Written Answers. - Rural Development Officers.

23.

asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if he will outline the job specification, the specific instructions and guidelines given to the rural development officers in charge of the pilot areas; whether there has been a revision of their roles; to whom they report; who is responsible for the evaluation of their work; and if he will make a statement of progress with the scheme.

The duties of the co-ordinator under the pilot programme for integrated rural development are to act as a stimulus to the local community, to facilitate and assist new local initiatives and to accelerate worthwhile economic and social development. The programme is operating on the principle of "bottom-up" development in which the local community identifies the development priorities and has responsibility for pursuing those objectives.

A team of consultants was appointed to provide a comprehensive course of training and instruction for the co-ordinators within the overall design of the programme. This course comprehended managerial and inter-personal techniques and the national and EC administrative processes as well as the design, objectives and the implementation of the programme including core group selection and project identification and evaluation.

The role assigned to the co-ordinators at the commencement of the programme has not changed in any way and regular training sessions ensure that they remain fully aware of what is required of them. While the co-ordinators are employed by the Department of Agriculture and Food their responsibility in the first instance is to the core groups.

A planning team comprising officials of my Department and the training and design consultants reviews all aspects of the operation of the pilot programme by reference to the objectives which have been set. The Economic and Social Research Institute has been engaged to conduct an independent evaluation of the programme.

Core groups have been established in each of the 12 pilot areas and are now at the stage of finalising proposals for specific projects and of undertaking an analysis and evaluation of projects before proceeding to implementation. I am confident that many worthwhile proposals will be translated into actual projects during the remainder of the pilot programme.

It is my intention to set up a national consultative committee shortly to (a) monitor the progress of the pilot programme and (b) advise, in the light of the experience from that programme on how best the important task of revitalising rural areas should be achieved.