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The debate on empowerment encompasses an older discourse about the intrinsic value of empowerment, and a newer discourse about the instrumental benefits of empowerment; the concept of agency is useful in understanding this distinction. In agricultural development, empowerment efforts are often instrumentalist, viewed as an advanced form of participation that will improve project effectiveness, with adoption rates that promote compliance rather than intrinsic empowerment. Nevertheless, it is possible for projects to enhance the means for – and facilitate the process of – intrinsic empowerment. With regard to process, research and extension can make use of a constructivist rather than the behaviourist approach to support changes in knowledge, behaviour, and social relationships. In assessing empowerment, both developers and ‘developees’ need to look for evidence that people are taking control of their lives. Case studies – such as those used by the Indonesian Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Programme – will help to capture context and chronology, with unplanned behaviours being particularly useful indicators.

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