Local Economic Development / Rural development

The term “rural development” in the “development language” is almost out of fashion. At best, you can still find it under the label “Integrated Rural Development” or “Local Economic Development” (LED). Nevertheless, I only use the labels LED and RD because a huge number of so-called modern development strategies with scientific brand names such as “value chain development”, “good governance”, “decentralisation” or “community development” more often than not refer mainly to rural areas. Maybe, this label is too vast to grasp all the different specifications, but I am personally somewhat reluctant to follow every two years the ever-changing mood of development bureaucrats.

My interest for rural development was triggered by my second stay in Nepal (1979 – 1982) when I decided to write my thesis in Political Science on the “Comparison of objectives of the integrated rural development projects in Nepal”
(see thesis). I was able to collect a huge number of literatures on that subject, and I succeeded in convincing the University of Bremen to write my thesis in English, which at that time was far from being daily routine.

The project in Cameroon I took over in 1985 was pure rural development under specific conditions of a government palm oil estate being connected to the harsh reality of world markets. The multi-facetted task consisted basically in finding ways and means to keep the workers of that estate interested and motivated not to run away after the reception of the first monthly salary while integrating their activities into the ordinary life of the autochthones who surrounded and intercepted the estate with their villages (Cameroon).

During my time in Guyana I got more in touch with the “Local Economic Development” in collaboration with Mesopartner Consulting (www.mesopartner.com) from Germany. Among other tools they use the “Participatory Appraisal of Competitive Advantage” (PACA) which turned out to be very powerful. During my PRA-lectures and practical classes at DIE, a certain Dr. Jörg Meyer-Stamer (lecturer at DIE at that time) crossed my way who admittedly incorporated a number of PRA tools into Mesopartner’s toolbox. I think that’s a great idea particularly because they were cross-fertilised with a number of other tools from the scientific field (e.g. Porter’s Five Forces).