1.1.1     Background to the Study

Poverty is a global problem found in different parts of the world albeit with different causes and at various levels; which gives rise to various approaches to poverty alleviation strategies that depend on each country‟s antecedents. Whereas poverty in the United States is seen as a result of failings at the structural, social and economic level (Rank, 2003), it is seen in most African nations as caused by low level of production and production capacity, most especially in the agricultural sector which accounts for most of the employment and a large share of the GDP (Ibrahim, Mahmood and Umar, 2011).

Nigeria is the most populous African country; it has a high poverty rate of 69% in 2013 and rising unemployment rate of 19.7 in 2009, 21.5 in 2010, 23.9% in 2011 and 24.3 in 2014(NBS, 2014). The North East geo-political zone to which Taraba state belongs, has 69% poverty rate as at 2010 (see appendix 4) which makes the zone second only to the north central zone that has 70% rate (Aiyedogbon and Owhofasa, 2012). Nigeria is the 152nd country on the Human Development Index in 2014 and the 22nd in Africa, far below Ghana, Sao Tome and Equatorial Guinea, who are ranked 13th 16th and 17th respectively (HDI, 2014).

In order to alleviate poverty, Nigeria embarked on economic empowerment programs from the 1970‟s. These include the Green Revolution, Operation Feed the Nation (OFN), Nigerian Agricultural, Cooperatives and Rural Development Bank, (NACRDB) (now Bank of Agriculture, BOA), National Directorate for Employment (NDE), Poverty Alleviation Program (PAP), National Poverty Eradication Program (NAPEP), the Directorate of Food, Roads and Rural Infrastructure (DFRRI), and National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS), all in an effort to alleviate poverty and its attendant consequences.

Economic empowerment and development program was born out of the dire need to stop the ravages of poverty and enhance the welfare of the people by the government. The global summits of world leaders that have a direct bearing on poverty alleviation was the millennium summit of 2000, it brought together 189 Heads of States who undertook to execute the time bound Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). These nations committed themselves to, among other targets, cut by half the number of people living in hunger and poverty by the year 2015.

Nigeria was among the 189 signatories at the convention; and in order to meet the target; it came up with a milestone in the form of National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS) which gave rise to the state Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (SEEDS) at the state level, as well as the Local Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy at the Local Government level. The Local Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (LEEDS) operate within the framework of NEEDS and SEEDS in all the LGAs in Nigeria. Its aim was to promote poverty alleviation and general development at the grassroots level, involving key stakeholders such as local government officials, civil society groups, private sector participants, community leaders, traditional rulers, women and youths, in the process of development at the local government level (TSEEDS, 2004).