School of Journalism
University of Nairobi
Supervising lecturer: Dr. George Gathigi
Communication, Rural Development and Participation


  • 276 People Centered Development and Participatory Research. L. David Brown/1985
  • 283 Communications and Development Paradigms: An Overview. Jan Sarvaes/1985
  • 333 Communication from the perspective of culture
  • 342 Communication, culture and development- Hector Schmucler/1987

Discussion Question

Participation is a buzz word for non-state actors and legal requirement in the devolved governance. What does participation scored-card in Kenya look like?

It is critical to examine how international resources can be used to strengthen local community development at grass root level.  L. David Brown (1985) explores the vital role that poor and vulnerable members of the society have to play in development processes which begins at the distribution of resources.


The role played by non-actors agencies such as Non- Governmental Organizations that advocate for certain aspects of equality in society cannot be ignored when it comes to accounting for the rate of community participation in development. These non-governmental groups are significant in watching and monitoring the government and pushing an agenda of the people’s development. In Kenya, such groups as Mombasa Republican Community could be seen as a threat to security and a hindrance to development while in the real sense such groups emerge to advocate for certain neglected rights of the people by its government.  In addition, governments will usually seek to engage such groups in times when they need to convey certain messages to their citizens. This clearly shows that these non-actor groups have the right connection with the community, governments and donors will want to engage with them to learn about the true needs of the people and at the same time, these non-actor groups are the same ones that will keep the communities up to date with information on new development plans by the government, expose certain manipulative approaches and facilitate training and exhibitions to expose the people to their rights to development among other key roles.


However, this is not always the case. As much as these groups are seen to be sole representatives of a more quiet community, the Kenya government and other institutions with interest in Kenya continue to plan and dictate development for the grassroots as if they understand it better than its people.


Participatory development in Kenya is mostly evidenced through the devolved governance practice which is a key component of Kenya’s new Constitution 2010.  From my analysis of the system of inclusive governance, the main task of devolved governance in Kenya is hereby is to leverage economic growth so as to address inequalities at all angles not limited to gender, poverty, health, to mention a few among community development pillars.  Further, devolution is supposed to foster inclusion in negotiating relationships among stakeholders.  However, as discussed above, the government continues to plan in the absence of its people, and only engages the people at the phase of implementation where government officials provide briefs about what they intend to do for the local communities.


As much as non-actor groups do exist among other community leaders, the people’s interests continue to be sidelined only to serve the agenda of political leaders. This is also the case as with preparing manifesto. Politicians assume that they know what the people want; they create systems and structures without following a clear participatory model. They share what they think the community desires to have. They tag this as the social need not through the community’s eyes but through the eyes of the politician. Hence the question, whose development agenda is it, the community’s or the politicians?


The topics on sustainable development too do not focus on the relationship between communication and culture for development yet understanding the people’s culture is the first step in promoting the agenda of leaving no one behind in development. Even what is seen as participatory structured development is led by international agencies only driving the agenda of multinational investing companies and philanthropists.

I therefore think it is high time that Kenya adopted sustainable development efforts responding to the needs of local communities by first embracing their district cultural values rather than borrowing communication strategies that target change without due consideration for what is dear to the hearts of the people.