Working Paper Series

Toward a Territorial Approach to Rural Development: International Experiences and Implications for M


  • Alain de Janvry, Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley
  • Elisabeth Sadoulet, University of California at Berkeley


  • Goldman School of Public Policy Working Paper (July 2004)


The persistence of rural poverty, concentration in rural areas of the most extreme forms of
poverty, and rising inequality in the distribution of rural incomes remain vexing aspects of rural
development in Latin America, in spite of expensive programs intended at reducing poverty and inequality.
Mexico is no exception to this observation. This widespread failure calls upon exploring alternative
approaches to rural development that may have greater chances of success. Taking an approach that
distinguishes between marginal and favorable areas, and that seeks to integrate rural and urban activities in
a territorial dimension centered around regional economic projects and the economic incorporation of the
poor is one such option that deserves further consideration. It has been introduced in Mexico through the
Microregions Strategy. While it is too early to evaluate this program, we derive lessons from international
experiences that provide guidelines to assess the Mexican strategy.

We do this by first characterizing the recent evolution of rural poverty and inequality in Latin
America. We then proceed to explore a set of qualitative changes in rural poverty that need to be taken into
account in a new approach. This is complemented by analyzing a set of new opportunities for rural poverty
reduction that should also be factored into a new approach. On the basis of international experiences with
territorial development, we derive a set of principles for success of the approach. We use these principles
to discuss the methodology followed in Mexico for the Microregions Strategy.

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