Transferring land-use rights to women in Tiarako, Burkina Faso.
Photo: Saydou Koudougou


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Good rural governance is key to realising rights, leaving no-one behind and achieving sustainability of rural development programmes. Yet, it does not receive the attention it requires. In a world that is likely to miss the Sustainable Development Goals in twelve years from now, a discussion on rural governance is an urgent necessity, our authors maintain.

The assassinations of land and environmental rights activists, a food insecure household who has not been seen by an agricultural extension agent for years, absent teachers in the municipal grammar school, or illegally issued logging permissions in a protected area are all expressions of rural governance going wrong, even deadly wrong. Lacking sustainability of rural development programmes, missing inclusion of the poorest, or programmes addressing the same households or wards ever and ever again, are similarly expressions of poor rural governance.

We need not elaborate on the additional changes to agricultural production systems brought about by climate change and the closing democratic space of civil society to emphasise the need to work towards good rural governance.

Yet, in our work, we must note that there are not enough systematic and strategic approaches to make responsible rural governance come about. This brief article is driven by this concern. It is not about achieving a definition of the specificities of rural governance, but sets out from the observation that it often represents a missing area of investment and that it is needed to achieve socially just and ecologically sustainable rural transformations.

We develop our line of reasoning against our involvement in agricultural development and natural resources management projects; we draw mainly on experiences from different countries in Africa.

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