3.1 General Comments and Recommendations
3.2 Specific Recommendations
3.1.1 Target Community in the Cooperatives
The target community for the project does not appear to be a homogenous group. Members of the cooperatives are divided into two groups those who are livestock herders, generally living in tents and those who are sheep owners and merchants, generally living in cement houses in villages and occasionally in Palmyra itself. A few of the latter also have mobile tent household as well. These two groups have different interests, something that became abundantly clear when the question of reseeding areas of Arak was raised. Some of this group (villagers and sheep merchants) are against having any more land 'lost' to reseeding, while others (Bedouin herders) are very much in favour of its potential to improve the range.
3.1.2 Non Cooperative households in the project areas.
A good number of local Bedouin spend more than half the year in these areas and are not members of cooperatives, or have recently let their membership lapse. They are, never-the-less, range users and need to be considered in project activities. This reality seems to have been acknowledged by the Ministry of Agriculture participants as well as the Peasant Union representatives during this workshop. The project needs to consider carefully the different demands and often competing interests of these sectors of its target population. It is the view of the consultant that the Bedouin sheep herders are the primary focus of project activities as they are the most active users of the range. Nevertheless, the needs of the village based sheep owners and merchants must also be considered even if they are occasionally quite divergent from those of the Bedouin herders.
3.1.3 Community awareness
The workshop and trips into the field has revealed that there is a wide range of level of awareness of the project. This is not unusual with a population that is unstable and in constant motion into and out of the area where the project is situated. Some families had a general idea of the project and its activities while others had only heard about the project but had no idea of its activities. Nevertheless the workshop revealed, if only by the fact of the high attendance it attracted even in the last day of the event (50 participants), that there is a real interest in the project and in the potential for shared problem solving. This awareness, which has been developed among the 35 participating Bedouin, will, without a doubt, be passed on further afield by the workshop participants in the months to come.
3.1.4 Gendered Development
Only a small number of women took part in the workshop. The three that did take part were all personally invited to come. At times they were outspoken and forthright in expressing their ideas and at other times they were quite diffident, preferring to whisper their points of view to the facilitator to convey. That these women did agree to take part and did sit with the main group throughout the last two days of the workshop is encouraging. Although some pressure and anxiety was obvious in their case, it was encouraging that they overcame some cultural barriers in order to take part. This needs to be encouraged in future activities in order to have the voice of women part of the general dialogue.
3.1.5 Relations with the Directorate of the Steppe in the Ministry of Agriculture and the Peasant Union Cooperative Supervisors.
Relations with the Directorate of the Steppe and with the Peasant Union representatives have never been particularly strained. However, what became particularly clear in the course of the workshop, was the very obvious improvement in relations and the willingness to work closely with the project to achieve its goal of participatory learning and action.
3.2.1 Concrete action on the six collaborative activities identified at the workshop
Concrete action was not agreed upon in the course of the workshop. However a commitment was made to six actions: marking out migrations corridors in reserve areas, clarifying access to the Abassiya well, clarifying policy on the reseeding programme, organizing a more effective hiring system for guards, setting a plan for purchasing seeds, organising access to water at Taliila and looking into the possible development of eco-tourism at Taliila that would benefit the local community. The project has made a commitment to these six issues. It needs to make an effort to show the community that this commitment is being respected. It has to further encourage and improve collaborative working linkages. Regular follow-up meetings with interested groups of Bedouins are strongly recommended.
One aspect in particular appears to be critical, identifying guards from the community to work for the project on the range reserve areas and in the wildlife reserve. It has become patently clear that there are poor households within the project area. Some are working as hired shepherds and casual labourers, some are actually in Palmyra itself. There are obviously, still, some conditions that are not understood clearly either by the consultants or the project staff that are hindering the identifying of these potential individuals as guards on the project. It is suggested that once wealth ranking has been completed by the extension team, the households identified as poor be directly approached with an eye to seeing if they are prepared to be hired as guards for the project. If they are not then, the project may have to look elsewhere.
3.2.2 Awareness raising
During the course of the workshop and during field days it became obvious that the target community had no clear understanding of what 'extension' is. It is the opinion of the consultant that the extension team of the project also has a hazy idea of extension which is very limited in its application. This was discussed with the national consultant for extension and much effort was taken to encourage him to develop extension work within the project which was partner to an integrated rural development concept. This would mean that the extension team would look beyond the strictly technical and focused messages of the project and move into a more integrated service approach. Towards this end, the consultants have recommended that the female extension officer look into the development of a programme for women which would reflect their needs and which might require some partnerships with other local institutions in the provision of information concerning other topics or needs (e.g. animal health and nutrition, human health and nutrition, literacy, cooperative financing for small business enterprises, loans and credit possibilities).
3.2.3 Setting up of a 'Double Strategy'
The workshop has made clear the existence of multiple interest groups in the project area. It may be necessary for the project to consider a double strategy, one which sets forth incentives for the mobile herders (which the consultants consider the primary targets) and another parallel strategy which sets up incentives for the 'settled' more powerful community in the villages of the cooperatives and in Palmyra itself. At present this group has benefited most immediately from the existence of the project through its ability to supply the project with the transport for hire. And although the consultants do recommend an emphasis in the direction of the mobile herders, the recommendation is that this settled group not be forgotten.
3.2.4 Extension Unit
The Extension Unit, currently assisted by the national consultant, is trying to create an awareness of extension work in the project area. It is the opinion of the consultant that the team must make a great effort to raise the community's awareness of extension (they have no previous experience of extension work and hence make no demands), just as they themselves must come to an understanding of extension work as more than a narrowly defined specialist field. They need to appreciate that the dissemination of knowledge is part of their responsibilities and hence they must identify needs in the community and make efforts to gather relevant information to answer those needs. At times this will require cooperation with other institutions in the governorate such as the veterinary unit, the education unit and the health unit. In this situation extension must be regarded as part of a wider package of integrated rural development and hence a PRA based methodology is essential.
3.2.5 Female extension worker
The female extension officer has exhibited a particularly impressive flair for participatory research and learning. She is at present handicapped by limited English, making it impossible for her to benefit from the growing literature on the topic. It is recommended that this extension officer be given further English training and also be sent on further courses in PRA. One very good course is held bi-annually at the Institute of Forestry in the University of Edinburgh. The next PRA workshop will be held in April 1998 and it is recommended that if this extension officer's English is improved she be sent on the course for further training.
3.2.6 Mobility of the extension team
The effectiveness of the extension team depends upon their absolute mobility. They need to be able to move around as frequently and as often as the target population. It is the recommendation of the consultant that a further vehicle be purchased for the project and be earmarked for the extension unit. Member of this unit should be in the field daily, whether or not there is a particular study to undertake. Their work requires them to be in constant contact with the target population, hence a vehicle available to them at all times is fundamental.
3.2.7 Backstopping and on-going training in PRA for the extension team
The extension team and other staff members of the project are developing some skill in PRA tools. This approach and these techniques need to be encouraged and developed. It is the opinion of the consultant that a brief backstopping visit to assess the team's use of PRA tools be made in six months time and that in a year's time a further PRA workshop be held.