August 19, 2007

Gambia: The Role of Targets-Based Development Communication in Rural Development

Suruwa B. Wawa Jaiteh
Published in The Daily Observer (Banjul)

This is a shallow basis for rural development, which is a prerequisite for sustainable poverty reduction and the attainment of the Vision 2020 goals.

The challenge then is to awaken an inner sense of commitment to self improvement as the basis for sustainable rural development. The task of participatory and persuasive communication is therefore to stimulate the rural beneficiaries to reflect upon their relationship to the larger society in that any improvement in their own lives and environment is thus an integral part of larger societal development. The rural population must recognize first their own worth as individual contributors to the upliftment of the masses. Their skills, talent and energies must be seen as crucial to rural development. They must know that their individual destinies are intricately bound to the destiny of not only the rural areas but of the nation. This feeling of self worth, of having something of value to develop, is perhaps the key to commitment, involvement and ultimately change in the rural areas. Again, these intangible factors which shape attitudes are elusive and sometimes abstract. These factors are deeply rooted in self concept and perception. The way an individual relates and reacts to this environment is determined and qualified by his perception of himself in relation to his society. African societies tend to provide a greater sense of security and belonging as compared to more individualistic societies. It is, therefore, an additional task of the adult educator to reverse the colonial mentality by redefining the Gambian personality from an indigenous base. These are very subtle but powerfull force in persuasive communication. The implications for development are boundless. The dignity of the common man must be reestablished and harnessed as a strategy for rural development. Aspects of traditional life in the rural areas that may be of value in extension education programme are traditional occupations such as farming, local medicine, carpentry, metal work, carving, pottery making, canoe making, fishing and numerous others. These occupations can in many ways serve the cause of rural development. In ignoring the value of such skills and the functions they serve within rural areas, the extension educator (persuasive communicator) unknowingly and inadvertently will diffuse the inherent value systems of the rural folk.

The integration of traditional and western technologies is an example of integrated approach. This raises the possibility of more positive attitude change through recognition and acceptance of (effective) local technologies combined with western technologies. Instead of persuading and convincing rural populations that all local remedies are useless, people may respond more through an approach, which alienates them less, involves them more and thus indirectly raises and improves food security consciousness and food security practices. Extension education should find ways to integrate other traditional occupations into the realm of development.

Two levels of change will emerge. First, the inner attitudinal changes expressed through involvement, participation, commitment and responsibility. And secondly, concrete achievement and improvement in the environment.

It is a mistake assumption to believe that only educational and technical skills are needed for development.


Communication - induced attitude change must successfully motivate people for positive action. Motivation is the process of arousing behaviour. It accounts for the purposiveness of behaviour. Each individual has urges and needs that move him or her to act and cope. Human behaviour is directed by unfulfilled drives, purposes or needs. Maslow (1962, 1970, 1971) postulated a hierarchy of basic human needs.

They can be classified under the following five headings: -

1. Physiological needs - basic human needs such as food, clothing and shelter.

2. Security - the need to be free of physical danger or the danger of being deprived of ways to meet the basic physiological needs.

3. Social (or affiliative) - the need to be accepted by other human beings, to belong and to have the approval of others.

4. Esteem - the need to be recognised by others through the granting of status, prestige and power.

5. Self-actualisation - the need to fulfill one's potential, or to do what one believes is important from his own point of view.

Physiological necessities are the primary order of need in the hierarchy. Only after the basic need has been met reasonably well does the next higher level of need develop enough to motivate the individual. Individuals are of course motivated by a number of needs and any-one may predominate at a given time.

There are at least two sets of variables at play in all production systems - input as well as the output situations. They comprise the internal conditions embodying the needs, purposes and perceptions of each producer (the farmer) and the external conditions of the environment. It is the goal of the frontline extension agent to analyse and target the internal needs of the producer in relation to those of the environment.

The needs and role perception of the producer must include his role as a citizen, a consumer and developer of resources and products and as a worker producing goods and services.

For rural populations, the fulfillment of physiological needs and security are the predominant sources of motivation. The crucial task of communication in this regard is to motivate people to better utilize their environmental resources to fulfill their needs. This is a complex process because it will mean motivation for production beyond a subsistence level and will require more participation and self reliance. Rural development is defined as improving living standards of the low income population residing in the rural areas and making the process of their development self sustaining. Once the individual is able to master his environment to supply his needs of food, clothing and shelter, he will begin to concentrate on satisfying higher order needs such as self-actualization. If an individual becomes more secure, he may begin to develop his activities and skills to benefit himself and his community. Communication for motivation, therefore, must trigger this chain of development. It is an internal mechanism that is unfortunately tenuous. In development parlance this is the only self-reliant strategy for farmer empowerment.

To tap human potential, motivation theories contend that opportunities must be provided for people to satisfy their higher needs through work, responsibility and self direction. Motivation for this purpose must be goal directed, essentially targets-based.

The general motivation theory that best defines this assumption is expectancy theory. Briefly, expectancy theory states that a person will perform some behaviour if that behaviour is likely to lead to some desired outcomes. The existence of desired outcomes translate into goal directed behaviour. Communication for motivational change must therefore operate from a set of shared desired outcomes (goals) in order to reach the target audience.

Relevant Goals for Rural Development

- Agricultural development.

- Improved living conditions.

- Preventive health care/practices.

- Income generating activities.

- Literacy.

- Development of Crafts/Skills.

- Child care.

- Cooperatives and many others.

Care must be taken to incorporate the fulfillment of both lower and higher needs. For, it is through the actualization of higher needs that rural development can be facilitated.

Persuasive Communication

The relationship or significance of persuasive communication to rural development should be clear. The concept of persuasive communication here is understood in terms of a unifying principle, the broad framework of which attitude change and motivation are a part. Strategies for persuasive communication must invariably develop or change behaviour by altering a disposition that controls it. The interaction of the variables which underlie processes of attitude change and motivational behaviour have provided the basis for effective persuasive communication. We can anticipate that strategies for changing attitudes focus on changing either the underlying belief or the value premise. Research in this area has revealed that the likelihood of attitude change depends on the following:-

- The properties of the attitudes that an individual brings to the situation.

- The broader characteristics of the transmission situation itself such as the properties of the persuasive message.

- The properties of the agent that transmits the message, or the source, and

- To a lesser extent, properties of the setting of social context in which transmission occurs.

Some types of persuasive messages are more effective than others in achieving attitude change. The basic appeals in a message (especially to values), and he organization or presentation of the argument as well as other aspects have been examined with a view to discovering the formal properties of elements that are most powerful in inducing change. From this field of inquiry, one major aspect of the persuasive message is recognized for its importance. This is the relationship between the content of the message and the motivational basis on which the attitude rests. This principle can be stated thus: 'the type of message that is likely to be most effective in inducing attitude must fit the attitude structure, being relevant to the motivational basis of the attitude, yet involving new novel arguments against which the individual has little counter information."

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