Africa's rural populations no longer live in a closed society, depending on themselves or their clan for their subsistence. Nowadays, the need to meet growing demands for facilities such as schools, health, transport and modern housing make income-generating activities essential in meeting the demands of the market economies which are now part of the African experience.
Rural Africans, individually or as members of pre-cooperative or cooperative groups, are involved in productive activities in all sectors of the rural economy: agricultural, pare-agricultural, commercial, artisanal and processing. They often receive a battery of technical and financial support from grassroots extension staff, development projects, NGOs and funding and regulatory agencies.
FAO helps to promote the rural sector by preparing and implementing many development projects, but also by producing a series of basic documents to help rural people to acquire the know-how and organization skills they need to manage their affairs efficiently.
This is the background to this paper, based on experiences in French-speaking Africa. It is intended as a simple tool for use by extension agents and group leaders to help train groups or individuals engaging in money-making activities to boost their living standards. It is geared first and foremost to help trainers to communicate better and to learn how to share their know-how and methods more effectively.
The paper uses a progressive, participatory methodology. Each chapter begins with a review of the previous one by the trainers, to make sure that new ideas have been well grasped. Participants should be addressed in their own language, which means that the trainers should translate the paper into the appropriate language. Some general pointers have therefore been included to ensure that their translations and explanations are clear. The questions and answers, followed by a summary, and discussions will enable the participants to move forward together.
The trainers' attention is drawn to the fact that some and perhaps all participants will be rural women, who are extremely enthusiastic about money-making activities. However, while management science is the same for all, socio-cultural and economic conditions are usually less favourable to women than to men: access to land and services is difficult, they are often left out of the decision-making process in matters concerning production and profit-sharing, and may be illiterate, and this should be borne in mind. Women extension agents are often better equipped than men to communicate with them.
Users will also appreciate that this paper's approach is very general, for although it covers all the basic aspects of better management, it gives only general and simple management training advice, useful for all small-scale rural undertakings, such as mills, cereal banks, and marketing and crop production activities.
It should also be noted that this document is intended as a management training tool for: (1) trainers; and (2) village organization leaders. It does not cover farmers' organizations or cooperative or pre-cooperative training, which are dealt with in other publications.
Finally, it would be desirable if readers' criticisms and comments were used to improve on the paper. Suggestions should, however, be kept simple, bearing in mind rural peoples' capacity to adopt these new techniques.