The purpose of this study is to gain a better understanding of participatory approaches to project planning and to learn lessons from project experiences with this type of planning. Case studies were conducted by national consultants on nine field projects. Established community forestry projects were selected in Senegal, Bolivia, Pakistan (Malakand), Nicaragua and Nepal (Begnas Tal Rupa Tal). In the case of Rwanda, Burundi, Pakistan (Quetta) and Nepal (Bhusunde Khola Watershed), four field projects of the Interregional Project for Participatory Upland Conservation and Development (PUCD) participated in this study. The present document contains summaries of the individual case study reports as well as a comparative analysis of the major findings and lessons learned.
The use of participatory methods and tools has become common practice in the field. Mainly because of lack of systematic recording and documentation, it is not always clear, however, how and by whom these tools are used. The following steps are generally followed: appraisal, needs identification, restitution, organization, planning, implementation and evaluation. This process is considered to be iterative and progressive and is assumed to enhance: (1) the empowerment of local disadvantaged groups; (2) the integration of local knowledge systems into project design; (3) a two-way learning process between the project and local people; and (4) political commitment and support. These assumptions can only partially be confirmed through the present case studies.
In most cases, the profile of the intended project participants is not explicitly defined in terms of the most underprivileged groups at local level (such as the landless, women or tenants). Strong hierarchical local power structures can constitute a major constraint to reaching and empowering these groups (Pakistan). On the other hand, examples have been found (Nicaragua, Nepal, Senegal) where disadvantaged groups are indeed taking control and where the use of participatory methods and tools has been effective. These tools have also been instrumental in detecting unexpected negative results of project interventions for specific groups (Pakistan, Bolivia).
It appears from the case studies that local knowledge systems are being integrated in the design, development and verification of technical menus. However, this aspect has not been well documented. More emphasis should be given to the development of tools for the appraisal of these important local resources.
The case studies clearly illustrate that proper use of participatory methods and tools does enhance two-way learning processes. However, this should not be attributed to the methods and tools as such but to the perception of the role of the field staff (and the project) as facilitators. The internal organization and management of the projects are determining factors in this context. This learning process results in an increased capacity to analyse and understand identified needs and problems.
The case studies demonstrate that this "educational" value of the methods and tools is less visible, however, than their operational value. Because of time constraints, political pressure, the agricultural calendar and other external limiting factors, it is difficult to allocate the necessary time at institutional level for systematic feedback and analysis of the methods and tools and the results. This is particularly true during the initial phases of the projects when they need to demonstrate short-term results, as was evident in the case of the PUCD projects in Nepal, Pakistan, Rwanda and Burundi.
It was found that local communities are more responsive to participatory approaches than institutions or the projects themselves. Participatory project approaches need new management styles, a flexible internal organization and sufficient space for feedback, discussion and analysis. Important activities such as the elaboration of annual workplans should be documented and reviewed. Participatory planning in the field is not likely to work if the same principles are not applied at office level. Decentralized institutional planning is starting to take shape in most of the countries in this study, not because of participatory projects but as a consequence of national policies of privatization and decentralization, components of the ubiquitous "structural adjustment programmes" (Nicaragua, Bolivia, Senegal, Rwanda and Burundi). Participatory projects should also develop mechanisms for institutional networking with NGOs, the private sector and municipalities.
The case studies illustrate that strategies, approaches, methods and tools should be regularly and critically reviewed, in order to adjust them quickly to the changing context and outcomes of interventions. The analysis and understanding of local realities takes time. Rapid or participatory appraisal exercises are effective tools for orienting project take-off. Different methods and tools are used in the field for assessment and analysis of needs, constraints and opportunities. In some cases, interdisciplinary teams carried out rapid rural appraisals, farming systems research or land use planning exercises with the farmers. In other cases, it was extension workers who established contacts with their villages and carried out similar initial activities. Certain differences emerge from the case studies regarding the way in which similar exercises were carried out, in particular differences in the depth and the length of the initial appraisal periods.
It is the project documents, to a large extent, that determine the possibilities for promoting and facilitating local project planning. Without minimizing the importance of achieving visible results, documenting the development of methods and tools for participatory development should be also considered extremely important. Both aspects are closely interrelated: sustainable results and impact depend on the accountability of the local population, which is largely determined by critical factors such as organization, knowledge and skills, and the possibility of benefiting from the activities.
Participatory planning is not an "open" exercise. All parties involved have their own agendas, as is shown in the case studies. The challenge is to define and to develop a common agenda. This common agenda should be open for inclusion of activities identified in response to immediate needs. This requires the mobilization of the institutional linkages of the project and its own resources. At the same time, this agenda should have a long-term orientation in order to effectively promote sustainable development of natural resources. The "basket of technical options" of the project should respond to both the short-term and long-term perspectives. Without such options, participatory planning will turn out to be an illusion, both for the rural communities and for the institutions.
In Nepal, the two case studies of watershed management projects were conducted by Mr. Mohan K. Balla. In Pakistan, Ms. Fauzia Habibullah carried out the case study of the forestry project in Malakand and Dr. Arbab Jahangrir did the case study of the watershed management project in Quetta, Balochistan. In Nicaragua, the case study of the forestry project in Leon was carried out by Ms. Isaura Paredes Carias. In Bolivia, Dr. Ramiro Molina Rivero and Ms. Mirtha Ramirez Carpio did the case study of the forestry project in Potosi. In Senegal, Ms. Annie Lefevre carried out the case study of the forestry project in Tivaouane. Ms. Catherine Buyoya conducted the case study of the watershed management project in Burundi and Mr. Crescent Nyilinkindi did the case study of this project in Rwanda. Unfortunately, due to the recent political developments in these latter countries, the case studies could not be finalized as expected.
The purpose of this working paper is to gain a better understanding of participatory approaches to project planning and to learn lessons from project experiences with this type of planning. The use of participatory methods and tools has become common practice in the field. Mainly because of lack of systematic recording and documentation, however, it is not always clear how and by whom these tools are used.
In an attempt to illustrate concrete examples of these approaches, this study was developed primarily using experiences from nine field projects selected because they were applying innovative participatory approaches. Case studies were conducted on established community forestry projects in Senegal, Bolivia, Pakistan (Malakand), Nicaragua and Nepal (Begnas Tal Rupa Tal), as well as four field projects of the Interregional Participatory Upland Conservation and Development Programme (PUCD) in Rwanda, Burundi, Pakistan (Quetta) and Nepal (Bhusunde Khola Watershed).
The study contains summaries of the individual case study reports prepared by national consultants, as well as a comparative analysis of the major findings and lessons learned. For the preparation of this synthesis report, technical reports and other relevant project documents were consulted in addition to the reports produced by the national consultants.
The working paper is structured as follows. The first chapter deals with the focus of the study and the conceptual framework on which it is based. In Chapter 2, a short abstract of each of the individual case study reports is presented, and the reports are briefly reviewed. Chapter 3 presents the major lessons learned from the case studies, followed by Chapter 4 with the conclusions, recommendations and suggestions for further research. The last two chapters contain edited versions of the individual case study reports, divided into the established community forestry projects (Chapter 5) and the PUCD projects (Chapter 6).