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XIV. Appendix E. Plan of action for people's participation in rural development


1. The overall aim of this Plan of Action is to ensure active participation of people in the achievement of sustainable rural development. While it is recognized that other factors relating to social, economic/financial and technical aspects do play an important role in achieving this objective, the active participation of rural people, including disadvantaged groups, action through voluntary, self-reliant organizations of their own choice is equally important. Without such participation, rural development initiatives are unlikely to be sustainable in the long run and rural inequities are unlikely to be redressed.

2. It should be recognized that the policy decision and responsibility for formulating and implementing participatory development policies and approaches rest with the governments of individual member countries. Hence, the policies and programmes for people's participation envisaged in the follow-up to the Plan of Action must fully recognize and respect the sovereignty of Member Governments.

3. The primary responsibility for implementing the Plan of Action lies with member countries themselves. It is for each country to identify target groups, intended beneficiaries, and their needs, and set priorities taking into account its own specific conditions and capacities as well as the socio-economic relations which influence the type and quality of participation. Within this context it is recognized that the international community can make a valuable supplementary contribution by providing technical and financial support for the implementation of the Plan. FAO can play an important role in the follow-up to the Plan by acting as a catalyst and an advocate, as well as by providing technical assistance to governments in promoting participatory activities.

4. In order to achieve the goal of sustainable rural development with equity through people's participation, the Plan proposes that action be taken in the following seven areas:

(a) Promotion of greater public awareness of the role of people's participation and people's organization in agricultural and rural development;

(b) Creation of favourable legal and policy framework for people's participation;

(c) Strengthening internal capacities of the rural people's organizations at local and national levels;

(d) Decentralization of government decision-making;

(e) Promotion of increased dialogue and technical collaboration between governments, development agencies and people 'e organizations;

(f) Introduction of appropriate operational procedures and methods to facilitate wider participation;

(g) Monitoring and evaluation of people 'e participation.

5. Action proposed in each of these areas is outlined in the following sections. Each section begins with a summary description of central issues and problems, followed by specific recommendations for consideration by Member Government a and FAO.


(a) Promotion of greater public awareness of the role of people's participation and people's organizations in agricultural and rural development


6. Achieving sustainable rural development and environmental protection requires the cooperation of large, sometimes diverse populations, residing within specific ecological areas. Such cooperation can be enhanced through the voluntary and cooperative action and participation of all sectors of the rural population, including women and other disadvantaged groups.

7. Full recognition of the inherent advantages of people 'e participation in mobilizing rural communities for sustainable agriculture and rural development is an essential first step. Many key decision-makers need to be informed about and convinced of the intrinsic benefits that flow from enhanced people's participation in development programmes and projects.

Proposals for Action

8. For governments:

(i) Create greater awareness among government officials of the benefits of adopting participatory approaches in order to reach rural people.

(ii) Establish clear government policies and regulations for the training of government officials in the principles, practice and benefits of people's participation in development.

(iii) Apply communication methods and materials, to be used by government staff and people's organizations, in the promotion of people's participation and in the sharing of knowledge and skills.

(iv) In order to reach all sectors of the rural population utilize a variety of organizational modalities, such as small informal groups, traditional community associations, cooperatives, unions, etc.

(v) Mobilize rural communities to achieve sustainable rural development objectives using participatory approaches, acting through existing or through new rural people's organizations.

(vi) Ensure that mobilization activities are focused on satisfying community needs and produce tangible benefits for those involved.

9. For FAO:

(i) Conduct case studies and research on the effectiveness of participatory approaches and people's organizations in mobilizing rural communities for sustainable agricultural and rural development and environmental protection.

(ii) Assist governments in testing the effectiveness of different organizational methodologies for mobilizing rural communities, satisfying community-identified needs and producing tangible benefits for those involved.

(iii) Collect and disseminate to Member Governments, NGOs, other people's organizations and the general public information materials on examples of people's participation activities, approaches adopted and performance and benefits.

(iv) Develop informational training materials on participatory rural development project design, monitoring and evaluation in order to enhance among concerned FAO technical staff, the awareness of people's participation issues and to assist in the integration of people's participation elements into FAO programmes and projects.

(v) Assist governments in developing new training approaches aimed at sensitizing key government and development agency decision-makers to the merits and value of using more participatory approaches in rural development.

(vi) Through the World Food Day network, mobilize governments and NGOs for the creation of a positive attitude towards people's participation.

(b) Creation of favourable fecal and policy conditions for people's participation


10. Legal and administrative frameworks should encourage the free association of rural people, thus enabling them to participate in the development process. Legislation which restricts the rights of individuals to freely organize themselves into participatory self-help organizations to pursue their own economic interests and gain access to land, inputs, markets and services can constitute a serious obstacle to participation.

11. Likewise, national economic policies in many countries, especially those affecting the pricing and distribution of agricultural inputs and the pricing and marketing of farm production, credit services, taxation and revenue-sharing, should not discourage or penalize rural savings and investment. Laws which recognize the rights of rural people to establish new autonomous economic organizations serving their needs or which give authority to local governments to spend locally generated tax revenues can foster local initiatives in support of people's participation.

12. The vital role women play in socio-economic life and in both agricultural and non-agricultural activities must be adequately recognized in rural development planning and programme implementation. Rural development based on growth with equity and people 'e participation will therefore require full integration of women, including promoting their equal access to natural resources and services, equal rights to inheritance and equal opportunity to develop and employ their skills.

Proposals for Action

13. For governments:

(i) Establish clear government policies and regulations that favour people's participation and encourage the establishment of people 'e organizations. Towards this end, establish an appropriate framework which provides a basis for free association of rural people in organizations of their choice.

(ii) Introduce and enforce policies and legal and structural reforms (such as land reform, reform of tenancy laws, water use rights, etc.) which promote more equitable access to resources and services for the rural population, especially the rural poor.

(iii) Enact and amend laws to ensure equal rights and full membership for women and other disadvantaged groups in people's organizations.

(iv) Reform or, where necessary, create, local government institutions to promote and facilitate participation of rural people through organizations of their choice.

14. For FAO:

(i) Encourage and assist governments in establishing a legal framework to provide for free association of rural people in organizations of their choice.

(ii) Promote the introduction and implementation of policies and of legal and structural reforms (such as land reform, reform of tenancy laws, water use rights, etc.) that promote more equitable access to resources for the rural population, especially the rural poor.

(iii) Assist governments in the design, implementation and evaluation of policies to promote more equitable access to resources, inputs and services by rural people, especially women and other disadvantaged groups.

(iv) Assist governments in the design and implementation of improved pricing, credit and taxation/fiscal policies and incentives which encourage greater participation by rural people in savings and investment and in the functioning of domestic markets.

(c) Strengthening internal capacities of the rural people's organizations at local and national levels


15. Experience in both the developed and developing countries has shown that the existence of active people's organizations is essential for the success of participatory approaches to rural development. Government efforts therefore must focus on promoting and strengthening the growth of self-reliant rural organizations so that they can serve as channels for the delivery of government development services to the rural population and participate effectively in the design, implementation and monitoring/evaluation of development activities.

16. In order to promote voluntary rural people's organizations pursuing their member's interests, rural development policies may need to be reoriented. The lack of trained managers and local leaders of people's organizations directly affects their ability to achieve self-sufficiency goals and frequently leads to loss of funds, confidence and motivation.

Proposals for Action

17. For governments:

(i) Introduce policies to facilitate the transformation of government-sponsored and government-financed people's organizations, especially cooperatives, into self- reliant, member-controlled and financially autonomous organizations.

(ii) Promote the use of new "bottom-up" approaches to building rural organizations, e.g., through informal group formation as a complementary approach to existing government efforts.

(iii) Strengthen training programmes for leaders, managers and members of people's organizations in order to reinforce management and technical capacities.

(iv) Establish self-control mechanisms, audit services and modes of financing which strengthen self-reliance capacity of people's organizations.

(v) Encourage the mobilization of local member resources (member savings, share capital, labour contributions, etc.) to finance people's organization activities and growth.

(vi) Limit the external financing of people's organizations to the minimum amount necessary and to a mutually agreed time-frame so that it does not undermine their independence and self-reliance.

18. For FAO:

(i) Advise governments on the design and implementation of long-term strategies for the gradual transformation of government-sponsored and financed people's organizations
(especially cooperatives) into self-reliant, member- controlled and member-financed organizations.

(ii) Encourage governments to adopt approaches to financing local people 'e organizations which place primary importance on assisting them in achieving financial self- reliance and make minimum use of grants and subsidies.

(iii) Assist governments in developing effective approaches for building the internal capital base of local people's organizations through increase in member savings and share contribution and accumulation of operating surpluses.

(iv) Assist governments in strengthening the self-management, self-help capacities of rural people's organization leadership as well as membership, through special training of trainers programmes, etc.

(v) Assist governments in developing appropriate accounting, business management and financial self-sufficiency methodologies for strengthening the internal self-help capacities of rural people's organizations.

(d) Decentralization of government decision-makinq


19. Decentralized systems of public administration and government decision-making encourage local initiatives and participation at the local level. Rural people are more likely to support development initiatives when these take into consideration the views and the expressed needs of the intended beneficiaries. The promotion of people's participation depends to a great extent on the delegation to local levels of the responsibility for decision-making, including for raising revenues and incurring expenditures.

20. The effective delegation of decision-making to local levels also requires the existence or establishment of appropriate mechanisms for facilitating increased dialogue and collaboration between governments, development agencies and local people's organizations. Where these mechanisms are in place, decentralization efforts are more effective.

Proposals for Action

21. For governments:

(i) Introduce changes in administrative and budgetary procedures which facilitate the delegation of authority and responsibility to local levels for decision-making, revenue raising and spending.

(ii) Establish local consultative, advisory and planning bodies composed of people 'e organizations, NGOs and government representatives to assist government in the decentralization of decision-making.

(iii) Develop new accounting, local oversight and control mechanisms which facilitate decentralized decision- making.

22. For FAO:

(i) Assist Member Governments in decentralizing decision making within the framework of national policy to promote greater participation of rural people in the formulation, implementation and evaluation of rural development programmes and projects that affect them.

(ii) Analyse the political, economic and fiscal impact of different forms of decentralization so as to assist governments in developing strategies aimed at delegating increased decision-making, revenue-raising and spending authority to local levels.

(iii) Advise governments on measures for increasing the participation of rural people, especially women and other disadvantaged groups, in the rural development planning process.

(e) Promotion of increased dialogue and technical collaboration between governments, development agencies and people's organizations


23. In many developing countries governments, development agencies and NGOs are often involved in different ways in promoting and supporting village community groups and people's organizations representing the rural poor. Promoting exchange of information and dialogue between all parties can help collaboration in participatory development at local level. Many governments in developing countries are seeking solutions to this problem by encouraging greater dialogue with NGOs.

24. With the help of FAO, World Bank and UNDP, NGOs in some developing countries have recently established collaborative mechanisms such as umbrella organizations or coalitions which bring together international and national professional voluntary development agencies, donor NGOs and people's organizations. These umbrella organizations or NGO networks, have become important supporting institutions for information exchange and provision of training for leaders of people 'e organizations at the country Level and for promoting dialogue and collaboration with government and donor agencies on policy issues in rural development.

Proposals for Action

25. For governments:

(i) Establish multi-institutional mechanisms, coordinating or advisory bodies, etc. at national and local levels within and between line ministries in agriculture, agrarian reform and rural development, which facilitate a dialogue and collaboration with NGOs, people's organizations on policies, programmes and projects to promote participatory development.

(ii) Facilitate legally, administratively, and technically, the establishment of umbrella organizations of NGOs representing and servicing rural people's organizations.

(iii) Enable the participation of representatives from people's organizations in national and local level training activities related to information exchange, policy dialogue and design and implementation of participatory rural development projects.

26. For FAO:

(i) Assist governments in the establishment of multi-institutional mechanisms at national and at decentralized levels to facilitate information exchange, dialogue and collaboration between government, NGOs and people 'e organizations in promoting participatory rural development programmes and projects.

(ii) Facilitate NGOs and people's organizations in developing countries to establish and/or strengthen umbrella organizations or coalitions as a platform for information exchange and for policy dialogue on participatory rural development with the government and development agencies concerned.

(iii) Encourage the establishment of institutional arrangements which promote closer dialogue between international donor NGOs and national NGOs involved in supporting development and people's participation at local level.

(iv) Establish appropriate modalities to facilitate closer dialogue and technical collaboration with NGOs on people's participation and rural development matters.

(v) Encourage participation by representatives of local organizations together with government officials, in workshops, expert meetings, consultations and conferences on rural development policies, procedures, programmes and projects.

(f) Introduction of appropriate operational procedures and methods


27. The effective promotion of people 'e participation requires the development of appropriate operational methods and decentralized mechanisms which facilitate wider participation of the rural population in the formulation, design, implementation and evaluation of rural development policies, programmes and project activities. Moreover, research on people's participation and on the education and training of promoters of participation or of the beneficiaries themselves needs to take into account the local needs, skill levels and experiences of the rural people concerned.

Proposals for Action

28. For governments:

(i) Establish appropriate administrative procedures and financial arrangements at local levels to enhance the establishment and activities of informal and formal groupings of the rural people and their participation in development activities.

(ii) Introduce more participatory methodologies which permit rural people to play a more active role in identifying their research and technical assistance needs, in designing research and training approaches and in monitoring progress and evaluating results.

29. For FAO:

(i) Develop operational procedures and measures that facilitate participation of people's organizations in rural development activities, including arrangements for their implementation of certain project components.

(ii) Assist governments in establishing mechanisms to facilitate collaboration with NGOs and farmers in the development of participatory methodologies for research, education, training and extension in agricultural and rural development.

(iii) Develop project design guidelines that encourage, to the maximum extent possible, the incorporation of people's participation and people's organization-building objectives in relevant FAO project activities.

(iv) Encourage closer technical cooperation and exchange of information between all FAO technical units involved in the implementation of participatory rural development programmes and projects.

(g) Monitoring and evaluation of people's participation


30. The lack of reliable information on people 'e participation issues constitutes a major constraint to rural development policy-makers and planners at national and international levels and frequently leads to an incorrect assessment of the development needs of rural people and their organizations as well as a sub-optimal use of resources destined for that sector. These inadequacies also make it difficult for governments, development agencies and people's organization themselves to properly measure progress achieved in improving levels of rural people's participation and people's organization performance.

Proposals for Action

31. For governments:

(i) Establish appropriate mechanisms for collecting, processing and disseminating data on people's participation and people 'e organizations on a systematic and regular basis so as to assist in policy formulation and decision-making.

(ii) Develop participatory monitoring and evaluation systems to assess progress in people's participatory approaches to rural and agricultural development.

(iii) Assess periodically the overall effects of policies to enhance people's participation to determine whether further improvements are needed to ensure progress.

32. For FAO:

(i) Assist governments in collecting, processing and disseminating information on people'" participation, using indicators adapted to the specific nature of different types of people's organizations.

(ii) Assist governments in providing training to the staff of governments and people's organizations in the collection of data and in the development of participatory monitoring and evaluation systems.

(iii) Assist governments in preparation of case studies to examine trends in people 'e participation in rural and agricultural development.

(iv) Continue with the assistance of Member Governments to monitor progress in rural development and people's participation as part of its regular WCARRD reporting, using socio-economic indicators developed for this purpose.

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