Empowering Rural People for Their Own Development
This Elmhirst lecture first discusses the features of the institutional environment which allow rural people in low income countries to design, plan and implement their own rural development. These are divided into two broad groups: the institutional environment for rural development (environment for the private sector, communities and civil society, local government, and sector institutions) and the many factors governing profitability of investment in agriculture. While in many poor countries the institutional environment has improved over the last 20 years, the most poorly performing countries still have by far the poorest environment for local government in the world. Within an empowering institutional environment, the rate of agricultural and rural development is determined by investments of many different types that in turn depend primarily on the profitability of agriculture. The paper discusses the large number of factors which determine profitability. Few of these are under the direct control of farmers or agricultural sector institutions, but depend on governance and investments in other sectors such as trade and transport. In many of the poorest countries there has been considerable improvement in macroeconomic management and sector policies over the past 20 years, but progress in international and intra-regional trade policies, in agricultural trade policies, in transport infrastructure, and in agricultural research and extension have been limited.
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