1.1 Consultancy Objectives
1.2 Workshop Method and Agenda
The report details in brief the results of a 5 day workshop on PRA and rangeland development in the badia of Syria held between September 20-25 in Palmyra. The workshop was part of a ten day mission for the FAO which was designed as a direct follow-up to the PRA workshop held in April 1997. The training team consisted of the author and Stephan Baas, an FAO Headquarters Officer. The workshop was conducted in Arabic and English and focused on reinforcing the project staffs skills in PRA and in developing new tools which would encourage discussion and collaboration with the project target population. Eighteen participants attended the first two days of the workshop with representatives from the Project's Extension Unit, Wildlife Unit, and Rangeland Unit, the Ministry of Agriculture's Agronomy Unit, Extension Services, and Steppeland Directorate as well as the Cooperatives Organization of the Peasant Union. An average of fifty-two participants took part in the final three days of the workshop, these numbers included the original eighteen participants as well as between 34 and 36 local herders and sheep merchants. A list of participants is included in appendix 4.2 and 4.3. The workshop was truly participatory with open and animated discussion. Occasionally heated exchange of ideas had to be cut short due to time constraints. Participants enthusiastically took part in all exercises and games and appeared to enjoy the experience of learning PRA. During the final three days of the workshop, project staff successfully took on the roles of facilitators, with some backstopping from the trainers. The feedback and evaluations from the participants was very positive and revealed a growing awareness to the importance of self-criticism and team work. The overall feeling of the trainers and the CTA was that the workshop was a success, and that backstopping of the project team should be conducted in six month's time with perhaps a follow-up PRA training workshop in a year's time.
The objectives of the consultancy were as follows:
to provide advanced training for project staff in PRA approaches and tools
to establish a forum for discussion and exchange of ideas among project staff, herders, and cooperative members
to introduce workshop participants to specific tools which facilitate discussion and consensus building around potential future collaboration
to identify concrete areas for future collaboration relevant to local herders and sheep merchants (hereafter referred to as Bedouin), cooperative members and the project.
The training approach used in this follow-up workshop was the same developed earlier in April. All the original participants were invited and agreed to take part. The informal and relaxed atmosphere that was achieved in the first workshop was quickly restored after the opening formalities. Participants sat informally in a wide circle around the room where each person had a direct view of the trainers. A singularly informal and unheirarchical atmosphere prevailed with participants taking turns to facilitate brainstorming exercises and focused discussions. This informal, engaged and intense interaction was maintained in the first two days of the 'classroom' workshop as well as in the final three days of field engagement with the local target population. This training approach also included the development and reinforcement of working concepts of team contract, team work and critical self- assessment. This approach was found to be highly effective and is recommended as an important strategy not only for future workshops but also for on-going research and extension activities of the project staff.
The overall logic of the workshop was to begin with a review of the tools which had been developed at the earlier workshop and to build from a working knowledge of tools which would encourage the identification of problems, strategies for finding solutions and from there tools for developing consensus on potential future collaborative activities between the project and the target population. New tools introduced at this workshop included problem census techniques, pair-wise ranking, "well-being" or wealth ranking and S.W.O.T. (Strength, Weakness, Opportunity and Threat) analysis.
The draft agenda (appendix 4.1) was followed quite closely. As in the April workshop, concepts and new tools were introduced in plenary and then practice exercises were conducted in small groups after which a plenary session would discuss the successes or weaknesses of these small group activities. Having achieved the workshop goal of reaching a consensus on potential future collaboration with the target population at the end of the fourth day of the workshop, the final day of the workshop was set aside for project staff to express their views on the workshop. This was followed by a discussion of the PRA, in general, and the Team Contract approach to research and applied field and extension work. This approach was positively assessed by the project staff and the CTA.