Popular participation in poverty alleviation activities and strategies in a decentralised system of government : A case study of Mumbwa district in Zambia
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The study problem was that in a decentralised system of government, it is expected that there would be effective popular participation in development and poverty alleviation activities and strategies, and that local people are in charge of their own affairs. However, in Zambia, despite the existence of a decentralised system of government, the level of participation by local people in activities and strategies related to poverty alleviation is still weak and yet the majority of the population are poor. The general objective of the study was to investigate the nature and level of popular participation in poverty alleviation activities in Zambia, and in the process establish factors that have impeded full community participation in such activities by local communities. To achieve the study objective, the following methods and procedures were used: A case study design, focusing on Mumbwa district was employed. The sampling designs were purposive and systematic sampling. The sample size was 243 respondents and key informants drawn mainly from Mupona, Myooye and Nampundwe wards. Both secondary and primary sources of data were used. Data were analysed using manual and Statistical Packages for the Social Sciences (SPSS) techniques. The findings of the study indicate that decentralization of the Zambian government has enabled various categories of institutions to be established for local people to participate in poverty alleviation activities. They include decentralized government structures such as deconcentrated sector ministries and devolved government institutions. Further, Community-based Organisations (CBOs) and external actors like Non-governmental Organisations (NGOs) and international donors have emerged to complement decentralised government institutions. These institutions have established community organs to attract local people's participation. Under deconcentrated sector ministries, there are community institutions like Cooperative Societies, Neighbourhood Health Committees (NHCs) and Parent-teacher Associations (PTAs). Under devolved government institutions, there are local governments such as District Council and Traditional rulers. Similarly, CBOs, NGOs and donors are associated with particular community institutions through which local people participate in poverty alleviation activities.CBOs, NGOs and donors also collaborate with decentralised government institutions as they carry out poverty alleviation activities in communities. The collaborations are aimed at ensuring that operations of CBOs and external actors comply with government policies.The findings show that popular participation for poverty alleviation takes two forms namely direct and indirect participation. However, most of the people in Mumbwa district do not participate directly in poverty alleviation activities implemented in the communities. The findings revealed that less than two percent of the local people had participated directly in poverty alleviation activities implemented by the District Council; 24.2 percent had participated in activities implemented by Traditional rulers; 14.4 percent participated in activities implemented by CBOs; nine percent participated in activities implemented by NGOs; and four percent participated in activities implemented by donors. The findings suggested that Traditional rulers attracted a higher percentage of local people to participation for poverty alleviation than other organisations in local communities.Full community participation in poverty alleviation activities in Mumbwa district is impeded by multiple factors. Firstly, some of the local people are not aware of poverty alleviation activities implemented by various institutions in the communities. Secondly, local people are not interested in voluntary participation for poverty alleviation. Thirdly, local people are committed to personal activities like fetching food for their individual households rather than participating in collective poverty alleviation activities. Fourthly, local people are sceptical to participate in poverty alleviation activities implemented by external organisations such as NGOs and international donors. Fifthly, local people have lost interest in participating in communal poverty alleviation activities due to unfulfilled government and/or political promises.