“Intellectuals solve problems but geniuses prevent them.” Those words said by Albert Einstein over 200 years ago are fundamental in ensuring a peaceful, safe and functional community anywhere in the world.
Every country, like every state, has a capital where the government resides and focuses its development programmes, neglecting the other communities. For some countries, particularly in Africa, there is a sharp contrast between the development of the capitals and the other communities. The urban dwellers are provided with light, water, good roads, good infrastructure for schools and hospitals and security of life while the rural dwellers are left to exist on their own.
In our last edition, we considered the engineer and his environment, highlighting the needs of the engineer and the needs of the Society, and how the engineer can gain societal acceptance, relevance and support by satisfying the societal needs, through the use of their expertise and experience in meeting the basic needs of the society.
In this edition, we shall identify the possible consequences of under developing the rural communities and focusing on the urban areas, which is a normal practise in Africa.
The following definitions would be necessary for a better comprehension of this discuss: community, rural community, suburban community and urban community.
Community: Human settlements are called Communities. Hence a community is a place where people live, play and work. People living in a community share common interests and sentiments. We shall compare the three basic types of communities along the lines of population size, population density, and commutation patterns.
Urban Community: An Urban community is densely populated with close neighbours in properly planned settlements like block of flats and high rise buildings. The standard of living here in high due to the advanced amenities, opportunities for education, facilities for transport, business and social interaction. The kinds of jobs available in the urban areas are office workers, store clerks, taxi drivers, e.t.c. There are common green areas as parks or for other public uses. The culture in urban communities is secular, with predominantly non-religious affinity.
Suburban community: This is a medium-sized community near a large city, where houses are close together. It is very easy to find neighbourhood parks with playgrounds in this type of community. Houses here may have lawns. The type of workers here are predominantly factory workers.
Rural community: This is a community where houses are far apart, with a small population. Farmland and forest are a common site in rural settlements and the dwellers are mainly farmers, fishermen or miners depending on the natural vegetation, soil morphology and fauna available in that region. The rural dwellers share their emotions and community interaction is mandatory while it is voluntary in the urban settlements. However, the culture in urban communities is sacred, with various types of religions.
The rural dweller wakes up every morning and walks to his farm, some kilometres away, through undulating bush path. He does this repeatedly for months to be able to get a good harvest that he cannot convey to competitive market because of poor road, or even lack of access road in most cases. What happens? The rural dwellers, who are predominantly farmers, are left at the hands of Sherlock middle men, who come to such communities with trucks and buy off the farm produce at ridiculous prices. With the poor earnings made from these sales, the rural dweller is unable to enhance his lifestyle for the better. He cannot afford adequate Medicare nor good school for his kids. They can only feed and live, one day at a time. But this long-time farming of the rural dwellers does not take them out of poverty, even when they increase their input.
This age-long neglect of the rural dwellers has resulted to many negative consequences in our urban cities, some of which include the following:
- Rural – Urban Migration
Some of the rural dwellers as mentioned above are ambitious and tired of this cycle of poverty hence they want to try anything new in the urban cities. Many of them have drifted into the cities for this singular course – in search of greener pastures. However, this influx of rural dweller into the cities has increased the traffic on the limited facilities in the cities.
- Wear and Tear of Facilities
Most facilities, all over the world, are designed to last for a specific life-span, if the design usage is adhered to. With the overuse of most of these facilities in the urban cities in Nigeria, at times with over 200% increase of the capacity that it was designed for, they do not serve their purpose for long before breakdown. Hence the need to constantly replace these items or facilities, as the case may be. Examples are the constant wear on the tiles on a public facility due to abrasion, and the frequency of usage of the ceramics in a public toilet, etc.
- Increased rate of unemployment
Rural dwellers that migrate to urban cities are not trained or skilled enough to take up the white-collar jobs in the cities. Most of them left their subsistence farming and craft works in the rural areas in search of skilled jobs needed in the cities thereby increasing the rate of unemployment in the cities.
- Increased insecurity
They say “an idle mind is the devil’s workshop.” When the rate of unemployment increases without hope for the next day, these unemployed persons are introduced into all sorts of vices just to survive. Some graduate from being petty thieves and being used as political thugs into big time armed robbers, criss-crossing the suburban and urban communities, wreaking havoc and terror on its inhabitants.
- Increased food scarcity
The lush green farm lands are found in the rural areas where they are predominantly farmers. Even the few bourgeois who invest in mechanized farming still need the rural dwellers to do most of the jobs available in the farmland. So, when these rural dwellers migrate to factories and offices in the suburbs and urban settlements, the farms suffer and production declines. We then have a situation where the limited food supply is contended for by an ever increasing population. When this increase in food insecurity does not compliment the rate of consumption, what happens?
The resultant scenario is inflation of the prices of limited goods and services in the suburbs and urban settlements. The prices of the declining food commodities will begin to appreciate as the number of consumers increases steadily.
- Economic strain – Recurrent Expenditure
When the rate of maintenance of our facilities is more than normal, it also means more money would be used per time in maintaining these facilities. This is the case of our recurrent expenditure, which is used time and time again to maintain facilities that have been overstressed due to population upsurge in the urban cities. This is a strain on our economy as the limited funds cannot satisfy the needs of those in the rural areas.
- Urbanization of our cultural heritage
Culture they say “is the way of life of a people.” The custodians of any culture are found in the rural areas and not in the cities. I will not fail to mention the urbanization of our cultural heritage, which is a resultant fact of the influence on our culture by those who migrated from the rural to the urban areas but were not successful. These people return to rural areas with alien and juxtaposed cultural ideologies. The beautiful cultural heritage of our people is being modernised and thereby losing its originality.
We cannot eliminate the vast green associated with the rural settlements.
We also don’t want to lose our rich cultural identity.
We equally do not want the facilities in the cities overstressed and public funds used on them repeatedly to sustain their useful lives.
Food security might become a problem when the vast contributions from the subsistence farmers are eroded by the abandonment of their farmlands.
We therefore need to pay equal attention to the development of the rural areas, as well as that of the urban centres.