Group promoters worldwide turn to FAO manual

An FAO manual for professionals working with rural self-help groups has been translated into its ninth language - Nepali. "The Group Promoter's Resource Book" is being used by group workers around the world to help them start up and support groups of eight to 15 poor men and women, with the specific aim of boosting their incomes.

The Nepali version of "The Group Promoter's Resource Book"

The illustrated manual draws on FAO experience gained in promoting small farmer groups under its People's Participation Programme. It has proved extremely popular and is very much in demand, not only by FAO field project staff and government agencies involved in extension or farmer outreach work, but increasingly by local non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

"About 80 percent of requests for copies now come from NGOs," said John Rouse, FAO's Senior Officer for Cooperatives and other Rural Organizations. "This indicates not only that NGOs are now playing a more important role in promoting farmer participation, but also the high value they attach to this particular publication."

The manual was first printed in English in 1994 and has been reprinted three times since then. More than 10 000 free copies have been distributed worldwide. The book is now available in English, French, Spanish, Arabic, Urdu, Sinhala, Nepali, Turkish and Mongolian, with a Chinese version in the pipeline.

"The Group Promoter's Resource Book" gives guidance for every step in setting up and promoting sustainable self-help groups. Women's participation issues also receive special attention. Newly appointed group promoters are urged to study the book before taking up duties in the field, although the manual is also rich in ideas and advice for seasoned professionals. For "Ideal behaviour in group promoting", it lists five key points:

  • Listen before you speak
  • Be respectful
  • Be patient
  • Never promise anything before you are sure you can keep it
  • Always keep your promises

An annex on participatory learning techniques has information on a wide range of activities - from brainstorming to field visits, from problem-solving to taking a systematic walk through the village. It is not a book to read once and leave on a shelf. It is a manual in the true sense of the word - and it is intended to be taken into the field and used on a daily basis.

In the same series, the "Group Enterprise Resource Book" is equally popular. (How to download this book.) It focuses on micro-enterprise management and development issues and is now available in six languages. Two more titles are due to be published soon. A manual on small farmer group network development, focusing on higher-level, small farmer cooperation networks, will be ready in English at the end of 1999 and another on small group approaches to savings and credit is scheduled to be released in 2000.

11 March 1999

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