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MAIN LESSONS LEARNED

  

The main lessons learned by the PUCD project are divided into the following categories:

  
Participatory appraisal and planning
Participatory natural resource management
Participatory monitoring, evaluation and re-planning
Institutionalisation of participatory and integrated watershed management
 
 

  
  
  
  
  
  
  

LESSONS LEARNED IN PARTICIPATORY
APPRAISAL AND PLANNING

In participatory and integrated watershed management (PIWM), there should be a balance between comprehensiveness and specificity in the content of the initial appraisal. The exercise should be sufficiently open-ended to allow local people to review all the meaningful aspects of their situation, yet at the same time sufficiently focused on environmental issues to promote people's awareness of the links between practices in natural resource management and present and future socio-economic conditions.

In preparing a tentative workplan, community members face the challenge of putting into practice the learning process that took place during the participatory appraisal exercise. To accomplish this task successfully, responsive attitudes, mutual trust and good facilitation skills are necessary. Since establishing the above conditions requires time, the results of initial participatory planning exercises are seldom completely sound. A more in-depth analysis of the feasibility of the decisions made in the framework of the participatory planning exercise is necessary before implementation can begin.

A negotiation among the community's felt needs and needs as defined by outsiders (such as project staff, technicians, local politicians and national policy-makers) takes place through participatory feasibility analysis, leading to a series of compromises acceptable to all of the involved stakeholders. For this reason, in participatory feasibility analysis, the project plays a less neutral role than in initial participatory appraisal and planning. In fact, it is at this stage that the project becomes a stakeholder in decision-making and that the process becomes truly collaborative.

Participatory feasibility analysis is essential in increasing both the project's and the community's understanding of the pros and cons of the proposed activities and in determining which activity can be realistically implemented through collaborative action. Moreover, it allows participants to become informed about the institutional assets and constraints, which may either positively or negatively affect the fulfilment of their needs. This awareness is an essential element of community empowerment.

Technical consultations, potentially leading to organizational arrangements with a variety of institutions active in the community or the project area/watershed, are also highly instrumental in widening the array of different activities that can be implemented in the framework of the participatory process. In particular, activities outside the project's mandate and operational capabilities (such as health, education and infrastructure development activities) may become feasible when involving relevant line-agencies, NGOs or projects in the participatory process. This contributes to making participatory watershed management truly integrated and collaborative.

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LESSONS LEARNED IN PARTICIPATORY MANAGEMENT
OF NATURAL RESOURCES

Natural resource management that does not have a direct and short-term impact on family income is seldom considered a priority for marginal communities, such as those settled in upland areas.

Environmental awareness and natural resource management skills can be improved only if a certain level of organizational capacity is reached and if primary needs (income, water supply, education, communication services, etc.) are first satisfied to a reasonable extent.

There is no standard technical answer for the problems affecting upland farming systems; careful on-site testing should be carried out to assess how a given measure can cope with the local environmental, economic and social conditions.

Attitudes and behaviour of local people towards the land (and towards other natural resources on which their livelihoods depend) cannot be considered independently from economic and political factors, such as insecure tenure arrangements, access to credit, the local market and social marginality.

The participatory process could be highly instrumental in raising or renewing people's interest in their common property and in developing the necessary environmental management skills. However, participation is not enough; technically sound and cost-effective solutions to problems regarding the management of common property resources, which take into account the environmental, economic and social aspects of implementation and maintenance, need to be identified and validated at the local level.

In most upland communities, rural women play a pivotal role in the operation of indigenous farming systems and in common-property resource management. However, their participation in development and conservation activities is affected by their insufficient decision-making power within the household and the community. Women's empowerment is thus an essential requisite for enhanced natural resource management and PIWM.

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LESSONS LEARNED IN PARTICIPATORY MONITORING,
EVALUATION AND RE-PLANNING

Building the participants' capacity to monitor their own plans and activities is essential for making the participatory process sustainable. However, to prevent participatory monitoring from becoming a very time-consuming task that can easily overburden field staff and participants, and subsequently be poorly accepted, it should concentrate on those aspects of the implementation process that the stakeholders perceive as being particularly important.

To be truly participatory, monitoring tools and procedures should be consistent with the local culture, in particular, with the indigenous means of learning and communicating, people's schedules, and patterns of social interaction and manners.

Participatory evaluation should focus on the participatory process itself, on the technical quality of the work performed and, when possible, on the effectiveness of the activities (i.e. the degree to which the objectives were achieved). Qualitative and quantitative techniques can be used in participatory evaluation exercises. However, exercises requiring more complex technical skills should be kept to a minimum, so that the greatest possible number of individuals can participate.

Rural people have a strong capacity to make sound judgements about their work and its results. However, evaluation may be a culturally sensitive activity. Thus, special attention should be paid to establishing a synergy between participatory evaluation exercises and indigenous, informal evaluation practices.

Efforts made to collect and process evaluation information are worthwhile only if the knowledge gained is applied to further planning and implementation. Field practice has shown that this can be best achieved if evaluation and re-planning are incorporated into a single exercise, in which the review of past experience is followed almost immediately by the preparation of a new plan for continuing, modifying or expanding the activity or broader initiatives.

Evaluation and re-planning workshops represent a unique framework for including in the participatory process those sectors of the local community that have not participated in previous cycles of activities. Thus, evaluation and re-planning workshops are highly instrumental in decreasing the risk of exclusion of marginalized groups.

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LESSONS LEARNED IN THE INSTITUTIONALISATION OF PARTICIPATORY AND INTEGRATED WATERSHED MANAGEMENT

Since securing the continuity and sustainability of the participatory and integrated watershed management process requires long-term efforts, it cannot wait until the final stages of the project. In fact, relevant activities should parallel community-level fieldwork throughout the entire course of the project.

Transferring to grassroots organizations the responsibility of running the participatory process within their own communities is a key requisite for ensuring the sustainability of any participatory and integrated watershed management process. However, successfully transferring this responsibility also greatly depends on the existence of empowering conditions in the institutional environment.

A training programme capable of coping with the lack of local expertise in participatory development methods and natural resource management is an essential element of any project seeking to establish sustainable, participatory and integrated watershed management schemes. During the course of the project, a significant portion of staff time should be devoted to continuing education actions.

Investments made by the project to build a team capable of promoting participatory and integrated watershed management at the local level should be secured through arrangements that would later on allow this team to become part of the staff of local governments, line-agencies or NGOs, with positions and responsibilities consistent with their training and experience. Incentives should be found to encourage qualified staff to continue working in the locality after the end of the project.

Participatory and integrated watershed management entails the coordinated action of a variety of social and institutional stakeholders. Community organizations must be directly involved, as well as local governments, line-agencies, the private sector and NGOs.

A two-way link can be established between national policies for natural resource management and pilot field experiences in participatory and integrated watershed management. An enabling policy environment is an obvious requisite for the success of field projects; at the same time, field projects may play a significant role in informing and sensitising policy-makers through appropriate communication, training and lobbying initiatives at the national level. Efforts aimed at making national policies more supportive of participatory and integrated watershed management are facilitated if there exists the political willingness and institutional capacity at the local level to establish effective links for intersectoral collaboration.

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