Despite recognition of the need for special strategies to address the widespread incidence of rural poverty in developing countries, initiatives aimed at bringing about a transformation of the rural standard of living have not had a consistent impact on reducing poverty. The failure of the most recent of these interventions - integrated rural development - has left a policy vacuum as donors and countries struggle to find new ways to reduce rural poverty. Recent initiatives designed to put in place decentralized mechanisms for rural development offer possibilities for building on the essential principles of integrated rural development while avoiding problems associated with an over-centralization of functions and responsibilities. This paper examines the potential role for decentralization in designing improved rural development programs. The paper concludes that although decentralization initiatives have a long history, much more needs to be understood with respect to the various components of decentralization if sound advice is to be given to policy-makers. A conceptual model is suggested that incorporates the essential elements of decentralization processes and relates them to rural development outcomes.
For more information on the Agricultural Economics Association of South Africa or subscription to Agrekon, visit http://www.aeasa.org.za