d) Integration of administration, cooperatives and training at the Thana Training and Development Centre

One of the most important features of the Comilla model is the integration of the new institutions at the Thana Training and Development Centre. This Centre comprises

  • The Thana Council, the local government council, where government officers sit together with representatives of the people for planning, coordination and Supervision of development activities, including such programmes as the Rural Works Programme and the Thana Irrigation Programme.
  • The Government Thana Development Team, consisting of the Thana level officers of various technical departmentsm under the chairmanship of the Circle Officer (Dev.). They provide the technical services of the government departments at local level, alive departmental support to activities and participate extensively in the training courses.
  • The Thana Central Cooperative Association, with its units, supports, with the assistance of the village cooperatives, the economic activities of its members by means such as supervised credit, supply of machines, organizing supply. marketing and processing and by extensive training and extension work.
  • The Thana Training Centre which enlisting the services of the departmental officers organizes and supplies the continuous training for the representatives of the peasants who are supposed to pass an their fresh knowledge to their fellow villagers.

The fact that these institutions are housed in one building as well as the involvement of officers of one section in the activities of other sections, especially in the training process, contribute much towards the integration of the modern public administration, the government efforts in rural development and the private efforts of the people within the framework of the cooperatives.

The model thus described underwent some changes in the course of time but, basically, has been operating for about ten years. In principle, it has proved to be very successful and the Comilla Academy has been a meeting place for professionals in rural development from all over the world. In recent years, efforts have been made to enlarge the scheme and implement it in some other Thanas. These activities are still in Progress. Parts of the concepts have been taken over by other parties in their efforts towards rural development.

It seems that the most important features of the Comilla approach can be summarized under four points:

  • A modern type of rural administration which is able to tope with the comprehensive task of rural development involving all government departments, the local self-government units and private efforts for development is a constitutive factor. Without proper coordination and an administrative unit small enough to understand the local problems, but Tarne enough to permit economic activities of some scale, the efforts made with the best intentions will only be piecemeal.
  • In view of the limited possibilities of the individual small peasants, a cooperative system has been developed with a strong centre for the business and training activities and village societies to provide for organized groups who facilitate the work of the central cooperative. To organize these village cooperatives, local persons are elected to serve as change agents instead of trained Outsiders. The cooperative system enforces strict discipline and assigns tasks and duties.
  • Rural development is understood in terms of investment. In view of the high amount of capital needed, not only public capital is supplied, but efforts are made to form private capital by a system of regular, compulsory saving.
  • The provision of credit and supplies is matched by a regular training programme to ensure proper use and, therefore, success of the input and to enable the timely repayment of loans. Together with the strict enforcement of repayments, this contributes to the successful work of the cooperatives.