Rural Development, Environmental Sustainability, and Poverty Alleviation: A Critique of Current Paradigms

Examining new approaches to development

This paper raises questions about current paradigms of integrated rural development, environmental sustainability, and poverty alleviation, such as decentralization, civil society, microentrepreneurship, anti-industrialization and capacity building. It illustrates its points with examples from Africa.

Donors have developed new micro-level and local paradigms that aim to substitute for badly functioning and corrupt states. There are, however, many problems associated with these paradigms, such as:

  • Governments still set the macro-economic, legal and policy parameters within which other entities operate;
  • Many non-state actors are only nominally independent;
  • New paradigms of development ignore the reality of poorly functioning, corrupt governments that contribute to poverty and often destroy development;
  • Technical initiatives stemming from these paradigms, aimed at growth and equity are often theoretically misconceived and tend to fail when implemented;
  • Most of these new paradigms raise conceptual problems and operational difficulties when they are implemented;
  • New paradigms bear little relationship to the realities experienced by rural poor on a daily basis.

Finally, the paradigms tend to represent desired end states, with little concrete understanding between means and ends.

About this Publication

By Mueller, S.