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NGOs, elite capture and community-driven development: perspectives in rural Mozambique*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 May 2013

Alex Arnall*
School of Agriculture, Policy and Development, Agriculture Building, Earley Gate, PO Box 237, University of Reading, Reading RG6 6AR, United Kingdom
David S.G. Thomas
School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom
Chasca Twyman
Department of Geography and Sheffield Institute for International Development, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, United Kingdom
Diana Liverman
Institute of the Environment, University of Arizona and Environmental Change Institute, School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom


This article examines the problems of elite capture in community-driven development (CDD). Drawing on two case studies of non-governmental organisation (NGO) intervention in rural Mozambique, the authors consider two important variables – (1) the diverse and complex contributions of local elites to CDD in different locations and (2) the roles that non-elites play in monitoring and controlling leader activities – to argue that donors should be cautious about automatically assuming the prevalence of malevolent patrimonialism and its ill-effects in their projects. This is because the ‘checks and balances’ on elite behaviour that exist within locally defined and historically rooted forms of community-based governance are likely to be more effective than those introduced by the external intervener.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2013 

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This research was funded by an ESRC doctoral studentship. The authors express gratitude to Dr Gavin Hilson at the University of Reading whose comments helped strengthen draft versions of this paper. Special thanks are extended to Nelson Machava in Mozambique for his assistance during the fieldwork stage of the project, as well as the various NGOs and community members who participated in interviews.


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