Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page


The People's Participation Programme
Research in the People's Participation Programme
Outline of the paper
Purposes of the Research
Research Methodology
Reliability of the data

The People's Participation Programme

Developed by FAO, the People's Participation Programme (PPP), started in 1980, as one of the "Follow-Up Action Programmes" of the World Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (WCARRD), held in 1979. WCARRD principles envisage growth, equity and rural poverty alleviation through "people's participation" (including women) in decision making and group action. PPP pilot projects were begun in a number of FAO member countries during the 1980s, including Sri Lanka and their major aim was to demonstrate the benefits of using participatory, small informal group approaches to reaching the rural poor and involving them more directly in the rural development process.

The People's Participation Programme (PPP) in Sri Lanka, was a successor project to an earlier FAO Small Farmer Development Project that began in 1982 which came under the responsibility of the Ministry of Agricultural Development and Research but was implemented by a semi non-governmental organization, the National Freedom From Hunger Campaign Board. In 1984, the successor PPP project became operative, but later in the same year, due to institutional difficulties, it was decided that MADR itself should assume direct implementation responsibilities. The project is now at the end of its second three-year phase, and is due to terminate in early 1993.

The project office is located within the Extension Division of the Department of Agriculture in Peradeniya, and most of the project staff had previously been working for the Extension Division. Yet, there are no formal ties with the Department and, as such, the project functions, as a semi non-governmental organization within the Ministry.

The PPP took over four project villages of the predecessor Small Farmer Development Programme in Hambantota (Rekawa), Kandy (Kiriwaula) and Matale districts (Kumbiyangahaela and Welangahawatte). The project is still active in the two Matale villages. Until the end of 1989 the project was mainly active in Matale district, and, to some extent, in Kurunegale District. However, by the end of 1989 efforts had shifted on a larger scale to Kurunegale District: in the Galgamuwa, Polpitigama, and Maho Divisions.

The development objectives of the second phase of the project were defined as follows (Plan of Operation, 1988:14):

"The primary aim of Phase II of this project is to continue to improve the socio-economic conditions of rural poor households within Kandy and Matale districts and expend activities to Kurunegala district through the establishment of a suitable participatory rural development approach and strategy for reaching the rural poor through the creation and strengthening of an effective receiving-cum-self-development system (RSDS), consisting of participatory self-run rural poor groups and federations for income-generating and other activities, and through the promotion of a more effective delivery system (DS) consisting of all government bodies and NGOs which provide services and facilities to the groups and which responds directly to their development needs."

The most important feature of the project approach is to organize the rural poor into self reliant groups, called small farmer groups. Through resource mobilization of the group members (labour, goods and capital) it is envisaged that the group members can increase their income and have better access to various appropriate government or non-government services, such as credit, extension, training, and subsidies (e.g., for latrines and coconut seedlings). To better voice their interests and for assistance and management of the groups, the groups were encouraged by the project to form secondary organizations called the Village Boards. The village board usually covers one cluster of villages where one group organizer was active. An ultimate aim of the project was also to form tertiary organizations at divisional levels, covering all Village Boards within one division. It is envisaged that this organization can link the demand of the group members with the government services governed from the divisional level.

The main project input and resource was the group organizer (GO). His responsibility is to motivate people to organize themselves into groups and to guide the groups in their activities, including the credit scheme. At the time of this study, 7 GOs were working in Matale district and 10 in Kurunegale district. It is envisaged that the Village Boards will ultimately take over the functions of the GOs. The project has started with this process in the Matale district.

Another main project input has been the provision of training. The GOs, group board members, Village Board members, and selected group members have received substantial training in one or more of various subjects, including: group dynamics, accounting, cultivation, farm mechanics, nutrition, health, audio-visual aids, small industries (soya processing, beedi making, etc.).

Originally, the People's Participation Programme approach included the development of group business enterprises. In Sri Lanka, the project provided assistance to a number of groups to start such an enterprise, e.g., soya processing, purchase and sale of consumer items, oil expelling, and envelope making. This did not prove very successful, and in general, the FAO People's Participation Programme approach has shifted to a focus favouring the development of individual group member enterprises with group member cooperation limited to complementary support activities (e.g., bulk purchase of inputs and group marketing) where mutual advantages could be achieved.

In general, it must be noted that the concept of people's participation is well known in Sri Lanka. During the past decade, several similar programmes have been implemented or are ongoing, including the Change Agent Programme (partly implemented by the Ministry of Policy Planning and Implementation and partly by CARE International), and numerous rural development programmes implemented by non-government organizations, such as Sarvodaya, Nation Builders Association, IRED, National Development Foundation, CEDEC, Save the Children, etc. etc. As noted by Van Woersem (1986:5): "Sri Lanka is far beyond the experimental nature of these type of programmes,...".

Research in the People's Participation Programme

Since the beginning of the project in 1985, data collection on socio-economic features of group members was conducted on a number of occasions by the GOs and in 1986, a baseline survey was conducted by a national consultant. This baseline survey relied, to a large extent, on a previous survey conducted by the GOs in 1986 on 150 group members in two village clusters in Naula Division (Bowattennewatte and Kumbiyangahaela) and one village cluster in Dambulla Division (Tittawelgolla) (see Map 1. featuring the research area). Although the baseline study provided some information on the housing situation, social characteristics, and land cultivated by project beneficiaries, it gave only a limited picture of who the project beneficiaries were, especially in terms of their resource-base and of gender specific issues. This became the major question to be answered by this research.

This report is the result of additional research conducted within the FAO People's Participation Programme (PPP) project in Sri Lanka from 1989-1990. Due to prevailing insecurity in the country at that time, it was decided that the field research be carried out by project staff {seven Group Organizers (GOs)} rather than outsiders as originally planned.

Outline of the paper

The first chapter describes the People's Participation Programme and the research objectives and methodology. The second chapter presents an overview of the research area including general agronomic and socio-economic features. Chapter Three gives the social profile of the group members. The fourth chapter analyses the resource-base of the project beneficiaries with emphasis on the similarities and differences between female and male beneficiaries and with reference to control data. In Chapter Five, the resources pertaining to cultivation are further elaborated. Chapter Six discusses the activities and activeness of the small farmer groups and the final chapter summarizes the main conclusions from the study and provides recommendations for the further promotion of participatory rural development approaches in Sri Lanka.

Purposes of the Research

The purposes of this research are to analyse the resource-base of the project beneficiaries, with emphasis on similarities and differences between female and male beneficiaries, and to assess the activeness of small farmer groups and their village boards in the project area.

A resource-base is defined as the set of resources to which a person has access in sustaining a livelihood, both for production and reproduction purposes. Benefits from resources may be obtained if the person uses them his or her self or when other persons use them. This research mainly focuses on resources used by the sampled group members themselves. Furthermore, major attention is given to resources pertaining to crop cultivation, because this is the dominant productive activity performed by group members and this is the project's main domain of expertise.

A resource-base may include resources that are quantifiable, i.e., land, labour, capital, education and training, and unquantifiable, i.e., personal networks, social reputation and political power or prestige. Being primarily based on a single-visit survey, this research does not quantify the benefits obtained from a resource-base sustained over a certain period of time, such as crop yields and income. However, one benefit has been included, i.e., housing, because this is often used as an indicator in baseline surveys and because of the availability of reference data on housing.

A major limitation of this research is that it looks at the resource-base at a certain moment in time (1990), whereas people often try to adapt and change their resource-base to sustain their livelihood over a longer period of time, if possible with the future of their children in mind. The dynamics of the resource-base including, resource conservation, depletion of resources and strategies to increase and/or decrease certain resources, part of a person's own decision making and perhaps influenced by group processes and government policies are beyond the scope of this survey. However, the data presented could serve as a data base for future research by the project. Therefore, an extensive number of tables have been included in the Annex.

Research Methodology

According to the original terms of reference for this research, the basic research methodology would be a quantitative survey, to be conducted by an outsider to the project. However, at the time of preparing the research, the security situation did not allow for an outsider to go around in the project area and to ask all kinds of questions. Therefore, it was decided that the data be collected by the group organizers working in the project. To reduce subjectivity as much possible and to facilitate monitoring of the data collection, the group organizers did the interviews as a team, going from one village to the other.

The operational population is defined as all members of adult groups that were recorded as active in December 1988. Members of children's groups were excluded because the research mainly focuses on the economic resource base of project beneficiaries.

The research area is located in the Matale district, i.e., in the Naula, Dambulla and Rattota divisions, the main project area since the beginning of the project in 1985. Excluded were the village clusters where the project had just recently started (i.e., in Kurunegalle district) and where the project ceased to be active (i.e., in certain parts of Naula and Rattota divisions and of Hambantota, Kandy and Kurunegale districts).

The operational population consists of 1324 persons. The names were stratified according to village cluster, and a 10% sample was drawn. This sample allows for comparison between the three different divisions.

The basis for data gathering was a structured questionnaire with partly closed and partly open questions. It has been adjusted several times after discussions with group organizers, other relevant persons and after pre-testing.

The data has been converted into a computerized database by means of a DBase III+ programme. To ensure reliability, a double entry has been made. Cross tabulations were arranged in three groups: tables by division (general data that could be compared with data from the Population and Housing Census, the Agricultural Census and the 1986 Baseline Survey); tables by gender of the respondent (data pertaining to the resource base) and tables by gender of the small farmer group (data about the activities of the small farmer group).

Reliability of the data

Due to the team work and the simultaneous monitoring during data gathering, the questionnaires were filled out in an acceptable way. However, it was felt that the group organizers working for an operational, foreign- sponsored programme, may have induced respondents to be kind enough not express all their felt negative effects of the programme.

Furthermore, there prevailed a general tendency that respondents did not want to reveal all the possible resources they might possess. On one hand, this was due to the uncertain security situation at the time (1989-90) where in some cases, more affluent persons were levied with "informal" taxes. On the other hand, the Government had just embarked on a "poverty alleviation programme" which would include only the poorer families of the society.

Another aspect that influenced the reliability of the data was social status. Respondents were often reluctant to tell the emunerator about their activities that are considered of a low social status, such as fishing and the cultivation of root crops and tobacco.

Although caste may be an important determinant in the resource base of project beneficiaries or in participation in this type of group efforts in general, it was considered inappropriate to show that the project was interested in caste. Therefore, this issue has been left out.

Previous Page Top of Page Next Page