2.1 Around the mid-seventies there was a growing awareness that various approaches for rural development like community development, integrated rural development and basic needs did not result in substantial rural poverty alleviation. Even subsequent efforts made in some countries such as rural works, concessional credit, rural employment programmes did not improve the plight of the poor on a sustained basis. Economic growth was insufficiently combined with equity or just distribution of benefits.
International, government and non-governmental agencies realized more and more that the main reason of many unsuccessful development projects was (and still is) the lack of active, effective and lasting participation of the intended beneficiaries. Consequently, several agencies started to promote the participation of people, in particular disadvantaged women and men, in development through various programmes, mostly on a pilot basis. The efforts of FAO in this field are indicated in Annex 2.
2.2 In these Guidelines the vast literature and considerable experience which by now exist regarding popular participation and participatory rural development in general cannot, of course be reviewed: only some key notes mainly on beneficiary participation in projects are given hereunder
To start with, there is a wide range of definitions and interpretations of participation. For example, it means (1) sensitizing people to make them more responsive to development programmes and to encourage local initiatives and self-help; (2) involving people as much as possible actively in the decision-making process which regards their development; (3) organizing group action to give to hitherto excluded disadvantaged people control over resources, access to services and/or bargaining power; (4) promoting the involvement of people in the planning and implementation of development efforts as well as in the sharing of their benefits; and (5) in more general, descriptive terms; "the involvement of a significant number of persons in situations or actions which enhance their well-being, e.g. their income, security or self-esteem" (Uphoff: 1979).
There is furthermore a wide range of approaches in development projects to bring participation into practice. Some major types of participation found in projects are the following:
Induced involvement: the strategy, design and workplan of a project are pre-determined and the intended beneficiaries are encouraged to participate in its activities and obtain certain benefits. In various projects people are invited to make contributions of labour and/or other resources which is also seen as a form of cost-sharing.
Transitory mobilization for community development: the people participate in certain specific temporary tasks mainly for the development of their community, but there is no institutional base or structure (groups or organizations) for more sustained participation.
Group formation: the project has a specific objective to help create new or strengthen existing self-formed and self-run groups and organizations through which the rural poor gain access to resources, inputs and services and participate actively in the project, also by means of self-proposed actions. This latter type of full participation leads also to empowering of the poor: through their groups and organizations they obtain not only access to resources, but also decision-making and bargaining power as well as a base for sustained self-development efforts.
Self-development and self-reliance should in fact be an outcome of participation. The latter term is actually debatable when it is taken in the narrow sense that the poor should just only obtain a share of the "cake" or participate in the socio-economic system of the non-poor as mostly implied or expressed in a top-down project. A better, wider meaning is that through participation the poor not only gradually practise self-development, but may also contribute to modify the existing system of the non-poor which left them out of development to varying extents.
2.3 In accordance with the statement of the World Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (WCARRD) on this key issue and on the basis of the foregoing considerations, by participation in an agricultural or rural development project or programme is meant in these Guidelines that the intended beneficiaries, in particular the rural disadvantaged people, contribute to the planning of a project or programme, participate actively in its implementation and evaluation and share fully in its benefits. There is by now overwhelming evidence that such participation cannot effectively take place on an individual basis but needs a structure consisting of existing and/or new, self-created and self-managed groups or organizations. This implies of course the right of free association and also the full participation of women on an equal basis with men.
2.4 At present there is a widespread consensus chat effective beneficiary participation is practically indispensable to render a project successful. However, relatively few projects have an explicit design to attain effective participation. In fact, the existing development projects dealing with rural people can broadly be divided in two categories:
Conventional projects: these include objectives and components for productive and other (supporting) activities such as training, extension, credit, irrigation and try to involve the intended beneficiaries in these activities in order to achieve the project objectives.
The projects of this category have pre-designed project frameworks (objectives, action plans, inputs, outputs and time schedules) mainly based upon top-down planning. Many of them are large-scale, capital-intensive and heavily staffed. The projects are meant for all people in a certain area who are mostly not consulted beforehand on their needs and desires. As the projects focus moreover more on macro-economic than on social aspects and the poorer people's necessities, they yield mainly benefits to the better-off locals (see also Section 1.4).
Participatory projects: these deliberately promote participation which consequently is explicitly incorporated in their objectives, approach and methodology.
The distinction between these two types of projects results mainly from the fact that in practice participation is basically conceived either as a means or as an end and in some cases in both ways.
Conventional projects which by and large still prevail are predominantly production-oriented and participation, when considered in the project design, is regarded as a means to achieve certain productive objectives which are pre-determined by an outside agency.
In a number of less conventional projects there are graduations of a partial participatory approach: the rural poor may have been consulted on their needs, aspirations, potentials and willingness, and may also be involved somehow in project implementation. Basically, they are expected to participate, however, to varying extents in project benefits. These partial participatory approaches are certainly very useful and may help to avoid project failure; it may also lead to increased participation in the future.
In truly participatory projects, participation is seen also as an end and thus taken up clearly in the objectives which however mostly include also productive goals. In fact, these projects have two legs: participation and production and practice shows that in the long term they "run" or "walk" better.
Given the importance more and more placed on beneficiary participation, no wonder firstly that the number of participatory projects are increasing; they are supported by FAO, ILO, IFAD and other UN agencies, various progressive governments and furthermore to a great extent by NGOs. Secondly, that conventional projects, though easier to design and to manage, are regarded increasingly as out-dated and after all less feasible, cost-effective and prone to be successful.
Finally, it should be stressed that the positive aspects of both conventional and participatory projects should be more and more merged. For example, the economic (feasibility, marketing, etc.) and technical (research, technology transfer, etc.) requirements for the development of certain (sub-) sectors (e.g. irrigation, crop production, livestock, extension, credit) must be fully taken into account also in participatory projects. Top-planning (e.g. by a national body or a district development committee) and grassroot (bottom-up) planning (e.g. by groups or federations which come out with small-scale production plans) must be matched, for example by a workable coordination committee. Indeed feasible forms of vertical integration of development efforts are indispensable (see Section 5.1 on the need for a receiving-cum-delivery system).
2.5. How is participation as an end in concrete expressed in the objectives of participatory projects? The common essential elements in the overall objectives are the following: to raise the family income and standards of living of low income rural people; to Identify and apply for this purpose a sub-village development approach for and with the intended beneficiaries by actively involving them in development through the promotion of economic and social need-fulfilling group activities.
The common essential elements in the specific objectives are:
1) to help identify, plan and implement employment - and income-generating and other group activities for small farmers, tenants, fishermen and/or labourers;
2) to assist the beneficiaries to organize themselves into self-run groups and organizations (or to use existing ones) in such ways that firstly they have (increased) access to programmes of training, credit, inputs, marketing and processing as well as education, health and sanitation and, secondly, they can more and more satisfy their economic and social needs and become eventually self-reliant;
3) to assist line departments and other agencies including banks and NGOs to increase their effectiveness to better serve the rural weak, to develop innovative farm and also off-farm income-raising activities, and to encourage self-development efforts;
4) to develop a strategy for expanding the successful features of the project in the country.
2.6 The important elements found in the practice of participatory development projects are the following:
1) Process instead of project approach: Conventional projects are usually planned too much in detail ("pre-cooked") over a too short time span to obtain tangible results and spread effects. A participatory project can substantially contribute to solve these problems by replacing or at least complementing the standard project approach by the process approach and to conceive a project as the first phase of a longer process enacted and sustained by a rolling programme. The project design must accordingly be more flexible and such that It can be expanded and replicated in similar areas with minimal outside assistance and recurrent costs (see Sections 14, 15 and 16.1).
2) The target group is predominantly or exclusively formed by the rural disadvantaged people (see Sections 1 and 5.2). However, also non-poor or better-off rural people (local leaders, influentials, etc.) as well as government and NGO officials are to be actively involved in various project actions, in particular to improve the delivery of services and facilities to the target group and to learn from each other.
3) Education for participation which is given in addition to the classic (teacher-student) types of training provided in conventional projects to transfer technical know-how. A major objective of the educational process is awareness creation or conscientization: the poor will gradually become critically aware of their economic and social conditions, the causes of their deprivation and dependency syndrome as well as their potentials to change their plight through joint efforts by clustering into small action groups. Participatory education attempts to develop capabilities among the beneficiaries to strive for full participation as well as self-development particularly when the project is over. This education is non-directive, dialogical (two-way) and built upon indigenous knowledge (see also Section 11).
4) The structuring of the target group by means of group formation and group action. This entails strengthening of existing groups or organizations and/or the promotion of new, self-created and self-managed ones. The existing groups may be traditional groupings, farmer associations, cooperatives, women's, youth and village groups and/or trade unions. The groups and organizations which may later on somehow federate, form the basis for sustained participation and can be regarded also as a "receiving system" through which the poorer people can mobilize their own resources and be "reached" effectively by any development agency (see also Section 6.1).
5) Resource mobilization by group members which includes pooling of know-how, ideas, assets, savings and/or labour as well as obtaining services and facilities like training and credit. This is done in a gradual learning process.
6) Economic and social activities. Starting with small, low-risk, well-known income-raising and socio-cultural group activities of any feasible type, the groups will undertake gradually larger, more complex ones, also on an inter-group basis (see Section 7.1).
7) The inclusion of group promoters in or attached to the project staff with the following two main roles: a) to help develop the economic and other activities of project groups and facilitate their access to resources and services; b) to help develop adequate participatory education and training activities for, with and between beneficiaries in order to increase critical awareness and stimulate meaningful and increasingly independent group actions (self-reliance). The above roles could best be performed by specific change agents (group promoters or the like) who work exclusively and directly with the beneficiaries and their groups to enhance participation. In projects which unfortunately have no arrangements and/or funds to recruit group promoters, the roles of the latter could be performed in part by ad-hoc trained technical project staff (see Section 10).
8) Promotion of self-reliance and self-development. The relationships between supporting government, NGO and project staff and the intended beneficiaries is deliberately shaped in such ways that self-reliance and self-development are encouraged amongst the target group and dependence on project inputs is gradually reduced. Project staff members encourage the beneficiary groups to identify themselves problems and seek adequate solutions and actions. Self-reliant groups are the main indicator for a successful participatory project.
9) The development of coordination and cooperation mechanisms which enable the beneficiaries to participate actively in as many project actions as possible. The latter include identification of needs and potentials, setting of project objectives, planning and carrying out of activities as well as monitoring and evaluation. The project avoids thus by all means to become just only a delivery vehicle.
The above are all important elements in any project design to attain full participation; they are, however, not all indispensable for certain forms of "minor" or partial participation.
 An interesting draft paper
highlighting participatory rural development and various programmes in this
field is: "Participatory Rural Development beyond Micro-Scale", by Mr. K.P.G.M.
Perera, for the Regional Review Meeting on Participatory Rural Development,
organized by the UN Inter-Agency Committee on Integrated Rural Development for
Asia and the Pacific and held in Dhaka in July 1988.|
 Various elements of this Chapter have been adapted from Chapter One of the FAO Publication: "The Monitoring and Evaluation of Participation in Rural Development", by Dr. Peter Oakley. FAO, Rome, 1988.