This article analyses the role, approach, issues and opportunities faced by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in the promotion of agriculture in Timor Leste from independence through to the countrywide roll out of a public extension service in 2009.
Design/methodology/approach: The research draws on semi-structured interviews with NGO personnel, local, national and international, actively involved in agricultural development to ascertain how organisations engage with communities, their objectives, inputs, coverage and impacts. The analysis is based on the framework developed by Birner et al. (2009) for pluralistic advisory services, and the discussion is framed by contemporary NGO discourse.
Findings: This article argues that NGOs have a central role in agricultural development, with particular advantages that can be built upon, however there must be explicit acknowledgement of the complex nature of the NGO and civil society, and a critical awareness of the need for strategic thinking, communication and coordination for effective aid.
Practical implication: NGOs play a central role in agricultural development. There is a need for a more nuanced understanding of the opportunities and limitations of the NGO sector, both as service providers but also more broadly as part of civil society.
Originality/value: Funding directed to the NGO sector for implementation of development projects is prolific. There is substantial discourse on partnerships between NGOs and other actors. However, little of the debate appears within discussions on agricultural service provision.
Field of Research
140202 Economic Development and Growth 070108 Sustainable Agricultural Development
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