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The Voice of Nigerian Poverty

07/07/2005 12:47:03

Rural poor in the Niger Delta
Rural poor in the Niger Delta

A pioneering partnership between Lancaster University and a University in Nigeria is working to record the voice of the rural poor in the Niger Delta.

Dr Uwem Ite of Lancaster University’s Geography Department has led a three-year partnership with the University of Uyo, Nigeria, funded by the British Council.

This latest project – funded by the British Academy - builds on that link. Later this month Lancaster University academics will travel to the Niger Delta to set the ball rolling on the first in depth set of interviews asking the rural poor for their views on poverty.

Lancaster University will train staff and students from the University of Uyo and community volunteers how to carry out this type of qualitative research, which is still relatively new to Nigerian social science.

Over the coming year these interviews will be recorded on tape, transcribed and written up into a report which will be passed on to the Nigerian Government, Non Governmental Organisations, villagers and other universities.

It is the first time such detailed interviews have been conducted in native languages in Nigeria and researchers hope it will reveal a new layer of detailed information that hasn’t previously been recorded.

Dr Ite, who was born in Nigeria and has worked in British Universities since 1991, said: “Nigeria has a strong oral tradition so we have high hopes that once people understand what we are asking for there will be a very positive response. Information about poverty has typically been gathered by quantitative rather than qualitative methods and is on a national level rather than local. The Government and other organisations may be well meaning in terms of wanting to tackle poverty and encourage development but if you don’t listen to the people, if you try to impose changes from the top down then you will not take them along with you.”

Dr Lenny Baer, a Lancaster University geographer, will play a lead role in the training of interviewers.

He said: “This research isn’t going to solve the problem of poverty in the Niger Delta but by teaching new methodology to people in Nigeria we are building institutional capacity. It is also important that we take the time to listen and let people talk. These are important oral testimonies.”

The interviews will take place in two villages and it is hoped that the project can be rolled out further.

•The Higher Education Link Between Lancaster and the University of Uyo in Nigeria has set up partnerships between individuals and departments at both Universities including Geography and Engineering. Other work has included collaborative research; training and exchange visits for academics from both universities.