International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability vol:6 issue:3 pages:173-182
Understanding the objectives, strategies and actions of the different actors that play a role in the implementation of rural development programmes is a key to explaining the latter’s success and sustainability. Based on in-depth anthropological fieldwork and from an actor perspective this paper shows how the Rainwater Harvesting Pond Programme (RHPP) and the public work component of the Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP) work out in practice in one district of the Tigray region in Ethiopia. Developers and farmers turn the two essentially unrelated rural development programmes into practically intertwined interventions, which leads to an undesirable set of outcomes. The RHPP’s participants, who are conceived of as willing to improve, are favoured above other candidates for employment in the PSNP, which farmers compete for. Developers’ and farmers’ moves and countermoves result in targeting errors in the PSNP and in farmers massively constructing rainwater harvesting ponds, the large majority of which fail because farmers do not aspire to make them succeed, but merely see them as a stepping stone to employment in the PSNP. In addition both groups’ perception of each other is affected. Our observations challenge prevailing interpretations of the effects of development interventions on Tigrayan people’s livelihoods.