Home Institution

Cornell University

Publication Date

Fall 2013

Program Name

Uganda: Development Studies


This study sought to understand the extent to which the participatory planning framework established in the Local Government Act of 1997 is utilized and to what extent it encourages and results in genuine community empowerment for rural communities.More specifically, it aimed to understand the extent of genuine citizen participation by assessing the degree to which community members feel that they are empowered to participate in strategies for rural development at all levels of the government. Additionally, this project sought to explore the position that the Epicenter Managers have within the participatory framework established for rural development, with a particular focus on if and how they stimulate genuine, meaningful community participation in the formation, implementation, and evaluation of rural development policies.

Situated in Kibaale District in western Uganda in the sub counties of: Burora, Kabamba, Mugarama, Muhorro, and Pachwa, this research project relied on semi-structured formal interviews, focus group discussions, and participant observation engaging community members, local government officials, and the Epicenter Managers. Formal interviews began on October 31st, 2013 and the research concluded formally on November 21st, 2013.

The study found that the participatory framework established through the decentralization structure is not fully utilized and that the majority of rural community members feel that there are not adequate mechanisms in place for them to meaningfully influence the national policy framework for development. The main explanations provided for this failure of the decentralization structure to result in community empowerment were: elite capture, whereby political leaders at various levels siphon off resources that are allocated for rural development, corruption, whereby political leaders use patronage systems to gain support as opposed to pursuing development strategies for the entire community, lack of effective participation by community members, and a lack of adequate fiscal resources for lower local governments.


Civic and Community Engagement | Family, Life Course, and Society | Growth and Development | Inequality and Stratification | Rural Sociology | Social and Cultural Anthropology


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