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In this chapter there will be a brief review and comparison of the features of the different people-centred approaches to rural development, which have been examined in this report. The chapter has been laid out predominantly in the form of tables, which should more clearly illustrate the comparative points made in the text. Table 1 attempts to give a concise summary of the broad history and contextual base of the development approaches.

Table 5.1: Overview and Comparison of the Main Development Approaches







Developed in the UK in late-1990s. A change in perspective by researchers from food security to the broader idea of livelihoods; from material to a social emphasis. SLA built on this, using lessons learned from other approaches to rural development

Mid-1980s: shift from emphasis on technical aspects of rural development in Sahelian West Africa. GT emerged from this, with recognition of wider issues impacting on rural poverty: environmental, economic, demographic, institutional factors.

Emerged from 1960s, at the same time as realisation that the future of rural development lay in small farm agriculture and not in industry. IRD emerged for the practical operationalisation of this recognition and the consequential focus on rural growth linkages, and the central role of the small farmer

Started from field-based experience in the 1970s, as it became obvious that there were clear differences between actual circumstances in the field and those in research stations.

In the last decade some international agencies and national governments have started reflecting on the need to formulate a new PCA, considering the experience and the results of the different approaches applied in the region (IDB, IICA, ECLAC, IFAD, etc)

Key Focus

People and their existing strengths and constraints

The “terroir”: a socially and geographically defined space within which communities’ resources and associated rights are located in order to satisfy their needs.

Structures and Areas

The farming system

. People-centred (considering heterogeneity of social actors).

. Territorial-based development

Structure and Components

Principles and framework for analysis

Principles are implicit; no one defining structure

No one defining structure for IRD, emphasis simply on integration, and the importance of national government agencies in dispensing services

Different approaches in different contexts. Diagnostic Processes central to this are: natural resources (land, water, common property); climate and biodiversity; human capital; social capital; financial capital

. Principles are implicit and are similar to the ones proposed by SLA.

. Framework analysis not yet developed

Methodologies and Tools

No specific methodologies; draws on existing tools.

Three main methodologies have been used:

- NRM:

- Institution building, and then NRM

- Local development: community organisation, transfer of responsibility to local stakeholders

No specific methodology, although in all cases, expert groups are used to assess needs, with no local participation. Reliance on quantitative information for diagnosis and analysis

Dynamic process:

- Research in agronomy

- Modelling

- Interaction between social and physical systems

- Gender data collection systems Population dynamic - Etc

No specific methodologies but takes into account: technical research, territorial planning, institutional building, participatory approaches

Cultural Context





Latin American


Well developed identity with key texts, guidance sheets, web-site and recognised experts.

Diverse institutional history, but without any definitive texts or major players

Well-developed identity

Diverse and varied international institutional histories but some key defining texts and experts

Attempts to construct an identity based on common elements proposed by different organizations

Organisational Support

Strong ties to DfID, ODI and other development agencies, including NGOs such as CARE and OXFAM

Used by FAO, World Bank and IIED, to a limited extent in West Africa, as well as by other small NGOs.

Was widely used by development organisations throughout the world, thus had strong institutional support from major development agencies, e.g. FAO, World Bank, etc.

International Farming Systems Association (IFSA) with associations in Africa, Latin America, Asia and Europe. Highly institutionalised. Roots in US academia.

International Organizations (ECLAC, IDB, IICA, IFAD, FAO), International Cooperation and national governments

Current Uses Within FAO

Relatively on the margins within FAO, although it is having an increasing importance as the approach is further developed. Promotion of the sustainable livelihoods concept is a key objective of the FAO Strategic Framework for 2000 - 2015, although there is less importance placed on the use of the framework and the approach if FAO programming

Recently the approach has been declining. At the moment it is used within the Investment Centre for project preparation for the World Bank

No longer a mainstream approach

Use d to a lesser extent, although there is still strong investment in the evolution of the approach, and resources within FAO are still being put into FS

Some Technical Cooperation Programmes (TCP)

Current Status of Approach Outside FAO

Relatively mainstream - has become the approach to rural development, and is supported by the UK government, as well as a number of other organisations, including large NGOs, such as OXFAM and CARE

Not a mainstream approach. Tends to have a limited visibility and appears to be being absorbed, to some degree by Community-Driven Development (CDD), mainly through the World Bank

No longer much used for programming and development

Has moved out of the mainstream of the development context

Some international agencies are promoting a new PCA for LAC (ECLAC, IDB, IICA, IFAD, FAO), as well as international Cooperation and national governments

Key Strengths

a) Broad analysis of development problems

b) Focus on livelihood outcomes instead of project objectives

c) Analysis of complexity

d) Clear identification of principles

e) Enables a more realistic prediction of potential outcomes and impacts

a) Establishment of partnerships

b) Local participation is key;

c) Institution and capacity-building

a) Laid the foundations for an integrated perspective of rural development

b) Carried out ‘core functions’, which are now considered as essential functions of national governments

c) Created an enabling environment for development through the provision of infrastructure

a) Adapted new technologies to cultural context and resource constraints

b) Led to better understanding of development dynamics

c) Reinforced own strategies

d) Enabled greater farmer flexibility

e) Looked to external factors influencing farmer decisions

f) Inclusion of farmers in action-research and practice;

g) Supported a productive dialogue across disciplines

a) It takes into account heterogeneity in rural areas in LAC

b) It proposes differentiated strategies to address people’s needs and different territories

c) It considers lessons learned from other approaches applied in LAC and elsewhere.


a) Little practical experience

b) Fails to deal with politics and rights

c) Time and money consuming

d) Requires multidisciplinary teams and specialist training

e) Difficult to quantify information on capital assets gathered through SLA

f) No defined role for markets/economics

a) Relatively high start-up costs;

b) Policy vacuum

c) Gap between rhetoric and reality regarding participation

d) Lack of long-term planning

e) Local elites taking over

f) Failure to include marginal groups, such as nomadic pastoralists.

a) Failed to achieve transformative objectives it had promised

b) Top-down approach to rural development

c) Lack of success in achieving poverty alleviation

d) No inclusion of the community in development processes

Increasing complexity and proliferation of academic interest has blurred operational practicalities Continuity of traditional hierarchies - top-down approach - prevented objectives being reached Not able to change concepts and attitudes necessary

. The framework is not yet structured.

. Key elements and principles are not yet institutionalized

5.1 What? Where? The Key Principles of Some Development Approaches

The questions here are:

- What are the key principles of the development approaches mentioned here? (This seems to be covered quite sufficiently in the table 5.2 below.) And what features do these approaches have in common? One principle that seems to be gaining importance in all but one of the approaches (IRD) is the concept of participation by the local population in the development of their locality. This appears to stem from a broader movement towards the recognition of local populations as being more active in the development process, rather than simply passive recipients of benefits. Holism is another principle that appears to be common amongst all the approaches mentioned here as development agencies acknowledge the need to tackle the various roots of rural poverty in order to ensure that there are real improvements in the quality of life of the local populace.

- Where are these principles developed and applied? In other words, are the principles an offspring of a strong academic tradition; are they important in the field application of the approach? For example, the sustainable livelihoods approach has a strong identity based upon its key principles. As yet, however, the approach has had limited experience in the field such that the application of these principles is not yet truly tested. In the case of Gestion de Terroirs, on the other hand, the principles can often be sacrificed in the field in the face of a pragmatic acceptance of the realities of the particular context involved.

Table 5.2: The Major Principles of the Approaches





LAA (90’s onwards)

Key Principles

- People-centered
- Responsive and participatory
- Multi-level
- Holistic
- Conducted in partnership
- Sustainable
- Dynamic

- Small farmer - oriented
- Farmer participation
- Location-specificity of technical and human factors
- Problem-solving approach
- Systems orientation
- Inter-disciplinary approach
- Feedback to future agricultural research and policy

- Broadly holistic, multi-sector approach to rural development
- Production-oriented
- Provision of infrastructure

- Community-based NRM
- Empowerment of local communities
- Local capacity-building
- Stakeholder involvement
- Facilitating resource conflict management
- Identifying local priorities

Principles are implicit and are related to: people centred, territorial based, decentralization and capacity building, multisectoral economy, competitiveness and efficiency, multi-level, links rural-urban, and the consideration of cross-sectoral issues (gender for example).

Role of principles within Approach (implicit etc?)

Key part of the approach

Not a part of the organizing framework

Important in terms of national level planning of programs

Principles underlie the methodologies, but are often sacrificed to pragmatism in practical usage

The approach is not yet systematized

Linkages to policy and politics

Policy is central

No real acknowledgement of policy

Policy is key

Policy is important in theory, though frequently not in practice

Policy is central (linkages micro-macro)

Experience of application

Limited as approach is relatively new

Application is widespread throughout the developing world, although the particular use of the approach varies significantly between time, place, and organization.

Application was widespread throughout the developing world. Generally perceived to have failed in its application

Relatively widespread use in West Africa; some trials in Latin America and other regions, but not very successful. Has been in use for about 18 years

. Limited.
. Lessons learned not yet systematized

5.2 What is the predominant focus of the approach?

All the approaches here have overwhelmingly focused their attention on rural development. Their policy focus does, however, vary significantly, with the sustainable livelihoods approach emphasising the people at the centre of the development process, while Gestion de Terroirs tends to focus on specific social and geographical areas. (See Table 5.3 for an overview). Entry-points, as can be seen in the table, tend to be at local community level, although there are increasing attempts to focus on the regional level as well. The meso-level can be problematic, as it often requires the presence of stable government or civil society institutions in that region, such as strong municipal government.

Table 5.3: Main Focus of the Approaches





LAA (90’s onwards)

Sectoral Focus

None, but started in NRM

Rural dev



Tends to be rural development, with a recent emphasis on territorial units

Policy Focus

The people at the center of the development process

The farming system and the wider systems of which it is part.

Small farmers and their role in rural development

Geographical area and social and economic activities taking place within this area

Rural people and territory (noting heterogeneity). Attempts to formulate more differentiated policies

Macro-Level; global and national

The use of the Sustainable Livelihoods framework is encouraged for macro level planning, and can be especially useful in the drawing-up of the Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs)

Occasional entry through policies and structures at the non-local level (national)

Entry tends to be overwhelmingly through national governments, their ministries and agencies

Little focus on macro-level, although recent changes have led to the recognition of the importance of the global and national level, with some governments (such as in Burkina Faso) cementing GT in national level policy making

Although there is a recognition of the importance of the global and national level, few measures have been taken to include PCA in national strategies of rural development

Meso-Level; regional

Through processes, such as decentralization, the SL framework can be a useful aid in regional planning, while this level may also provide an entry-point for some SL projects

Regional zones are mainly technical, rather than an entry-point for programs

Entry also through municipal governments

GT criticised for not dealing with the regional aspects of development. Recently some countries have seen a stronger development of regional and municipal government structures, allowing GT to develop relationships between Community-Based Organisations (CBOs) and such institutions.

Through processes, international agencies and national governments are promoting decentralization and strengthening financial, administrative and political capacities of the municipal structures to provide the services required for territorially-based rural development

Micro-Level; community, household, individual Micro Level (Continued)

Focus of SL is mainly on communities and households as an entry-point for projects, although this is not necessarily the case

Main entry-point for FS is at this level - through farm household or community

Failed to adequately reach the local level - main criticism of IRD was that it did not involve the local

The main entry-point is through the local community based within a specified “terroir”

In general, rural development initiatives have been mostly local, one-off projects, discontinuous and unconnected from any national and international strategy. The new proposals promote the modification of this situation, choosing as entry points territorial units and social actors (considering heterogeneity)

5.3 What are the technical aspects of the approaches?

The methods used for the design, application, monitoring and evaluation of the approaches are very different for each approach. It must be said, however, that most of these approaches, with the exception of IRD, have made some attempts to include consultations with locals at various stages of the development cycle. These attempts are not always successful, but they do indicate the increasing recognition of the important role of local populations in rural development and poverty alleviation.

Table 5.4: From Diagnosis and Design to Monitoring and Evaluation





LAA (90’s onwards)


Diagnosis is mainly conducted through consultations with the local or target population, with the aim of uncovering their priorities The focus of SL is ultimately on holistic diagnosis

Diagnosis of farming constraints and potentials:

(1) Research secondary sources for basic data of target regions

(2) Identification of target groups of farmers using agro-ecological or farming systems criteria

(3) Exploratory diagnosis, analysis and synthesis of findings

(4) Construction of database for monitoring and evaluation

Key role of outside technical experts in diagnosis and research

Very technical, with very geographical tools, such as mapping, being used for diagnosis.

Diagnosis is mainly conducted through consultations with rural communities. Some agencies are promoting holistic diagnosis


Programs may be either single-sector or multi-sector focused. The involvement of target populations in the design of projects is central

Possible strategies to overcome constraints, potentials to build on are formulated - taking into account technical feasibility, economic and political viability, social acceptability

Primary importance given to technical teams from outside region in design of programs

Design of GT programs tends to be technical, with emphasis on the use of outside experts, rather than the involvement of local groups. Strong focus on technical analysis of the territorial lay-out. Move made to a more socio-economic framework for the design of programs

The involvement of rural population in the design is still incipient. Some proposals say that programmes and projects should be designed in such a way that include decentralization of activities and participation of beneficiaries

Implementation and Management

This is again a participative process, with there being a strong emphasis on stakeholder ownership of projects and their implementation and management

Farming Systems project team making the major decisions as regards the implementation and management of projects. Even where there is local involvement in management, the FS team tend to be the top-level management

Partners for IRD projects tended to be national and regional government. Projects were usually managed by a project management unit, which posted inter-disciplinary technical teams in the field

One problem associated with GT was that local institutions that were being set up by the programs lacked any legal legitimacy, making it difficult to effectively implement and manage programs.

Generally technical units manage projects. Some agencies and national governments are promoting the involvement of communities


Participative Monitoring and Evaluation Importance of collecting both normative data and information relating to the criteria deemed central by the target population

Tracking farmer adoption of recommended strategies

Through the Project Management Unit

Theoretically monitoring of projects should be participative, involving local community organizations, but in practice, it is often taken over by outside experts in a program management unit

Monitoring is carried out by executing agencies and donors. Some agencies are using Participatory Monitoring and Evaluation (i.e. IFAD in Guatemala)


This allows feedback through lessons learned

Assessing impacts of adoption - feeding into further research. Evolution through lessons learned.

Inadequate evaluation as Project Management Units became swallowed-up by government agencies. No real feedback of lessons learned

Evolution of approach through the feedback of lessons learned

Evaluation is carried out by executing agencies and donors. Some agencies are talking about flexibility in monitoring and evaluation to incorporate changes in the subsequent stages

5.4 How do the approaches deal with broader issues?

There are issues that these approaches confront in the field that do not fall simply under the category of rural development, that are far broader and with greater implications for society and development, including politics, power, human rights, gender and environment. Table 5.5. illustrates the different ways in which the approaches mentioned here attempt to deal with these broader issues. As such, we can see that politics is clearly an important arena in terms of development, although the approaches prefer not to deal with the complexity that can be involved in this area. Rather, the aim seems to be to ensure some degree of sustainable development that would not be hugely impacted by the political context. The same can be said of some of the other issues discussed here, such as human rights, although there has undoubtedly been a concerted effort to mainstream environment and gender throughout the development of rural areas.

Table 5.5: Some Important Cross-Cutting Issues and How they are dealt with





LAA (90’s onwards)


Attempts are currently being made to include politics in the SL framework, with calls for the introduction of a sixth “capital” asset in the form of ‘political capital’

Politics are not involved

Involves politics to a degree only at the negotiation stage at the level of national governments.

Certainly, there is a dimension of local politics involved, particularly in the creation of community organizations

Politics is considered only at the negotiation stage at the national level. Although with decentralization local levels are gaining some spaces


Explicit and deliberate attempt to unlink development aid from conditions

Tends to be conditional

Strongly conditional

In theory, the aim is to remove conditionality from development aid, although this is a matter of debate in practice

Tends to be conditional


Central to SLA - as seen in capitals pentagon, the importance of human capital

Recently more emphasis on the importance of empowerment of farmers through capacity building

Partnerships were with government agencies, and NGOs, with an emphasis on technical staff, so there was no real attempt at empowering local communities and individuals

Empowerment to be achieved through local capacity building and the strengthening of community organizations. Although this is not often fully achieved in practice

Emphasis on the empowerment of the poorest (small farmers, the rural landless, artisanal fisher folk, indigenous people, rural poor women), through target strategies. There are still few results

Human Rights

Not explicitly recognized. Tend to be overlooked, especially as regards rural development. Within this civil rights tend to carry more weight than Social and Economic. May be included in a new asset: “political capital” as is being suggested by some SL developers

Not explicitly recognized within the FSA

Not considered a factor in rural development

No real mention of human rights, although there has been increased recognition that such rights should be included within the approach.

Not really mentioned, but in some cases there has been a recognition of the indigenous rights, as well as the promotion of legal reforms to benefit women and other disadvantaged groups. In specific cases, there has been a concern of displaced people because armed conflicts, terrorism, natural disasters

Secondary Rights (Access to communal land, water, etc)

Part of SL framework, although not a part of the principles

Dealt with as part of the broader farming system

IRD provided infrastructure at a broad level - no dealing with local community and no concern with secondary rights

Access to common lands and water sources is a important focus in GT, especially as regards the nomadic communities in the Sahel.

Promotion of some legal reforms to facilitate access to, rationale use of and decentralized management of natural resources (land, water)


From an SL perspective, improving women’s access and participation is an integral part of achieving sustainable livelihoods

No specific attempt to deal with gender or the inclusion of other marginalized groups

No mention of gender or other marginalized groups

Gender and the strengthening of other marginal groups tend to be overlooked in GT, as the strong focus on the community tends to mean the overpowering of vulnerable groups such as women. There is a nominal acknowledgement of the need to deal with gender

There are some achievements, but there is a gap between paper and reality. There is a need to allocate resources and efforts to address gender inequalities


Central to SLA in the form of Natural Capital

Environmental sustainability is viewed mainly through scientific and technological research. FSA has traditionally focused on intensification of farming, which has had the effect of destroying biodiversity, but this has changed in the 1990s

As agricultural intensification was central to the approach, it tended to result in the over-use of natural resources, exacerbating environmental damage and putting huge amounts of pressure on local ecosystems. Environmental consequences were not fully considered, and were often seen as opposing development

GT grew from a perception that one of the main failings of the previous rural development approaches was their tendency to intensify production, thus destroying the long-term viability of land and eco-systems. As a result GT does try to emphasise the environment and sustainability in its programming.

Environment is important at all levels (macro, intermediate, micro). Promotion of community-based natural resources management (i.e. forestry). Recognition of the importance of indigenous knowledge in the use and conservation of natural resources.


Central to the SL approach in the form of a cycle resulting in people’s actual outcomes and livelihoods

The sustainability of farmer livelihoods is increasingly important to the FSA

IRD tended to emphasise the intensification of agriculture as a means for raising living standards amongst smallholder farmers. The sustainability of its methods were not considered key to the approach - as soon as external donor support left, projects tended to disappear

Sustainability of livelihoods and in particular the ability to withstand uncertainty and risk is nominally important to the approach

Almost all international agencies and national governments are agree that sustainability is not only related to natural resources and environment. Although there are few experiences on how to measure different types of sustainability. Some agencies define sustainability as the steady improvement of standards of living among the rural population which does not require continuous infusions of external financial aid and does not degrade the natural resources base.

Capacity to deal with conflict

One branch of the SLA does specialize in conflict management in terms of access to natural resources. The SL framework can also be used to deal with conflict management

No mention of conflict and how FS would deal with it. Although it may be dealt with through the management of common resources

No attempt to deal with conflict - projects simply postponed or their focus altered

Principle of GT is facilitating conflict management through NRM, although has difficulties with this in practice

Natural resources management needs the application of some measures to deal with conflict (i.e. land titling, public goods, externalities, property rights). There are few experience in LAC

5.5 Overcoming Common Fault Lines

Here there is an attempt to compare how the approaches deal with some common fault-lines, such as micro-macro linkages, holism versus sectoral entry-points, qualitative or quantitative information. Thus, the questions are:

- Are the people-centred approaches discussed here forging adequate linkages between the community level and the national level? We can see that the SL approach is making some attempts to create macro-micro linkages, and a discussion of how this may be achieved can be found in chapter 6. The Latin American approaches appear to place more emphasis on the need for such linkages in order to maintain the sustainability of rural development.

- In practice, which are the approaches stressing, a holistic diagnosis of the development needs, or the use of sectoral entry-points? It must be noted here that, for reasons of pragmatism, when an approach implements a project in the field sectoral entry-points tend to be favoured.

- What data should be used for diagnosis, monitoring and evaluation - quantitative or qualitative? The choice here often depends on the academic origins of the approach, such that more technical approaches (Farming Systems and IRD) tend to favour the collection and use of quantitative data. Approaches that stem from a more sociological academic background (SLA) generally encourage the collection and use of more qualitative data. Again, however, there is a gap between what is said and what is done, and in practice it is most likely that the data will be some mix of quantitative and qualitative information.

Table 5.6: Overcoming Common Fault Lines





LAA (90’s onwards)

Micro-Macro Linkages

Attempting to create linkages between macro and micro levels- using the SL framework in designing the national PRSPs in coordination with regional/local governments. That is, as a consultative process

Acknowledgement of the need for policy reform at national and global levels to support the sustainable development of farming systems at a local level. Although no real discussion of the role of FSA in this reform.

Tendency to enter at the macro level, so that one reason for its lack of success in practical application was its failure to reach the local level

Tendency for the focus to be on the micro level. For more effective and efficient programs, however, there is a need for greater cooperation between the two level, which may be achieved through the PRSPs and other central government attempts to acknowledge the role of GT within national decision-making processes

Attempting to consider multi-level interventions: (i) at the macro level, supporting the design of policies, strategies and investment programs; (ii) at the intermediate level, supporting activities related to institutional modernization and information management: and (iii) at the micro level, promoting territorial approaches, participatory planning and participatory management of natural resources.

Holistic Diagnosis versus Sectoral entry-points

Emphasis on holistic diagnosis, although in practice it can be necessary to use sectoral entry-points and build on them to make the program more holistic

Holistic diagnosis of farming system type

Entry-points are sectoral, and tried to be inter-sectoral

In principle, there should be holistic diagnosis for GT. In practice, however, entry-points tend to be sectoral as they deal with institutions and agencies run along strict sectoral lines.

Both of them. Promotion of holistic diagnosis to respond with multisectoral and differentiated strategies and programs. The aim is to address the different needs and strengths of the heterogeneous rural population and diverse territories.

Quantitative and Qualitative Information

Tends to be more qualitative-friendly than the other approaches, although particulars will tend to depend on project designers

The technical roots of FS would favour a more quantitative approach to data collection and analysis

Technical roots favouring quantitative information

This is dependent upon the particular project staff, although more technical projects tend to favour quantitative data over qualitative

Tendency to consider mostly quantitative information, but it uses also qualitative information collected at the field level. On the other hand, there is an increasing demand for gender-disaggregated data at the international, national and local levels to know the contributions of men and women to development, and to formulate more adequate interventions.

Analytical Detail versus Pragmatism

As yet, SLA has tended to be used predominantly in diagnosis, rather than implementation, although it also lends itself well to implementation

Recommendation Domains: farming systems classified into domains, within which the same broad research and recommendations are conducted. Thus, trying to balance analytical research and pragmatism

Analytical detail is more important

Analytical detail is important, especially in mapping processes, although eventually must give way to pragmatism in program implementation

Previous experiences have demonstrated that the emphasis was on diagnosis and sectoral studies, rather than implementation and monitoring and evaluation. The new proposals tend to balance the analytical detail and the execution, although new experiences are not yet systematized.

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