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1.1 These Guidelines are an attempt to indicate how to incorporate effectively beneficiary participation in agricultural and rural development projects[1] in particular those supported by FAO technical assistance.

The Guidelines are meant as a tool for project planners and implementers, in particular for the experts involved in the identification and formulation of rural development projects. The latter can be large multi-component or smaller projects of any type: for example, those dealing with agricultural production, livestock, forestry, fishery, irrigation, land reform, inputs, extension, credit, marketing, research, training as well as those dealing with health, sanitation, nutrition, education and other social fields.

The Guidelines are a first attempt to present a "manual" from which relevant pragmatic indications can be taken to render forthcoming and existing conventional projects (more) participatory. This means firstly that the projects are to the largest possible extent oriented towards the rural poor, and secondly that they include provisions for the formation of self-run beneficiary groups. As explained later, these two essential features do not substitute for but are expected to complement conventional development approaches and efforts.

In more concrete terms: the comprehensive Guidelines hereunder hopefully enable planners of any rural development project to select from the text those issues and elements which are necessary to incorporate in the overall project design specific objectives and workable components or mechanisms for active and lasting beneficiary participation.

This is not a luxury: the lack of feasible mechanisms to attain effective beneficiary participation is still a major deficiency in project designs among several other ones such as too tight schedule, under-estimated costs, production shortfalls, bad management and staff, poor engineering, procurement difficulties, wrong organization and structure, insufficient technical assistance, too many or unbalanced components, over-dimensioning, non-sustainability, inequitable benefit distribution, slow adaptation, insufficient government commitment, and recurrent budget shortage[2].

1.2 The Guidelines are based on a number of interesting consultations with experts in relevant FAO divisions and units who have experience with participatory projects and programmes. They are also based on scrutiny of relevant documents and reports on twelve FAO People’s Participation Programme (PPP) and Small Farmer Development Programme (SFDP) projects as well as reports on other FAO participatory projects funded by UNDP, by FAO Government Cooperation Programme (GCP) extra-budgetary sources and/or under the FAO Technical Cooperation Programme (TCP).

In fact, these Guidelines evolved from a wealth of efforts and experiences gained in the field by UN (in particular FAO), government and voluntary (NGO) organizations. Since the mid-seventies and particularly the World Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (WCARRD), it was widely recognized that development efforts cannot be successful without the active participation of the people, particularly small and landless farmers, fishermen and other rural poor. Several of the above agencies launched therefore special programmes mostly on pilot basis. In order to test and develop participatory development approaches[3]

In this perspective FAO promoted:

- the programme "People's Participation in Agricultural and Rural Development through the Promotion of Self-Help Organizations" (PPP);

- Community Action for Disadvantaged Rural Women (CADRW);

- Forestry for Local Community Development Programmes (FLCDP); and since 1987 "The Forests, Trees and People Programme (FTPP)";

- Programme for Small-Scale and Artisanal Fishermen;

- Support Programme for Farm Water Management;

- Freedom from Hunger Campaign/Action for Development (FFHC/AD: started already in 1959);

(For some basic data on these participatory programmes see Annex I.)

1.3 All of the above-indicated programmes promote group formation and action strategies designed to demonstrate to the disadvantaged people as well as to UN agencies and member governments the necessity and efficacy of adopting bottom-up or participatory rural development approaches as a complement to existing ones in order to reach the poor and guide them towards self-development efforts. And indeed the main outcome of these pilot programmes is that efforts of beneficiary participation in a project are most successful when the intended beneficiaries are systematically helped to organize themselves into small, self-run groups formed from scratch or within larger organizations. Through such groups they can better meet their economic and social needs, the project and/or delivery system can provide services and facilities more easily and on a wider scale, and the poor can engage much more in poverty alleviating efforts (see Sections 5 and 6).

1.4 Popular participation and thus also beneficiary participation has become a fashionable, frequently used (and misused!) concept which is also often ambiguous, vague and abstract (see Section 2). It is presently applied in many projects in limited forms and manners. However, while considering also minor forms of participation as potentially valuable, it is tried in this guide to indicate how to design full beneficiary participation in larger projects which aim at reaching and involving mainly or exclusively the rural poor. This full participation can only be obtained by means of specific arrangements and/or mechanisms for grassroots institution-building in the form of group formation and action being the essence of participatory rural development.

The latter approach aims at improving conventional, area-based, all farmer or all rural people-oriented projects which lack specific participatory arrangements and consequently yield - as is well-known - mostly benefits to the better-off beneficiaries who have more assets, education and better access to the delivery system. Thus, participatory rural development does not replace other UN, government or NGO development policies, programmes and projects and should not be considered an alternative or exclusive development approach. It is instead a complementary approach which is indispensable for effective poverty alleviation (see also the Figures 1 and 3 in Appendix 3).

It should here however be stressed that participatory rural development should not only be regarded as a set of techniques but also as a mental outlook or state of mind favouring a development approach which starts from the people concerned and treat them as subjects and not as objects of development.

1.5 The term participation is debatable because inadequate from the long term perspective. In the initial stages of development and for the time being, the poor must be encouraged just to participate in the economic system of the non-poor and thus raise their standard of living from abject poverty up to at least a reasonable survival level. However, later on the disadvantaged people should engage in self-development efforts and thus gradually also help to contribute to a more equitable socio-economic system of the non-poor which in its present form intrinsically and evidently leads to the exclusion of most have-nots from integral human development.

Another, often overlooked point is that a participatory development approach and project pre-supposes certain underlying basic values or value orientations such as sharing, cooperation, participation, coordination, mutual trust, delegation and concern, care for the disadvantaged people. For example, to be a valuable, active member of a small production group, of a supporting line agency or of a coordination committee, requires extra commitment and contributions of time, ideas, energy and other resources. A basic question is after all who and what could motivate the poor and also the supporting non-poor people to make these "sacrifices".

The right motivations needed can apparently only come from certain attitudes moulded by a religious and/or ideological belief system, or borne out of considering well one's own interest and/or out of fear for negative reactions of the grassroot people. The latter may increasingly exert pressure on officials and the better-off to provide (more) means of production, services and facilities, in other words to divide the cake of relative welfare more justly.

1.6 As several successful UN, government and NGO programmes show, we have by now technically valid and well proven solutions to promote beneficiary participation but the main constraint to apply these solutions is indeed the political will in a country or project area to do so. Accordingly, the main problem is how to motivate in practice politicians, officials and elites to support or at least tolerate effective forms of participation of the rural disprivileged people in development.

In fact in order to plan and implement participation in projects (as explained in this guide), a number of strategies are required at various levels to sensitize and convince politicians and policy makers, the staff of UN, government, NGO and donor agencies, the field staff of development projects and the rural e1ites (see Section 4: Strategies to Promote Participation).

1.7 This guide does not contain specific sections on the wide issue of the participation of women in development, but only certain vital references e.g. to the need for women groups and for female participation agents (group promoters).

As known, rural women have heavy, multiple and vital roles as wives, mothers, food producers and food providers. Particularly the poor women are nevertheless usually doubly discriminated, marginalized and exploited viz. as rural poor within their elite and male-dominated society and also as women in their own household.

They are in general also relatively disadvantaged in comparison with men in the development process. The main reasons are that they have more limited access to education, credit facilities and public life. Development efforts often target men - though not overtly but latently - as the recipients of projects. However, in general it would be inadequate and ineffective to treat women as a separate target group. Women cannot be separated from the family, just as children cannot. In most projects the disadvantaged nuclear or extended family should be taken as a target group.

This approach implies, however, that each participatory project must firstly focus specifically on the identification of the conditions, needs, resources and capabilities of the various categories of disadvantaged women and secondly on the provision of training, extension and other facilities for viable individual and/or group activities of women. The latter should regard not only the conventional but still indispensable topics such as health, nutrition, childcare, home economics as well as workload reduction and small-scale income generation, but also as soon as possible full participation in local development planning, decision-making and efforts. In this way the women will raise their economic and social status and thus their standard and quality of living, not in the least by developing their qualities of leadership and equal participation in local self-development.

Women's problems in the context of rural poverty are thus to be analysed and tackled carefully according to the different conditions of poor rural women in different regions, cultures and ecologies. However, in these Guidelines general statements related to disadvantaged women cannot address properly the complexity of their situation.

1.8 Project planners and experts have now-a-days at their disposal guidelines on various technical topics, some of which are prepared by FAO Divisions. They have however, notoriously time constraints to study and use these materials. It is therefore tried to formulate the present Guidelines as concise and operational as possible, although some basic issues are reiterated for clarity. Thus many items condensed in one or a few phrases, could not be elaborated more and also the necessary conceptual parts were kept at the bare minimum.

For a short overview of the operational steps to be taken to plan beneficiary participation during the identification and preparation (or formulation) of a project, see the Sections 16.2, 16.3 and 16.4).

The Guidelines are inevitably presented in rather general terms in view of the wide variety of economic and social situations and needs in developing countries and thus of the types of agricultural and rural development projects and programmes. In fact, in successive phases more elaborate and concrete additional Guidelines are highly desirable for major types of projects like agricultural production, credit, irrigation (land and water), forestry, fishery and so on.

"The activities undertaken by PPP groups during the implementation have been extremely varied in subject matter and whilst no systematic inventory has been made of the achievements in different sectors, e.g. food processing, introduction of draught animal power, crop production systems, Livestock keeping, small-scale fishing, etc., there would appear to be a considerable resource of knowledge on a sector by sector basis. If this were collected together from all of the PPP projects and analysed by the FAO Rural Development Division and the appropriate technical departments, it could provide valuable information and a resource for the subject matter specialists who will be called upon to advise on mechanisms for incorporation of participation into large-scale development projects." (McKone: 1989).

1.9 Alongside these Guidelines a second basic paper entitled "FAO People's Participation Programme: The First Ten Years - Lessons Learned and Future Directions" was prepared by another FAO Consultant Mr. Colin E. McKone. This review document outlines the concepts and principles of PPP, describes its evolution over ten years, examines the constraints of the PPP approach and provides a range of conclusions and strategy options for future participatory development efforts.

Both this Guide and the PPP Review Paper, which complement and enlighten each other, were discussed in-depth and revised during and after an International Workshop on Strategy and Methodology of People's Participation in Rural Development, held in September 1989 in Arusha, Tanzania. The participants in this Workshop included government and donor representatives, FAO and PPP project staff as well as various resource persons.

1.10 These Guidelines need to be improved continuously by all who like to use them. Various topics may require further elaboration after feedback from the field, while other issues may be de-emphasized and new ones be added according to the needs of practical application. For this purpose the active participation in improving these Guidelines by those involved in field projects, is very necessary and highly appreciated

Finally, the author likes to thank very much the many persons in FAO and outside who were consulted and gave appreciable ideas, suggestions and materials for this consolidated paper.

[1] In the following, agricultural and rural development projects and programmes will be shortly indicated as development projects or projects.
[2] This list is taken from a recent publication which however does not explicitly deal with beneficiary participation: "Problems in Agricultural Project Design", an Investment Centre Study, FAO. Oct. 1988. Another interesting report is: "World Bank Experience with Rural Development, 1965-1987," Operations Evaluation Department World Bank. Oct. 1987; see e.g. Sections 6.32-6.39 on beneficiary participation.
[3] See e.g. "People's Participation in Agricultural and Rural Development," FAO paper prepared for the tenth Session of the Committee of Agriculture, held in May 1989.

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