Participatory Development: The Case of Zimbabwe. John Mw. Makumbe. University of Zimbabwe Publications, Harare, Zimbabwe, 1996. Pp. 142, Paperback: $18.©Participatory Development examines the concept of participation in development as applied to Zimbabwe since independence in 1980. Makumbe begins by setting the conceptual framework through a review of selected literature on the subject as well as providing a summary of costs and benefits of participatory development. Although Makumbe admits the literature review is not exhaustive, Chapter One offers a good presentation of the various views and definitions of participatory development. For example, Makumbe notes that participatory development can be represented as a continuum of participation levels from passive participation, where donor or government initiated ideas are promoted, to active participation where the recipients are involved in all stages of a development project, including the evaluation.
Chapters Two and Three focus on institutions in Zimbabwe and their role in participatory development. In particular, Makumbe reviews local government structures, political parties, co-operatives, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Makumbe concludes that local government structures Afail dismally to facilitate meaningful beneficiary participation in development" (p. 61). Similarly, he sees cooperatives as failures due to mismanagement and corruption. NGOs, on the other hand, are viewed quite positively as a means of promoting participatory development, despite their limitations.
Chapter Four offers five case studies of participatory development in Zimbabwe. For each case, the problem and solution are presented, followed by Makumbe's evaluation of the project, both financially and in terms of participatory development. Overall, the analysis is limited since every case study involved some level of free resources that were not included in determining the viability of the project. For example, in the Buhera North Cattle Fattening Scheme, Z$100,000 was donated to the group for the purchase of materials and construction of fences. Makumbe concludes that the group would need to get a price for the cattle that would equal the cost of the cattle and their feed, ignoring the start-up costs of the project. Although the financial and economic analyses of the case studies are weak, Makumbe addresses the sociological issues very well. In each case, for example, he considers the impact of the project on intra-household labor allocation and the effect of the new activity on other household responsibilities. He also considers the acceptance of some projects based on cultural values.
Makumbe concludes in Chapter Five that Athe success or failure of beneficiary participation in development is highly dependent on the nature and context of a given programme or project" (p.107). He goes on to offer over thirty suggestions on how to ensure the success of participatory development projects. Although the suggestions are too numerous to mention here, one theme is the call for protectionism and preferential treatment of participatory development projects. For example, Makumbe states Ait would be unfair to the poor for government to expect them to compete against vested interests and succeed in obtaining some developmental benefits" (p109). He also states Athere is an urgent need for selectively protective laws which will ensure that co-operatives receive preferential treatment in areas of marketing, access to credit and foreign exchange, and the availability of inputs" (p. 115). He further suggests that co-operatives should receive goods and services at preferential rates or free of charge. In the same section, Makumbe says that co-operatives have no chance of survival without this preferential treatment. Given earlier statements that co-operatives are mismanaged and corrupt, it is not clear why he favors preferential treatment for them. While a case could possibly be made for initial preferential treatment to help a project get started, the fact that Makumbe states that a co-operative would have no chance of survival without continuing support suggests that they are simply not viable. Even without considering the economic arguments against protectionism, this theme is also contradictory with Makumbe's statements about the need to reduce reliance on outside assistance. For example, Makumbe concludes from the case studies that projects are likely to fail if the participants are not required to supply their own inputs.
Overall, the book is very well written, extremely well organized, and easy to read. Makumbe clearly meets his original purpose, which was to provide teaching material for the political science department at the University of Zimbabwe. Over one-third of the text focuses on local government structures and other institutions in Zimbabwe. The conclusions also heavily emphasize suggestions that are specific to Zimbabwe. Despite the focus on Zimbabwe, anyone interested in participatory development should find the book useful as an introduction to participatory development based on the material in chapter one and the generalizations that can be drawn from the case studies.