Tiwankaku, Bolivia © Inti Cohen.jpg

Contested rural development

New perspectives on ‘non-state actors and movements’ and the politics of livelihood-centred policies

Despite concerted efforts towards development by state agencies, donors, NGOs, and the private sector, the rural poor in many developing countries continue to have difficulty gaining access to crucial livelihood means like natural resources, markets, and employment. Indeed, the recent emergence of various people’s movements that challenge states’ legitimacy may hint at popular dissatisfaction with mainstream development models and with the institutions charged with implementing them. This research project examines alternative visions of development as suggested by various grassroots movements that critique state-sanctioned development models and claim to offer solutions for improving rural people’s access to livelihood means. Case studies in India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka focus on such protest movements, while case studies in Nepal and Bolivia address groups that have already gained considerable policy influence.


Research Project Co-leaders

Urs Geiser
Development Study Group (DSGZ)
, Institute of Geography,
University of Zurich, Switzerland

R. Ramakumar
Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS)
Mumbai, India



Partnership Regions Involved

South Asia
South America



Position Papers

Initial Position Papers review ongoing discussions related to our research interests. Those published to date are:
Contemporary Political and Socioeconomic Processes in Bolivia, NCCR North-South Dialogue No. 36 by Gonzalo Rojas Ortuste and Christian Lunstedt Tapia 
Contested Rural Development in Nepal, NCCR North-South Dialogue No. 32, by Prabin Manandhar


PhD Dissertations

PhD students focus on specific themes:

"Agrarian Change, Dalits and Social Movements: A Study in Maharashtra State, India" by Awanish Kumar  
"Tracking a fluid social movement - the case of 'farmer suicides' in Vidarbha, India" by Silva Lieberherr 
"Rural development visions and practices of culturally rooted social movements in North-West Pakistan" by Muhammad Luqman
"The Tharu movement and contested rural development in Nepal" by Mahendra Sapkota