When empowerment disempowers: A case study of Ghana's community based rural development projects
Faculty of Integrated Development Studies, University for Development Studies, Ghana
Faculty of Health, Engineering and Science
School of Psychology and Social Science/Social Justice Research Centre
This paper argues that the term ‘empowerment’ is too complex a concept to be simply ‘inserted’ into development project designs without prior and precise conceptualization. Drawing on qualitative research conducted in 2010/2011 and using Ghana’s Community-Based Rural Development Projects (CBRDP) as a case study, the paper outlines power struggles that occurred between Traditional Chiefs and Local Government Officials over the right to manage the projects. The analysis shows that the mal-application of ‘empowerment’ in the CBRDP’s design impacted negatively on the projects. As the project’s officials did not envisage the feuds there was no strategy in place to monitor and manage unintended outcomes. The paper provides a theoretical and empirical basis for policy-makers and program officials to consider more carefully the politico-cultural contexts of ‘development’ beneficiaries rather than focusing on positivistic and normative terms, such as empowerment, which seems to characterize many development projects at the global level.