The main training objectives are; a) to improve the economic and social conditions of the poor; b) to assist the beneficiaries to become active and productive group members and leaders; c) to encourage group promoters and other supporting staff to adjust their standard training to meet the needs of the rural poor; and d) to stimulate all project participants to develop adequate training contents, methods and also materials.
The essential training characteristics are: 1) participatory; every trainer is a trainee and vice-versa; 2) on-going: the training is conceived as a continuous process and is designed and carried out within the context of any project action to improve the production. income and social conditions of the beneficiaries; 3) pragmatic and problem solving: the training is based on solving immediate and recognized problems; 4) in-service, on-the-job, on-site training, learning by doing; 5) self-learning: individually but also group-or team-wise; 6) reality-exposure: both trainers and trainees are to be exposed to the realities of the rural people and their living areas; and 7) dialogue and cooperation on equal terms; no we-they dichotomy between staff and beneficiaries.
Conventional training has a top-down approach, is entirely pre-planned and uses mainly the classroom (teacher-pupils) method. Instead participatory training is based on the felt needs of the trainees, recognizes that the poor can also be resource persons, stresses learning from each other, facilitates building of team work and links knowledge much more directly with action and problem-solving.
The innovative training approaches include: 1) stimulation of farmer-to-fanner and group-to-group training to attain self-reliance; 2) the trainees are not passive recipients and objects, but subjects of training; 3) training in specific technical fields is not exclusively given to group leaders (whose workload often hinders proper dissemination of the know-how obtained) but also and preferably to group members selected by one or more groups. This will enhance shared leadership, inter-group cooperation, self-reliance and farmers becoming informal grassroot extensionists.
Moreover, an accounting system of payment for services rendered could be developed by the beneficiaries themselves in order to decrease over-dependence on outside aid, while the delivery system could gradually obtain adequate cost recovery.
The main "target groups" are: a) the intended beneficiaries; b) the project staff, including the participation agents; and c) supporting government and NGO staff such as line agency and other (field) officers, but also local leaders and influentials.
The trainers must have practical experience. They include: the group promoters and other project staff, technical officers of the delivery system, experienced farmers/fishermen and also successful groups which enlighten, train and motivate other ones.
A small training committee which would include interested technical officers, group promoters and beneficiaries, could be very useful to assist in the planning, implementation and evaluation of feasible training programmes.
The types of topics are the following:
a) Certain general subject matters which aim at enhancing beneficiary participation through efficient group formation and action and should be given to all intended beneficiaries. These matters include group dynamics, shared leadership, planning of group activities, savings and credit, accounting, cooperative management, monitoring and evaluation as well as negotiating and bargaining. In some projects certain basic issues like fostering thrift habits and overcoming bad customs such as irrational spending, drinking, gambling, etc. are also very much stressed.
b) Specialized training is to be given according to the type of project as well as to the specific, felt group needs. For example, in crop production, small livestock development, soil and water conservation, small-scale fishery, aquaculture, forestry, group marketing, etc., but also in non-farm activities such as (agro-)processing, weaving, tailoring, pottery, production of house-building materials or of artisanal items in wood, bamboo, metal, leather, etc., as well as maintenance and transport.
c) Training could furthermore be given in: home life and community development, in particular for women: health, sanitation, first aid, nutrition, child care, etc., but also management, leadership, village development, etc.
d) Other very useful training subject matters include: legal and procedural matters, e.g. land reform, tenancy rights, mortgaging, wages, employment (rural works programme, etc.), the use of banks, and of local administration etc. Pragmatic information on these topics is frequently not or badly communicated to the poor
e) Functional literacy for adult women and men, which help them to analyse their problems, plan actions and also to reduce their dependency upon literate villagers or group members.
The training opportunities include: 1) short courses, preferably given at field (village) level; 2) advice and consultation between group members, group promoters and technical officers; 3) information given by knowledgeable successful farmers or fishermen; 4) exposure media: audio-visual aids, radio (rural broadcasting programmes), films, slideshows, public meetings, etc.; 5) demonstrations organized jointly with group members for improved crop cultivations, livestock rearing, aquaculture, handicrafts, etc.; 6) written extension materials; 7) simple newsletters prepared together with the beneficiaries; 8) initial and successive field action workshops; 9) inter-group exchange visits; 10) (inter-)group evaluation exercises; and 11) where appropriate, role playing and socio-drama.
Training equipment and materials. Each group needs at least extension materials, a blackboard and elementary stationery. Each cluster of groups needs a flannel or black board, a camera, folding exhibition boards, transistor radios and possibly a slide-projector and a video-tape recorder. The local production by the groups of simple training materials is to be encouraged.
This training, a central project operation, aims at: a) introducing the field workers into the approaches and procedures of participatory development; b) fostering adequate attitudes, motivations and team-spirit; c) experimenting innovative ways of poverty eradication; d) teaching basic technical topics which are needed for group guidance and are also taught to all group members (see Section 11.3, under a); in particular: philosophy and methods of participatory development, group dynamics, savings and credit, accounting and monitoring and evaluation); and e) stimulating group self-learning and self-development of training contents, methods and materials.
The group promoters must obtain in particular management training consisting of: project planning, methods of production planning and implementation (group enterprise management), transfer of appropriate technology, marketing, communication techniques, leadership, team-building, record keeping and report writing.
Also the project coordinator needs of course, to be trained as early as possible by the implementing agency and FAO (or another agency) in all the aforementioned topics.
The initial orientation training of group promoters should be well structured and sufficiently long. It should mainly consist of familiarization with the objectives and operational aspects of the project.
An inception training workshop for group promoters and other project staff is to be given for at least three weeks in or near the project area with not more than 30 participants including the candidate group promoters (half of whom female), the project staff and selected key officials of the delivery system. It is recommendable to invite twice as many candidate participation agents as needed initially in the project in order to obtain a reserve pool of these field workers. The curriculum should be pragmatic and include work experience presentations by the participants and course evaluation exercises. "Sandwich" type training (classroom and field experience combined) is very recommendable.
The group promoters need thereafter initial field training of 2-3 months which is at the same time the starting period for their field action in the project area. They will learn team-wise, among others, to prepare and carry out village and household surveys, to solve work and living problems met in the field, to cooperate with the delivery system and to plan the project initiation workshop.
The follow-up training of participation agents includes: a) periodic (preferably monthly) review and evaluation meetings for group promoters and other staff to evaluate team performance, to identify and solve work problems and to prepare workplans; b) field action workshops; c) refresher courses in such subjects as new rural development policies and programmes, innovative income-raising activities and credit schemes; d) issue of a periodic (project) newsletter; and e) exchange visits of group members. group promoters and officials between different areas of their own and similar participatory projects.
This training aims at familiarizing those involved in the project with the approach and procedures of the project and its participation efforts, the handicaps of the poor to have access to the delivery agencies and the roles of the latter to help solve the problems of the rural poor. In many instances, the above mentioned officials and leaders need to be to a certain extent "de-trained" and then re-trained to perform well their participatory roles. On-going exchange of experiences and views particularly in field workshops, is crucial in this learning process.
The training opportunities for the government and other staff consists mainly of their participation in: 1) training courses for group promoters and other project staff; 2) field workshops; 3) briefing sessions with the use of promotional materials; 4) project coordination committees; 5) the programming, provision, and evaluation of beneficiary training; 6) intra- or inter-country seminars related to the objectives and issues of the project; and 7) inter-group and/or inter-project exchange visits.