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Rural Development reconsidered

Rural Development reconsidered: building on comparative perspectives from China, Brazil and the European Union

Ye Jingzhong, Sergio Schneider and Jan Douwe van der Ploeg (Rome, 2010)

1. Leading questions

In this text we reflect on the rural development processes that are currently occurring in China, Brazil and the European Union and also explicitly discuss the genesis, development and impact of different rural development policies that are associated, in a sometimes uneasy way, with these processes. We do not aim to directly compare these policies or processes. Although such comparisons might be helpful (and there is considerable ‘crossbreeding’ between the continents), we believe that such a direct comparison would require much decontextualization, which would obscure the way that most rural development processes and practices are very strongly rooted in the specificities of time and space. Instead we will focus on the following set of questions:
- Why is it that, since the mid 1990s, rural development policies have been formulated, implemented and provided with considerable resources in widely differing socio-political settings? Is this mere coincidence? Or, are we facing a ‘structural’ phenomenon that reflects extensive and persistent changes in needs and expectations (and in underlying societal patterns)?
- How can we explain the paradox that rural development policies, although almost always accompanied by eloquent statements and policy outlines, seem to be rather vague and lack specificity? And why is rural development policy part of a somewhat uneasy marriage of conventional agrarian policies and a newly emerging paradigm of rural development?
- What are, regardless of the many differences in context, the main similarities of the three different sets of rural development policies? And, associated with this, what are the specific rural development processes that are being developed in the field? And, what are the interrelations between these policies and processes?
- Is it possible to explain why the combination of policy and practice has a considerably different impact – not only between the different continents, but also within the individual territories (as is e.g. the case the between different regions of Brazil such as Rio Grande do Sul and the North East of Brazil).
- And finally, within this differentiated impact can we identify elements that might be promising for the multidimensional crisis that is currently asphyxiating world agriculture?

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Jan Douwe van der Ploeg
Professor of Transition Processes in Europe
Wageningen University
the Netherlands and Adjunct Professor of Rural Sociology
College of Humanities and Development Studies
China Agricultural University, Beijing, China.
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