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2. The Development and Design of the Field Appraisal

2.1 Outlining the Objectives of the Appraisal
2.2 Defining the Scope of the Appraisal
2.3 Focus of the Appraisal
2.4 Appraising the Development Context and Livelihood Analysis
2.5. Preparing for Conducting the Thematic PRA

The PRA was designed as a thematic appraisal, focused on opportunities and constraints for improving nutrition and household food security within the broader context of people's livelihoods. The PRA was also designed in such a way as to reflect and bring out existing gender dynamics, local knowledge and local community institutions.

Along these four main centres of interest, the Orientation Workshop in Addis Ababa made a provisional analysis of the situation in the project areas from a local, although outsider, perspective and knowledge, using various participatory appraisal methods. The process resulted in the definition of key concepts and the identification of major issues that would need to be addressed through the thematic PRA. The exercise also allowed the participants to become more familiar with participatory methodology and working in a multi-disciplinary team. Through the exercise, the participants gained a good understanding of the core issues of the project and the PRA.

Based on the findings of the orientation workshop, the participants developed a Logical Framework for the Field Appraisal (see Annex A, 7), outlining objectives and activities, as well as a tool package (see Annex B) that would ensure that the PRA achieves these objectives.

2.1 Outlining the Objectives of the Appraisal

The overall objective of the project had already previously been defined as “to improve the nutrition and household food security situation in the selected project target areas”. It was, therefore, agreed that the main objective of the PRA should be formulated as “to identify and analyse opportunities and constraints to improving nutrition in the community”.

In view of the intended community-based nature of the project, it was felt that the second objective of the field appraisal should be “to allow the communities to analyse their situation with the PRA team, as opposed to a situation where the team analyses the village situation based on the data collected through the PRA.

The Orientation Workshop also considered the implications of intensive community participation. On the one hand, it was acknowledged that it would be difficult to avoid creating expectations beyond the scope of the appraisal. On the other hand, the preparatory phase was considered part of a broader commitment from the donor to initiate a project in the selected target areas. The preparatory phase therefore provided an opportunity for further outlining and refining an already agreed upon project proposal. It was therefore agreed that a third objective of the PRA should also be to initiate a community empowerment process in selected communities that would be carried forward in the project implementation phase.

2.2 Defining the Scope of the Appraisal

One of the objectives of both the Orientation Workshop and the PRA training was to come to a common understanding of a number of key concepts. This required exploring and discussing the different perceptions of workshop participants. In order to bring the language of the PRA as close as possible to the language of the local people, a uniform terminology was agreed upon or, in the case of concepts that had no local equivalents, a uniform way of describing or approaching the concepts.

The two main entities of the PRA were identified as “the household” and “the community”. A household was defined as a unit of people living together which may comprise a head of a household who is a man, or a woman in case there is no man, a mother, children and permanent dependants like elderly parents or temporary dependants like a divorced daughter.

A community was defined as an informal level of community organisation that could be found immediately below the administrative level of the Peasant Association. Local terms are Kushet or Got, which usually consist of a number of small settlements. The community does not have a formal administration, but an indigenous form of leadership was identified.

2.3 Focus of the Appraisal

It was agreed that “nutrition” and “household food security” are complex concepts that would need to be defined from both the local and the outsider perspectives, so as to avoid any misunderstandings between the communities and the PRA teams. From the preliminary situation analysis during the Orientation Workshop, it appeared that the perceptions of insiders and outsiders do not always match. Local people have their own way of naming or describing specific nutrition problems and have their own understanding of the causality of these problems. Reaching a good understanding of these local perspectives is crucial to understanding how people address such problems.

From the outsider perspective, the Orientation Workshop identified various forms of malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies including marasmus, kwashiorkor, night blindness, anaemia, goitre, etc. Using the effects of malnutrition on children's and adults' health and development, and their capacity to work and learn at school as an entry point, the local terminology and understanding of these problems were analysed. To the extent possible, the Orientation Workshop used the perspective of the local people. It was concluded that, from the insider perspective, many of these problems could not directly be related to nutrition and that local people's understanding of the immediate and underlying reasons of malnutrition was rather different from the outsider's understanding.

In view of the above, it was agreed that it would be a valid entry point to start a discussion on nutrition with local people using the effects of malnutrition on health, physical and mental development and work performance and from there to arrive gradually at a better understanding of the immediate and underlying causes. Checklists were developed to ask key informants and villagers to list and rank the most common health problems and explain in their own words what they perceived as their causes (see Annex B, 2.3.). Semi-structured interviews were developed to probe deeper into what is there within the households that helps or hampers the family or individual to cope with these problems and what opportunities or constraints there are within the community or outside to achieving nutrition security. (See Annex B, 2.11.)

The Orientation Workshop applied a similar approach to enter into a discussion about household food security. In this case the participants were asked to list the foods commonly eaten during the current dry season and rank them according to frequency of consumption. The same was done for the rainy season and also for what people perceived as a good diet. The comparison of these three rankings allowed to reveal seasonal differences and relative shortages compared to people's perceived needs. This method, like the previous one, does by no means attempt to impose a specific understanding of household food security. The intention is merely to provide an entry point for a discussion of the discrepancies between the locally perceived food needs and the availability. From there, a discussion can be started on how people are able or unable to cope with such problems, and what helps or hampers them to cope better.

Having gained a better understanding of the nature and local perceptions of the nutrition-related problems, the PRA was also designed to gain a better comprehension of the magnitude and underlying reasons for these problems. Various tools were developed to that end. To assess the magnitude of the problem, key informants with good knowledge of the community and with a background in health, like the Traditional Birth Attendant and the Community Health Worker, were asked to identify those households known to them as having specific nutrition-related problems. These households were then mapped and the map compared with the social map. The social map was basically designed as a village map indicating all households and social facilities. The map was further enriched with information about the wealth status of the specific households. This information was obtained through a wealth ranking exercise. Wealth ranking not only allowed classifying the community in different local wealth categories, but also resulted in a better understanding of local perceptions and criteria of wealth. Linking the social map with the nutrition map provides the means for identifying indicators for food security and nutrition and allows defining areas that need deeper probing.

Such a more in-depth understanding of the reasons underlying the observed problems was obtained through thematic focus group discussions and case studies of households, whereby the households were carefully selected according to the previously identified household typology and nutrition problems. Checklists for both the focus group discussions and the household case studies were prepared. These checklists focused on two important areas of interest. They were designed first of all to gain a better understanding of the causality of the problems. This could be visualised through a problem tree, showing the key problem, the effects and the causes. Secondly, the checklists were developed around a SWOT analysis (Strengths and Weaknesses inside the household and Opportunities and Threats within and outside the community) so as to appraise people's ability to cope with or prevent nutrition and household food security problems. During both the Orientation and PRA training workshops, the participants experimented with these checklists on imaginary case studies and reported on their analysis using both the problem tree and SWOT analysis techniques

The added value of the SWOT analysis was that it provided an excellent starting point for outlining potential directions for intervention. Based on the SWOT analysis, focus group participants and household key informants were asked to identify what they would perceive as essential facilities and resources within and outside the household and community for becoming more able at preventing or coping with nutrition and household food security problems.

2.4 Appraising the Development Context and Livelihood Analysis

To better understand the importance of food security and nutrition issues within the broader context of people's lives, the PRA design included a variety of development context and livelihood analysis tools. This more general information would complement and serve as triangulation for the more in-depth analysis on the causes of malnutrition and food insecurity being gathered through the semi-structured interviews with households and key informants and the SWOT analysis with the community at large. Additionally this information will be important to get to know about local opportunities to overcome identified problems, e.g. to learn about the social capital such as capacities and existing links of local institutions.

Like most PRAs, the appraisal would start with a resource map that the villagers would draw indicating key resources, village boundaries, land usage, water sources, etc. The key questions were formulated to learn about access to land, since in principle, there should be land for everyone based on recent land redistribution policies, but in practice, some people are without land. The key questions also provided a probe into some gender issues related to resource use, such as whether women have access to land, where the water sources are, and how much time women and/or girls are spending each day collecting water and fuelwood. (See Annex B, 2.1.)

As mentioned in the above sections, a social map was also a key tool in the design. The purpose of this tool would be to identify key social resources (as opposed to physical resources), the number of households and their placement and socio-economic differentiation in the village. A gender-sensitive Venn Diagram was introduced to identify local and other institutions and to analyse their roles, responsibilities and performance in relation to the community and to the food security and nutrition problems. (See Annex B, 2.5.) Seasonal calendars disaggregated by gender and age groups covering tasks, food availability, illness, rainfall, labour patterns etc. were designed to get a better look at seasonal variability and peak periods of nutritional stress.

Given the extremely deteriorated environmental situation, Daily Activity Clocks for men, women and children were included to analyse relative workloads and time spent collecting water and firewood or making dung cakes. Time usage was especially important to evaluate, given the impact of women's workloads on household nutrition, food preparation, income generating activities, etc. Who has access to and control over resources, including income, also has an impact on food security and coping-strategies within the household and the relative burden of men and women within each household to procure food and other essential necessities. To look at these dynamics, Resource Cards and Income and Expenditure Profiles were included in the design.

2.5. Preparing for Conducting the Thematic PRA

In order to ensure a good understanding of the PRA Methodology the National PRA Trainer gave an introduction to the history, main features and principles of PRA. Roles, responsibilities and attitudes of PRA facilitators were presented and discussed and are attached as Annex B, 1). A group game was used to learn about opportunities and limits of facilitating group work as an “Outsider”. The tight timetable did not allow probing the different roles adequately, same is true for opportunities to allow the trainees to give and receive sufficient feedback on their performance when testing the tools during the training.

To enable an appropriate daily evaluation process during the PRAs a daily evaluation procedure to be applied by the PRA teams has been developed. During this daily evaluation the PRA teams use an Evaluation matrix to structure the discussion, to document the core results, to identify open questions and to plan the next day. The Evaluation Matrix and the Information sheet, explaining the Daily Evaluation is attached as Annex B, 2. 13.

Experiences of PRAs conducted elsewhere indicate that often less attention is paid to the documentation process of a PRA. To ensure that valuable information does not get lost, specific documentation sheets were prepared for every PRA tool. The documentation would follow along the specific set of key questions to be answered when applying the respective PRA tool. The documentation sheets are to be found in Annex B, 3.)

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