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March 2005

Announcement of a publication

A Handbook for trainers on participatory local development

The Panchayati Raj model in India

by S.P. Jain
and Wim Polman
FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific
Bangkok, Thailand

"A handbook for trainers on participatory local development: The Panchayati Raj model in India” supports the world’s biggest endeavour in grassroots governance taking place in India. The 73rd Constitutional Amendment, adopted in 1992, established a solid legal base for participation of the rural poor in local (district, sub-district and village level) government institutions. Some 238 000 Panchayats (village councils) representing about 600 000 villages have been constituted and about three million rural people, a third of whom, by law have to be women, elected to Panchayat bodies. The handbook is focused on the training needs of these three million newly elected Panchayat members, the majority of them semi- or even non-literate and unprepared for the responsibility of local governance. The Government of India has recognized the need for training of these Panchayat members for capacity-building on participatory local development.

Preparing the Panchayat members, especially the women among them, for their new roles as local decision-makers, calls for education and training on a massive scale, for which adapted training methods and tools are needed. As a first step, there is a need to provide education and training to impart self-confidence to those who have been socially marginalized on caste, ethnic and gender considerations. At the same time, it is necessary to change the attitudes of the socially powerful towards full acceptance of grassroots participation in planning and management of local level development. A major area of training for village council members is awareness and capacity-building for mobilization and sustainable management of social, physical and financial resources in order to improve the livelihoods of the rural poor who, according to latest official government estimates, make up about 19 percent of the country’s 1 billion people. Village council members must also be empowered to participate in the planning and implementation of poverty reduction policies/programmes and activities initiated by state and federal level governments.

... Although designed for the training needs of all categories of local functionaries associated with the decentralization process in India, the handbook provides guidance on core issues in institutional capacity-building for local development planning, which are, to a large degree, similar in other developing countries within the region. Accordingly, the handbook could be a model for capacity-building training in other countries in the region which have initiated decentralization. Follow-up RAP initiatives are planned for the wide dissemination of the handbook among policy-makers, rural development experts and practitioners within the South and Southeast Asian region.

He Changchui
Assistant Director-General and FAO Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific

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