Making Rural Services Work for the Poor

The Role of Rural Institutions and Their Governance for Agriculture-Led Development

The provision of rural services, including agricultural extension, is essential for development and poverty reduction. However, since the rural poor lack political voice, they often receive poor services. Governance reforms, such as decentralization, try to address this problem by empowering the rural poor—men and women—to participate in local governance, demand the services they need, and hold service providers accountable. This project aims at providing policy-relevant knowledge on these governance reforms by asking “What works where and why?” The project is conducted jointly with the Humboldt University in Berlin and local partner organizations. To make a comparative approach possible, it is implemented in four countries: Guatemala, India, Kyrgyzstan, and Uganda.

The project combines quantitative and qualitative research methods to identify strategies that make rural services work for the poor. After reviewing the literature on reforms of rural service provision (see, e.g. IFPRI Discussion Paper 775, Reforming the Agricultural Extension System in India: What Do We Know About What Works Where and Why? by Katharina Raabe), a first round of econometric analysis will be performed based on existing data sets. Informed by this analysis, a first round of qualitative case studies will be conducted. Based on the insights from the case studies, additional data for the quantitative analysis will be collected where necessary. To further deepen the understanding of the processes that make successful governance reforms possible, in-depth case studies that use methods such as analytical narratives and social network analysis will be conducted in a sub-set of the case studies conducted before. Subsequently, the econometric analysis will be refined based on the insights from both the case studies and the additional data collected.