This chapter provides a literature review on the impact of NGOs in socio-economic development of rural communities. Firstly it provides literature on the concepts regarding NGOs including its definitions, types and activities. The conception of rural community is also described in this chapter to suit the intent of the study. Challenges facing NGOs have also been outlined in this chapter and politics and state-civil society relations in Zimbabwe. The researcher also took cognisance of reviewing literature on the role of NGOs in promoting socio-economic development in rural communities across the sphere. Also reviewed were the strategies that the NGOs use in planning and development of projects for the rural communities and lastly this chapter discusses theoretical framework.

Ramakrishna (2013) states that NGOs are difficult to define and classify, as the term ‘NGO’ is used consistently. As a result, there are many different definitions in use”. NGOs are defined as not for profit organization which intend to transform or improve the lives of people. Ventakatanath (2009) defines Non-Governmental Organisation as a non-profit, social service voluntary organisation of community, persons, volunteers, civilians and citizens. Non-governmental organizations have a history dating back from 1839 and it have been estimated that by 1914, there were 1083 NGOs in the world (Ramakrishna, 2013). Ramakrishna further argue that the phrase “non-governmental organization” became widely used during the establishment of the United Nations Organization (UN) in 1945. Martens and Seitz, (2015) acknowledge that the roots of modern humanity can be traced back from the beginning of the 20th century in the United States when business tycoons like John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie set up the first large American foundations, primarily as a way to shield some of their income from taxation but also as a way to garner prestige and influence in the United States of America (USA) and world affairs.
Martens and Seitz (2015) further posits that a lot of NGOs’ funds emanate from the American foundations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Ford Foundation. Martens and Seitz, (2015) indicates that these foundations have been influential actors in global development, not only through their grant-making but also by shaping development concepts and policies, particularly in the areas of socio-economic development. Shivji (2007) substantiate that NGOs are led by and largely composed by the educated elite and they are usually located in urban areas. Rural areas are only the operational grounds for accessing funding and acquiring information needed in drafting reports and concepts to be used in the search for donor’s activities.
The fall of the Soviet led to the rise and increase of NGOs in the civil society making it a vogue around 1980. Shivji (2007), identified three types of NGOs which have led to the continued domination of the colonial mode in a different form called globalisation. However, the Career Services Centre (2011) have categorised NGOs into three broad range depending on each organisation activities. Firstly there is; radical elite NGO which is concerned with change and transformation of political issues but it is not necessarily involved in the partisan politics but take opportunity to express themselves and advocates for change. An example of such NGO is of the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP).
Secondly is charity organisations which are normally driven by passion and altruistic motive of transforming the lives of other fellow citizen. These kind of NGOs are morally driven and an expertise example is that of World Vision. A third category is the careerist driven one, this type of NGO is mainly composed of the former government employees who have observed that funding is being directed into the civil society. Shivji (2007) cited that this type of NGO is driven by material gains and personally motivated. These types of NGOs are formed after discovering that jobs in the government or public sector are difficult to come by.
The concept of a rural community has been one complicated issue in the human development aspect and even for policy makers as they embark on designing policies meant for such places. However, for this research a rural community can be defined as a place with limited access to opportunities, essential services and administration. Mondal (2015) explains that rural communities are derived privileges to access socio-economic amenities such as social services and fail to enjoy the rights of being citizens due to negligence by the administrations panels of the government.
Picketty (2014) quoted by Scoones (2015) explains that poverty remains rife in rural communities, its effects have accumulated and continues to obstruct such communities which have further increased the gap differences between the rural and urban. Zimbabwe have been in riddle of economic instability since the beginning of the second millennium. The constitution of Zimbabwe of 2013 which is the first constitution to be drafted by Zimbabweans since 1980 stipulates the need to serve citizens with basic services, including educational and health facilities, water, roads, social amenities and electricity to marginalised areas (GoZ, 2013) which is a pre-requisite in the development area.
Oxfam (2009) posits that Zimbabwe have experienced under investment and experienced loss of skilled labour due to economic decline in the past decade mainly due to an economic downturn. The health and education sectors were adversely affected with people succumbing to cholera and other epidemic diseases, while the quality of education was compromised, which was justified by the growing numbers of school dropouts and low pass rates in primary and secondary schools (GoZ, 2013). Such conditions have been prevalent and orchestrated in rural communities due to the low or zero income status.
Section 30 of the Zimbabwean constitution states that the government is obliged to take practical measures, within the resources available to it, to ensure provision of social security and social care to those in need of it. In unification with this section, Section 19 affirms the state needs to adopt congruent and consistent policies as well as measures to ensure shelter and health care is offered to people. While the second knot of the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (Zim Asset) grants permission for NGOs to intervene in assisting the government to enable the rural communities, access basic social services, particularly education, health, water and sanitation, and civic protection sectors that this research has considered as socio-economic development.
A community is said to be socio-economically developed when they are able to rise above the constraints and hindrances within their household and community at large (Golla, Malhotra, Nanda & Mehra 2011:4). The economic aspect entails access and control of family resources, employment, ability to earn an income, access to markets and it also strengthens negotiating power, decision-making and it increases social status. Eyben et al (2008:8) posits that social development enables the individual to develop capacity for agency, this capacity for agency can be achieved as an individual or as a collective and it leads to one having a sense of self-worth and it helps to improve social relations.
In the course of this study, it was observed that a number of NGOs are on ground carrying out different types of socio-economic developmental projects and programmes. Cerulli (2006) cites that NGOs are geared towards the socio-economic development of the people in rural communities and they have embroiled in a longstanding vision of changing the world into a better place for human habitation especially for the poor and marginalised. A number of NGOs have played a vital role in socio-economic development in one way or another (Ramakrishna, 2013). NGOs have embarked on the process of socio-economic development programmes after observing the inability of the governments to enormously serve the marginal rural communities thereby making their role so critical in development process. People in rural areas have not enjoyed the quality of life as is by people living in urban areas of Zimbabwe. Ramakrishna (2013) noted that NGOs are engaged in multifarious activities ranging from social, economic, environment and political sphere. NGOs continue to engage in socio-economic development activities such as to help with employment opportunities for rural youth through the provision of capital to formulate income generation projects, providing vocational skills such as carpentry, building, welding and sewing.
Batti (2014) cite that the economy in Zimbabwe is undergoing through some challenges which include, among others, externalisations of money, liquidity crunch, decline in businesses and a very tight fiscal space. The tight fiscal space have serious negative spill over effects in socio-economic development particularly on public service delivery and its consequences on people’s health, education support and overall poverty. This has promoted a bipartisan approach to development by NGOs. Rural populace have pinned their hopes on NGOs as an alternate solution to the failure of the government’s efforts to develop their communities.
Scholars like Chatiza (2010), argues that NGOs have been important since they are seen providing socio-economic activities such as health services to the poor during times of economic and socio-political recession which frequently hit governments in developing countries. Despite their flaws, this makes NGOs priceless in the socio-economic development aspect of a nation especially when it comes to rural communities which are marginalised by governments.
Nelson (2007) viewed NGOs to be entities operating individually and collectively at all levels of society and have impact on many aspects of people’s lives, ranging from their political to socio-economic opportunities. This has marked a shift from humanitarian orientation to more of developmental in diverse. Suharko (2007) wrote that, NGOs engage in policy advocacy to influence public policies concerning the poor people and develop various strategies to influence the process of public policy making and to control the implementation of development programs or projects.
The other role which has been played by NGOs in socio-economic development is the issue of promoting gender equity which implies that men and women have an equal representation and participation in the community level decision-making and control (Suharko, 2007). Gender equity has helped both sides to articulate their concerns and interests to take responsibility, and actively participating in the development processes of their communities. In this regard, NGOs have created more room for engagement through their surveys and findings. Bassey (2008) argues that in the pursuit of solutions to developmental problems besetting the African continent, the donor community is increasingly taking perception of NGOs to be the reliable agencies for leading an effective and sustainable development than the governments.
According to the DOCHAS Report of 2008 there are a few NGOs that have developed structures to respond to grassroots demands despite the participatory approaches that are theoretically perceived to be the mechanisms for involving communities in decision making participation. Critics have been scooped on NGOs for their failure to involve the grassroots in decision making concerning the planning of projects. Moyo (2009), cite that the issue of community involvement and participation in decision making has broiled an academic debate which has called for this inquiry to be put on book.
Although NGOs have helped in fostering socio-economic development in rural areas, the planning of development programmes and projects is often centralised and planning proceedings discourage local involvement (Oakley 1999). Most NGOs use previous information and office information to design solutions for the communities which are sometimes intangible and fail to meet the demands of the people. Muponde (2014) pointed out that NGOs descend on communities to make money without even doing ground work to determine what the people need. The NGOs usually operate in the bounds of the interests of the funding partner who prescribes to them the rules, regulations and conditions of the use of aid funds although they have limited knowledge of what the people in the communities want.
The tendency of universalising development strategies has somehow influenced the operations of most NGOs and simultaneously fighting poverty continues since the projects fail to achieve what is expected of them. According to Oakley (1999), projects for rural communities are externally driven which leads to a recurrent failure to sustain themselves once the initial level of project support ends. This backs the importance to consider the local ideas as it can ensure the projects dynamics or sustainability.

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