Sunil Bastian

(1999) Poverty Alleviation through Smallholder Agriculture – Fighting a Loosing Battle?

Intercooperation, February.

This paper is a contribution to a study on the experience of the Self-Help Support Programme (SSP) which is a project of Intercooperation, a development agency from Switzerland. The project has been in operation in Sri Lanka since 1987.

A principal pre-occupation of SSP has been improving the poverty situation of the rural population engaged in agriculture. One major area of investment, tank rehabilitation, was focused directly on alleviating poverty through improving agricultural production. Even in the other area of investment - rural credit - agriculture was a major preoccupation, although credit could have been utilised for other purposes.

SSP undertook to achieve this task in a context where structural adjustment polices have dominated the development process of Sri Lanka. The introduction of structural adjustment policies since 1977 has been the most important factor in the development processes of Sri Lanka. This has been the cornerstone of the development ideology promoted by the ruling elite as well as international development agencies.

This paper consist of two parts. Part I maps out the principal changes that have taken place in agricultural policies under structural adjustment. Next we try to see what has happened in agriculture, specially in the peasant mode of production in which the bulk of the rural poor are engaged, under the liberalised phase of capitalism. Unraveling this is important to understand the nature of the problem that SSP had set itself. In Part II we go on to look at the fundamental concepts that have been the foundation of SSP.s intervention in this context. We begin this paper by explaining briefly some of the fundamental elements of the theoretical positions from which this paper is written.

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