She expressed her delight at the likelihood that her foundation would be working with these bodies. “I noticed that we have the same ideas about how communities can develop and do hope that we shall be able to set our people on the path of sustainable development as a result of this visit,” she said. She said further that: “My opinion has always been that we have to take a multi-sectoral look at every attempt to develop our communities, I received a lot of criticism on the need to concentrate on one issue but I have always believed such would only be a tokenistic attempt at the end of the day. I am happy that a credible and experienced organisation like Village Earth thinks my way and we will try to make the best of this chance.”
Professor Maurice Albertson, 83-year-old veteran of the business was of the same mind with Mrs Saraki. He spoke on how the partnership could work in Kwara in the first instance and in other parts of Nigeria ultimately. In his words: “To be sustainable, development must be multi-sectored. The necessary sectors for this kind of development at least in this case of Kwara State will be education, agriculture, private enterprise, water supply, environmental sanitation, social welfare, safety and security. It is only when you have got this in place that the development of a people can really be sustainable.”
Albertson noted that his group had always been sceptical about working in Nigeria, “but we are very impressed with the vision of Mrs Saraki and her husband and I agree with them that there is a dire need for self-sustainable developmental projects in the state.”
He identified that one of the very possible ways of getting people out of their poverty status in Nigeria is agriculture. “In 1969, we at the Colorado State University did a study which revealed that Nigeria’s soil was one of the very best in the world, with enormous potential for agriculture. As a matter of fact, the combination of agriculture and petroleum was said to be the possible sources of wealth for the country. It is sad that the country has chosen to concentrate on petroleum while less than one per cent of the land of the country is being used for agriculture.”
Shinn, who spoke on the Village Earth Model pointed out that two-thirds of the population of the world lives in abject poverty and that the basic way to bring them out of this state and make the world safe and better for everyone was to bring the resources monopolised by the minority closer to the poor rural populace.
“In doing this, we must allow the people to do it themselves;