The Peoples Participation Programme in Pujehun district is both sustainable and successful - proof that the type of grassroots development advocated by PPP does work. Most of the 73 groups which existed at the time of project completion in 1986 continue to function. Total membership in these groups grew from 1,066 in 1986 to 1,975 in 1989. Moreover, the PPP methodology has been widely replicated in the Pujehun, Bo, Moyamba and Kailahun districts - at least 211 new groups have been established.
The growth of the program reflects the strength of the PPP approach and specific conditions in Sierra Leone. The poor state of the economy, lack of services and difficult political environment in Pujehun created the need for action. The PPP group structure offered people a vehicle for self-improvement which built on local values and practices, and could be replicated with minimal resources. The project was successful in transferring technical and leadership skills to both local project staff and beneficiaries. And other development projects, most notably the GTZ Bo-Pujehun Rural Development Project, provided support for PPP group activities in the post-FAO period. It should be noted, however, that such support was not a necessary condition for group success.
The success of the original PPP groups built on itself. The groups proved to be effective tools for attracting development assistance to villages, enabling people to undertake development projects of an unprecedented scale in their villages, and providing a measure of social security. Many members reported increased income, increased food security, and decreased dependence on money lenders. Women realized a growing voice in the affairs of their community, and groups a growing voice in local politics. There was an increasing feeling of cooperation and unity in PPP villages. As the benefits of group participation became obvious, more members joined and more groups were formed.
PPP was also successful at creating an effective extension network. Former project staff were generally been promoted or given increased responsibilities in the post-project period, and have helped to spread the methodology to other districts.
While the PPP groups unquestionably made progress, a number of issues deserve further attention:
1. The project was affected by a number of exogenous factors, including: a banking crisis, the poor state of the economy, groups access to inputs and markets, the limited ability of the implementing agency (MRDSSY) to properly support the growing number of groups, and the conflicting policies of various development agencies operating in the area. Wherever possible, FAO should work with other donors to support the creation of an appropriate macro environment in which grassroots level groups can flourish.
2. The Pujehun groups are at a crucial stage. They must find ways to diversify their sources of income, develop more sophisticated management skills, make long term financial plans, and expand their base of contacts with support agencies. It will not be an easy task, given the rather modest means of the groups and the chaotic economic and political climate of the area. Further training and assistance may be needed.
3. The slow pace of progress in forming Womens groups and inter-group associations suggests the need for further study, new approaches, and a longer-term commitment to the project area.