IEG Working Paper No. 305
In the face of persistent rural poverty, an incomplete agrarian transition, the predominance of small and marginal farms and an emerging feminization of agriculture, this paper argues for a new institutional approach to poverty reduction, agricultural revival and social empowerment. It makes a strong case for a group approach to agricultural investment and production through promoting collectivities of the poor which, it argues, would be much more effective on all these counts than the traditional individual-oriented approaches. The collectivities proposed here, however, are small-sized, voluntary, socio-economically homogeneous, and participatory in decision-making, and in keeping with the principles emphasized in a human-rights approach to development. This is in sharp contrast to the largely failed historical efforts at early socialist collectivization, and some similar thrusts in non-socialist developing countries in the 1960s and 1970s, which were massive in scale, top-down, and typically coercive and non-participatory. The paper outlines the potential benefits of bottom-up agricultural production collectivities and describes a range of successful cases from the transition economies and South Asia. It also reflects on the contexts in which such collectivities may be expected to succeed, and how these efforts could be replicated for wider geographic coverage and impact.