History of the methodology
United Nations experience with SCR methodology
Incorporating national diversity
From 1968 to 1973, Mr Jan B. Orsini of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) worked closely with Mr Poom Siri of the Rubber Division of the Royal Thai Government Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, to establish an extension system for rubber smallholders in South and South-East Thailand.
One objective of the extension system was to assist smallholders to market their rubber. During a three year experimental period, the two developed a system of rubber Group Marketing Organizations (GMO) which enabled groups of 15 to 30 smallholders to market bulk amounts of improved rubber at weekly intervals. This system achieved an average income increase of 14 percent for members when compared to nonmembers selling in the same market. The GMO groups operated on a voluntary basis, employing participatory methods. They established their own rules and marketing procedures.
Once the GMO concept had been proved, an expansion programme was developed with 16 agricultural college graduates being trained to establish new GMO. Expansion of the new programme was slow, with high failure rates, until field officer Mr Suwit Saenakul tried using leaders and members of long established groups to help organize and train new groups. His system proved so effective that its use greatly accelerated the expansion programme, while significantly reducing the failure rate of new groups. In addition, as the new groups often marketed in the same market town as the mentor groups, they learned to combine their sales and thereby gained additional bargaining power. This increased the rate at which individual groups amalgamated to form large organizations - some with more than 300 members - that blossomed in the 1970s and 1980s.
Using success case groups to conduct training reduced the workload of field officers and the risk factor that they faced when they introduced this new approach.
In addition, because the officers were young, inexperienced with rubber, and came from higher social levels, the smallholders instinctively distrusted their ability to provide effective advice concerning rubber marketing. By utilizing the leaders and members of established GMOs as peer group trainers, these constraints were automatically removed.
The methodology was not discovered in Thailand. The system - which Mr Orsini termed Farmer Trains Farmer or FTF - has been in use since the dawn of history and is related to various forms of apprenticeship.
This phenomena, farmers teaching one another, occurred in Thailand when farmers responded to the European demand for cassava as livestock feed some 20 years ago. The farmers, against advice, changed Thailand from a non-exporter to the worlds primary exporter.
The expansion benefited poor farmers, used idle land, and earned foreign exchange. It is notable that the transformation occurred entirely on a Farmer Trains Farmer basis as individual farmers learned about cassava by working as labourers in their neighbours fields. Cassava buyers did not assist with finance or advisory services and government recommended against expanding the crop because of its detrimental impact on soil fertility.
In 1976, Mr Orsini, then employed by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), and working in cooperation with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, began a series of tests of this methodology, then still called Farmer Trains Farmer or FTF. Experimental programmes were conducted on group farming, group marketing and rural womens income raising in many countries from 1976 to 1979. These efforts proved promising for group-based activities mainly dealing with farm enterprises. Further experimentation in the 1980s substantiated that the methodology was equally applicable for transfer of knowledge between individual rural entrepreneurs, and for groups such as cooperatives, provided that training programmes were properly organized, comprehensive, and included adequate followup to overcome unforeseen problems.
To accommodate the change in focus from farming to general income earning activities, the name of the methodology was changed from Farmer Trains Farmer to the more general Success Case Replication (SCR).
In 1993, Mr Orsini determined that the methodology was far enough advanced to conduct a definitive test in several countries over an extended period of time. Accordingly, Netherlands funding was obtained to support field trials from 1994 to 1998 in eight of the regions poorest countries.
Mr Sudath de Abrew, a specialist in participatory groups, was recruited as consultant. Success Case Replication was conducted as a joint ESCAP/FAO project. Mr Wim Polman, Rural Development Officer, assisted in the project activities from 1997 onward on behalf of the FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific.
Joint Success Case Replication mission to the Lao Peoples Democratic Republic, Vientiane, 1996. Representing the Government of the Netherlands, the donor agency, was Mr Robert Quarles van Ufford (right). Team members (left to right) are Mr Jan B. Orsini, ESCAP SCR Specialist; Mr Wim Polman, FAO Rural Development Officer; Mrs Inthanongsith Koumphon, Agricultural Extension Agency, Lao PDR; Mr Sudath de Abrew, SCR Project Consultant; and Mr Paidee, Agricultural Extension Agency, Lao PDR.
During the experimental period, it became evident that many participating countries wished to modify the manual to reflect their own cultural heritage and social customs, which often had a significant impact on the effectiveness of the methodology.
Accordingly, this manual was first produced in a draft form, and translated into the local language in each country. As the project progressed, each country was encouraged to redraft their own version to incorporate the experience that was being gained in the field trials. In the final analysis, each country was encouraged to develop their own manual for wider domestic use by all agencies and NGOs that showed an interest in the methodology.