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Abstract

The involvement of disadvantaged groups in European Union neo-endogenous rural development programmes, such as the LEADER programme, must be a high priority. In this paper we study the profiles of the beneficiaries of LEADER and PRODER, the main Spanish example of mainstreaming the LEADER method, in the NUTS 2 region of Andalucía, Spain in the period 2002-2008, and of the decision makers in the Local Action Groups (LAGs). Using quantitative information provided by the regional administration and a questionnaire survey of managers of the LAGs, we show that there has been continuing underrepresentation of previously disadvantaged groups and territories, so contributing to uneven and selective empowerment and governance that favours the emergence of a project class. The groups that have benefi ted the most from LEADER investments have been entrepreneurs and ‘town halls’, in this order. Interviewed LAG managers felt that many mistakes had been made in the application of LEADER: excessive bureaucracy and interventionism by the regional administration, loss of the original philosophy, low participation of disadvantaged groups and lack of strategic vision. As was noted by one of the LAG managers, “LEADER has been a victim of its own success; the universalisation of its method has led to the elimination of its experimental nature as a real laboratory for the development of rural areas”.

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