Cooperating for local sustainable rural development

Unless the rural poor are given the means to participate fully in development, they will continue to be excluded from its benefits. This realization is provoking new interest in an alternative rural development strategy, that of people's participation through organizations controlled and financed by the poor.

This strategy features in the framework of Agenda 21 as formulated at UNCED (Rio de Janeiro, 1992), now coordinated by the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development and implemented through national and local authorities. Agenda 21 recommends reinforcing work with non-governmental organizations in collecting and disseminating information on people's participation and people's organizations, testing participatory development methods, training and education for human resource development and strengthening the management structures of rural organizations.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization's People's Participation in Rural Development Programme promotes the involvement of rural people and disadvantaged group in decision making and in the design and implementation of policies and activities affecting their lives. The aim is to strengthen rural people's organizations and encourage collaboration between them, governments and development agencies.

Spurred by [World Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development] (1979) (WCARRD), the Food and Agricultural Organization launched the [People's Participation Programme] (PPP) in 1980. Since then, PPP has implemented pilot projects throughout the developing world in an attempt to test and develop an operational method of people's participation for incorporation in larger rural development schemes.

1. Rural development is development of rural people. Sustainable rural development is possible if there is active participation of rural people in all aspects of the process from the beginning. Local government can provide an appropriate forum for facilitating this process. Through its links with regional and national governments it can secure external resources for building up infrastructure' particularly for economic development. Its leaders should receive training in the dynamics of managing local government and identifying local resources.

2. Sustainable rural development happens when there is local participation in all aspects from the start. Community involvement in decision making is an extremely important feature. If a village can symbolize its willingness to begin the journey toward, for example, more comprehensive health care, it can claim ownership of the proposed programme right from the start. This helps to build and sustain health care that best meets the particular needs of that village. In what way is a group of village people sitting and deciding on what to do to improve their living conditions inferior to a village plan prepared by an outside agency after spending more money than the village will ever get to develop itself? One can understand the sophistication in planning technology at the national level where facts have to generalize, but not at the grassroots and local level where it is the details which matter.

Counter Claim:
Rural development efforts have failed to deliver on their promises. One evaluation found that half of rural development projects funded by the World Bank in Africa were outright failures. A review of assistance to agricultural cooperatives reported similar results. A study by the International Labour Organisation of "poverty-oriented" projects worldwide showed that the poorest were excluded from activities and benefits. Conventional strategies have seen development primarily as a series of technical transfers aimed at boosting production and generating wealth. In practice, conventional projects usually target medium to large scale "progressive" producers, supporting them with technology, credit and extension advice in the hope that improvements will gradually extend to more "backward" strata of rural society. In many cases, however, the channeling of development assistance to the better-off has led to a concentration of land and capital, marginalization of small farmers and an alarming growth in the number of landless labourers.
Sustainable development
Type Classification:
D: Detailed strategies