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I. Background of the Study


The People’s Participation Programme (PPP) operated in the Pujehun district of Sierra Leone from 1982 to 1986. Its purpose was to assist in the formation of small, homogeneous groups of men and women, which would become leading forces in the self-development of their communities. The rural poor were the principal beneficiaries of this program. FAO assisted the groups by providing leadership and group management training, technical support to increase agricultural and small scale commercial production, and a framework for the creation of savings and credit systems. A strong emphasis was placed on creating an awareness of opportunities for group members to increase their economic, social and political standing in their communities. FAO encouraged groups to develop their own plans for income generation and community development. The PPP groups were viewed as organizational building blocks for constructing larger, more autonomous, democratic and self-reliant small farmer organizations, or inter-groups associations (IGAs). In 1986, the project was fully turned over to the Ministry of Rural Development, Social Services and Youth.

This study examines the long term development impact and sustainability of the PPP/Pujehun project. It was undertaken with four specific objectives:

1. to determine how many of the PPP groups existing at the time of project termination continue to function, and the factors behind the success or failure of the groups;

2. to examine how the PPP groups evolved in the three years since the FAO support ended, and what activities they are presently engaged in;

3. to determine what enabling linkages developed between PPP groups, the MRDSSY, other PPP groups, and other development agencies; and

4. to determine the extent to which PPP activities were replicated in the Bo and Pujehun districts.


Each of the 31 villages with active PPP groups at the time of project closure were visited, in addition to 8 villages where the PPP methodology was replicated. In each village a meeting was held with group members to discuss the following points:

1. current group activities;

2. projects undertaken in the past three years;

3. changes in group membership;

4. bylaws and governing structures;

5. finances, savings and credit;

6. women’s participation;

7. enabling linkages;

8. monitoring and evaluation;

9. replication; and

10. a series of general topics such as leadership, training, factors behind group success and failure, benefits of group participation, limiting factors, etc.

(see Appendix I for more details)

Meetings were held in Krio or Mende, depending on the language skills of participants. Discussions in Mende were most often facilitated by a social worker from MRDSSY, while the researcher himself conducted meetings in Krio. Discussions were free flowing and in most cases genuinely participatory. Meetings were followed by visits to group farms and projects, which provided more time for discussion with individual members. Written surveys were impossible to carry out due to the high level of illiteracy in the PPP villages, thus most village information came from formal and informal discussions with group members and social workers and observation. Information was also gathered from a PPP documents and files, interviews with former PPP staff, and interviews with staff of other development organizations and government ministries operating in the area.

A number of factors limited the quality and quantity of information gathered. Transportation was a major problem during the latter half of the study. Fuel and spare parts were in short supply, and roads in the Pujehun area were in terrible shape, making access to some villages difficult. There were scanty records kept on production and income, and, at best, based on a very crude system of weights and measures. Many production figures contained in this report are therefore estimates based on memory of group members, observation by the researcher and agro-technician, and inferences made from the cost of projects undertaken by the groups. The problem of obtaining accurate figures was further complicated by the fact that people in the area are traditionally secretive and suspicious of outsiders. Savings, for instance, often had to be estimated by valuing physical stocks or funds loaned out, or by asking groups: “do you have enough money to undertake such and such a project?”

A large body of literature associated with the PPP project in Pujehun is available (see References), but files kept at the MRDSSY office in Pujehun contained several information gaps which had to be filled through interviews with staff. This was especially true with regard to histories of specific groups and the range of current operations.

In all, 39 villages were visited, 987 people participated in group level discussions, and 32 former PPP staff members and other experts were interviewed. Unless otherwise noted, data presented in the tables of this report refer to the original PPP groups which continued to function at the time this study was undertaken.

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