The general lack of tangible, broad and and replicable contributions of Sub-Saharan African universities to the quality of life in the region has raised questions about their relevance as vehicles of development. The African University initiative is conceived and proposed as a unique entrepreneurial university education model for Sub-Saharan Africa. Its efforts in teaching and scholarship will be contextualized to meeting the needs and solving societal problems. African University will facilitate the training of a new generation of African leaders who are equipped with the competencies, mindset, and vision to aptly confront and respond to the serious yet fundamental challenges facing the region. and in the process serve as agents of socio-economic change. It is this strong emphasis on community development that influenced the decision to strategically align the implementation of the African University academic plan with development plan for the Tali Area Community.
This study is a critical step in the implementation of the African University community development plan. The primary objective of the study is to generate comprehensive baseline data on rural community resource needs and development risks in Tali Area Community (TACO) in Cameroon. The detailed needs and risks assessments performed in this study have guided the conceptualization and design of a comprehensive, integrated, and sustainable rural development model that will be implemented in (TACO). The model design is flexible enough to facilitate its replication in other rural communities facing similar social, economic and environmental challenges, and opportunities.
- To assess the availability and distribution of resources (human and physical) and the minimum resource and infrastructure requirements for the proposed comprehensive rural healthcare program.
- To assess the nutritional profile and the level of dietary energy consumption in TACO.
- To assess the standards of living, village economies, and major sources of livelihood in TACO.
- To assess the availability of basic medicine supply and to identify resources that will be needed to develop a pharmaceutical management, supply and distribution system in TACO.
- To assess agricultural production practices; constraints, and opportunities for agricultural development in TACO.
- To assess the social behavior towards health, the role of social networks. Governance structure and potential conflicting objectives of the different interested groups in TACO.
- To assess the role of women and the cultural constraints associated with their full participation in the development of TACO.
- To establish and strengthen liaison with TACO’s social and traditional institutions and to identify external and internal private, public and NGO partners for future cooperative relationships during the implementation of the health/community development program.
A comprehensive household questionnaire was prepared, validated by experts, tested in Cameroon, and implemented through the personal interview method. One hundred and fourteen (114) field workers consisting of primary school teachers and educated villagers from within TACO were trained to collect data for the study. The survey questionnaire was designed to generate data on seventeedsets of measures: 1) household demographics, 2) the living conditions and material well being of the people, 3) the rural people’s perception about the community development risks, 4) household consumption expenditure, 5) sources of household income, 6) agricultural production and constraints; 7) food and nutrition, 8) food security, 9) sanitation and hygiene, 10) preventive health, 11) chronic disease conditions, 12) childhood immunization, 13) prenatal care, 14) family planning, 15) youth development, reproductive health, and sexually transmitted diseases, 16) methods of education, information collection, dissemination and and outreach, and 17) villager’s willingness to pay for rural development services. Data was generated for 5011 household members including; 1580 heads of household, 606 women or men who are responsible for household nutrition, 691 household members who have chronic disease conditions, 819 children under-five years old, 421 mothers with children under-five years old, 89 pregnant women, and 805 youths and adolescents.
The study reveals the multifaceted, causally related, mutually reinforcing, and dynamic nature of the socio-economic problems facing rural communities like TACO. The main findings of the study are the following:
- Agricultural production is constrained by inefficient agricultural markets, supply chains, and the general lack of basic agricultural inputs, credit, and technologies. This is responsible for low productivity, high poverty rates, and a low standards of living;
- The average annual household expenditure is 377,359 FCFA ($754.7 US). Stated in Millennium Development Goal (MDG) terms, the average daily HH expenditure in TACO is about $2.10 per day.
- The average annual income for men is 236,814 FCFA ($473.6) and 188,399 FCFA ($376.40 US) for women. Expressed in terms of MDG, men on average earn $1.32/ day and women earn $1.05/day.
- The healthcare system faces severe deficiencies in basic resources in terms of (infrastructure, healthcare professionals, and essential medicine supply) and confounded by poor hygienic behaviors and lack of balanced diet. These constraints are responsible for the high infant mortality rates, high incidence of preventable and chronic disease conditions, and short life expectancy in TACO.
- The lack of basic amenities such as water supply, electricity, reliable household energy source, and basic sanitation facilities;
- The general lack of public and private sector investment and support in the provision of basic infrastructures and social amenities
- The lack of basic communication systems that can generate vital information and awareness that empowers rural residents with the necessary knowledge to seek new opportunities and to respond appropriately to socio economic challenges.
- Amidst these dire findings about the socio-economic reality in TACO is a silver lining and potential for improvement. The poor people of TACO are willing to invest about 5% of their meager incomes to pay for and to improve their socio-economic circumstance.
We gratefully acknowledge the support for the comprehensive community study from the Indianapolis-based West Foundation and African University Foundation in the USA and Cameroon.