Rural local government and development planning, with experiences from Buhera district, Zimbabwe

Martin Herlaar, Wim Olthof

Research output: Working paperAcademic

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In this paper an assessment is made of the problems, potentials and changing roles for rural local government in development planning. The paper moves from a general discussion on decentralised planning in Africa and changing local development planning styles, to more specific observations on rural district planning in Zimbabwe. A case study of improvements in rural local planning made by the Buhera District Council (Zimbabwe) in the late 1980s and early 1990s is used to illustrate some of the main points.
Though the record of decentralised planning has not been impressive, and criticism on local governments in Africa remains widespread, there are increasing calls to strengthen the local level in its development planning tasks. A prerequisite for an increased involvement of the local governments in local economic development is a meaningful form of decentralisation, which would give the local level more leeway in investment decisions. A revision of planning systems and a disaggregation of sectoral budgets to the local level are key measures proposed to support this process.
The paper further notes that, despite numerous planning constraints and the prevailing nature of centre-local relationship, there is some meaningful room for manoeuvre in the development tasks a rural local government body is able to fulfil. The gathering, recording, processing and updating of a district database; the strengthening of the project planning, implementation and management capacities; and initiatives to arrive at an integrated and participatory district planning system based on strategic development views are examples of the scope for improved local development initiatives.
These observations may also have repercussions on the tasks of local level development planners. As many of the standard analytical and planning tools are hardly ever put in practice there is need for a change of emphasis in task descriptions and training. These will have to centre around strategy development, project formulation, planning and management, accounting and database development, and negotiation, communication and social skills.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationDen Haag
PublisherInternational Institute of Social Studies (ISS)
Number of pages50
Publication statusPublished - Aug 1994
Externally publishedYes

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SeriesISS working papers. General series


  • ISS Working Paper-General Series


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