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3. Participatory rural communication appraisal (PRCA)

Maria Celeste H. Cadiz

This chapter is intended to enable you to:

1. Discuss the role of participatory rural communication appraisal (PRCA) in Information and Communication Strategy (ICS) for NRMA;

2. List the types of information gathered in a PRCA;

3. List, describe, and select appropriate tools and techniques in PRCA for ICS design in NRMA; and

4. Briefly describe the requirements and procedure in conducting a baseline survey on knowledge, attitudes, and practices in NRMA.


The first phase in communication programs for NRMA is the preliminary assessment of the situation needing communication interventions. In participatory NRMA, this phase establishes the people's participation and ownership of the NRMA initiatives to be undertaken.

One approach to undertaking a preliminary situation assessment in participatory communication programs for NRMA is the participatory rural communication appraisal (PRCA) (Anyaegbunam et al., 1998). PRCA helps change agents in the following ways:

1. Getting information needed in developing effective communication programs, materials and methods in NRM to ensure relevance to the people.

2. Listening to and understanding rural participants better so they can plan together

3. Promoting involvement of rural people in decision-making that affects their livelihood

4. Planning communication programs for new development efforts or for adjusting ongoing projects

Change agents who conduct their preliminary situation assessment for communicating NRMA using PRCA assume that NRMA users should be active participants. Likewise, these change agents assume that NRMA users are equal with them in making decisions to rehabilitate and conserve their natural resources affecting their farming and fishing livelihoods.

As a participatory exercise, PRCA engages local people in the data gathering and assessment of their NRMA situation in order to understand such situation from their own perspective.

In carrying out PRCA tools and techniques, change agents apply their facilitation skills as discussed in Chapter 2. They may use icebreakers and energizers in between PRCA data gathering and assessment exercises that engage local people.


PRCA is, in essence, a process of gathering information in order to fully and clearly understand the situation affecting the people with whom communicating NRMA is needed. There are five groups of essential information that change agents gather in PRCA so that they can plan appropriate communication strategies for sustainable NRMA. These five types of information are as follows:

1. Community profile. These are characteristics of the village or district where an NRMA initiative or project is being undertaken. Anyaegbunam (1998) list the following information that may be included in a community profile:

a. Geography of the community
b. History of the community
c. Seasonal trends in the community
d. Social composition of the community
e. Economy of the community
f. Group relationship patterns in the community
g. Culture of the community
h. Patterns of access and control in the community
i. Past experiences of community with development projects and programs

2. Information and communication resources and networks in a community. Understanding the information and communication resources and networks in a community includes getting data on the following:

a. Levels of education in the community

b. Internal distribution of resources in the community

c. Information sources from outside the community

d. Patterns of communication

e. Influential sources of information and advice (e.g. healers/diviners, teachers, monks)

f. Role models and their attributes

g. Stage in the adoption process and perceptions of solutions vis a vis usefulness, benefits, compatibility, complexity, etc.

h. Idioms/expressions related to NRM

i. Sound, music, tune, visual images/symbols associated with NRM

j. Relevant, available, and preferred appropriate media and interpersonal channels

k. Methods which have been useful in the past

3. Community perceptions of their needs, opportunities, problems, and solutions (NOPS). These also include how the people perceive their community, its natural resources, and their relation to other communities and the welfare of the country as a whole.

4. Who the NRMA users and other stakeholders are in a community. NRMA users are farmers, fishers, and other people whose livelihoods depend closely on the natural resources in the communities. NRMA stakeholders include individuals, associations, agencies, institutions or cooperatives inside or outside the community whose activities affect the natural resources and the livelihood of fishers and farmers, or whose lives are affected by the condition of the natural resources. PRCA data about NRMA users and stakeholders include the following:

a. Characteristics of the NRMA users and stakeholders
b. Communication issues related to NRMA problems
c. Communication systems and networks of the NRMA users and stakeholders
d. Sources of information used and preferred by NRMA users

5. Indicators of behavior and social changes in NRMA. In planning for appropriate communication strategies in participatory NRMA, the NRMA users with the change agents need to identify indicators of relevant desired behaviour and social changes in a community. These indicators may include figures (quantitative), such as reduced number of fishery law offenses or increased number of compost pits in a locality.

Or, indicators may show how people's understanding of their conditions change (qualitative). For example, farmers and fishers near the end of their farmer field school or fishers school may, in their group discussions, evaluate options more in terms of environmental conservation and sustainability principles than in terms of their self-interest or in terms of the economic utility of natural resources.

Meanwhile, social change indicators show changes in systems of relationships in the community, such as the emergence of an active farmer or fishers organization that carries out creative and gainful projects in the community. Enhanced stature of or respect for a community and its leaders in relation to other communities also indicates social change.


PRCA is mainly undertaken through interviews with key informants individually or in small groups; and by observing the community surroundings and its residents during group meetings and activities.

PRCA users may select from a wide variety of tools and techniques in generating data about NRMA users, stakeholders, and their community to help them plan appropriate communication strategies. These PRCA tools and techniques include the following:

Geographical Data

1. Village resource map - a map of the village indicating locations and distribution of important resources, both natural and man-made, such as water pumps and irrigation canals, electricity, lakes and rivers, forests, farms, and so on.

2. Social map - a map showing social and political/power relationships among the families in a village (who is affiliated with whom)

3. Farm sketch and three-dimensional map - shows the layout of a farm indicating the crops and animals raised and their locations on the farm

4. Transects - a sketch of the topography across the locality showing a cross-section of soil resources and crops, animals, and structures on the land

Historical Data

5. Time lines - a line marked by important dates and events in the history of a village

6. Trend lines - a line marked by important trends observed in the history of a village, e.g., charting the volume of fish catch or farm yields and showing when marked changes in these occurred.

7. Seasonal calendar - a calendar showing the seasons (wet, dry; open, closed) and indicating the time (month) of the year when certain farm or fishing operations are done.

Community Communication Resources and Networks

8. Focus group discussions (FGDs) - an interview with selected seven to ten articulate and individuals with similar characteristics carried out by a skilled facilitator with the assistance of a documenter, and where exchanges (the discussion) among participants raises important insights and creative ideas from their perspective.

9. Key informant interviews - interview with selected members of the community who are knowledgeable about the topic of interview, such as the practices in a community or in an organization.

10. Observation - use of sight, hearing, and where appropriate, other senses in making sense of a process, event, or community and its residents' behavior patterns.

11. Linkage diagram of communication and information networks, systems and channels of key interaction group/s - illustrates who talks or interacts with whom in a community on matters of concern, such as on farming practices, fishery regulations and their enforcement, and the like.

Community Perceptions and Problem Analysis

12. Listing and assessment of community needs, opportunities, problems, and solutions (NOPS)

13. Problem tree analysis of main problems - a diagram showing the key NRMA and related problems in a community connected by arrows and lines to show which problems are causes and which are symptoms or consequences

14. Windows of perceptions (WOPS) - shown below indicating four window panes of perceptions:


We (in community) know

We (in community) don't know

Others (outside community or other sectors) know



Others (outside community or other sectors) don't know



a. What the participants in the community know and others outside the community also know, or the "free" pane - for example, the fertile fishing areas around or near a floating village;

b. What participants in the community know and others outside the community don't know, or the "hidden" pane, e.g., illegal fishing practices of people in the village;

c. What others outside the community might know but participants inside the community do not know, or the "blind" pane, e.g., the fishing apparatuses used by outsider fishers within the area of jurisdiction of the village; and

d. What both the community and others outside of it do not know, or the "dark" pane, e.g., the exact extent of illegal fishing practices in the area of jurisdiction of a village.

15. Access and control profile -indicates who has access and control over resources in the locality, such as water resources, farming inputs, hybrid seeds, land resources, forest resources, and so on.

16. Livelihood mapping - indicates the types of livelihoods in a locality and their locations and distribution on the village or district map

17. Gender analysis - shows a breakdown of tasks and responsibilities in farming and fishing and who performs these, whether men, women, or children

18. Brainstorming - a listing of all possible solutions to problems whether feasible or not, realistic or not, in a search for creative solutions to community issues


The baseline study is a research survey undertaken to gather data on NRMA users' awareness, knowledge, attitude, and practices (AKAP) in farming and fishing relevant to the use of their natural resources.

This survey is called a baseline study when undertaken before carrying out an information and communication strategy (ICS) because it establishes the initial AKAP levels of the NRMA users. The data that the baseline survey yields provides a basis for comparing AKAP levels after an ICS is carried out, showing if the ICS succeeds in bringing about desired changes in these behaviors.

The AKAP baseline survey is undertaken following the scientific method, applying the following stages:

1. Formulation of the study purpose. The objectives of the baseline AKAP survey usually includes determining the socio- demographic characteristics of NRM users; their perception, awareness and knowledge of their natural resources and selected NRMA ideas and practices; their attitude related to NRMA and community participation; their NRMA practices; access to communication and information resources and systems; and NRMA users' level of participation in ongoing NRMA and other community initiatives.

2. Research justification/rationale. This is part of the introduction of the study and explains the importance of carrying it out in the light of a participatory communication strategy in NRMA to be carried out.

3. Literature review. So that the survey researcher need not "re-invent the wheel" as the saying goes, related studies are reviewed and their research methods and findings are noted. This is to inform the researcher on what the baseline study can improve on or guard against.

4. Designing a rigorous procedure for gathering and analyzing data. This includes procedures in sampling and selection of respondents, determining data collection tools and procedures, questionnaire design, and data analysis.

Questionnaire or interview schedule design requires selection of the right questions leading to attainment of the research objectives; proper wording and sequencing of questions; and pre-testing them to minimize errors in data gathering. Dummy tables, or tables without data entries, are then prepared for analysis.

5. Data gathering. This is the implementation of the research design drawn up in no.

4. It includes training, supervision, and monitoring of interviewers and following a sampling plan and timetable for data gathering. Researchers should make sure that procedures are properly followed and all specified data are gathered.

6. Data analysis and reporting. When all the survey questionnaires or interview schedules are thoroughly accomplished, the researcher checks each one and edits them, eliminating those with erroneous and incomplete entries.

Responses are tallied and frequency tables are filled up. Statistical analyses are performed where relationships between variables are being investigated.

Conducting a baseline AKAP survey before the start of a communication program and an AKAP impact survey at its end will help evaluate if the NRMA communication program is successful or not in bringing about changes in NRMA AKAP among respondents.

However, as a social science research undertaking, baseline researchers need to have training in social science research, or more specifically, communication research.

Change agents who intend to conduct baseline surveys but lack such training should undergo further research training first and further read communication research books.

One disadvantage of baseline AKAP surveys is that if they are sloppily conducted, their data may not turn out to be valid or reliable and therefore would not be of much help.

Because of the rigor required in conducting them, it also often takes longer before any useful data coming from the baseline survey becomes available. The PRCA tools and techniques, meanwhile, are more informal research tools and can be done more swiftly than baseline surveys.

However, PRCA users should equally be careful in the way they phrase their questions and conduct the PRCA exercises to ensure that the information they gather are indeed reflective of the perspective of the NRMA respondents.


The first phase in communication programs for NRMA is preliminary situation assessment. In this phase, an NRMA initiative is made participatory by employing participatory rural communication appraisal (PRCA).

PRCA enables the ICS planner to gather five groups of data on the NRMA community, namely,

1) its profile or characteristics;

2) information and communication resources and networks;

3) perceptions of needs, opportunities, problems, and solutions in NRMA in the community;

4) who the NRMA users and stakeholders are and their characteristics; and

5) indicators of desired behavior and social change in NRMA.

A wide array of PRCA tools and techniques may be employed by the ICS planner to gather these data, including maps, sketches and transects for geographical data; timelines, trend lines, and calendars for historical data; FGDs, key informant interviews, observation, and linkage diagrams for information and communication resources and network data; and lists, maps, gender analysis, and the like for perception data.

The ICS planner need not use all of these and just select which tools are appropriate and useful for his/her purposes.

The baseline survey is a rigorous research study on the initial levels of awareness, knowledge, attitudes, and practices (AKAP) in NRMA in a community. It sets a basis for determining if desired changes in AKAP will happen after implementing an ICS in NRMA, determining if it is successful.

While the baseline AKAP survey is a formal study, employing the other PRCA tools and techniques is an informal form of research and may yield useful though not necessarily precise data more quickly than a baseline study can. Likewise, the data gathered in a baseline study lose their validity and reliability if it is undertaken sloppily.


Anyaegbunan, Chike, Paulo Mefalopulos, and Titus Moetsabi. 1998. Participatory Rural Communication Appraisal: Starting with the People. Harrare, Zimbabwe and Rome, Italy: SADC Center of Communication for Development and FAO. 195 p.

Arboleda, Corazon. 1981, 1991. Communication Research. Manila, Philippines: Chevalier Printing and Publishing Center and CFA Media Group.

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