Description: Problem tree analysis may be carried out during a district-based orientation and training workshop or following the completion of the field appraisal. In the latter case, problem tree analysis will build on the findings of the appraisal as reflected in the village and regional profiles. In the case of an orientation and training workshop, the analysis will build on the information from sector reports and the knowledge of the participants.
The purpose of problem tree analysis is to identify real, important and priority bottlenecks related to the issue under investigation, e.g. food insecurity and malnutrition. Problem analysis is vital for the quality of planning since it maps out the course of future interventions. A mistake at this stage will affect the entire planning process, as well as the way the intervention is implemented and its results.
A problem tree looks like a tree whereby the trunk is the core problem. The branches and twigs are the effects and the roots are the causes of the situation, which is perceived as a negative state.
Objective: Problem tree analysis is a tool which enables to analyse an existing situation, through the identification of the problems related to the issue under investigation and ordering these problems by highlighting the cause and effect relationships in a diagram or problem tree.
With who: Depending on when the exercise is carried out, the problem tree is developed by the participants in the orientation workshop or by those tasked with planning. The findings may be presented to the community or to local government authorities and other stakeholders. It is a good starting point for objective analysis and further planning.
Examples of key questions:
1. What is the entity of the analysis? An entity is the group that determines the boundaries of the analysis. It could be a household, a community, an economic reality, a geographical region, etc. For community action planning purposes, the entity is the community.
2. What is the issue that we are investigating? The issue could be food security and nutrition problems in the community.
3. Are the statements of the problems and their causes and effects perfectly clear to all?
4. Are the problems and their cause-effect linkages real and existing, and not imaginary or hypothetical? If they are based on assumptions, this should be indicated.
5. Do the problems and their causes reflect a negative state or situation actually in evidence, and not the absence of a solution? E.g., the cause of night-blindness is not the absence of vitamin A supplements, but may be low intake of green leafy vegetables.
How to facilitate:
1. Using the information from the analysis of constraints and opportunities and the village profiles, identify the major problem areas and affected groups (e.g. by gender, socio-economic, ethnic and other criteria) related to the issue that is being investigated. If an appraisal was not yet conducted and the exercise is part of an orientation and training workshop, you may rely on secondary information and the knowledge of the participants.
2. Formulate the weaknesses and threats (or constraints) as problem statements on cards. Try to be as clear as possible and spell out how the selected problem affects the issue under investigation. E.g. poor community organisation affects food insecurity and malnutrition since the vulnerable households rely on social services rendered by the community or community organisations.
3. For later planning purposes, make a visual distinction between internal problems (weaknesses) and problems coming from outside (threats) by using coloured cards.
4. Check if all problem statements are perfectly clear to all and reformulate them if not.
5. If the issues are many and complex, divide the gathering in groups around the specific problem areas and/or groups affected.
6. For each problem area and/or group affected, the working groups establish a problem tree showing the cause-and-effect linkages based on the information from the analysis of constraints and opportunities and from the regional profiles.
7. If there are information gaps, assumptions may be made provided that it is clear that these assumptions need to be verified before further planning is carried out.
8. Upon completion of their work, the working groups present the findings in plenary and establish an overall problem tree, with the key issue as core problem.
Materials needed: Coloured cards, markers, regional profiles and SWOT analyses.