A closer look at the territorial development approach in German Development Cooperation

Rural areas around the world are currently undergoing an important period of transition. Far-reaching global phenomena, such as globalization, decentralization through state reforms, migration, urbanization and climate change are expected to have an increased impact on these regions in the coming decades. At the same time, rural areas are home to around three quarters of the world’s poor. The development of rural areas therefore continues to be a main focus of international cooperation projects.


Different perspectives exist on how to best support the economic development of these regions. In an effort to create a systemic, holistic and inclusive approach to developing rural areas, the territorial development approach looks at the challenges of development from a spatial perspective. More specifically, it focuses on the economic and ecologic potentials of a particular region, with the aim of sustainably improving the living conditions of the population through multi-sectoral development strategies.


By focusing firmly on the existing capacities of individuals and their communities, while taking into account the natural potential of the area, territorial development aims to create opportunities, jobs and income for the rural population – also outside of the agricultural sector. At the same time, the approach has a strong focus on giving poor and disadvantaged people the special support they need in order to improve their living conditions.

To be effective, this approach requires the establishment and maintenance of successful cooperation structures amongst the players and inhabitants of a given area (social networks, alliances, strategic partnerships, etc.). Due to its comparably long-term and promising results, the territorial development approach is being increasingly used by the German International Cooperation Agency (GIZ).


HFFA Research has recently been commissioned by the GIZ – through its sector program “Zukunftsfähige Ländliche Räume” (SV ZLR) – to take a closer look at five exemplary territorial development projects, and examine some of the following questions:


  • What are specific characteristics of the territorial development approach, and how are they operationalized “in the field”?
  • What are some of the key findings from existing territorial development projects, and what lessons can be learned for future interventions?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of the territorial development approach as they manifest “in the field”?
  • And how can this approach best be used to promote the sustainable development of rural regions around the globe?


The five exemplary projects are located in Burkina Faso, Kenya, Cameroon, India and Colombia.


The successful implementation of territorial development projects needs time, and demands long-term commitments of all players involved. Due to its comparably sustainable and promising results, the territorial development approach will certainly continue to be an important tool for designing rural development projects in the future.


For more detailed information on this project, please contact us.