Course Details - Local Economic Development: towards Local Agribusiness Cluster Development

Catalysing vibrant rural economies

Market demand and agribusiness clusters are considered to be important vehicles for poverty reduction, attaining food security and creating rural wealth. The focus tends to be on high-end markets and international trade. However, for most smallholder producers, local entrepreneurs and poor consumers, rural economies and the dynamics of rural fresh produce markets & local trade are far more important!

Making markets work for local communities

The course is aimed at catalysing vibrant rural economies. It focuses on the changing roles of rural policies and services in sub-Saharan Africa. It introduces the participants to a set of five typical interventions that, on their own or in combination, are designed to boost local market demand, add value, smoothen rural trade and increase local economic activities generating income and employment. In this course each type of intervention will be illustrated with real-life cases that are presented by the ‘case owners’ themselves. This will assist to better appreciate the rigidity of reality. The course is highly interactive and builds on the participant’s own experiences and personal cases. These will serve as building blocks for ‘bankable’ project that will be developed during the course. The programme offers a balanced ‘diet’ including introductions to concepts, practices, participatory group work, guest lectures, case study presentations and excursions.

Three out of four of the world’s poor live in rural areas. Opportunities for economic growth in these areas are changing rapidly due to declining natural resources, continuing rural-urban migration and reduced access to productive land. On top of this, local economies are impacted by global forces like market liberalisation, expanding global production systems and the changing terms of trade. Amidst these dynamics, local governance structures, civic society and research institutes are expected to come up with effective strategies to revitalise rural areas into vibrant local economies. This regional course, organised jointly with the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) of South Africa, is doing just that: assisting these organizations to design strategies that can catalyse rural economies through smallholder inclusion and employment creation.

Participants’ cases are the starting point from which the course departs. It builds on the participants’ own experiences and situations. A selection of these cases will be further analysed and elaborated throughout the course. In a learning by doing and step-by-step process, strategic action plans are developed to improve these situations. The resulting strategic action plans are the ‘take-away-home’ harvests of the course.

The drafting of a post-course case report is the concluding activity of the course, which results in a tangible output.

The economic capacity of a local area will be assessed using a sub-sector development approach. To meet the objectives of the course, while taking the rural setting into account, a deliberate and motivated choice for the sub-sector approach is made. Hereby, the focus of development is centred around a particular produce or commodity that has a competitive advantage over other sub-sectors or products produced in the same and/or neighbouring localities. The next question than is, of course, how this advantage can be exploited best.

It is at this junction where the course is really making the difference. Where contemporary policies, programs and instruments form the hart of economic development planning, in the course the focus is on targeted, action oriented interventions. Five generic types of interventions will be introduced and discussed that, on their own or in combination, can contribute to strengthen the economic capacity of local areas. These will be illustrated by actual examples from the field.

An adapted version of a strategic economic model called “Porter’s Diamond” will be used to appreciate and asses both the competitive advantage of particular sub-sectors over others, and the potential of a particular (set of) intervention(s). A particular emphasis here will be on assessing the potential of agribusiness clusters to boost local economies. A number of examples of these clusters will be shared and discussed.


Applicants should meet the following requirements:

  • relevant tertiary education;
  • three years of professional experience;
  • proven competence in the English language.

Within the context of the course, an open field day is organised whereby various stakeholders are brought together to share and learn from experiences with community development and youth engagement initiatives in rural and urban settings.

During the day, and in a very energizing and interactive way, it will be explored how local communities, and in particular youth, can play a role in co-creating pathways for positive change.

The development of these pathways will be guided by the questions:

  1. Which initiatives can be distilled that mobilise urban and rural communities respectively?
  2. Which future perspectives can be created for vulnerable people in both rural and urban areas, but especially for young people, to work on and take the lead in?
  3. What are the critical success factors to sustain and upscale these initiatives?

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