Participatory approaches to development : an analysis of the experiences of development projects in Sudan : a thesis presented in fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Development Studies at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand
This thesis aims to explore and analyse the experiences of participatory development projects in Sudan. The study focuses on participation in development, an issue that has attracted debate and discussion since the early 1970s. To contribute to this discussion and create more knowledge on this issue the White Nile Agricultural Services Project (WNASP) and North Kordofan Rural Development Project (NKRDP) were selected as case studies. Through various methods the nature and potential of participatory development approaches and interventions have been explored with the aim of identifying the factors that influenced people's participation, and suggesting ways to improve the practice of participatory development at grassroots level. The study found that although the projects encouraged and claimed to adopt participatory approaches, people were not engaged in a process through which participation could achieve empowerment or create real changes in their lives. The outcome of people's participation in the projects was influenced by development providers' policies, credibility and behaviour of staff, nature and amount of resources, socio-cultural norms, power relations, and communities' previous experiences, organisation and level of education. This suggests that primarily, designing participatory development programmes requires an in-depth understanding of prevailing social, economic, political and physical environments. Secondly, development providers should adopt approaches that accept negotiations with communities and challenge oppressive situations. Finally, if participatory development is to achieve its objectives, local communities must be provided with resources, information and skills. Based on evidence from powerful individuals in North Kordofan, this thesis suggests a moral-obligatory approach as one of the ways to improve the practice of participatory development in Sudan. This approach requires a fundamental change in development providers' policies, visions and credibility. If the essence of participatory development is adhered to, and if strategies and plans are designed collectively then there is an opportunity for making real change in the lives of those addressed by development interventions. This thesis concludes that more research is needed to explore the values, role, and impact of development providers and facilitators, as well as the nature and potential of local communities' participative values, organisations and practices.