From democracy to development, via the farm

Instead of coercing the peasants to control their production and surplus, a democratic development will make the rural dweller, especially the peasant producer, the centre of development strategy…

The failure of African development strategies to proceed in this manner has been a serious impediment to agriculture as well as industrial development. Past development strategies have been concerned with import substitution, export promotion and huge basic industrial projects such as iron and steel and petrochemicals.

For the most part, they have failed to achieve any tangible degree of industrialization and have succeeded only in increasing indebtedness and the disarticulation of African economies. A policy of rural industrialization integrated with agricultural development as part of a strategy of rural development would have stood a much better chance.

That’s Claude Ake writing in The Feasibility of Democracy in Africa. It’s a book I’ve been meaning to read for some time–and, sadly, his last. Ake was a Nigerian political scientist and a former Chair of African Studies here at Yale. Tragically, he died in a plane crash twelve years ago.

Agriculture is now staging a comeback in development thought. It’s even the theme of this year’s World Development Report, led by Alain de Janvry and Betty Sadoulet.

It’s not clear, though, that the wave of democratization in Africa is helping any. Elliot Green of LSE has a nice APSA paper on Uganda, Rwanda, and the perpetuation of bad agricultural policies even as Presidents Museveni and Kagame looked to rural electorates for a political lifeline.

2 thoughts on “From democracy to development, via the farm

  1. I would hope to see some papers on the ambiguous and positive papers on agricultural policy as well, like on Zimbabwe in the mid to late 80s, Malawi in the past five years, or the complicated land and yield issues in Kenya.