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Participatory development seeks to engage local populations in development projects. Participatory development has taken a variety of forms since it emerged in the 1970s, when it was introduced as an important part of the basic needs approach to development. Most manifestations of participatory development seek to give the poor a part in initiatives designed for their benefit in the hopes that development projects will be more sustainable and successful if local populations are engaged in the development process. Participatory development has become an increasingly accepted method of development practice and is employed by a variety of organisations. By definition, participatory involves providing the opportunity for people especially the poor to be involved in deciding how something is done. To a lesser extent, the poor were empowered from these development approaches although to a greater extent they still remained poor and voiceless.

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To begin with, participatory approaches to development empowered the poor to a lesser extent because these gave the poor opportunities to boost production and generate wealth for themselves and the community at large. In Southern Tanzania, development initiatives were brought by external agencies from a large donor-funded poverty reduction programme. The programme’s aims focused on what development is and the desires of the poor people and the poor population viewed development as enhanced popular participation, better local democracy, improvements in health and welfare focusing on ‘growth equity’. These goals emerged from aspiring self-development which they viewed as having more education, increased access to off-farm income and enough money to provide for a person’s family even building iron roofed houses which then became a sign of status. So in regard to these aims and expectations, the development agents involved the project beneficiaries in the planning and implementation process through consultation procedures. They used techniques of knowledge generation and reflection by incorporating techniques of knowledge generation and reflection because they knew that the local knowledge of the poor had the potential to form the basis for community empowerment and social transformation and as a result development took place in Ulanga district and the poor also being empowered and their efforts as change agents being acknowledged.

These participatory approaches to development empower the poor through excluding unjust hierarchies of knowledge. In the society, voices of the less privileged and the poor are side-lined and usually not recognized in many decision making processes. In other words, ‘power relations are mobile, they can be modified, and it’s difficult to fix them once and for all Foucault (1997) so the change agencies focused on eliminating these power hierarchies in the areas were they targeted development to take place and in most cases, they used the empowerment participation approach were the differences were clearly stated. According to Mason (1998), empowerment participation refers to promising greater participation and integration to the poor in order to cope with their tasks as independently as possible and as they responsibly can. In the Danube Delta, various levels of government along with various international organizations, co-created a ‘local’ that is scrutinized and silenced, exoticized, subjugated and marginalized. Local residents could not observe the game of competing policies and role attributions at higher levels, but they did observe and experience the consequences further undermining livelihoods, forcing them into illegality, survival of old closures, veiled in new rhetoric and aided by different forms of knowledge. The exotic world of ethnic variety in the swamp can be observed, studied, visited, knowledge and power create the image and keep it in place. The World Bank aimed at eradicating politics of progress by empowering the poor thereby showing how these development approaches benefited them.

Participatory approaches to development empowered the poor people to a lesser extent through cultures of development and indigenous knowledge. Some of the development agencies recognize the power dynamics and differences in certain contexts of their interest which include the poor people being divorced from many centres of decision making which are dominated by the elites with different interests of development in turn affecting the poor people. In the participatory development and the appropriation of Agency in Southern Tanzania, development is in the conscious ness of people participating as change agents and changed through the relationship between the external agencies and appreciation of local (indigenous) knowledge and their cultures. The poor people need change agents to achieve development because they have the seeds required for development which is their local knowledge. The change agents must make use of the indigenous knowledge to reduce the poverty because the poor know what really affects them and what they want in order for them to improve so through participation by collaboration they are empowered to participate in decisions that affect them and in order to do this, the donors had to dismiss the city council which suppressed the voices of the poor in some instances.
If the ultimate goal of all development is to improve the prerequisites for long-term survival and the well-being of the population in a region, then this entails action for increased social inclusion and a more equitable distribution of the social determinants of health. The intentional consequences of participatory approaches go far beyond the health sector and more into the realm of creating positive sustainable social change. Through the engagement of stakeholders, recognizing the value of each person’s contribution to the process is not only practical but also collaborative and empowering in finding solutions together. Through bottom-up participation, the poor people were empowered from participatory approaches through the World Health Organisation’s programmes to improve health facilities. In Skane, the World Health Organisation (WHO) introduced a programme that was supposed to suggest new ways to identify important health gaps and focus on individual and collective efforts on ways to reduce these health issues and challenges. The case study describes the participatory process taken by Region Skåne which, under Swedish legislation, has responsibility for regional development, and a permanent mandate from the Swedish state to coordinate regional development issues and to lead the work to draw up the regional development strategy. This strategy aims to formulate and create up to the year 2030 a broad joint approach to a common strategic objective that strengthens cooperation between different actors, and contributes to the creation of a context, a story, for those who live in Skåne, Sweden. The poor were incorporated in the decision process and the Swedish government was also in support with this as a way of promoting a healthy lifestyle in the society and as a way the poor people who were largely affected by the issues of health and diseases were empowered and helped.

To add more joint mobilization requires leadership characterized by a courage and a willingness to take risks and through this, the poor were empowered. In Uzbekistan, access to quality water is a constraint and a source of waterborne diseases among the rural population. To address the need for quality water the government cooperates with many international financial and development organizations to address this problem. “Enhancement of Living Standards in Fergana Valley” is a development program funded by European Union and implemented by UNDP seeking to build capacity in development planning and improvement of living standards by involving local communities in the implementation of development projects. According to Korten (1980) he acknowledged that for development to take place especially in the rural areas, the customs and traditions of the targeted affected groups must be acknowledged through what he coined the learning process theory which embraces mistakes, plans with people and links knowledge with action. The success of collective action in this water project was determined by the perceived value of clean water among households, and by strength of incentives to get access to the clean drinking water. In addition to these, other factors identified included community involvement in the decision making processes, existing norms and customary institutions, local conditions such as the existence of alternative water sources, and nature of leadership engaging the group in decisions, and the training of the leaders. These were important for the initiation of the project and during the process of implementation in the target communities. Institutions created by the project, such as the Water Committees, ensured the long-term sustainability of projects where collective action was essential therefore empowering the poor.
However, to a greater extent participatory approaches to development did not quite manage empowering them but rather in some instances they were completely displaced and divorced from the decision making processes especially in conservative societies. The importance of indigenous knowledge and practises is used in Africa to disperse that only Western development can bring progress. In Zimbabwe during the land reform programme, the spirit mediums (mhondoros’) had to be consulted so that they comment on development and project issues recognizing their significance during the liberation war struggle. President R. Mugabe failed to negotiate with the change agents and the ancestors and the voices of the spirit mediums in issues to do with development. Village Development Committees (VIDCOs) and chiefs were disrupted as war veterans and provincial land committees to reallocate former commercial land. Committees became dominated by the same male elites who dominated rural life who were members of the ruling party. The Zambezi project recreated the valley as an area of untamed wilderness, made inhospitable to human habitation because of tsetse flies and they didn’t consult the valley residents they just assumed that the valley was in desperate need of development and that the residents were used to moving and by so doing, they eliminated the motive of participatory development displacing the poor and this shows that not all participatory development projects benefitted the poor.

In the same claim, the poor were ignored in the participatory approaches to development through the issues to do with politics of progress. In Southern Tanzania, there was a large donor-funded poverty reduction programme which aimed at improving infrastructure and the health well-being of those in Ulanga district in Tanzania. The poor were supposed to be the leading agents as participants in the development process but then rural populations considered responsibility for development to lie with the state and the external agencies. The government also tried to shift responsibility for development back to the rural communities through self-help and giving themselves out to the development projects and because of this, development didn’t take place at the expense of the rural population’s lack of interest, laziness or cultural factors which contradicted the state’s ambition for progress and this shows that the issue of responsibility was of great concern. As a result the poor didn’t change and they also did get empowered from the participatory approaches to development.

Furthermore, the participatory approaches failed to empower the poor to a greater extent as a result of the failure of the implementation of the learning process approach. People were afraid of making mistakes, planning with people and linking knowledge to action Korten (1980). In the 1980s, there was a national and international programme of water reform in Zimbabwe linked to cultures of development and indigenous knowledge. The water reform process took place as though there was no other water-management systems than those of the nation state. Commercial agriculture is the largest use of Zimbabwe’s water consuming 75% of all water. Laws were introduced to remedy past legal and institutional inadequacies and to fit Zimbabwe’s water into international principles of water management and national issues of equity and efficiency. Reform processes involved commercial water and to use water people who were into commercial business such as agriculture and mining had to obtain permits. This water project failed because the change agents failed to acknowledge and learn the customs surrounding water distribution. There were cultural values that were not to be violated and if this happened, water sources would dry up or deteriorated due to misconduct and failure shows that the poor and conservative people were not consulted.

If citizen participation and engagement can lead to empowerment in the participatory approaches to development, there was a problem when it can to translating empowerment to social change. Looking at the aims of participatory development which include changing people’s knowledge about themselves, raising consciousness and instilling confidence and leaving the poor feeling in control of their destiny, if the change agents fail to teach the poor people then change won’t happen that easily. The poor maybe empowered but they face difficulties in transferring their empowerment towards social change. Mompati and Prinsen (2002) viewed ethnicity as an impediment towards development. They argued that some forms of participation seek to extract free labour from the poor for example through the food for work process. In Egypt there was a project which was being implemented to improve the technical infrastructure. The project had very limited possibilities to finance pilot upgrading measures to demonstrate innovative approaches and thus also little leverage to negotiate substantial contributions from Egyptian agencies. Consultations with the local community, on the other hand, revealed that the priorities of the population did also not correspond to initial assumptions of local administration and the consultants who designed the project as an upgrading project. It turned out that community members were much more concerned with economic development and income generation, provision and improvement of social and community services as well as environmental improvements, particularly garbage collection. As a consequence, the project was re-conceptualized in accordance with the priority areas identified by the population. (The World Bank, Ministry of Planning, 2007). This shows how the poor are excluded from the whole process of development.

In conclusion, participatory development has become an increasingly accepted method of development practice and is employed by a variety of organisations. It seeks to improve the lives of the poor people but to a larger extend there are displaced away from the decision making process although to a lesser extent they are accepted and listened to and in many cases ,minor groups face rejection and they also suffer from ignorance. The essay sought to elaborate the issues in depth.

Antweiller, Christoph (1998) ‘Local knowledge and local knowing: an anthropological analysis of contested “cultural products” in the context development’ Anthropos 93 (4-6): 469- 494.
Bond, P (1998) Uneven Zimbabwe: A study of finance, development and underdevelopment Africa World Press (chapters 10, 11, 12 and 13)
Cornwall A. (2000). Making a difference? Gender and participatory development, IDS Discussion Paper 138. IDS, University of Sussex, p. 28.

Derman, Bill (2003) ‘Culture of development and indigenous knowledge: the erosion of traditional boundaries’ Africa Today 50 (2): 67-85.
Green, Maia (2000) ‘Participatory development and the appropriation of agency in Southern Tanzania’ Critique of Anthropology 20 (1): 67-89.