The Eastern India Rainfed Farming Project is in many respects a model development project. A joint venture of the governments of India and the UK, the EIRFP has been successful in improving farm-based livelihoods in Jharkhand, Orissa and West Bengal. But the Project might yet be considered a failure. It has not persuaded the poorest villagers in Jharkhand (our study area) to join or manage the self-help groups that are called for by the Project's Logical Framework. We show why this has been the case, and why such an outcome was entirely predictable. Development projects cannot be expected to change local systems of politics or stratification. But this does not mean that the EIRFP is a failure. It means that a development project will be destined to 'fail' when it is judged against unrealistic assumptions about the possibilities and merits of 'participation'
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