AEGIS European conference on African studies edition:2 location:Leiden date:11-14 July 2007
Local level administrators in rural Tigray (northern Ethiopia) are in an awkward predicament. Higher level authorities saddle them with target numbers for beneficiaries of rural development programmes. Meanwhile they have to live up to their reputation of locally accountable and in favour of grassroots development, a relic from the Tigray People's Liberation Front's (TPLF) revolutionary days. Based on in-depth qualitative research on the implementation of a household rainwater harvesting pond programme in one district of the Tigray region, we investigate how local level administrators cope with this dilemma and how this influences farmers' reactions on the programme, its success and the relations between farmers and authorities. Two strategies deployed by district and sub-district administrators to win over farmers for the rainwater harvesting pond programme are explored. First is the practice to favour the programme's participants - conceived of as willing to improve - above other candidates for employment in a food-for-work programme, which farmers compete for. Second is the constant motivation and mobilisation of farmers in general, and of the largely overlapping subgroups of model farmers and TPLF party members in particular by stressing the latter's role and responsibilities as pioneers in development. These local government's moves are followed by farmers' countermoves (e.g. digging a pond to stand a good chance of employment in the food-for-work programme or for the sake of peace with authorities). Together they result in a beneficiary targeting error in the food-for-work programme and in the massive construction of rainwater harvesting ponds, the large majority of which fail because their owners do not aspire to make them succeed. In addition farmers' and local administrators' perceptions of each other are affected.