The generation and distribution of rural prosperity: insights from longitudinal survey data.

Lead Research Organisation: University of Manchester
Department Name: Environment, Education and Development


Numerous African economies are growing rapidly and there are signs of prosperity in rural and urban regions. Cheaper technology (mobile phones, motorbikes and improved seed varieties) are reaching all but the remotest parts of many countries. However it is not always clear how inclusive and pro-poor this growth is. It is all too easy for the benefits of improved agricultural production, for example, to be concentrated on relatively few wealthy farmers and even to be instrumental in creating rural deprivation and landlessness. The greater returns the wealthy enjoy enable them to concentrate land and resources. Those without land become a rural proletariat, their livelihoods part of the general trend towards deagrarianisation, but in the absence of viable alternatives to agriculture they are not characterized by prosperity and long term prospects. In this context the key issue is what assets the rural poor can build up during periods of national economic growth. Growth which is accompanied by loss of assets (loss of farmland or livestock), or a failure to accrue new assets (such as help children earn educational qualifications) among the poor, either across households, or within households (according to their gender dynamics) will not be inclusive.

Panel data-sets can provide some insights into these dynamics. However these are few, they can suffer from attrition, and they remain the almost exclusive preserve of quantitative analysis and modeling. The insights of qualitative data have rarely been brought to bear on panel data. Their absence reduces the scope for hypothesis generation, and the in-depth and emic insights into poverty dynamics that qualitative data can provide. Conversely the flaws of qualitative data are their idiosyncrasy and their small scale and the difficulties they present for extrapolation. Their presence is not always insightful beyond their immediate case studies.

This study will make use of unusually good records of survey data in Tanzania to provide the insights of qualitative data across a sufficiently large area to overcome the normal failings of qualitative data and contribute constructively to the findings of quantitative panel data. Tanzania has unique records of foreign researchers active in the country through the records of the Commission for Science and Technology. The East Africana collection contains theses written by masters and doctoral students in Tanzania. These, together with the strong networks that exist of researchers in and from Tanzania, provide a unique resource from which to identify former surveys. We will revisit a number of communities in different parts of Tanzania for whom data on household assets were collected in the 1990s. We will revisit a sample of these households, re-survey their assets and then explore through a detailed qualitative interview the reasons behind the changes (or lack of changes) in their fortunes. These data will provide a rich and detailed picture into the village and household and sub-household level dynamics of poverty and poverty reduction.

These methods have already been piloted. The PI has, this year, revisited a community surveyed by Loiske (co-I) in the early 1990s. This work has proved that the method is possible, and that it produces valuable insights. We need, however, a stronger comparative framework and data from other regions for this to be a powerful tool. That is the purpose of the proposed research. This work will be important methodologically and substantively, providing a toolkit and database for other researchers to use, as well as insights into the nature and factors that lie behind inclusive growth.

Planned Impact

Who will benefit from this research, and how?
The ultimate beneficiaries will be Tanzanians, their families and communities. This is because the primary goal of this research is to gain better insights into the practices, processes and policies which promote pro-poor growth. In part this will be, indirectly and over time, through the policies that we hope to influence through our findings. We expect these findings to promote pro-poor growth policies. But we will not only rely on those routes. Our pilot study we have found that our practice of disseminating initial findings for discussion and comment were welcome, and allowed villagers to learn the main facts of what we had learnt in their communities straight-away, and, if necessary, to act upon them.

Second, within Tanzania, we expect policy-makers government and advisors in the donor community to benefit from our substantive findings as it identifies factors which will facilitate pro-poor growth. This will make the task of making evidence-based policy decisions easier. We also hope that project officers and staff in the NGO community will learn from this and better target funds as a result. They will also benefit from the database of surveys we establish and the toolkit we build up should they be in a position to extend the surveys.

Third government policy-makers, project officers and the donor community in the broader region will benefit from the substantive findings, as their Tanzanian colleagues. Likewise the broader region will benefit from the methodological insights and techniques we develop. For these may well be applicable to other countries which also suffer form a paucity of panel data but which have welcomed diverse social scientists carrying out disparate surveys.

Finally our methodological work and substantive findings will contribute to the broader community of development studies researchers trying to learn more about the nature and circumstances supporting pro-poor growth.

What will be done to ensure that they have the opportunity to benefit from this activity?
We have several means of communicating with our potential beneficiaries - and in all cases our approach here is to build relationships with stakeholders. A significant proportion of staff time in the last year (and about 15% of the project budget overall) will be committed to this engagement.

At the village level we will introduce our work in public meetings when we begin, and communicate and discuss findings again in further public meetings with elders in order that they can learn our initial findings quickly and comment upon them.

At the national and international level we will hold meetings of stakeholders in government, the NGO community and the donor community in order to maximize awareness about this research and engagement with it. These are planned yearly. We have already set up the research website for this project (, and will build on it as a means of engaging stakeholders, releasing early findings, policy briefs and other project news.

Ultimately, the litmus test of the rigour of our findings will be the peer-reviewed journal papers which we will seek in the best journals of our disciplines, and which will form the backbone of the subsequent policy engagement that we will seek beyond the life of the project.


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