The main constraint of genuine participation is the political will to promote this in a country or project area (see Sections 1.5 and 1.6). This basic problem can be overcome by means of various strategies at international, national and lower levels. The strategies should all aim at informing, sensitizing and motivating various categories of key persons in one way or another involved with rural development efforts such as: (a) politicians and governmental policy- and decision-makers; (b) the top and other staff of government, UN and donor agencies as well as of NGOs; (c) the (field) staff of development projects; and (d) the elites and better-off people in rural areas.
The practical outcome of the strategies must be that politicians, officials, experts and elites become motivated to accept, support or at least tolerate effective forms of participation of the disadvantaged rural people in development. For this purpose it will be of course very useful to demonstrate the experience and successful results of (pilot) participatory projects like the FAO/PPP and their great benefits for the rural poor (see Section 14.1).
Various possible strategies, of which some are described in a recent PPP review paper (McKone: 1989), follow briefly hereunder. It is difficult for certain strategies to indicate precisely who should do what, when and in which way. For each strategy this has to be planned according to its concrete scope, target groups, location, timing, technical collaborators and materials needed, costs, etc.
Politicians, top decision-makers and planners, etc. need to be convinced of the necessity to incorporate participation in rural development policies, plans and programmes. This can be and is done in many ways e.g. by:
1) organizing ad-hoc conferences, seminars and missions. These are so far occasionally arranged by UN bodies, donors and NGOs. An example of an interesting huge effort with wide impact is the FAO WCARRD Conference and its on-going follow-up Plan of Action under which so far several missions and other activities were carried out;
2) inviting key government officials in field trips and workshops of participatory projects and also in inter-country workshops dealing with participation issues;
3) using mass-media and audio-visuals: distributing and showing of concise promotional materials: pamphlets, slide shows, films, etc.
A number of actions indicated in the following strategies will also have direct or indirect sensitizing effects on top government officials.
Promoting dialogue between key officials, planners and decision-makers of national and international development agencies at country level is important. The latter may include one or more UN bodies, international and regional development banks, donors, aid consortia and voluntary organizations such as international NGOs. They could encourage, organize and/or participate in policy dialogues with selected governmental agencies in order to obtain rural poor-oriented economic and social policies and institutional arrangements that are required for participatory projects. The dialogues may indicate the need for a differential strategy as no government is monolithic: certain government agencies may be participatory development-oriented while others may be still rather cop-down, centralized, bureaucratic and/or technocratic.
The most important policies required for participatory development regard appropriate legislation for rural people's organizations including full freedom of association or group formation as well as reorientation of the delivery system, in particular the extension services, towards the needs of the rural weak.
Other special policies required include full integration of women in development, decentralization of decision-making, planning and resource allocation, rural poor-oriented input supply, extension, credit and marketing, enhancing non-agricultural income-generating activities as well as just fiscal and pricing systems.
In sum, projects and programmes cannot be implemented with effective (full) beneficiary participation before a minimum of certain favourable national policies have been (or are likely to be) adopted in a country.
In order to obtain strength in policy dialogues, the participation and concerted action is needed of all national and international development organizations which strive to combat rural poverty. In fact, international agencies as well as NGOs can influence a country's policy and institutional framework for effective poverty-alleviation.
Finally, the strategy of promoting dialogues between government agencies and NGOs appears to be particularly useful. FAO, UNDP and other UN agencies are now becoming quite active in this direction; they have also created special units for dealing with NGOs.
In a project cycle various institutions are involved such as one or more government agencies, international development, funding and/or donor organizations, NGOs, etc. The lack of understanding, sympathy and/or experience regarding participatory projects of one or more of these cooperating institutions often makes it particularly difficult to render a project or at least some of its components participatory. The institutions involved may have different, e.g. predominantly macro-economic and/or technocratic views and approaches regarding rural development efforts. Furthermore, experience on how to attain effective beneficiary participation may be lacking as the country's projects are either not participatory or do not properly monitor and evaluate beneficiary participation.
There is thus a wide scope for strategies to motivate officials, project planners and implementers through, among others, the following methods:
- meetings and field workshops at various levels
- periodic informal exchanges of views
- briefing sessions and documents on participatory development
- the inclusion of participatory experts in mission teams
- incorporation of participatory issues in the terms of reference of identification, preparation, appraisal and evaluation missions
- provision of background materials on on-going participatory projects and/or visits to the latter, if any, in a country.
A direct result of the above actions will be that project planners become convinced that participation must be included from the very beginning in all stages of the project cycle. This implies in practice, that they see urgent necessity and importance to start with the intended beneficiaries on their needs and desires by means of pre-project identification or reconnaissance missions (see Section 5.3.2 and 16.2).
The sensitization of the traditional, administrative and other influential leaders at project area and higher levels (see Section 6.6).
Practice shows that the support of village leaders is crucial for a participatory project. Many villages, especially in Africa, still form very traditional communities which have a closely knit social system of clans, lineages and extended families. The indigenous chiefs are powerful and "their" poor people over-dependent upon them (see also Section 6.6). Will such chiefs give their consent and support for a project specifically designed for the poorer people? The required support, advice and assistance from the elites is indeed often important. In many cases, local chiefs and elders are prepared to support project actions for rural poor groups as well as for the delivery of the required services and facilities to these groups.
In order to obtain their support, the local traditional, administrative and other influential leaders in the project's entire action area have to be systematically sensitized and motivated beforehand on the participatory project approach through meetings, initiation workshops and other actions. The local leaders have to become convinced that it is in their own short- and long-term interest to support the project: the latter yields viz. economic and social benefits also to the better-off inhabitants. The sensitization campaign(s) must be project area-wide so that it becomes more difficult for non-favourable village and other leaders to oppose the project's special attention to disadvantaged villagers.
Finally, the sensitization of administrative and local leaders involved in a project is also realized through on-going participatory training (see Section 11.5).
The increasing support of donors and development agencies and banks for participatory projects. Efforts to obtain this support aim mainly at the following:
- to convince donors and agencies which support participatory projects, to continue this assistance until they yield sufficient successful results for demonstration to governments (see also Section 15.1);
- to insist that donors, development banks and agencies will only support a project if a participatory approach is incorporated in it;
- to attain more assistance to developing countries for participatory projects on a large scale up to the point of creating a critical mass.
For these wide scopes donors as well as international development agencies and banks should participate in, initiate and/or organize various of the earlier proposed promotional actions such as policy dialogues, seminars, field workshops and visits to participatory projects. It will be crucial to show the actions and results of participatory projects also by means of good monitoring and evaluation systems. Moreover, case studies on the benefits and cost-effectiveness of participatory projects (see also Section 14) as well as promotional materials will be quite helpful.
Other actions include: studies on the policies and commitments of donors and development banks as well as identification of opportunities for assistance.
Apart from the active involvement in most of the aforementioned strategies, other very much required actions are that FAO and other UN agencies:
1) sensitize on participatory development methods their top officials, the staff of technical divisions as well as mission and project teams;
2) strengthen, help, expand and multiply existing participatory projects (see Section 15) and promote new ones including on a pilot basis;
3) build up a strong support unit for participatory projects and promotional actions, also to assist technical divisions and to increase the interest of donors to support such projects;
4) increase the limited manpower as well as technical and financial resources for participatory development in the technical and operational divisions of aid agencies;
5) ask each technical division to review its projects in the light of participatory principles and also to refine the participatory methods in its subject matter areas;
6) promote networking amongst UN and other agencies, banks and NGOs which are involved in participatory development projects as well as those which could be involved in such efforts in order to exchange experience, expertise and audio-visuals. Furthermore to organize workshops and field visits and share promotional literature. Periodic meetings of cooperating agencies, donors and project field staff are particularly useful.
Point (4) above needs special attention and action as illustrated in the following:
"There is a limited staff in FAO of specialists who have a wide experience not only of the PPP but of many other participatory forms of development including cooperatives, small farmer organizations and agricultural trade unions. They also increasingly maintain contact and dialogue with a wide range of NGOs. These are supported directly by a core group of specialist consultants with a wide knowledge of participatory development and of FAO's programmes and procedures. A second source of human resources may be found in the cadre of PPP project field staff who have been trained during the implementation of the PPP programme. Many of these trained people are actively working with PPP projects and can be called upon to share their knowledge with others. The third important human resource is resident amongst FAO's staff in various Technical Divisions, and which has not yet been fully mobilized. These are specialists in all the different sectors and disciplines that are normally involved in the large-scale projects and some experts are also involved in participatory projects (see Appendix 1).
Financial resources are in short supply and will have to be increased if FAO is to make use of the accumulated rich experience of the last ten years of PPP. Without sufficient support for a new strategy to further promote participation in agricultural and rural development, FAO will fall behind other UN agencies that are actively involved and will have difficulty in meeting requests from governments and donors for technical assistance involving a participatory approach" (McKone: 1989).