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Based on ‘Local involvement in rural development: the Tono Irrigation Scheme in Ghana’. Ghana has a history of failed rural development projects and Tono seems well on its way to being one more. This paper analyses contrasting accounts of the success of a rural development project given by public officials who run it and the local intended beneficiaries. Official figures claim a great success. The intended beneficiaries, however, perceive minimal material improvement in their lives. They also see considerable disruption in their community. There is evidence of alienation due to lack of local involvement in the project and gradual withdrawal from it. Migration from the project area has not slowed. This paper asks whether the data represent two views of the same facts or a picture of the inevitable disruption caused by social change. Suggestions are made for how material improvement in people’s lives can be introduced with minimal structural disruption and pain for the people involved.

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