The material for this training process came from the following project case studies:
The focus was on participatory visual techniques, skill training and awareness raising.
Both the Pakistan and the Senegal projects were designed to have a land management and conservation focus. However, the interests of local women meant that the projects had to respond to a much broader set of issues.
This was particularly striking in the case of Pakistan. Located in the Kanak Valley, where a severe drop in the water table level has adversely affected the agricultural livelihoods of the communities, the goal of this project was to develop participatory strategies and involve communities in the better management of local resources. In the early stages of project implementation, however, it was discovered that natural resource conservation was not a priority for the people. In fact, in the first villages where the PRA was conducted the women identified health, education, access to clean water and income-generating activities as areas of priority concern.
The project decided to respond to these needs by organizing training courses on different income-generating activities. To help women build on this type of training and utilize the skills learned, a microcredit scheme was introduced. This was closely linked to the formation of women's associations, a core part of the project's implementation strategy.
Over a period of four to five years a process evolved for working with the women in Kanak village. This process is briefly summarized in the figure on the facing page.
The discussion and analysis of environmental issues was integrated into this process. Support to income-generating activities helped to build up the credibility of the project and to establish a sense of trust between the women and the project staff. The training addressed the basic needs identified during PRA activities, and the women felt that they were getting an immediate return from the time that they spent on a PRA assessment that stretched over a period of ten weeks.
Participatory process in Kanak Valley
Establishing trust and creating a sense of confidence among the village women were key factors in focusing their attention on the environmental issues.
Over the five years of implementation, the project organizers built on their experience and made the following conclusions about good practice:
Good practice requires patience. Even with the flexible approach taken by the project organizers, getting the women in Kanak Valley to see that the management of natural resources is something that concerns them remained a major challenge.
The North-West Groundnut Basin Village Reafforestation project (PREVINOBA) in Senegal is located in an area that has suffered from deforestation, low rainfalls and poor cultivation and land management practices. The principal aim of the project was to assist communities to prepare and implement land management plans and improve agricultural production.
Over an eight-year period, some 20 land management plans were prepared. In each of the communities involved, a village development committee was formed to assist with the preparation and oversee the implementation of their land-use plans.
In each community the preparation of the land management plan involved:
Responding to other of the women's needs was an important part of building commitment.
In addition to the land management issues, the PRAs highlighted the need for training and support in other areas. In response, the project organized training activities in:
The success of the project lies in the recognition that both women and men have a role to play in the management of the land. Recognizing that women were not only numerically a dominant force in the area, but were increasingly involved in making decisions about the land was vital. Establishing a local institutional base - the Land Management Committee - and involving both women and men in this decision-making body was also important.
Although the PRA assessments included gender analysis activities, this was not the starting point. The focus on gender issues per se came later, after the communities had begun to see practical benefits from the projects. Even then, gender analysis training was introduced gradually. The starting point has been to raise the awareness of project staff and government field workers about the relevance of gender to resource management. Gender analysis training for government officers and, then, village partners was scheduled to take place before the preparation of land development management plans in 1997-98.
PREVINOBA faced challenges similar to those encountered by the Pakistan project. The PRA assessments highlighted concerns that were outside the major focus of the project. Responding to these needs was an important part of the process of stimulating community interest in the environmental problems. Indeed, raising community awareness about the importance of land management issues was another major challenge for PREVINOBA. To meet this, the project utilized a variety of popular education methods. In particular it drew on the analysis and dialogue tools associated with the accelerated participatory research method (APRM). Radio programmes and visual education techniques, such as slide language and image boxes, played major roles in awareness-raising activities.
The Pakistan and Senegal projects, although operating in quite different environments, both highlight a problem frequently encountered in development work. Project objectives are not necessarily the people's objectives. They also demonstrate that project planners need to be flexible if a real participatory partnership between communities and project implementers is to be created.
Responding to local priorities is an important part of the gender-responsive agricultural planning process, and creating a supportive environment is essential.
These issues all have a bearing on capacity building at the grassroots level. Sensitivity to other community priorities and responding to a broader set of needs may be prerequisites to achieving project objectives. This was particularly the case in Kanak valley. The village women did not see improved resource management as their responsibility. Their preoccupations were day-to-day survival and generating enough income to meet their basic needs so, before project staff could hope to focus people's attention on the environmental issues, they had to respond to other priorities - the entry points - and create a supportive environment in which women could develop the confidence to act.
Creating an environment supportive to action is a key part of capacity building. In Kanak valley, this involved forming women's associations and supporting them with leadership training, organizational guidance and practical skills training. Group promoters - women community workers - who could work in the local language, were appointed to work with the groups and provide this training. Part of this capacity building process was village-to-village visits. The programme established strong, active women's associations and, as it grew, women from newly formed associations attended meetings of the more established ones.
Finding the entry points, building organizational capacity, developing the confidence to act and assisting with priority needs were crucial parts of the process of involving communities in the management of their own environmental resources.
In Pakistan there was training for senior management in government departments and TOT for project staff, NGOs and government departments. At the village level, given the cultural context, a novel approach was taken to gender analysis training which was conducted by a husband and wife team.
Within this broader capacity-building process, both projects faced the challenge of capturing and focusing people's attention on issues that they do not necessarily see as problems, or that they feel are beyond their capability to deal with.
In Pakistan, the project organizers operated on the principles of transparency and integration. The project's natural resource management objectives were explained right from the start, and kept at the forefront in all the project activities. Discussion of natural resource issues was integrated into the PRA and income-generating activities 1.
Given this transparency, project organizers and village women selected income-generating activities that were within the bounds of the project's natural resource management objectives. Before a new activity was launched the women were encouraged to analyse its impact on the environment.
The women's associations have also been an important forum for discussing income-generating activities and environmental issues. The project team arranged for leaders of different associations to meet monthly and discuss specific topics.
Examples of topics discussed were how to get men to use less water for irrigation, and how to replace sheep fattening with an equally lucrative but less environmentally damaging activity.
In both Senegal and Pakistan, visual techniques were used to stimulate interest in environmental issues. In both projects a method, known as the slide language technique was used. The Pakistan project has built on the original idea of the slide language technique. In communities where literacy levels - particularly among women - are very low, the visual recording of activities was an important tool for focusing attention, stimulating discussion and analysing the issues.
An example of this is the use of slides/photographs to make a record of medicinal plants in the area. A group of older women, local experts in using plants to prepare medicines for people and farm animals, compiled an album, listing all the medicinal plants in the area and the recipes for different aliments
The slide language communication technique was used to focus the attention of women's associations on environmental problems in the valley. The technique involves showing slides, or photographs, of the local environment to the women's groups to help them identify the environmental issues and problems and agree on actions to solve them. The basic idea is to stimulate, and not limit, discussion. To achieve this, slides should be presented in a "random" format, rather than as a thematic presentation.
Initially the group promoters (the project staff working at the village level) were shown the technique as a way of introducing the issue of water conservation to the women. One of the problems encountered was that the group promoters could not adapt to the idea of presenting a series of slides that are not necessarily organized to deliver a definite message but allow the audience to discover issues and agree on actions. As a result, the slides shown to the women's associations by the group promoters were organized as a thematic slide show on natural resource conservation in Kanak Valley. Although these presentations drew the issue of water conservation to the attention of women, they did not have the desired effect. The women still regarded the lowering of the water table as someone else's responsibility, and not theirs.
The limited success of these slide shows stimulated the project to explore other ways of using the slide language technique. It was decided to hold a slide competition. Four of the advanced associations were chosen to participate in the competition. They were shown how to use a camera, and asked to take up to 18 slides on the use of natural resources in Kanak Valley, to be shown for discussion at a large convention. A prize was to be given for the best photos. Again it proved impossible to get women to understand that they should take random pictures. They wanted to take photos according to a story line, and so the activity was adjusted.
The slides and the competition proved to be a powerful medium. The fact that the stories were produced and "owned" by the village women made them and their content of immediate relevance. Through discussions, the women perceived the lowering of the water table as a problem that does directly affect them, and a number of solutions was proposed:
The products from the slide competition were used during the gender analysis training workshop for district officials. The purpose of this workshop was to create district-level awareness of gender and environmental degradation. The project organizers felt that, although there are strong links among gender, ecological deterioration and poverty, these are not always understood, and there are often misconceptions about why rural populations do not identify environmental issues as priority needs. The training workshop, therefore, aimed at clarifying these issues and evoking different perceptions of environmental degradation among district officials.
The three-day workshop was divided into three blocks of activity under the following headings:
The slide show presentation exercise on Day 3 is an example of community- or field-generated materials being used to train staff at the intermediate level. Other examples of this approach are given in Training Method 4. Several of the exercises used in Days 1 and 2 were adapted from: Williams, S. 1994. Oxfam Gender Training Manual. Oxfam United Kingdom and Ireland.