The approach of "community participation" now stands as an established development strategy to promote a more equitable meeting of the basic needs of poor persons in developing countries. While the moral merits of this approach cannot be discounted, questions remain about the cross-cultural viability of the concept of participatory development. This paper suggests that the concept as promoted by international donor agencies is based on Western notions of self-reliance, equality, and individualism. Development planners cannot assume that these value orientations are shared by rural persons of developing countries, or that these values can readily find expression within local social organization or social ideology in developing areas. Based on a study undertaken for a watershed development project in Nepal, the paper points out how villagers of the project area hold ideas very different from those of expatriate project staff concerning both the concepts of "development" and "participation." These ideas must be taken into account before participatory development schemes can be realistically attempted.

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