Applying a capitals approach to understand rural development traps: A case study from post-socialist Romania

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Rural development models to date have failed to adequately explain why development stagnates in certain regions, and have often focused on single policy areas. This paper proposes a more holistic approach by combining the concept of traps with the sustainable livelihoods approach, applied to a case study in Central Romania. Based on semi-structured interviews with rural inhabitants from 66 villages in 2012, we analyze the barriers creating and maintaining a lock-in situation characterized by an apparently stable low-welfare equilibrium state. By clustering development barriers into livelihood capitals we find that barriers to rural development are multiple and interacting, and are strongly mediated by the institutional context. We show that while financial, social, human, and built capitals are inadequately developed, the region's rich natural and cultural capitals stand the best chances to foster rural development. Yet, these capitals are likely to deteriorate, too, if all other capitals remain under-developed. Given this interconnectedness of development barriers we argue that one-sided interventions cannot help ‘unlock’ the trap-like situation of Central Romania. Instead, multiple barriers will need to be tackled simultaneously. The development of social, human and financial capitals should be of priority concern because of their potentially positive spill-over effects across all other capitals.
Original languageEnglish
JournalLand Use Policy
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)248-258
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 01.02.2015

    Research areas

  • Sustainability Science - rural development, Traps, Sustainable livelihoods approach, Capitals, Post-communism