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ISSN : 1225-8504(Print)
ISSN : 2287-8165(Online)
Journal of the Korean Society of International Agricultue Vol.25 No.3 pp.217-230

한국의 새마을 운동은 에티오피아 농촌개발을 위한 모델이 될 수 있는가?

Jemal Abafita, Fikadu Mitiku*, 김경량
강원대학교 농업자원경제학과
*짐마대학교 농업경제지도학과
한국의 종합적인 농촌개발모델로 알려진 새마을운동은 한국의 국가경제 및 농촌지역사회 발전의 토대가 되었고 최근 들어 많은 개도국으로부터 성공모델로써 인정받고 있다.
최근 에디오피아도 한국의 발전경험과 유사한 변혁을 이루고자 노력하고 있다. 1990년대 초반 이후 에디오피아 정부는 다양한 전략적인 개발정책을 통해 농업 및 농촌개발을 최우선순위로 실행하여왔다. 지난 10여년간 에디오피아의 농촌개발은 많은 진전이 있었지만, 초기 목표로 하였던 수준은 달성하지 못하였다. 이에 따라 에디오피아에서는 새마을운동과 같은 성공적인 농촌개발모형으로부터 교훈을 얻고자 하는 노력이 커지고 있다.
본고에서는 농촌개발 접근방식으로서 새마을운동의 성공요인들을 에디오피아의 현재의 농촌개발과 비교하여 검증하고자한다. 1970년대 한국의 새마을운동의 경험과 현재의 에디오피아 농촌개발정책을 비교시 농업·농촌개발정책의 틀은 매우 유사한 것으로 평가된다. 반면, 농촌개발현장에서의 실패사례는 새마을운동의 정신을 에디오피아 농촌개발시책으로 적용시 좀 더 다각적이고 세심하게 고려해야 한다는 시사점을 주고 있다.
특히 본고에서는 새마을운동의 주요 성공요인으로써 농지개혁과 농촌주민의 사회적연대, 강력한 제도개선과 정부의 리더쉽, 그리고 전방위적인 정책지원, 대상마을에 대한 인센티브시책 및 마을간 경쟁유도 등을 들고 있다. 이러한 요소들이 에디오피아에 농촌개발전략으로써 종합적이고 유기적으로 실행된다면 한국의 새마을운동과 같은 결과를 도출할 수 있을 것으로 기대된다.

Korea’s Saemaul Undong (New Village Movement): A Model for Rural Development in Ethiopia?

Kim Kyung Ryang, Jemal Abafita, Fikadu Mitiku*
Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Kangwon National University Chuncheon-si, Gangwon-do
*Department of Agricultural Economics and Extension, Jimma University College of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine, Jimma, Ethiopa
Received Mar. 28, 2013/Revised Jul. 29, 2013/Accepted Aug. 30, 2013


Korea’s integrated rural development model, which was mainly implemented throughcommunity-based development initiative known as Saemaul Ungong (SMU), has been largely successfulin bringing about an unprecedented success in the transformation of the country’s rural areas and theoverall economy. Ethiopia, on the other hand, has been implementing various development programs thathave set agricultural and rural development as priority since early 1990s. Even though there has been significantprogress in the last decade, as a result, the country is still far from achieving the level oftransformation envisaged in these programs. To this end, there are crucial lessons to draw from successfulrural development models such as Saemaul Undong. The paper has examined the factors underlying thesuccess of such a development approach along with a review of the rural development situation in Ethiopia.Given the high priority accorded to the Ethiopian agricultural and rural sector, and the largely similarenabling conditions in Ethiopia now and Korea back in the 1970s, the paper argues that Ethiopia’srural development program, could be made to work better if the ideals of SMU can be carefully adaptedto the existing gaps in the current programs. In particular, the paper has highlighted that the factors thathave been key for the success of SMU in Korea such as land reform; social ties among villagers; stronginstitutional support; strong leadership and political commitment on the part of government; andpromotion of ownership and empowerment of rural communities could be judiciously incorporated intothe Ethiopian rural development strategies to attain similar results. Restructuring of the existing ruralinfrastructural programs and incentive system in favor of these programs and introduction of a pilotingschemes in selected villages are required as a precondition to achieve such results.


1.Rural Development.pdf572.8KB

 This article aims at reviewing the successful experience of Korea’s New Village Movement, a major component of Korea’s rural development model, with the objective of drawing lessons for its successful replication in developing countries with specific emphasis to the case of Ethiopia. Korea has been successful in implementing integrated rural community development programs comprising of topdown and bottom-up approaches that were widely recognized as being at the center of the development of the rural sector and the overall economic development in the country since the beginning of the 1970s. Especially the widely celebrated community development movement (‘Saemaul Undong’, SMU for short), has been key to the successful rural transformation of Korea in a relatively short time. It has played an important role in raising incomes and improving living standards in rural areas, narrowing the urban-rural divide. This has attracted huge interest from international organizations and policy makers in developing countries highlighting the need to learn from the Korean experience.

  Ethiopia is an agrarian country with the agricultural sector playing an important role in the national economy. The sector employs over 80% of the population, accounts for 45-50% of the GDP, and makes the largest contribution to raw materials for agro-industries, food security and foreign exchange earnings. Smallholder agriculture is the dominant sector accounting for over 95% of the cultivated land and production. The production system is largely characterized by subsistence orientation, low levels of external inputs, dependency on rainfall, and limited integration into the market. As the country has so far developed only a very small share of the potentially irrigable land, agriculture is susceptible to rainfall instability and drought.

  Poverty is also widespread in the country. Even though poverty rates have shown a declining trend in recent years, it is still high (about 39% based on the national poverty line of 2005/061). Moreover, rural poverty rates are still higher than urban poverty rates in the period 1995/96 to 2004/05 (Diao, 2010). However, the reduction in poverty rate is higher in rural areas than in urban areas for the same period, implying that significant growth in the agricultural sector would have positive impact in reducing poverty in rural areas.

1This figure is based on the national poverty line. However, the corresponding figures are respectively 21.7%, 39% and 77.5% based on the international poverty line of USD 1.00, 1.25 and 2.00

 Over the past two decades, Ethiopia has undertaken farreaching economic reforms, which have delivered strong economic growth. There have been improvements in measures of human development, but still remain unacceptably low. Poverty and food insecurity are concentrated in rural areas, and the poorest of rural households are chronically reliant on social safety net programs and food aid. The agricultural sector has performed strongly over most of the last decade, but there is still considerable scope to sustainably improve productivity, production, market linkages and environmental sustainability, particularly within the smallholder sector (FDRE, 2010).

  The Government, through the allocation of more than 15% of the total budget, along with Development Partners (DPs), has demonstrated a strong commitment to the sector, although a significant portion of this directly targets the relatively large and chronically food-insecure population. While such a strategy is expected to strengthen the livelihoods of food-insecure households, long-term food security cannot be achieved through exclusive attention to the vulnerable. Success will require complementary efforts to enhance agricultural growth, and thereby reduce food prices and diversify rural livelihoods. In general, rural transformation has not been largely successful and is taking long to deliver at the required pace despite government’s commitment to transform the rural sector and the whole economy in general (FDRE, 2010).

  There is, therefore, urgency to bring about changes in the rural sector of Ethiopia, with particular emphasis on dealing with poverty problems and improving the living standards of poor farmers. To this end, the experience of successful rural transformations such as the one in Korea would prove very useful in attaining these goals. The rest of the paper is organized as follows. The next section examines the agricultural and rural development situation in Ethiopia. Section three briefly presents the Korean experience with emphasis on the case of SMU. Lessons to be drawn from the Korean experience would be outlined in section four. Finally the last section concludes.


  Much recent policy work effectively underlines the primacy of agricultural development to stimulate growth in many poor countries such as Ethiopia (World Development Report, 2008). Although rural development is not solely confined to agricultural development, agriculture has retained a leading role in Ethiopia’s recent evolution of development and growth (Dercon & Zeitlin, 2009). In the “Rural Development Policies, Strategies and Instruments”, a document issued in 2002, it is stated that agricultural development is central to rural development. Accordingly, the major directions of agricultural and rural development include strategies of integrated development; agro-ecological based development; labor-intensive strategies; proper utilization of agricultural land; improvement of supply; replication and dissemination of technology; and improvements in farmers’ health. Building the productive capacity of the labor force is also a major component of the agricultural and rural development policy of the country (Amdissa, 2006; FDRE, 2002).

  The development challenge facing Ethiopia is immense. Its people are among the poorest in the world; the economy is not growing in pace with the rapid population growth. Moreover, weak infrastructure base, low agricultural productivity, structural food insecurity, environmental degradation, and weak human and institutional capacity are among the prominent development challenges. While performing better than agriculture, the contribution of the secondary and tertiary sectors to total growth was only 60%, well under the African average of around 80%. Structural transformation has been slow; both in terms of the traditional-rural to modern-urban society and of the transition from a socialist to a market-based economy. Agriculture has not proved to be a dynamic source for rural job creation; its low productivity is associated with persistent poverty in rural areas and the growing attractiveness of towns and cities.

  Since the 1990s, the government has been doing all it can to mitigate these challenges through deepening of the country’s policy reforms, reducing pervasive poverty and ensuring human development. This vision is explicitly incorporated in various development policy documents. The country’s medium-term development plans such as the Agricultural Development-Led Industrialization (ADLI - in the 1990s), the Plan for Accelerated and Sustained Development to End Poverty (PASDEP - 2005/06-2009/10) and its successor the Five-Year Growth and Transformation Plan (FYGTP-2010/11-2014/15) are MDG-based development plans that were conceived to be implemented in the medium-term.

  As a result, the country has made significant progress in a number of domains. Since 2003/04 growth has been sustained, recording about 11% average growth (Table 1). This growth is complemented by a strong performance in the Agriculture, Industry (construction and manufacturing) and service sectors. With regard to infrastructural expansion, high quality asphalt and rural community roads have been constructed all over the country and access to potable water has been improved. The hydroelectric power generation capacity of the country has increased the coverage to 41% in 2009/10 from 16% in 2004/05; telecommunication service coverage has reached 50% within a 5-km radius. The expansion of road network has increased the road density from 29 km/1000 km2 in 2000/01 to 44.5 km/1000 km2 in 2009/10. The population living below the poverty line has declined to 29% as of 2009/10.

Table 1. Total and sectoral per capita income - growth rate (%).

 By spending more than 60% of its total expenditure on poverty oriented sectors such as agriculture, education, health, water and road development during the last seven years, the government has maximized its efforts and shown the highest level of dedication to bring about propoor economic growth. Despite the impressive growth record in recent years, however, there have been major challenges faced during this period, some of which are outlined in this section.

Agricultural and Rural Development Policies in the Past

  While Ethiopia has witnessed three major political regime changes in its recent history, the importance of agriculture has been recognized by each government. However, different policies pursued by the different regimes have resulted in very different outcomes in agricultural and rural development, particularly during the past 35 years of the last two regimes, as summarized in table 2 below. The Derg regime (1975-1991), which was an agrarian socialist regime with widespread government controls in all economic spheres including agriculture, carried out an agrarian reform program declaring that all rural land be the property of the state, together with the nationalization of almost all other assets in the industrial and services sectors such as manufacturing factories, financial institutions, big hotels and many residential buildings (Diao, 2010). The strategies the regime implemented and a series of other anti-market and statecontrolled economic instruments had not only significantly negatively affected the incentives of farmers but also distorted the market mechanism. Consequently, Ethiopia suffered the worst famine on record in 1984 and the country's economy was in the dismal state at the end of Derg Regime.

Table 2. Agriculture sector policies in Ethiopia, 1974/75-1993/94.

  On the other hand, the Ethiopian People‘s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) that overthrew the Derg in 1991, made a radical shift in the overall government policy followed. With the extensive economic reforms including significant market liberalization and a structural adjustment program, the direct role of the state in economic activity began to decline fast. The most important development strategy is the adoption of Agriculture Development Led Industrialization (ADLI), which focuses on productivity growth on small farms as well as labor-intensive industrialization. This strategy has been justified because agriculture is the largest sector in terms of output and, particularly, employment and exports. Moreover, the fact that the bulk of the poor live in the agriculture-centered rural areas; the existence of considerable gaps between rural and urban across key dimensions of human well-being including health, education and income; and the substantial potential to raise agricultural productivity were also justifications for the policy emphasis laid on agriculture (Diao, 2010).

Recent Rural Development Policies and Strategies

  The rural development policy framework of Ethiopia envisages that an economically transformed society within which agriculture will grow rapidly, but sees its relative importance decline in favor of an even more dynamic industrial and manufacturing sector. The rural non-farm sector also has an important role to play, recognizing that it currently accounts for around a third of GDP. The Rural Development Policy and Strategies (RDPS) emphasizes that development in rural areas cannot be limited to agriculture. Key elements of the RDPS include: rural and agricultural centered development as a means of ensuring rapid economic growth; enhancing benefits to the people; eliminating food aid dependency; and promoting the development of a market economy (Amdissa, 2006; FDRE 2002; Diao, 2010).

  Moreover, the RDPS has smallholders as its main focus. It envisages that productivity of smallholder agriculture will be improved through distribution of improved seeds, fertilizers, farm implements and pesticides to farmers; provision of improved extension services; construction of small-scale irrigation schemes; minimization of post-harvest losses; and development of livestock resources through improved feed base and veterinary services, and increased use of improved breed and livestock products. The RDPS also intends to address the issues of proper use of land; expansion of rural infrastructure like health, education, access to safe water and rural roads; improving smallholders’ access to rural financial system; and developing and strengthening rural institutions (Getnet & Mehrab, 2010; FDRE, 2002).

  Consistent with the ADLI in the mid-1990s, government’s focus shifted from policy reforms aimed at “getting prices right” to public investment in agricultural extension aimed at boosting productivity through the widespread introduction of modern technology (MoFED, 2002). Accordingly, an extensive extension program called Participatory Demonstration and Training Extension System (PADETES) had been implemented, through which the government delivered off-the-shelf packages of fertilizer, improved seed and credit, as well as information on input use and better agricultural practices to vast majority of smallholders in rural areas. Though successful initially, the system eventually failed due to various reasons (Birhanu et al., 2006). A case in point is the promotion of credit-fertilizer package, which was accompanied by a further liberalization of the fertilizer market. By 1997, fertilizer subsidies were completely removed and retail prices were fully liberalized, which also resulted in higher fertilizer prices. The use of fertilizer increased, though diffusion and adoption rates remained low. Disappointingly, despite the strong promotion of the credit-fertilizer packages, agricultural output continued to fall behind population growth (Diao, 2010).

  Acknowledging the limited success of PADETES, the government revisited the program and launched an integrated rural and agriculture development strategy in 2002. The new strategy, which is officially known as Sustainable Development and Poverty Reduction Program (SDPRP), was centered on the principal goal of poverty reduction (MoFED, 2002). In line with this program, the government introduced fiscal decentralization, judicial and civil service reform, and public sector capacity building. Following the evidence of widespread food insecurity during the drought of 2002/03, the government also initiated a strong focus on safety net programs to build the assets of food insecure households, resettlement, and soil and water conservation schemes (especially water harvesting).

  The SDPRP (2002/03-2004/05) was the first full Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) developed and implemented by the Ethiopian government. It was followed by the second PRSP titled Plan for Accelerated and Sustained Development to End Poverty (PASDEP: 2005/06-2009/ 10) which was further followed by the current Five-Year Growth and Transformation Plan (FYGTP: 2010/11 to 2014/15). The FYGTP projects continuing economic growth at a minimum of 10% per annum, and an ambitious best-case scenario of doubling GDP over the five-year plan period to reach all MDGs goals. The central aim of the PASDEP was to significantly accelerate growth via the commercialization of agricultural and the promotion of private sector development. It also focused on setting targets and designing interventions on a number of areas such as, implementing a geographically differentiated strategy, addressing the population challenge, unleashing the potential of women, strengthening the infrastructure backbone, managing risk and volatility, scaling up to reach the MDGs, and creating jobs particularly in urban areas (MoFED, 2002).

  Among others, the agricultural growth agenda set by PASDEP consisted of the following elements: shifting to higher-valued crops; promotion of niche high-value export crops; a focus on selected high-potential areas; facilitating commercialization of agriculture; and better integrating farmers with markets - both locally and globally. The instruments to achieve these in the context of PASDEP included (i) constructing farm-to-market roads; (ii) developing agricultural credit markets; (iii) introducing specialized extension services for differentiated agricultural zones and types of commercial agriculture; (iv) developing national business plans and tailored packages for specialized export crops such as spices, cut flowers, fruits and vegetables; (v) implementing area irrigation through multipurpose dams; (vi) improving land tenure security, and making land available where feasible for large-scale commercial farming; and (vii) improving the availability of fertilizer and seeds.

  As part of PASDEP, the government has also invested in field level extension services. This included a strong foundation of Farmer Training Centers (FTCs) in each kebele (the lowest administrative level), and assignment of Development Agents (DAs), usually three per kebele(Davis et al., 2010). FTCs were established with the aim of serving as centers of extension service and information; places where modular training to farmers for up to six months are given; demonstration of entrepreneurship; and sources of advice on projects (Birhanu et al., 2006). Roughly 8,500 FTCs have been created throughout Ethiopia, and about 63,000 DAs have been trained in total, with a reported number of 45,000 staffed on location; and Woreda (districts) and regional offices are adequately staffed (Davis et al., 2009). Despite the efforts made, FTCs could not fully serve their envisaged objectives. Some of the constraints of these centers include: low community participation, high dropout rate, non-extension work load, lack of budget, lack of training materials and high expectations of benefit on the part of farmers (Davis et al., 2010, Davis et al., 2009, Birhanu et al., 2006).

  As PASDEP is a base for the implementation of FYGTP, there is a plan to scale up the best practices from model farmers who achieved the highest productivity and production during PASDEP life span. As a strategy, a kebele has been divided into three zones; each further divided into five subzones known as developmental groups (DGs). Each DG has been divided into five networks with five to six households. The network meets two days per week and discusses different issues concerning their livelihood. Within a network, there is a leader farmer who is better in technology utilization, model in his/her life style including attitude towards good governance and better in wealth status.

  Through the networks and DGs, extension agents use the model farmers for demonstration and easy technology transfer. This can reduce the transaction cost of getting information. It also helps facilitate farmers learning from each other than the already existing informal spillover effect. It might also enhance efficiency in production and marketing since there is monitoring and evaluation for each farmer. Furthermore, it simplifies resource mobilization for community based natural resource management such as participatory soil and water conservation for watershed development. However, the lack of trust among rural community in the network and the hierarchies involved have been the major drawbacks associated with the system.

Land Policies

  Land tenure is one of the institutional factors that affect agricultural growth and rural development in a country.. Throughout the history of Ethiopia, land has been a political as well as an economic instrument. During the Imperial regime, a class of landed nobility had extensive land holdings, making them not only economic masters but also political masters. The system was exploitative. Farming peasants paid rent and the entire family rendered a variety of services to their landlords. In the 1960s and early 1970s, a good deal of evictions took place due to the expansion of large-scale mechanized agriculture (Amdissa, 2006).

  The most radical policy initiative in the history of Ethiopia was implemented by the Derg regime, which took power in 1974. The regime implemented a land reform called “land to the tiller” through nationalizing all land with the intent of breaking the relationship between tenant and landlord once and for all. With hindsight, the land reform process was too driven by political objectives to be effective economically. In many respects, however, the reform was a failure because: (i) it confiscated land without compensation, thereby undermining key economic players - the landlords; (ii) it redistributed the land with the strict conditions that farm plots could not be sold, mortgaged or transferred in any way except to one’s children. Subsequent policies aimed at the socialization of agriculture alienated the peasantry. Moreover, the reform gave rise to frequent re-distribution of land and, as a result, created a high degree of tenure insecurity (Amdissa, 2006; Samuel, 2006).

  Following the overthrowing of the Derge regime by the current EPRDF regime in 1991, which adopted market economy, it was announced that land will continue to be a state property. Farmers would continue to have user rights only, while minor amendments were made particularly with regard to the ability to sub-contract or rent land on a short-term basis. However, land redistributions and the resettlement program that were implemented in the early days of the regime were sources of tenure insecurity. The Government soon began land registration and certification process to address the issue of tenure insecurity, which was considered by many as a step in the right direction (WDR, 2008).

  Although the issue of tenure security for small farmers is not adequately addressed in the recent PASDEP, it was mentioned that measures will be taken to improve land tenure security, and to make land available where feasible for large-scale commercial farming, investment and trade purposes. The present expansion of cut flower farms is the clearest demonstration of “making land available for large scale farming” at the expense of small farmers - a reminder in many ways of the 1960s and 1970s. Although these farmers are said to receive compensation, there are several issues not clear to the public: issues such as the amount received in compensation; how the compensation is used by the farmers; whether there are opportunities for them to invest or acquire land; and many others remain unclear (Amdissa, 2006).

Challenges in Rural Sector Development in Ethiopia

  While it is true that the broad-based and wide range of reforms that have been implemented since 1991 have begun to pay-off, especially in recent years, as evidenced by the impressive growth records during the last seven years, a number of challenges have been threatening these achievements. Some of these include low levels of income and savings and productivity in the agricultural sector, limited implementation capacity, unemployment and a narrow modern industrial sector. Besides the aforementioned challenges, the growth efforts have also been threatened by the twin challenges of inflation and the pressure on the balance of payments (BOP). Development finance had also been a critical constraint on the implementation of programs articulated in the country’s development plan.

  The global financial and economic slowdown and climate change are also seen as threats that may hinder progress and reverse the development gains registered. Therefore, addressing climate change has an important poverty reduction, equality and human rights dimensions. The current status of the MDGs and their prospect until the year 2015, need to be understood in this broader context.

  Poverty is significantly and uniformly more widespread and severe in rural areas than in urban ones, with exception in western and south western parts of Oromia region. The intensity of poverty varies at the household level in relation to the land size, family size, land quality and productivity, climate conditions and production technologies (Alemu et al., 2011). Households headed by women are particularly vulnerable. Women are much less likely than men to receive an education or health benefits, or to have a voice in decisions affecting their lives. For women, poverty means more infant deaths, undernourished families, lack of education for children and other deprivations.

  Major shifts in the political climate, upheavals and migration caused by civil conflict, and the increased frequency and severity of drought since 2001 have all taken their toll on the country’s poor rural households and continue to affect them. The majority of the rural population lives far below the internationally recognized absolute poverty threshold of less than a dollar a day, and most of these people are chronically, or at least periodically, food insecure. In order to survive, most households resort to seasonal or permanent migration to urban areas in search of wage employment.

  Ethiopia has enormous potential for agricultural development. At present only about 25% of the country’s arable land is cultivated, and agriculture is dominated by subsistence rain-fed farming, using few inputs and is characterized by low productivity. The vast majority of farmers are smallholders with more than half cultivating plots of 1 hectare or less. About 12.7 million smallholders produce 95% of the agricultural GDP. These farmers are extremely vulnerable to external shocks such as volatile global markets, drought and other natural disasters.

  The persistent shortage of rainfall is a major factor in rural poverty. Since 2001, drought has become more frequent and severe throughout the country, and the trend shows signs of worsening. Drought-induced famines devastate the more vulnerable households living in the pastoral areas of lowlands and the high-density parts of highlands. Limited coping mechanisms and inadequate planning for drought mitigation make farmers more vulnerable to its devastating effects. As a result, on average, some 5 million people are chronically food insecure even in years of good weather. This figure climbs dramatically in the event of severe or prolonged drought.

  In addition to their vulnerability to climatic conditions, poor rural people lack basic social and economic infrastructure such as health and educational facilities, veterinary services and access to safe drinking water. Among the more specific causes of rural poverty in Ethiopia are: ineffective and inefficient agricultural marketing system; underdeveloped transport and communications networks; underdeveloped production technologies; limited access of rural households to support services; environmental degradation; lack of participation by rural poor people in decisions that affect their livelihoods.


Rural Development Policies in Korea

  Given the geography of Korea, which is very mountainous, only 22% of its land is arable. The weather condition is such that only summer was conducive for farming and that almost nothing could be cultivated during the long, cold winters, leading to seasonal unemployment and insufficient use of agricultural resources. Thus, raising the standard of living in Korea seemed to be a daunting challenge (Kim, 2011).

  Until the 1960s, addressing the issue of food shortages in rural areas was top on the agenda of government’s policy. The prevailing imbalance between demand and supply has resulted in soaring of grain prices. The land reform issued in 1949 did not prove successful due to the devastating Korean War, subsequent financial burdens on farmers and inability of the government to provide substantive support to farmers.

  During the post-war reconstruction period from 1953 to 1960, a series of plans were implemented to rebuild the agricultural sector. These include local community development projects established to rebuild rural regions, and government sponsored development projects initiated by local communities and leaders, which provided a strategic model for the Saemaul Undong of the 1970s (KREI, 2010). Measures of grain price stabilization were also implemented to support farmers. Despite these measures, however, the economic situation of farmers worsened (Kim, 2011).

  With the coming to power of President Park, economic development through export-oriented industrialization and enhancing the lives of farmers became the two top agendas of policy making. Measures to reduce interest on loans were implemented with the aim to alleviate the indebtedness of farmers. Initiatives like soil fertility improvements, construction of irrigation systems and mechanization of farming were also undertaken to enhance productivity. To help farmers escape poverty, prevention of draughts and flooding problems through construction of large-scale multi-purpose dams along the major four dams and promotion of year-round farming including in winter through greenhouse production were introduced.

  As urban-rural disparity got worse following the fiveyear economic development plan in 1962 that focused on the growth of the industrial and manufacturing sector, the need to enable rural residents to engage in agriculture and remain in rural areas became apparent. This required raising rural incomes, improving rural roads, housing, sewage, and water supply and other related measures that enhance the living conditions of rural people. Saemaul Undong is the result of these needs of the rural community. (KREI, 2010).

  In the 1980s the importance of the agricultural sector in the national economy began to fade, with the share of the sector in the nation’s gross production falling to 7.6% in 1990 from its level of 13.5% in 1980. The proportion of employment in the agricultural sector also fell from 28.4% to 15.51% during the same period. Farm income also worsened while debt burdens began to rise. Government began to implement various programs to fix these ills among which Rural and Fishing Village Development Plan of 1986, Debt Relief Plan and Rural Community Development Plan, both in 1989, are the major ones. However, despite large investments in these programs, little success materialized, so the government began to allocate more resources to a variety of different plans and rural development projects (KREI, 2008; KREI, 2010; Kim, 2011)

  The major goals of these projects during this era were to improve the living conditions in rural regions through physical reorganization of rural infrastructure and to increase rural income through creation of off-farm and non-farm activities. Focus was placed on improving rural infrastructure such as roads, communication networks, and waterways, etc. Rural Industrial Complexes were built and factories were moved to rural areas to provide new jobs and additional non-farm incomes to rural residents and to expand food processing businesses and develop unique products. Several new programs were developed to reach these policy goals. Although there was some sort of competition among various central agencies in the process of implementing these rural development projects, they were largely successful and have led to significant improvements in the living conditions of rural villages (KREI, 2010; Kim, 2011).

  However, there were a number of problems too. Firstly, the high extent of top-down approach to implement the projects began to fuel distrust between the government and the local residents. Secondly, the use of public funds for every project was not commensurate to the level of investment. That is, there was no contribution in any form from the locals, thereby making the projects less efficient. Lastly, the uniformity in implementation of these projects eradicated much of the specific characteristics of individual villages.

  The share of the agriculture in the national economy further fell from 7.6% in 1990 to 4.6 in 2000. Rural populations continued to decline and become older making public facilities unused and rural centers dysfunctional. Hence, the direction of rural development began to change in this decade. Consumer safety, product quality enhancement and the expansion of environmentally friendly agricultural production and distribution became important policy goals of the time.

Korean Model of Rural Development: The Case of Saemaul Undong (SMU)

  Saemaul Undong is Korea’s unique community development model initiated in the 1970s in order to develop Korean rural sector and Korea’s overall economic development in general. Korea’s economic development started from a desperate situation inherited from the devastating war in 1953, with a per capita GDP of only $73 in that year to reach a remarkable level of $21, 695 in 2007. The country was in a situation of abject poverty in 1965 with nearly 41% of the population suffering from absolute poverty. But the poverty rate was reduced to only 10.9% in the year 2007 (Park, 2009; Tru & Kim, 2008).

  Though this remarkable achievement is largely due to economic development policy that was focused on industrial development, most of the rural areas of the country were still in the viscous circle of poverty in early 1970s. The export-driven economic growth policy of those days did not improve the livelihood of the rural community commensurate to the progress made in the urban and industrial sectors of the economy. As a result the rural areas remained largely unchanged, with nearly 80% of the households living under thatched roof houses and only 20% having access to electricity supply.

  It was against this background that the idea of Saemaul Undong was conceived as an initiative to reverse the situation through reforming the underdeveloped rural community. A movement with a central emphasis on creating a wealthier life for rural villages, SMU proved to be not only the basis of Korea’s successful stride towards rapid economic development but also of democratization at large. The movement was the key for the country’s rural development.

Initiation and Development of SMU

  The SMU was initiated in the early 1970s by president Park Chung-Hee, which was (in 1973) officially defined as a movement for a better living and later interpreted as “a movement to develop the work ethics of farmers by participating in village projects to accelerate rural modernization” (Park, 2009). The aim was to generate economic, social and attitudinal improvement with the broad objectives of enhancing income generation, improvement of living environments and basic rural infrastructure and capacity building.

  During its initial phase, the focus was to improve the physical infrastructure at village level. Selected projects were developed by the government and given to the villagers as a guideline to help them develop general ideas on what they could do on their own. With the villagers gaining more confidence and experience and with the initial basic infrastructures acquired in the process for improvement in agricultural productivity, the focus of SMU shifted to income generation projects. This was followed by capacity building and attitudinal changes, in the final stage, while the scope of the projects was also broadened simultaneously. Urban areas, factories and corporations were also embraced in the SMU activities, making it a national campaign (Park, 2009). It has been widely recognized as a successful model of community development, especially for underdeveloped and developing nations (Choe, 2005).

Factors that Contributed to the Success of SMU

  Many factors, socio-economic as well as policy-related, have contributed to the success of SMU. First and foremost, a series of land reforms (redistributions) since 1948 had a notable impact in transforming the rural economy and social structure2. These reforms were important in bringing political stability to rural areas in the 1950s and 1960s thereby allowing the government to turn attention to promoting economic development through industrialization (Edwards, 2010). More importantly, the land reforms had contributed to the leveling of incomes and homogenizing the rural population (Park, 2009). Moreover, the land reform provided two vital conditions for the success of SMU. Firstly, farmers who are now owners of their own lands realized that modernization of the infrastructure of their community, which was the core of the SMU, would directly lead to increased productivity of their own agricultural land. Consequently, the voluntary participation at the grass roots level witnessed during the SMU was made possible not only by government mobilization, but also by farmers’ beliefs in the prospects for a better life. Secondly, with the implementation of land reform, expansion of education was boosted. This became a catalyst for the SMU as the community leaders were able to organize the movement effectively (Kwon, 2010).

2The land reform which occurred a couple of decades before the SMU was actually considered as an enabling pre-condition to the success of SMU.

  Another factor key to the success of the SMU was the close social ties among villagers. Rural communities in Korea had some distinct features like settlement by people who are related to each other by kinship, economic ties and sharing of traditional customs and norms based on Confucian teachings. The most notable of such ties include ‘kohyang’ and ‘dongjok’ (Edwards, 2010). The contribution of ethnic homogeneity towards cohesive cooperation is also a key factor in advancing mutual understanding and reducing disputes and conflicts (Park, 2009). Each village had its own autonomous rules and customs for cooperation like doorae (cooperation to do the difficult work that could not be done by one household), gyae (small savings scheme especially popular among housewives) and hyangyak (an autonomous customary norm promoting cooperation and good deeds among villagers, based on its Confucian tradition). This rich social capital in rural villages made rural people feel less hostile towards Saemaul Undong since collaboration for the common good was not a foreign idea. Saemaul Undong in turn further developed the traditional exercise of cooperation to be more deliberate and sophisticated (Edwards, 2010; Park, 2009).

  The existence of strong institutional support was also another conducive factor. During the 1950s and 1960s, Korea built up an impressive and effective agricultural research and rural extension service with the assistance of its donors. A government-sponsored cooperative, called ‘Nonghyeop’, was also established with near-universal farmer membership that effectively provided credit, sold inputs, and purchased the bulk of agricultural production at prices established by the government.

  Another important factor for the success of SMU was the strong leadership and political commitment on the part of government. President Park, with his strong will and commitment, initiated, designed and provided continuous support for SMU. He made Saemaul Undong a top priority of his Government, checking monthly progress, inviting villagers to cabinet meetings to give presentations, and making surprise visits to villages and training centers. This enabled effective vertical integration linking all levels of the government and created a holistic approach horizontally mobilizing resources and coordinating plans among the relevant ministries. With Saemaul Undong a top Government priority, Government officials made significant efforts for the programme’s success as they knew that they would be evaluated based on their performance in SMU(Park, 2009).

  Other factors like incentive system and competition that acted as a strong motivation for the villagers to be actively involved, social integration and transformation as a result of SMU that underlies the country’s successful and sustained industrialization efforts, capacity building training programs, effective authoritarian leadership that was effective in mobilizing support to the movement at all levels and the near-universal literacy that enabled Korean farmers to readily participate in development projects and accept technical innovations have all played their part in making SMU a success (Edwards, 2010; Kwon, 2010, Park, 2009).

  In sum, the movement is characterized as an integrated community development project that combines top-down and bottom-up approaches working in tandem. In fact the most important aspect in the implementation of SMU was the strong commitment and effective support of the government (Edwards, 2010). Not only was every level of government involved in promoting SMU, but an entire parallel bureaucracy was set up to ensure that government initiated plans at the top level were communicated all the way down to the local and village levels. At village level the traditional forms of cooperation and the roughly egalitarian societal structure ensured that the authoritarian rules were buffered and translated into collective action through community cooperation (Edwards, 2010)..

Fig. 1. Schematic representation of the SMU approach.


  A close look at the situation that existed in the two countries would reveal that there are a number of similarities as well as differences that on the one hand contributed to success in the Korean case, while on the other hand failed to deliver in the case of Ethiopia. It is quite imperative to examine these areas to come up with useful insights for guiding the rural development policy strategies of Ethiopia. Accordingly, the following questions seem relevant. Given similarities in the existing enabling environments that the two countries have in common, how can Ethiopia revitalize and build on them for achieving successful rural transformation? Given the differences, what can Ethiopia learn from the Korean experiences? Are there issues that have worked out well in the case of Korea but may not necessarily be useful for the Ethiopian case? Are there any failures in Korea’s rural development journey from which Ethiopia can learn? These are some of the relevant issues to be highlighted in this section.

 The Korean experience of agricultural and rural development shows that there is a significant role for the agricultural and rural sector to bring about a meaningful and allencompassing development of a nation. This is quite evident from the fact that the sector has greatly contributed to the country’s overall development, despite its declining role in the national economy. In this regard, the current policy focus in Ethiopia that recognizes the importance of agricultural and rural sector development as key to the overall economic growth of the nation appears to be conducive. To this end, it would be worthwhile to examine to what extent Ethiopia is similar to and different from Korea before and during Korea’s successful transformation in agriculture and rural sector. We will examine this with special reference to the role SMU played in shaping the rural economic transformation in Korea.

Important Similarities and Enabling Conditions

  At the start of its economic reforms, Korea like Ethiopia was a primarily rural economy with a large state role in the management of the economy. Korea started from the devastation of the Korean War in 1953 that left the country in ruins and its people in starvation and destitution. In 1965, about 63.9% of the rural population was in absolute poverty (Park, 2009). In fact Korea’s rural development success took place in the context of a rapidly expanding economy. When compared to Korea before its economic takeoff in general and rural transformation in particular, Ethiopia today is a better country in terms of rural poverty. Even though the ownership of land is attributed to the state, farmers in Ethiopia have a usufruct right with the right to manage and utilize all resources produced on the land.

  Korea then had a strong industrialization and export-oriented economic policy which has led to huge urban-rural disparities that called for a swift action to bridge the gap through the much successful SMU. Even though Ethiopia’s economic policy is largely agriculture oriented, especially since 1991, there has been recent shift of focus to industrialization on the one hand and export-oriented agricultural commercialization such as floriculture, fruits, vegetables, and others on the other. As a result of such trends and other related reasons, rural-urban inequality is emerging and growing overtime. In addition to industries, workers in those export-oriented agricultural farms also reside in the urban areas. This is because, the facilities, which are required for the production of those agricultural products, are concentrated close to urban areas. Furthermore, there is growth of service sector and other infrastructures in urban areas than the rural. As a consequence of all these and other reasons, the rural-to-urban migration rate is on the rise. Such trends call for well-designed and integrated inter- ventions like SMU.

  The Korean society had strong social ties and is more homogenous, in fact completely homogenous, a factor so important in making the village level cooperation successful for the implementation of the SMU. On the other hand, the society in Ethiopia is fairly heterogeneous. Nevertheless, down at village levels the homogeneity increases. Moreover, similar to Korea, there has been and still are strong shared values, religious ties, and cooperative cultures and grass roots community organizations. Indigenous traditional institutions such as iddir are voluntary organizations and associations involved in self-help and other social activities (Pankhurst, 1998). Iddir can have different forms, though the objectives are almost the same. Iddirs in rural areas are established primarily to provide mutual support in burial matters (Pankhurst & Hailemariam, 2004) but may also address other community concerns (Cathrine, 2007). Iddirs contribute either in terms of cash or in kind for a household who lost its member or relative and its asset such as oxen, house or crop due to a phenomenon beyond its control. The contribution, however, varies for different cases. Iddirs also offer loans for their members with the majority of these loans meant for shocks experienced by members such as destruction of the family home, illness and death of cattle (Cathrine, 2007). Hence, iddir is a risk-sharing mechanism and provides sort of insurance for its participants. Households might belong to more than one iddir further increasing their insurance and reducing risk.

  Another indigenous association is iqqub, which is an informal rotating savings association in which households pool their resource together mostly in cash and rotate the pooled cash money among member households. The rotation is mostly done by drawing a lottery to identify a person who has to collect the money on the due date. The rationale for taking part in iqqub is to utilize the fund for consumption and planned investments in small businesses development and construction and re-construction of house (Daniel, 2003). Iqqub in Ethiopian case is similar to Gyae in the Korean case.

  Furthermore, there are other forms of social net-works in Ethiopia. These take the form of labor and oxen sharing arrangements (Daniel, 2003). Labor sharing arrangements are mostly used in the situation where the households cannot do the work alone or there is difference in timing of the activities to be undertaken by different participating households. The labor and oxen sharing arrangements have different forms. Though the naming might differ from place to place and from language to language, the meanings are more or less the same. The first is called debo in which other households help a calling household without reciprocity of the same action. While wonfel is a form of labor and oxen sharing in which the calling household will give the same service for those who helped. Such type of cooperation among communities in Ethiopia is similar to doorae in the case of Korean communities. In summary, the grass-root social structures of Korea and Ethiopia are more or less similar and this can be capitalized on paving the way for the adaptation and implementation of rural community development movements like that of Korea in Ethiopia.

Important Dissimilarities

  An important point about rural development efforts in the post-1991 era in Ethiopia is that the policies were implemented in an all-at-once manner without any effort of piloting. For instance, the construction of FTCs in each kebele at a time was implemented all-at-once throughout the country. Such a trend, which has been followed all along with successive development plans to-date did not give the opportunity to tackle implementation problems on the ground. With SMU in Korea, it was a bit different in that there was some sort of piloting, where projects in selected villages are launched first and progress monitored. Hence, there is a great deal that the Ethiopian policy making can learn in this regard.

  Community empowerment is another key difference between the two countries. For any rural development program to be successful, active participation and ownership by village communities is crucial. With Saemaul Undong, the tradition of cooperation evolved into a calculated participation with the experience of consensus building, and collective decision-making and implementation in managing village projects (Park, 2009; Kim and Jemal, 2012). In the case of Ethiopia, community ownership and participation is largely lacking due to the mainly top-down approach followed by the government. Even the leaders in the recent village level networks comprising developmental groups (DGs) lack the trust of the group members as mentioned in section two. In fact this can be easily resolved through empowerment and awareness creation activities.

  Another key difference relates to incentive mechanism. During the implementation of the SMU, the principle of “more assistance to more successful villages” acted as an effective stimulator, increasing healthy competition among villages and promoting more participation for better achievement (Kim, 2009). Although recently Ethiopia has started implementing incentive mechanisms for successful and model farmers with good performance, it is only applicable to individual farmers and doesn’t have much in the way of promoting cooperation and collective action at community level. Similarly, the issue of human capital is also an important difference between the two countries. In fact, according to Kwon (2010), expansion of education together with land reform has served as a catalyst for the SMU implementation in terms of village leaders’ leadership capacity. Despite concerted efforts of the current government, however, the level of education in Ethiopia is generally quite low particularly in rural areas. However, the farmers’ training centers (FTCs) can be used as important launching pads for the human capacity building requirements in rural Ethiopia.

  In general, the social, political and cultural characteristics existing in Korea and Ethiopia are quite different. However, the similarities and differences outlined above are not exact and have to be understood in relation to the enabling conditions that were underlying the success of SMU based on Korean experience in the 1960s and 1970s.


  SMU has been the most successful program that has contributed to rural transformation in Korea within short period of time. This has become a source of inspiration and an exemplary model for other developing nations. As a result of Korea’s economic development path that focused on the growth of the industrial and manufacturing sector in the 1960s, urban-rural disparity worsened leading to despair and dissatisfaction among rural community. Urban areas were flooded with inflow of rural people resulting in stains of housing, sewage, and other facilities. It was important for Korea, at that time, to create an enabling environment for rural residents to remain in rural areas and engage in agriculture. SMU had an immense role in bringing about such transformation. The movement was a purely community development movement that espouses self-help and cooperation among the community under the sponsorship of government to bring about spiritual enlightenment and betterment of conditions of people and their community. The movement has brought about effective use and mobilization of local resources in the modernization process of rural community. Furthermore, it effectively mitigated unnecessary rural-to-urban migration.

  Given the similarities in Korea back in the 1970s when these programs were implemented and Ethiopia currently, the SMU model has a potential to achieve a similar rural development and transformation in Ethiopia. Many factors, socio-economic as well as policy related, have contributed to the success of SMU in Korea. Factors such as land reform; social ties among villagers; existence of strong institutional support; strong leadership and political commitment on the part of government; and incentive system and competition among villages have positively contributed to the success of SMU. Though inexact, most of these enabling conditions are somehow available in Ethiopia. The government of Ethiopia is showing a strong motivation and commitment to eradicate poverty, achieve millennium development goals and join middle income countries within foreseeable future. In line with this, the leadership is highly committed to implement any workable policy that helps achieve rural development goals. This can be witnessed by its implementation of series of rural development strategies. More importantly, the government’s rural development policy framework gives the highest priority to agricultural and rural sectors of the country, guaranteeing the strong commitment and leadership as well as institutional support required for the implementation of a similar program like SMU in Ethiopia.

  Another important factor relates to the socio-cultural issues. Even though, Ethiopian society is pretty heterogeneous unlike Korea, there is more homogeneity at lower/village levels. Moreover, like in Korea, the social ties and cooperative culture is very strong with prevalence of many forms of grass-roots indigenous institutions and cooperatives. These can easily be adapted to complement the level of cooperation required for the successful implementation of similar programs in Ethiopia. The government-led farmer networks (DGs at kebele levels) are conducive organizationally and could be geared towards such purposes.

  One key issue of concern in the implementation of rural development programs in Ethiopia is the lack of experimentation and piloting. Though most of the policies and strategies are quite attractive and sound on paper, there have been failures implementation-wise, probably due to lack of piloting as well as lack of implementing capacity at grass roots level. For instance, the all-at-once construction of Farmers Training Centers (FTCs) for demonstration of field level extension is one of such program implemented without any prior piloting.

  Therefore, capitalizing on the similarities and enabling conditions already existing and through careful planning and judicious use of existing institutions, a similar community development movement can be worked out for implementation in some selected rural villages at a pilot level. The villages for piloting could be selected from major regional states in the country to capture regional diversities. In line with the basic implementation employed in Korea back in the 1970s, the programs can be implemented in phases, starting with infrastructure improvement in the first phase and moving on sequentially to income generation projects (farm and non-farm), community building, socio-cultural development and health and sanitation projects to be implemented in a performance-based approach. Based on these pilot projects, scaling-up of the program nationally can be subsequently carried out through close monitoring and evaluation. These programs should also incorporate key elements of empowerment and ownership by the community through a participatory approach. The FTCs can be modified to serve as SMUtraining and capacity building centers complementary to their current purposes. The current incentive scheme in rural Ethiopia, which focuses on the promotion of best performing model farmers at individual level, can be applied to selected successful projects. This can induce healthy competition among villages and projects than rivalry that the current incentive system entails.

  Finally, as Saemaul Undong is not a project in the sense that it was a movement for spiritual reform of Korean people, the key to its success is also the change in people’s attitude from laziness to diligence, from dependence to self-reliance, and from individual selfishness to cooperation with others so as to be dubbed as “Social Revolution of Korean Rural Society”. In this sense, exploring whether the existing social structure in rural Ethiopia is compatible with such approach and whether such a spiritual aspect can be achieved would be an interesting future direction for further study.


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