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Chapter 3: design and implementation of participatory projects and activities

Chapter 3: design and implementation of participatory projects and activities


Following the participatory appraisal of food and nutrition, the development worker helps the community to design and implement participatory projects and activities.

The first step is to identify activities that can help the community solve its food and nutrition problems. The development worker helps the community set goals to solve each priority problem, identify activities to attain the goals, discuss the feasibility and cost-effectiveness of the activities, establish objectives and a time frame for each activity and select and agree on the activities to be carried out.

After agreement is reached on which activities to carry out, the development worker helps the community to prepare. a work plan, identify a food and nutrition coordinating group and mobilize its internal resources.

For those activities that require external support, the development worker can assist the community to identify and contact local institutions that can help. If further external support is needed from government or other institutions, the community can be helped to prepare micro-project proposals and present them to the appropriate institutions.

Identification and selection of activities

After the community has identified its food and nutrition problems, the next step is to find solutions to these problems by selecting activities to improve the food and nutrition situation of the community.

The development worker helps the community design activities that address the various causes of malnutrition. In rural areas, participatory nutrition projects are likely to emphasize production, preservation, preparation and consumption of local foods that can help provide a balanced diet. Activities might include: diversification of food crops for subsistence and/or income generation, nutrition education, improved preservation and preparation of foods (including those for child feeding), improving availability of fuelwood or alternative energy sources, improving the food supply system, promoting income generation, improving water supply and access to health services, and population education.

Figure 7: Flow chart of goals: Identifying activities to improve nutrition

The following steps will help the community decide which activities to implement:

1. Establish a goal for each of the priority problems. The community can translate the flow chart of problems drawn up in the participatory appraisal into a flow chart of goals (see Figure 7).

2. Examine the possible activities to attain these goals. The community or specific interest group will study the different alternatives and choose the most appropriate strategy to reach the goals. This strategy will probably combine a series of activities.

To be able to select the most feasible activities, the community needs information on what resources are needed and available to carry out the activities. It is the role of the development worker to help the people obtain this information and to help them assess how feasible these solutions are.

In the case of our example, activities could include planting and management of woodlots, promotion of agroforestry, use of energy-saving stoves, promotion of less energy-consuming recipes, promotion and improved marketing of alternative energy sources such as gas and kerosene.

The most feasible activities may not always be those that address the problems that were identified as priority. In many instances, it may be comparatively simple to solve problems which the community has not considered top priority. On the other hand, some of the key constraints to adequate nutrition, such as access to land and water, may not be easily solved in the short term. However, these constraints and possible solutions can be discussed and brought to the attention of policy makers through community representatives, development workers and local government.

3. Establish objectives for each activity. The development worker will help the community select objectives that are:

An example of such an objective is: "23 households which have difficulties in obtaining the fuelwood needed daily will build an improved stove by 31 January 1994".

Indicators for monitoring the progress of each activity will therefore be selected at this stage (in our example, number of improved stoves).

One of the tasks of the development worker is to systematically verify who benefits from the agreed upon activities, especially income-generating activities which benefit only a limited number of households. Priority should be given:

Because marginalized households are very likely to have nutritional problems, they will probably be a priority target group for some of the activities. However, the community may decide that additional activities are needed to specifically support these households, at least in an initial period.

Once the community has agreed on the activities to be carried out and established an objective for each activity, a formal decision is made and recorded.

Throughout this process, the development worker acts as a facilitator, respecting the pace of the community so that people can reach their own conclusions regarding the identification of problems and solutions.

Due to the. participatory nature of the project, the community's perception of priority problems will evolve as the project progresses. Goals, activities and objectives are therefore likely to change and flexibility will be required in the implementation of activities.

Box 10: Improving community food and nutrition: Philippines

In the community of Kiko Rosa in the Philippines, people identified as main causes of their nutrition problems: the high prices of basic commodities such as rice, insecurity of land tenure, inadequate knowledge, lack of hygiene, inadequate water supply, poor environmental sanitation, inadequate health facilities, contamination of air and water from nearby agricultural farms, remoteness of markets combined with poor road infrastructure, low wages, large families, misallocation of resources (alcoholism, smoking, gambling, "vanities").

Solutions considered included youth education health and nutrition education sessions, promotion of adapted technologies for food production, processing and preservation, home-based income-generation projects for mothers of malnourished children, construction of pit latrines and discussions with the commercial agriculture farms.

Problems were ranked in order of priority, target groups identified and solutions combined into a plan of action.

Health and nutrition education sessions with parents were jointly planned by the NGO promoting the participatory nutrition project and the line agencies involved (Department of Health, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of Agriculture, and Municipal Councillor for Health). Meetings were organized with representatives of the Department of Agrarian Reform to discuss the priorities of the community. A portion of the school grounds was allocated for gardening and demonstration of big-intensive gardening and inputs (seeds, training material, involvement of teachers) were provided by the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Education, Culture and Sports. Several visits were organized for community members to projects and activities relevant to their own situation, with the dual purpose of providing information and motivation. Visitors reported to the whole community on their trip as a basis for discussions.

The Basketball League, extremely active and popular in the community, was used as a means to disseminate information to the community.


- Development workers have usually been encouraged to follow a logical framework approach to project design that proceeds step by step from problem identification to selection of activities, to implementation and to monitoring and evaluation. When dealing with an issue as complex as that of nutrition, adhering too strictly to such a sequential approach may lead development workers to impose their views on the community and hinder the participatory process.

- Levels of participation in problem identification and activity selection need to be closely monitored. Attendance is not sufficient by itself. More important is the actual contribution of specific community members. Participation will take different forms for different people in different cultures, so assessment of participation must be tailored to the social context.

- In most communities levelling mechanisms exist that tend to maintain the status quo regarding people's access to resources and hierarchy in social organization and decision-making. These will limit the effectiveness of activities to alleviate poverty. While development workers will have little if any influence on these mechanisms, taking them into account when developing a project will improve the selection and design of activities and minimize the negative impact of these mechanisms on household food security of marginalized households. As we have seen in Chapter 1, involving the more powerful people within the community from the start in the participatory nutrition project is important for the project's sustainability. Moreover, it might make them willing to take responsibility for seeing that the benefits of the project reach the less well-off members of the community and the marginalized households.


Mobilizing community resources

After the community has agreed on which activities to include in the participatory nutrition project, the next step is to prepare a work plan with the help of the development worker and establish a food and nutrition coordinating group to coordinate and supervise the implementation of the project. The participatory appraisal exercise will help the community and development worker identify the people who are most interested and active. This could provide the basis of the coordinating group. The food and nutrition coordinating group will be responsible for reporting on the progress of group activities to the community on a regular basis.

To be sustainable, a community level project needs to mobilize its internal resources. Many communities already have savings schemes which should be identified in the initial assessment of resources available. If the initial activities are funded from the savings of the group members themselves, they will remain within the limits of the group's existing capacity and resources, build commitment and reduce dependency. Experience shows that participation increases as people join common activities and contribute to them materially and financially. When people feel they own or have a stake in these activities, they have a greater interest in ensuring that the activities are successful.

For every activity specific groups or individuals will take responsibility and will establish goals: Who will do what? When? How? What other resources, such as technical assistance, training, equipment or funds are needed? Each group will identify, plan, carry out and evaluate its own activities. The role of the development worker is to act as an adviser when called upon.

The design of food and nutrition activities by the community is an awareness building process. As the project evolves, the community will very likely identify complementary training needs. The development worker's task is to investigate the best way to facilitate such training.

A community meeting can be held to present the plan of activities and discuss how to allocate local resources. If the mobilization of internal resources is not sufficient it may be possible to obtain locally available resources from government institutions or NGOs, which could contribute such things as technical expertise or agricultural inputs. More complex activities may require external support. The development worker can help the community estimate the external resources required.

BOX 11: Village-Based Committees: Kenya

In a participatory nutrition project in Kakamega district, Kenya, Village Selection Committees were initially set up to identify marginalized households. Following requests from the people, these were reconstituted and strengthened as Village-Based Committees (VBCs).

Small Interest Groups (SIGs) were set up and registered with the Ministry of Culture and Social Services.

The functions of the VBCs were:

- to keep a register of all SIGs and Focus Groups in the village;

- to keep a register of all projects in the village;

- to coordinate the activities undertaken by SIGs related to nutrition, food security and health;

- to monitor, evaluate and document the progress made by the community in improving nutritional status and health and promoting food security;

- to administer the Food Bank on behalf of the villagers;

- to act as trustees of the community for internal and external resources and to ensure the proper and diligent use of such resources according to the wishes of the community;

- to act as a project committee to appraise individual projects through SIGs or Focus Groups for recommendation to possible donors;

- to assist in the identification of marginal households with a view to enlist their participation in development activities related to nutrition and food security;

- to raise funding internally and externally for the building of the Food Bank and other food security activities;

- to form subcommittees as needed to delegate some of the above-mentioned activities. Such committees include the Executive Committees and loan committees of SIGs and Focus Groups;

- to sign group liability agreements or any other agreement deemed necessary to ensure peer pressure on groups and their members.


Previous development efforts in the same community may have led people to believe that:

People's understanding and attitudes can only be modified progressively through dialogue and involvement in the project as it progresses.


Obtaining support from local institutions

The development workers or institutions promoting the participatory nutrition project need to identify which of the activities selected by the community fall within their areas of expertise. Development workers will likely be able to support directly only a limited number of activities which they will incorporate into their plan of work and discuss with the group responsible in the community. Their support to community activities will not be limited to technical issues but include strengthening community organization and training in basic management procedures to build the community's capability in implementing the activities.

Many of the activities identified by the community may fall beyond the development worker's scope of action. The role of the development worker in this case is to identify institutions such as government services or NGOs which can support specific activities, initiate contacts with them, help the communities to approach them and follow up the outcome.

Some of the activities may fall within the plan of operations of another institution. This will simplify getting their support, particularly if these are information and training activities, which essentially require staff time. For example, if people identify the need for improved agricultural practices the development worker can arrange visits of a local agriculture extensionist. Once the community has identified its needs, problems and opportunities, the outside technician will be able to prepare appropriate activities.

All this will contribute to developing better coordination of community development activities and to bridging the gap and creating linkages between government staff and the communities.

BOX 12: Mobilizing Village Councils: Philippines

In the Philippines, Barangay Development Councils (BDCs) were created in each village in 1986. In some villages the councils never became active. The Participatory Nutrition Project in the village of San Francisco organized and mobilized the dormant BDC, initiating and facilitating meetings. The BDC was trained by staff from the Department of Interior and Local Development and its role in community development was clarified.

A good overall organizational and managerial structure, with the responsibilities of each partner clearly specified for each activity, will greatly contribute to the success of the participatory approach. Chapter 4 will look at how to establish a joint monitoring system to ensure that the responsibilities are carried out.


- Government staff may face logistical problems that prevent them from providing the needed technical assistance to the communities as needed. In this case, the community may want to explore how to provide logistical support, such as arranging transportation and food for the staff.

- Other development workers may find it difficult to give the needed help because of conflicting work obligations or excessive workload. This can be avoided and overcome to some degree by involving other development workers from the start and by keeping them informed about the project.


Preparation of micro-project proposals

Participatory Nutrition Projects will first identify and use resources that are available in the community and locally available from government or other institutions. If some activities require-further support the development worker can help the community prepare project proposals combining small-scale activities and present them to institutions.

Funding to support such micro-projects may be available within a community development programme, from NGOs or through development funds meant to support local initiatives. Funding and the way to obtain funding vary from one country to the other. External support will be facilitated if the development worker begins gathering the information and making contacts with funding sources from the start of the project. Helping the community prepare proposals and get acquainted with fundraising procedures will contribute to community empowerment.

In many countries, socio-economic development funds are available for local projects that help the poorest sections of the population. Integrated micro-projects to improve the food and nutrition of the community that include activities of different sectors like agriculture, health and education usually fulfill the requirements to obtain such funding.

Requests for funding from development aid sources are never the final product of the participatory nutrition project. The most important outcomes are the community's changed attitudes in dealing with its own problems and the activities the community undertakes to improve its food and nutrition situation.

If community-level activities are too dependent on external funding, especially for recurring costs, these may not be sustainable. Experience has shown that sustainability of activities is closely related to a good balance between internal and external resources.

Be careful: excessive external funding often generates dependency.

Steps in the design and implementation of food and nutrition related activities

The development worker helps the community to:

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