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Decentralization policies in the agricultural and rural sectors are being promoted in many countries as part of institutional reform measures. These are aimed at improving the relevance of agricultural services to the rural populations and their location-specific conditions.

The need for this Sourcebook originates from the experience of the Policy Assistance Division of FAO in building the capacity of local governments in policy development and area rural development planning. In such activities at the country level, the focus was originally on enhancing knowledge and skills related to the transfer of planning functions and resources among different levels of government, from central to subnational public institutions. Gradually, capacity building programmes have evolved towards facilitating transfers of decision-making and resources from government to civil society and market agents in pursuit of creating an environment favouring private initiatives.

The Sourcebook provides a methodological framework for decisions concerning decentralization of agricultural services through deconcentration of the public administration, delegation to public or private agencies, devolution, partnerships with civil society organizations or privatization. These different forms of decentralization are presented as options to be considered according to the policy objectives pursued. The use of the methodological framework is illustrated through examples drawn from actual country experiences. Although focussed on the analytical process of determining the production and allocative efficiency of the various options, the Sourcebook also covers the political dimensions that impinge on the desirability and feasibility of decentralization, both at the level of individual organizations and of the government reform process.

The Sourcebook can be used directly by policy analysts and policy makers or as part of background materials in capacity building activities on institutional reform. We hope that its content will provide useful practical guidance to all those involved in institutional reform processes and we will welcome comments and suggestions on further collaborative work on the topic.

Santiago Funes
Policy Assistance Division

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