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Decentralisation and Rural Development: Is it a Policy of Empowering or Disempowering Rural Communities in Zimbabwe?


The participation and active involvement of rural communities in their own development process is an essential ingredient in the realisation of sustainable development. The key is the empowerment of these rural communities through the policy of decentralisation in order to achieve desired social and economic goals. In Zimbabwe, the policy of decentralisation was introduced in 1984 through the Minister’s Directive on Decentralisation and Development in order to bolster rural development projects amongst the local communities. This policy is a sharp contrast to the popular ‘top-down’ approach which emphasises on putting people first (people centred or oriented). In essence, decentralisation is a policy that seeks to reach the lowest or grassroots levels to ensure that their community needs are met or catered for in all spheres of life. This paper thus sought to evaluate the effectiveness of this policy in empowering communities to be actively involved in the development process of their own areas in Izimnyama and Empandeni wards in Mangwe District, Zimbabwe. A qualitative research methodology was used to get a deeper understanding of this phenomenon and get people’s views and opinions on this policy and its subsequent impact on the empowerment of communities. 50 respondents were used as units of analysis and probability sampling was used to sample the population. The study found out that local structures such as VIDCOs and WADCOs were weak and did not represent the views of the people. Communities were not consulted by both the government and NGOs prior to the implementation of projects. Challenges such as economic stagnation, over-reliance on donor aid, poverty, undemocratic practices and political interference wee inhibiting factors in the empowerment of communities. This paper concludes that there is lack of participation and involvement of local communities in development projects in Mangwe District due to state interference and the influence of NGOs;  making it difficult for local people to be empowered to take responsibility of their own development.  


Decentralisation, participation, empowerment, community, participatory development

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