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Posted July 1996

Effect of group formation on rural women's access to services in Western Province, Zambia

by Jean M. Geran
Department of Resource Development
Michigan State University, USA


Table of contents

Summary of research findings

1. Introduction

2. Findings
2.1 Access to Services
2.2 Benefits of Group Membership
2.3 Group Profiles
2.4 Group Strength
2.5 Group Resource Management

3. Conclusions
3.1 Meeting the Needs of Women
3.2 Linkages
3.3 Group Strength
3.4 Group Sustainability
3.5 The Evolving PPP Institutional Structure

4. Recommendations
4.1 Staffing
4.2 Linkage Development
4.3 Information Dissemination
4.4 Monitoring and Evaluation
4.5 Credit Provision

5. Closing remarks


List of Acronyms and Abbreviations

AAC - Action Area Committee
ADP - Animal Draught Power Project
APO - Associate Professional Officer
CUSA - Credit Union and Savings Association
DC - District Co-ordinator
FAO - Food and Agriculture Organization
FHH - Female Headed Household
FSRT - Farming Systems Research Team
GP - Group Promoter
IGA - Income Generating Activity
KAP - Kalabo Agricultural Project
KIMIA - Kaoma Input Supply and Marketing Association
MAFF - Ministry of Agriculture Food and Fisheries
NPC - National Project Co-ordinator
PAM - Program Against Malnutrition
PM & E - Participatory Monitoring and Evaluation
PPP - People's Participation Project
PTA - Parent Teacher's Association
T&V - Training and Visitation
VEG - Village Extension Group
VIS - Village Industry Services
WPCU - Western Province Co-operative Union


Summary of research findings

The following is a report of the major findings of research carried out in the Western Province, Zambia from September to December, 1995. The study was based on an on-going project which has as its main objective to enable the rural disadvantaged, with special emphasis on women, to improve their socio-economic conditions through the establishment of small, informal self-help groups organised around group income generating activities which the groups themselves identify. The People's Participation Project (PPP) was begun in 1983 and has been implemented by the Zambian Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries (MAFF) and executed by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) with financing coming from the Government of the Netherlands.

The project works in all 6 Districts of the Western Province with a total of 230 existing groups. The total number of direct beneficiaries is 2,550 making 11 members the average group size. Of all participating group members, 73% are female and 27% male. There are 15 functioning Action Area Committees (AACs or inter-group associations) throughout the Province. The project uses locally recruited group promoters to facilitate the formation and development of groups in each sub-district action area. The project covers 32 action areas and the total number of Group Promoters (GPs) is 30 as 2 GPs cover 2 action areas each. There are 5 District Co-ordinators who supervise the GPs.

The focus of this research effort was on the group development process and its effect on PPP participants' access to rural services. The purpose of this report is to serve as an outside interpretation of what is happening at the group level. The research illustrates the organisation, benefits and functions of PPP groups from the perspective of the group members themselves.

The main data collection technique used was group interviews. About 60 groups, 5 Action Area Committees (AACs), 23 Group Promoters (GPs), and 5 District Co-ordinators (DCs) were informally interviewed during the three month time frame. The interviews conducted covered 26% of the groups, 30% of the functioning AACs, 87% of the GPs and all of the DCs. The extreme logistical and communication constraints made obtaining such a large sample of interviews in a three month time frame very challenging. The size of the sample was determined by the need of project management to gather information on all of the action areas. Though the large sample provided a broad understanding of the project as a whole it came with some costs. The travel time needed to reach each remote action area meant that very little time could be spent in each area. Usually only 2 interviews were conducted in each area lasting about 2 hours each. Revisits to a few selected areas were planned at the outset of the research effort to gather more in-depth data. Unfortunately, the break down of the project vehicle and other scheduling conflicts made this impossible. Instead, the time was used to interview 5 AACs when other transportation was made available by another researcher.

Findings

The broad sample of PPP groups throughout the Province provided a useful assessment of group progress in each area. What was discovered is that PPP has built a solid base of self-reliant groups in the Province. Out of the 230 groups, about 70% or 161 groups could be considered self-reliant. This means that they can meet and plan activities without the assistance of a GP. This number was obtained from the GP interviews where they estimated the strength of the groups in their action areas. The group interviews revealed that co-operating as a group to achieve common goals was a new concept for group members. Out of the 60 groups interviewed, 10 were based exclusively on extended family ties. The rest seemed to be a combination of related and unrelated people. In either case, working as a group was new, indicating a possible lack of traditional self-help groupings for disadvantaged farmers in the Province. Of the group members, 73% are women farmers and 32% of those women represent female-headed households (FHHs). Many groups visited were proud to tell of the changes in their lives due to group membership.

One of the goals of PPP has been to create linkages between groups and service providers in their area. Discussions revealed that group formation has indeed increased the access to various rural services for group members. Agricultural extension is one of the services most effected by the PPP approach. Of the 59 groups interviewed, 39 work directly with the extension service. Of those 39 groups, 26 or 67% said that visits from agricultural extension agents had increased since forming their PPP group. Eleven (11) groups had never been visited by extension before forming their PPP group. Other services like health, literacy and agricultural training are also being provided to PPP group members.

The increased access to services is especially apparent for female group members who were rarely receiving services before. A study done in one District of the Province found that approximately 80% of all female headed households had never seen an extension agent (Masona et al., 1990). Women in the groups interviewed were the most likely to say that they are now receiving extension assistance for the first time. In 4 groups interviewed there were different perceptions of men and women in the same group about an increase in extension services. For the men in these groups the frequency of visits had increased. The frequency had also increased for women, but mostly because they had never been visited by extension personnel before being part of PPP. Interviews with GPs and Extension Camp Officers also revealed that PPP has effectively bridged the gap between the traditional male bias in the extension service and women farmers. Two camp officers cited PPP as the single reason for a larger percentage of their Village Extension Groups (VEGs) now being women.

Two other important benefits of group membership were identified by group members as knowledge sharing and empowerment. PPP groups are an important forum which did not exist before for sharing information among group members. Another benefit identified was the increased confidence and decision making ability of women group members. This empowerment of group members has had an effect on the community as a whole with signs of increased civic involvement of group members and their ability to take on leadership roles for other community work.

Project management requested that field visits be used to assess the overall strength of groups in all project action areas. Tying the idea of strength closely to that of self-reliance, a very rough estimate was made of how many groups were doing well in each area. Self-reliant groups in this case are those distinguished by GPs as able to meet and plan activities without GP assistance. Out of the 230 groups functioning, about 70% of them could be considered to be doing well in this regard. Considering the fact that many of these groups were formed in the last couple of years, this 70% is an impressive amount.

Pooled resources of groups are especially important to group members for use in times of crisis. These pooled resources constitute savings which have been mobilised during a time of hyperinflation which illustrate the importance of such savings for group members. Approximately 5,370,000 K (US$ 5,700) in cash savings has been mobilised by PPP groups in the Province as of August 1995. This represents a 235% gross increase from November 1994 when total savings were 1,600,000 K (Mid-term Review). Factoring out savings held at the AACs, average group savings is about 19,400 K (US$ 21). Access to cash for hospital fees was an important benefit of group membership mentioned by group members. Most group savings are kept outside of the formal banking system and are often relent to group members to finance emergency and other expenses. Thus, the project has led to a form of informal village banking which is meeting critical needs of group members and promoting local level transactions and development. The economic changes occurring in the country could make these savings increasingly important in obtaining services for groups in the future.

Savings of the groups come from varying combinations of periodic member contributions and profit from income generation and lending activities. All PPP groups are involved in some sort of income generating activities to increase their savings. All of these activities serve to bind groups together regardless of their profitability. It varies by location, but overall the income generating activities identified as most profitable by group members were those related to trading. A list of IGAs by District is included in Annex VIII.

Conclusions

The most impressive accomplishment of PPP so far is the success it has achieved in promoting the participation of women in the various development initiatives in the Western Province. The impact that PPP has had by forming solid groups in which women are actively participating has increased the effectiveness of many rural services and development initiatives in the Province. Without its existence, other development programs would continue to fall into the trap of overlooking the most disadvantaged people in their target areas.

Linkages between PPP groups and service providers seem quite strong at the group and provincial level. Where linkages could be strengthened is in each District. Input supply is currently a pressing problem for many group members and linkages with suppliers need exploring at the district level. Things are changing in Zambia with the required cutbacks in public provision of various services under national liberalisation policies which have eliminated subsidies to state supported input supply and marketing service and have initiated fees for health services. Changes in other services may also be on the way, and PPP group members with their pool of resources and focus on self-help may be in a better position to respond to these changes than other small farmers.

In order to increase the economic benefits of group membership the groups need strengthened organisation, especially at the inter-group association (AAC) level. The very limited market opportunities in the Province make significant economic benefits for the groups harder to both achieve and sustain than the existing social benefits. Strengthening the AACs and helping the groups develop a participatory monitoring and evaluation system could help improve the economic prospects of groups.

Under the evolving institutional structure of PPP, the role of the GP and the AACs will be crucial to assure the sustainability of groups and their increased economic viability. The Group Promoters need to be motivated to wean self-reliant groups off of their assistance and AACs need to be strengthened to take the place of GPs once project assistance ends. Though prospects for sustainability of individual groups is very high, progress to more complexity in organisation is unlikely to occur without some continued external assistance because of the extreme logistical and communication constraints of the Province.

Recommendations

The recommendations based on the above conclusions build on the existing strength at the group level by strengthening inter-group and district level linkages. Special attention should be paid to the District Co-ordinator (DC) position to address district level linkages. Inter-group linkages should be encouraged through increased study tours, inter-group visits, and a newsletter to GPs and groups. Priority should be given now to developing the already planned participatory monitoring and evaluation training exercise with groups, because it could help them with their economic activities. Finally, to remove some of the tension surrounding the issue of credit, a new home outside of PPP should be found for the revolving fund if possible and village level banking models should be explored for more remote areas.

Acknowledgements

This research effort would not have been possible without the help of many individuals. I would like to thank first of all the staff of the People's Participation Project in the Western Province. Ms. C.K. Kahanda and Mr. E. Koper were extremely generous with their time and valuable assistance in helping me to understand the project and organise field visits. For their help with logistics and translation (both very tiring responsibilities) I would like to thank Ms. P.B. Kanyemba, Mr. M. Muzamai, Mr. M. Mundia, Mr. V. Masati, Mr. Lilonga, Mr. P. Katanga and the GPs in each area. As the majority of insights gained from this work came from the group members themselves I would like to thank all of them who took the time to meet with me and had the patience to sit through my questions and help me understand the challenges they are currently facing. Mr. C. Clark was also a great help and pleasure to work with during the study on inter-group associations. Finally, I would like to thank Mr. J. Rouse and the FAO for allowing me the opportunity to conduct the study. I hope the results are useful in some way to everyone involved.


1. Introduction

The People's Participation Project (PPP) has done a great service for many resource poor farmers in the Western Province of Zambia by assisting them in forming self-help groups. Group work is difficult and it has been a new concept entirely for many PPP participants. Not all groups have stayed together, but those that have are proud to tell of the changes in their lives due to group membership. A third of the groups interviewed have tangible assets as a group which they never had before like ploughs, oxen, orchards, hammermills and nurseries. A third of the groups interviewed also have communal fields which serve as an asset and all of the groups hold some amount of cash savings. Most have learned new things from field workers and more importantly, from each other which help them in their homes and their fields. One of the greatest contributions made by PPP to the development of the Western Province is the empowerment of women. Though it was easily identified among PPP participants, unfortunately, it is not easily measured.

The following is a report of the major findings of this research effort which focused on the group development process overall and its effect on PPP participants' access to rural services. Field work was carried out in the Western Province from September to December, 1995. The research was not intended to be a full evaluation of PPP. Such evaluations have been done by others. This research illustrates the organisation, benefits and functions of PPP groups from the perspective of the group members themselves. The researcher was privileged to spend the majority of her time talking to groups and field staff in the 6 districts of Western Province. About 60 groups, 5 Action Area Committees (AACs), 23 Group Promoters (GPs), and 5 District Co-ordinators (DCs) were informally interviewed during the three month time frame.

The interviews conducted covered 26% of the groups, 30% of the functioning AACs, 87% of the GPs and all of the DCs. The extreme logistical and communication constraints made obtaining such a large sample of interviews in a three month time frame very challenging. The size of the sample was determined by the need of project management to gather information on all of the action areas. Though the large sample provided a broad understanding of the project as a whole it came with some costs. The travel time needed to reach each remote action area meant that very little time could be spent in each area. Usually only 2 interviews were conducted in each area lasting about 2 hours each. Revisits to a few selected areas were planned at the outset to gather more in-depth data. Unfortunately, the break down of the project vehicle made this impossible. Instead, the time was used to interview 5 AACs when other transportation was made available by another researcher.

The purpose of this report is to serve as an outside interpretation of what is happening in the groups. The report is organised into three sections; 1) Findings, observations from the field, 2) Conclusions, the lessons learned from the findings and 3) Recommendations, suggested actions to be taken. It is hoped that the information provided by project participants and presented here will inform the institutional changes occurring within PPP presently.

There is great opportunity to recognise what is good and strong about the groups and the project as a whole. Building on the solid base of group formation developed by project staff and participants over the 12 year project period is an exciting challenge. The PPP groups seem to be poised for progress toward the creation of viable grass roots organisations at the sub-district level through the strengthening of Action Area Committees, some of which already exist. Changes in the socio-economic environment of the Western Province offer both opportunities and challenges for this type of progress.

1.1 Background

1.1.1 The Project. The People's Participation Project was begun in the Western Province of Zambia in 1983 and has been implemented by the Zambian Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries (MAFF) and executed by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) with financing coming from the Government of the Netherlands. The project has had as its overall objective to enable the rural disadvantaged, with special emphasis on women, to improve their socio-economic conditions through the establishment of small, informal self-help groups organised around group income generating activities which the groups themselves identify.

Currently, there are approximately 230 PPP groups functioning in the Western Province. Each group has approximately 11 members and the total number of participants is about 2,550. Of these participants, 73% are female and 27% male. The groups are divided into 32 Action Areas, some of which are located in each of the six districts of the Province. The majority of the groups are located in Kaoma, Kalabo and Mongu Districts. However, there are three recently opened areas in Lukulu District, three in Sesheke District and one in Senanga District. Work in these last three districts has only been happening since 1994. See Tables below for details about the groups by District.

Table 1: Group Information by District

District

Action Areas

Groups

Members

Savings (Kwacha)

US $ Equiv.

Kalabo

8

53

486

907,500

965

Kaoma

9

77

909

2,133,460

2,270

Lukulu

3

22

239

331,400

353

Mongu

8

57

592

1,528,226

1,625

Senanga

1

6

60

122,500

130

Sesheke

3

15

199

347,000

370

Totals

32

230

2,485

5,370,086

5,713

Table 2: Gender Distribution within Groups by District

District

Males

Females

Total

% Female

FHHs

FHHs % of Total

FHHs % of Females

Kalabo

161

325

486

67

98

20

30

Kaoma

244

665

909

73

207

23

31

Lukulu

86

153

239

64

40

17

26

Mongu

111

481

592

81

192

32

40

Senanga

1

59

60

98

8

13

14

Sesheke

60

139

199

70

39

20

28

Totals

663

1,822

2,485

73

584

24

32

1.1.2 The Western Province. There are many social, cultural, economic and environmental aspects of society in the Western Province of Zambia which directly influence the outcome of the PPP approach applied here. Some notable socio-economic variables which affect the groups are a surprising individualism among resource poor farmers, economic changes brought about by the liberalisation policies of the current government, and a prolonged drought which has devastated agricultural production in much of the province.

1.2 Methods

In conducting the research, the major method of data collection was the use of group interviews. About 60 groups were interviewed in 30 out of 32 Action Areas. This is quite close to the goal of interviewing at least one group in each Action Area. Two action areas could not be visited due to constraints on the use and repair of the project vehicle. In some cases, up to four groups in an area were interviewed depending on the time and logistical arrangements available. Individual interviews were also carried out with provincial and district PPP staff and government workers. Other methods included review of basic statistical data contained in blue reports filled out by all Group Promoters in August 1995, a review of secondary data from other organisations, and an inter-group association workshop held in December.

Upon arrival in the field, the focus of the research had to be changed from a focus on cost-sharing between groups and the extension service to group strength and its effect on access to services for group members.


2. Findings

The major findings of the research are presented below. These observations from the field are organised into 5 issue areas. The issues addressed are 2.1 Access to Services, 2.2 Benefits of Group Membership, 2.3 Group Profiles, 2.4 Group Strength, and 2.5 Group Resource Management.

2.1 Access to Services

The effect of PPP group formation on access to various services for group members was the focus of this study. It was found that PPP groups are demanding and using agricultural, health, and other services. The access of group members to these services in their areas has significantly increased since forming their groups. Of the 39 groups interviewed who have direct linkages with the agricultural extension service, 26 of them or 67% said that visits from the extension service had increased since forming their PPP group. Increased access to services was the second most frequently stated benefit of group membership during group interviews. The study revealed that increased exposure to development programmes was especially significant for female members who rarely were receiving services before forming a PPP group. The following section describes the service providers identified, the increased access for women, how resources are related to some services, and the general linkages which have been created with groups.

2.1.1 Service Providers. The data collected during group interviews clearly shows that access to various services for group members has improved since forming PPP groups. The most often mentioned service received is from the Department of Agriculture, basically extension services. Of the groups interviewed, 67% work directly with the extension service. This is not surprising as most GPs have worked closely with camp extension officers while forming groups in each area. The extent to which groups are receiving other kinds of services like health, veterinary, literacy, and training from other development programs like Farming Systems Research Team (FSRT), Kalabo Agricultural Project (KAP), Animal Draught Power Project (ADP) and Masese Agricultural Project (MAP) seems to depend on the existence of such services in each area.

Group members have little control over who actually decides to work in their area, however, if a program is working in the area they are almost always working with PPP groups. Therefore, in Kaoma some groups are working with FSRT and others with ADP, because those programs are active in their area. Lukulu groups are receiving literacy training since that is the focus of the Ministry of Community Development in that area. Kalabo groups work with KAP and Sesheke groups with the Masese Agricultural Project. Program Against Malnutrition (PAM) works with groups in Lukulu and Kalabo by providing seeds. Government Extension and Health services along with PPP seem to be the only services represented in all areas to one degree or another.

One promising new activity among some of the groups which addresses an important problem of seed supply is the start of seed growing groups for local seed banks. This initiative was started with the help of the Farming Systems Research Team (FSRT). Some PPP members were found to be participating in seed growing groups in Lukulu, Kalabo and Mongu Districts. The GPs are playing an important role in training the groups in the whole concept of a seed bank.

2.1.2 Women and Extension. The impact of PPP on women's access to extension services is pronounced. The density of extension agents in the Province is rather low, on average 1 agent for 400-500 farmers, and the traditional male bias exists among agents. "Agents, who are nearly always men, seldom talk or work with female farmers, while FHHs appear almost completely non-existent to them (not even 20% of all FHH have ever seen an agent) (Masona et al., 1990)." Many sources, including female group members, group promoters and camp extension officers all attest to the fact that PPP has had a large impact on the number of women participating in extension activities.

The increased access to extension services is especially apparent for female group members who were rarely receiving services before. A study done in one District of the Province found that approximately 80% of all female headed households had never seen an extension agent (Masona et al., 1990). Women in the groups interviewed were the most likely to say that they are now receiving extension assistance for the first time. In 4 groups interviewed there were different perceptions of men and women in the same group about an increase in extension services. For the men in these groups the frequency of visits had increased. The frequency had also increased for women, but mostly because they had never been visited by extension personnel before being part of PPP. Interviews with GPs and Extension Camp Officers also revealed that PPP has effectively bridged the gap between the traditional male bias in the extension service and women farmers. Two camp officers cited PPP as the single reason for a larger percentage of their Village Extension Groups (VEGs) now being women.

2.1.3 Bridging the Gap. The extension service has modified its traditional T&V approach to incorporate work in groups. Village Extension Groups (VEGs) have replaced individual contact farmers as the extension agents' target for information dissemination. VEGs functioning in the same areas as PPP, have simply incorporated PPP group members into a VEG which is made up of a larger number of farmers (around 20-30). The incorporation of PPP groups into these VEGs has been successful in promoting women's participation in extension activities. The close link between group promoters and extension agents in most areas and especially the fact that with one exception, all GPs are female has been the means by which the gap between male agents and female farmers has been bridged.

The degree to which extension services are actually helping group members was more difficult to ascertain. Most group members simply were happy that they now were being visited and learning new things like plant spacing, the use of new varieties, controlling pests on vegetables among other things. Whether these new techniques were increasing yields or addressing real needs on the fields could not be determined by one time interviews.

A couple of problems were mentioned about extension. One woman stated that she is happy to learn but it would be more useful if the extension agent would come to her field to see what she is dealing with. There was also an apparent frustration among some members who no longer felt they needed to learn. In the words of one older female member "I'm tired of knowledge, what I need is seed." Such frustration was reiterated by responses to another group interview question. When the question was asked what they would have the extension agent do if they were paying his salary, the response was always that they would have them go and seek out ways of getting inputs for them. I can imagine if a similar question were asked about GPs the answer would be similar. This lack of sufficient input supply and marketing services is also a frustration for many committed extension agents (and GPs) who have no control over the availability of such services. Thus, extension agents are disseminating information about new techniques and varieties, but the usefulness of the information seems to be limited by the input supply problem. Group members wanted different kinds of information and services (notably market information and input supply) than the extension service is currently able to provide. Input supply is one area of linkages which could be strengthened and is discussed further below (3.2.1).

2.1.4 Resources and Services. The average number of linkages between groups interviewed and service providers other than PPP was 2. Such linkages ranged from 0 to 5 for all the groups interviewed. As mentioned in section 2.1.1. the services provided vary by District and only government agricultural extension and health services are found in every District. These two service providers are the most common outside linkages for PPP groups. Of the groups interviewed 67% had worked with extension and 32% had worked with the Ministry of Health. The next largest set of service linkages for PPP groups is with the various development projects in the Province such as FSRT, ADP, KAP, and MAP, but these are District specific. PPP group formation was found to have an effect on linkages with both agricultural extension and these various development projects. Group members now feel that they are known by these service providers and visits from them have occurred because they are organised and easier to visit now. The linkages with the Ministry of Health are different. PPP has had less of an effect on accessing health services directly as health programs tend to be for the entire community and existed before PPP groups were formed. That does not mean that PPP has not had any effect on health services. PPP has affected access to health services in two ways by providing cash for members to pay medical fees and by providing leadership and organisational skills to manage community labour for Ministry of health sponsored wells and latrines.

Access to health services for group members varies according to the distance to rural health clinics or the existence of trained community health workers in their villages. Five PPP group members who participated in group interviews were also found to be trained CHWs. Thus, 8% of groups interviewed had a CHW as part of their membership. These people were chosen after their PPP group had been formed. It is likely that health workers identified these individuals as appropriate for CHW training due to their proven organisational abilities in PPP.

Group resources do play an important role in obtaining health services. Fees are now charged at clinics for services and medicine. Access to cash for hospital fees was the third most frequently stated benefit of group membership for group members participating in interviews. The cash used by group members for such health services comes from each group's accumulated savings from group activities. Before pooled savings existed many members recalled not being able to borrow money for emergencies or seek medical assistance. Cash resources accumulated by groups are thus meeting real needs in accessing medical services and meeting emergency food needs. Veterinary medicine also requires cash, however, the focus of veterinary services in the Western Province remains heavily on cattle and so leaves out most PPP members who for the most part are not cattle owners. There are only a few groups which have received assistance with their chickens. Other services like agricultural extension currently do not require the use of group cash resources, however, trends in the country indicate that many services may eventually move to a more fee based system.

2.1.5 Other Linkages. The other aspect of linkage development for groups has been the participation of group members on committees in their communities. Though some members may well have been active in their communities before PPP, there seems to be a tendency toward increased civic responsibility resulting from membership in PPP groups. Most members who participate in other committees say that those committees formed after their PPP group. Almost all such members felt that group and leadership skills they have gained in their PPP group have helped them with other group work such as on health, water, nutrition committees as well as church groups and the PTA. These individuals provide direct linkages between their groups and these other institutions. As mentioned above, some PPP groups interviewed have been instrumental in organising the labour for Health Department assisted community water well construction. Thus, the leadership and organisational skills of group members achieved through participation in PPP are benefiting the whole communities.

2.2 Benefits of Group Membership

During group interviews, benefits of groups membership were often a topic of discussion. The question was phrased as: What are the benefits you get from being in a group? In some cases, a few people in the group gave their opinions, and at other times only one person responded and the group agreed. The 73 responses received to this question can be grouped into 6 categories; empowerment, outside linkages, knowledge sharing, emergency resources, and pooled labour. Only two groups (2%) responded that they have not seen any benefits from group membership yet. The responses are described below.

2.2.1 Empowerment. The label of empowerment was given to this category by the researcher. What it refers to is any comment made having to do with increased confidence or ability to speak for oneself . Many female group members mentioned that before being in the group they were shy and never spoke in a group of people. Now, they even feel confident enough to speak to foreign people. A response from one male group member is also included in this category as he claims that PPP membership has encouraged him to become a leader in his community as a whole. Though not as a response to the "benefits" question, most group members who are involved in other community work say that the experience they have gained by working in their PPP group has helped them with other types of work. They said that they are no longer afraid of taking leadership positions on other committees in their community. Such confidence in their own leadership, organisational and decision making capabilities gained through PPP participation represents empowerment and a stronger desire for action. These are the building blocks for community development.

The accumulation of assets and cash resources is also a source of empowerment for group members. One group member said that before becoming part of a PPP group, members had a few resources as individuals but they were hidden. Being part of a group has mobilised these resources to become productive. She said that being in a group has helped them realise what they already had.

2.2.1 Outside Linkages. Another group of responses (25%) had to do with interacting with people outside of the group. A large part of this was also based on learning things from people outside the group like the group promoter, extension agents, health workers etc. They have learned about group work, leadership and income generation from GPs, skills like plant spacing, new crop varieties and fertiliser use from the extension agents, and nutrition, sanitation and other health related issues from health workers (or GPs). Some of the responses did not refer to learning per se, but only mentioned being "known" to the outside as a benefit. For some groups, this included recognition coming to the group from within the Western Province and even internationally.

Please refer to section 2.1.4 above for details about the number of such outside linkages and with whom they exist. Groups are beginning to seek out assistance in solving some of their problems though such inquiries are still done through the GPs. Of the groups interviewed, 5 (8%) had asked for the extension agent to come and help them with a specific problem. Another 5 had asked the GP to invite the Ministry of Health to their group to teach about nutrition and other health related issues. One group spoke of having neighbour farmers come to group meetings to share successful farming techniques. Of course, the GPs are regularly facilitating such linkages as part of their responsibilities, but this evidence of group initiation is encouraging. If the GPs can work to replace themselves it seems likely that group members now feel justified in approaching government field staff for assistance.

2.2.3 Knowledge Sharing. The greatest number of responses, 22 out of the 73 (30%), could be grouped in the general category of knowledge sharing among group members. Group members seem to learn the most from each other about a variety of topics. They teach each other skills like making handicrafts (baskets, mats, brooms, etc.), knitting and sewing, cooking and preserving food, and agricultural skills like growing vegetables. When they can they also share information about market prices and where to get inputs. Most groups share information informally during group activities and at meetings. Some groups actually rotate responsibility among members for teaching something to other members during meeting times. These are more formal presentations on things like food preservation and cooking. According to group members, such a forum for information sharing did not exist before forming their PPP group. Such knowledge sharing is also the source of ideas for income generating activities.

2.2.4 Emergency Resources. The third largest category of responses (18%) had to do with the use of group resources (cash) to help each other in times of crisis. Medical fees were the most often stated problem with which groups can help an individual. School fees were also mentioned as was hiring ploughing services. Besides help in emergencies, some responses referred to group assets, specifically oxen and a plough, as benefits to group membership.

2.2.5 Pooled Labour. Pooled labour is also considered a benefit to many group members. This category of responses (16%) refers to anything mentioned which was related to helping on each other's fields or working together to solve problems. Many stated that work can be finished faster and more is accomplished with the help of a group. Female headed households have been found to be the most labour deficient group in the Province. Studies have revealed that 70-80% of female heads of households and married women are in need of external labour (Masona et. al., 1990). Sources of external labour usually come through hire with cash or in exchange for brewed beer. Thus, PPP groups which can pool their labour could be decreasing the need to hire others for cash.

2.3 Group Profiles

2.3.1 Group Member Status. Due to the fact that visits to each action area were so brief, the researcher was not able to carry out wealth ranking exercises in the community in order to discover the relative status of PPP group members as compared to their neighbours. However, through observation and some discussions with other community members, one factor stood out as distinguishing PPP group members. That distinguishing factor is a lack of ownership or easy access to oxen and ploughing equipment. As most PPP members are women with many representing female headed households, findings from research done in Senanga West indicate that they would be the most unlikely to own oxen and ploughs (Bus and Vierstra, 1991).

The distinction of group members as non-owners of farm implements is also supported by the stated plans of groups and the uses of their cash resources. Many group plans include saving to purchase oxen and ploughing equipment. Other groups mentioned using their pooled cash resources to obtain ploughing services for their members.

This distinction of access to ploughing is significant as many constraints to agricultural productivity for small farmers in the Province are not as related to access to land as they are to labour and the ability to clear and prepare land (Bus and Vierstra, 1991). Thus, those who do not have secure access to ploughing services can be considered "rural disadvantaged" and fit into PPP's target group. It should be noted that there seems to be differences in the income and food security levels of various PPP groups. Some group members could be considered among the very poorest in the Province. Some in the sub-district town centres, do not seem very disadvantaged. The majority, however, seem to face real and harsh constraints to agricultural productivity and cannot meet their food needs for the entire year. Thus, they fall into PPP's intended target group of the rural disadvantaged.

2.3.2 Leadership. Most groups seem to be sticking by PPP policy that only women should hold leadership positions in the group. There has been recognition among participants and staff that it may be necessary in some cases to have men assist as secretary or treasurer but that a woman should always be chairperson. The overall percentage of women members (73%) was supported by observations in the field. In the majority of group visited, women also hold the leadership positions.

Though this does not appear to be a large problem for the project as a whole, there are a few areas where men are not only participating in groups but they have begun to dominate and take control of leadership. Based on group interviews and the blue reports it was found that for the three basic leadership positions (chairperson, secretary and treasurer) in groups, 75% are held by women and 25% by men. This corresponds roughly to the overall percentage of women and men as group members. The highest percentage of men hold secretary positions and very few are chairmen (3). This makes sense as men are more likely to be literate and able to keep group records than women. The few places where men were dominating in leadership positions at the group level were found in Sikongo, Muweshi, and Liumena action areas in Kalabo District and Mwito action area in Lukulu District. All of these areas are similar in that they are far from the district centres and, therefore, the GPs receive less supervision from the DCs.

Another related issue having to do with gender and leadership is a more pervasive problem of men taking on more active leadership roles at the AAC level. Even though men make up a minority within groups, among the functioning AACs they represent a much higher percentage of participants than at the group level. This is especially the case in Kaoma District. In the thirteen functioning AACs, the representatives are composed of 40% men and 60% women. This is significantly different than the 27% and 73% averages at the group level. Though information on the leadership positions in each District was not available, there seems to be a particular problem in Kaoma. Other Districts (Kalabo and Mongu) may have male representatives, but the leadership positions are still held by women. However, in Kaoma, 40% of the leadership positions are held by men including two chairmen of AACs. In addition, many AAC activities are conducted by committees and in 2 AACs in Kaoma, men as vice chairmen and "captains". dominate as committee heads. It should be noted, however, that these two AACs are among the strongest and most active in the Province. More investigation into how the women of these groups feel about the skewed representation should be done before forcing any changes.

Through conversations with GPs and some groups members, the causes of this seems to be the voluntary nature of AAC representation in many areas and the fact that men are more likely to have the time to travel to AAC meetings. It also appears to be more culturally acceptable for men to travel outside of the village alone. There is also prestige attached to AAC membership and thus men seem to volunteer for this responsibility. One way to avoid this could be to encourage only group leaders to be AAC representatives as long as group level leadership remains in the hands of women.

2.3.3 Formal Organisation. Groups varied in relation to their use of by-laws which seemed related to the degree of formality of each group's organisation and the running of meetings. The groups who were involved in more successful economic activities had written by-laws which were known and followed by all members. For example, almost all of the groups in Kaoma have written by-laws as do many in Mongu and Lukulu. Interestingly, the registration process currently underway requires written by-laws which is illustrating the lack of these by-laws in certain areas. Some groups in the older areas (for PPP) of Kalabo District were just beginning to create by-laws and write them down. Many of these groups have been in existence since the early 1980's but still had no firm by-laws. The groups without clear by-laws tend to be located in areas with few to no economic opportunities. By-laws seem to become increasingly important as group resources and activities increase and become more complex.

2.3.4 Registration. PPP has begun encouraging groups to register themselves as legal entities under the Societies Act. The basic reason is that regular meetings of 10 or more people are actually illegal in Zambia unless the group meeting is registered. There are other benefits of registration which have made it attractive enough to many groups so that they are willing to pay the 10,000 K (Approximately 11 US$) registration fee. This is no small commitment as 10,000 K may represent the sum total of a group's savings.

The response of the various groups to this registration process varied. In part, it depended on how the group promoter explained the process. A few groups, especially in Sesheke and Mongu Districts, had just recently heard about the potential and were confused about the monetary requirements. The varying responses were also tied to the potential benefits of registration in the different areas.

The main benefits of registration for the groups include increased exposure and ability to work with the various service and credit providing institutions, both private and governmental. For areas in which there are few development service projects functioning, the benefit of increased exposure may be limited. Thus, groups in areas where tangible benefits from registration can be foreseen are eager to put their money toward registration. Though important for legality and to maintain strong ties with other PPP groups, registration from the perspective of groups with little cash resources may not currently be in their best interest. PPP has made a provision for such groups by allowing them to be affiliated with the project even if they are not ready to register fully.

2.4 Group Strength

2.4.1 Strength Indicators. The researcher was asked by project management to try and develop a list of indicators for group strength. The obvious indicators of attendance, meeting frequency, amount and frequency of savings, number of income generating activities, existence of group by-laws and records, participation of all members in meetings, and signs of decreasing reliance on GP assistance are valid. However, these indicators vary in importance from group to group and all need not be present for a group to be strong. If a group was rated on all of these indicators it may give some indication of overall strength. However, such a technique would overlook the varying importance of some factors over others depending on the specific context of each group. Such a technique was impossible during this research as time spent in each action area was so short and only 1 or two groups were visited in each area. A very rough assessment of strength was done, however, based solely on GP interviews and their own perceptions of the self-reliance of their groups.

2.4.2 Strength Assessment. An informal and subjective combination of strength indicators related to group independence is possible and is constantly done by the group promoters. The GPs are the best source of information on group strength overall. Therefore, GP perceptions were used to make a very rough and subjective estimate of how many groups may be considered strong in each area. Through asking the GPs to define what they meant by strong groups, they most frequently referred to the self-reliance of groups. Therefore, for the purpose of this analysis "strong" groups are actually self-reliant and that means that they can meet and plan activities without the assistance of a GP.

Out of the 230 groups functioning, about 70% of them could be considered to be strong and self-reliant. The perceptions of GPs on the strength of their groups were checked by observations in the field and the information contained in the blue reports in order to obtain the 70% figure. From the blue reports only 10% of the groups are not very active and based on GP perceptions and field observation 20% of the groups are functioning but need special attention from the GPs. Considering the fact that many of these groups were formed in the last couple of years, this 70% is an impressive amount. Out of discussions with the GPs, two issues emerged as especially important in determining group strength and self-reliance. They are the basis upon which the group was formed and the environment (location) of the group.

2.4.3 Basis of Formation. In general, the strength of the groups visited seemed to depend largely on the basis on which they were formed. Examples from groups formed by other organisations show that groups which form simply to receive credit have many problems and fall apart quickly. Similarly, PPP groups which were told by the GP that forming a group would give them access to credit tended to be the weakest groups. They were waiting for assistance from PPP and not working toward their own goals. Once this idea is planted in the minds of group members it seems difficult for the group to progress.

It is tempting for development organisations to use concessional credit as a basis for forming community groups and many have tried both in the Western Province and throughout Zambia. This is a quick and easy way to see results as long as there is money available, but those results are fleeting and can even be harmful. If there are existing cohesive groups which already exist in a community then group loans may be successful, because the social capital needed for successful group lending programs already exists. That is not the case in the Western Province. Based on the discussions with PPP group members, co-operating as group was a totally new idea for them. This indicates a lack of traditional self-help or community organisations. Therefore, it takes time for people who are used to working alone to trust one another and pull together. If a loan is thrown into the process, trust is easily lost and groups destroyed. There did not seem to be any other organisation in the Province working with the rural disadvantaged and basing group formation on savings and co-operation before credit. Thus, PPP is providing a critical need in the development process by facilitating the empowerment of group members and the accumulation of social capital. These two things will continue to contribute to the development of the Western Province in many ways after the project ends.

2.4.4 Environment. Finally, a very important point is that the location of each group must be considered in making an estimate of its strength. This is especially the case now as some areas of the Province, especially in Kalabo and Sesheke Districts, have suffered severely from the drought. Some action areas in which PPP is working are quite isolated from the rest of the Province. They may be a 6 to 7 hours walk from even a small trade centre or a road. In some places, even ox carts cannot be used (at least during the hot season), because the oxen would die of thirst on the trip. In such areas, income earning opportunities are extremely limited and agriculture has also become difficult due to the drought. It would be incorrect to judge groups in such areas on the amount of cash savings they have or even the number of income earning activities they do.

Even groups without many economic activities still may be quite cohesive and meeting a real need in sharing survival strategies among members. In one of the worst drought hit areas, group members had left to Angola to search for food and work. This had to be done on an individual basis, and the group seems to have dissolved. However, group members continue helping each other by trading and bringing things back from Angola for the people left behind. In another group from a similar area, group cash savings have all been used to buy food. One group member from that area said that because she is part of a PPP group she will not starve. The group is pooling their individual resources in order to help all members through this crisis time.

Fortunately, the two cases described above are exceptional due to the drought. Even without the effects of the drought though, PPP action areas vary according to the potential for group income generation. Savings of 10,000K could be easily obtained by some groups in Kaoma, where a similar amount in Kalabo may represent years of hard work as a group. The extreme logistical problems of the Province make the location of a group an important consideration in determining its strength.

2.5 Group Resource Management

2.5.1 Savings. Savings have always been stressed by PPP. Savings have also increased in their importance over the years with the increasing pressure toward market oriented as opposed to subsistence agriculture. The need for cash has also increased with the instigation of fee charging for some health services and medicine. Savings of PPP groups overall have been steadily increasing over the years. Total savings of all groups is up to about 5,370,000 K (US$ 5,700) as of August 1995. This is compared to approximately 1,600,000K in November 1994 (Mid-term Review). Unfortunately, in the current economic situation characterised by heavy inflation, a gross increase in the amount of savings does not necessarily imply an increase in buying power or value of those cash savings. The fact that groups do continue to save, however, in the face of such obstacles indicates the importance of these cash savings.

Not considering AAC savings which is part of the total above, average group savings overall is about 19,400 K (US$ 21). Average group savings per District according to the blue reports are as follows: Mongu 25,030 K, Sesheke 22,481 K, Kaoma 22,412 K, Senanga 20,416 K, Lukulu 16,602 K, and Kalabo 9,086 K. It should be noted that the highest average group savings of 72,000 K is found in Limulunga action area in Mongu District, however, such a high amount is questionable. It appears that the total value of a hammermill was included for one groups savings while most other groups only reported cash savings. Without this high figure, adjusted average group savings for Mongu is only 12,450 K. The next highest action area average group savings is 43,000 K for Mangango and 34,000 K for Namaloba both in Kaoma District. The lowest averages are found in Kalabo with 1,750 K in Liumena and 4,500 in both Muweshi and Litooma. These are not surprising findings as groups with the least average savings live in remote areas hard hit by the drought. Those with higher averages tend to be closer to roads and towns and in the more fertile areas of the Province. The vast majority of these cash savings are held outside the formal banking system. Of the groups interviewed, only 7 (12%) kept their money in a bank account and all these were found in Mongu and Kaoma District as expected. Wherever they exist, these cash savings represent a source of cash which simply did not exist before and have become very important to PPP group members for emergencies, hiring labour and capital for income generation.

2.5.2 Income Generation. All groups are involved in some form of income generating activity (IGA) to increase their resource base. With the economic changes occurring in the country these resources may play an increasingly important role in obtaining services. An inventory of IGAs being done by groups in each area was done and the results are listed in the Tables below.

List of Income Generating Activities by District

* = Number of groups interviewed, who are using this IGA
** = Number of groups interviewed stating this as most profitable for them
Table 1: Kaoma District - IGAs

Activity

Groups *

Used Credit

Problems

Profitability **

Piecework

5

 

Inconsistent

3

Vegetable Garden

4

 

Pests

 

Communal Fields

4

 

 

1

In-kind Crop
Contributions

4

 

 

 

Handicrafts

3

 

 

 

Trading

3

 

 

1

Baking

3

 

Flour price variability

 

Beer Brewing

2

 

Material Availability

 

Knitting

2

 

 

 

Hammermill

1

Yes

 

1

Rent out Plough/Oxen

1

 

 

 

Firewood/Charcoal

1

 

 

 

Table 2: Mongu District - IGAs

Activity

Groups *

Used Credit

Problems

Profitability **

Handicrafts

9

 

Lack of Market/Transport

 

Baking (scones)

3

 

Flour price variability

 

Piecework

2

 

Inconsistent

 

Beer Brewing

2

 

Material Availability

1

Vegetable Garden

2

 

 

 

Knitting

2

 

Material Availability

 

Communal Fields

2

 

 

 

Trading

1

 

 

 

Trading

1

 

 

1

Uniform Making

1

Yes

 

1

In-kind crop
contributions

1

 

 

 

Intra-Group Lending
(50% interest)

1

 

 

 

Table 3: Kalabo District - IGAs

Activity

Groups *

Used Credit

Problems

Profitability **

Handicrafts

6

 

Lack of Market/Transport

 

Communal Field

5

Yes

Drought

 

Trading

2

Yes

High Price of Maize/Transport

 

Nursery

2

 

Pests

1

Vegetable Garden

2

 

Market/Pests

 

In-kind crop contribution
(20% of ind. harvest to group)

2

 

Drought

 

Trading

1

 

 

1

Beer Brewing

1

 

Material Availability

1

Knitting/Sewing

1

 

Material availability

1

Mango Drying

1

 

Short Time Frame

1

Furniture Making

1

 

Distance to Market

1

Table 4: Lukulu District - IGAs

Activity

Groups *

Used Credit

Problems

Profitability **

Trading

4

Yes

Changing Profits due to prices

3

Piecework

4

 

Inconsistent

1

Trading

3

 

 

2

Communal Field

3

 

Drought

 

Cutting Grass

3

 

Seasonal

1

Firewood

3

 

Permit required

 

Vegetable Garden

2

 

Pests

 

Lending

2

 

Default

1

Handicrafts

1

 

 

 

Activities often bind groups together regardless of their income earning potential. Most groups are involved in piecework which is a good but sporadic income earner. Many groups are also involved in craft making of some sort, mostly very simple crafts like mats and brooms. For these, and even more intensive things like baskets, marketing is a major problem. Unfortunately, the time involved in making them and the lack of a consistent market for the finished products makes the profit margins very low.

The income generating activities which, according to the groups, are the most profitable are those dealing with trading. Though there were some current loan applications pending in the project for trading related group activities, for the most part groups use their own accumulated savings as working capital to begin trading. Many groups described starting by reselling tins of maize but gradually moving into full bags. In the case of trading maize, the common model for group involvement is to buy, grind and resell. Groups will give cash to certain individuals to travel and purchase maize in a town centre. It will then be taken to a grinding mill for grinding and then resold. Group members take turns with these various responsibilities. For example, a group in Lukulu could buy a 90kg bag of maize at 15,000 K and sell it for 21,000 K. Grinding costs 1,000 K and transport 600 K. Thus, they could make 4,400 K per bag though this does not incorporate the cost of member labour. Such a process would take about two weeks to complete. This group tries to do this continually, however, at certain times of the year as the price of maize increases, profit margins fall. At these times other activities like piecework are pursued.

Economic changes occurring in the country present obstacles to production for small farmers, but present opportunities for trading. Due to distances and the difficulty of transport, prices of even very basic items like maize now vary tremendously from place to place. Thus, groups willing to send members to do the travelling can take advantage of these price differences and turn a profit just by buying and reselling.

Groups are trading things like maize, fish, cassava, clothe and small grocery items. These opportunities, as with most others, benefit the most accessible groups more, especially those in Kaoma and Mongu. However, even some groups in Lukulu and Kalabo have discovered things which are more valuable in one area than another and use barter to take advantage of these opportunities. No groups were found who would distribute profit immediately back to group members. The profits seem to go into group savings to be reinvested in other income generating activities, to be loaned out, or saved for times of crisis. There were also examples of group decisions to buy things like dishes or clothe to be distributed to all group members.

2.5.3 Other Assets. A third of the groups interviewed (29%) have tangible assets as a group which they never had before like ploughs, oxen, orchards, hammermills, nurseries, buildings for meetings, and other household items. A third of the groups interviewed (32%) also have communal fields which serve as an asset. Such assets are in addition to cash savings of which every group had some amount. The most successful groups located in areas with economic opportunities have been able to make impressive progress in their business activities and significantly improve the standard of living for all their members. These groups have accomplished a great deal through perseverance and obviously take much pride in their accomplishments. Some of the larger investments to obtain these assets were made possible by receiving loans for business activities like a hammermill or ploughing equipment. Out of the 59 groups interviewed, 6 had received loans in order to acquire larger assets. The tangible assets belonging to 11 of the groups interviewed like buildings, nurseries, and small stores were obtained through a steady increase in savings and a number of other small income generating activities.

These very successful groups with tangible assets (mostly in Kaoma) are serving as an inspiration to groups in other areas. This inspiration comes through PPP supported inter-district study tours which from the perspective of groups have been extremely beneficial. The researcher participated in one day of inter-district group visits in Kaoma. The visitors were from Lukulu District. Group interviews were conducted in Lukulu about two weeks after the study tour was completed. Only a few group members and the GPs went on the study tour. However, when asking the groups in Lukulu about the tours, all group members could tell me what groups in Kaoma were doing and said that their success has been a real motivation for them to work even harder together. Thus, the study tour participants had effectively relayed everything they learned and saw on their tour to other PPP participants. This confirms the finding that groups are an effective vehicle for knowledge and information dissemination.

2.5.4 Credit. The issue of credit is a challenging one in the Western Province context. This is illustrated by the closing of nearly all financial lending institutions in most areas of the Province; namely WPCU, CUSA, and Lima Bank. Those still functioning are doing so on a reduced scale and mostly only in Kaoma District where the potential for agricultural productivity is highest.

Some PPP groups have borrowed and repaid loans from PPP, VIS and the former WPCU. Of the groups interviewed, 8 or 14% had enjoyed access to credit. This credit was instrumental in the accumulation of some of the larger assets mentioned above. Most of the successful loans have been in areas outside of agricultural production. Requirements governed by market conditions for the repayment of agricultural loans cannot be met by most PPP group members. This is the major reason why they cannot take advantage of KIMIA, a new input supply and marketing project, which works with some farmers in Kaoma. The difficulty for agricultural loans is also illustrated by the past loans of ploughs and oxen to PPP groups in a rice growing area from the Rice Promotion Project. The loans were too large and the effects of the drought made repayment impossible for groups. Most of the equipment had to be returned and the stability of the groups suffered as a result.

2.5.5 PPP Credit Scheme. More details about the structure and procedures of the PPP credit scheme are contained in the Mid-term review and other project reports. For the purposes of this report, discussion is confined to how credit affects group development and progress. The PPP administered credit program has designed requirements so that loans taken out are likely to be repaid. Even under considerable pressure, project staff have commendably resisted giving out loans from the revolving fund which were seen as too risky. They are well aware of the negative impact of failed loans on group cohesion and progress. Lending from the revolving fund for non-agricultural activities has been quite successful with a high repayment rate. However, as many groups continue to hope for agricultural loans, the credit scheme is causing tension between some group members and project staff.

2.5.6 Group Lending. Group members were found to be lending from their savings in Mongu and Lukulu Districts. In Lukulu, this was described as an alternative to borrowing from District money lenders who often refuse to lend to villagers. Groups that had a set interest rate for their loans all used the same amount of a flat 50% interest rate regardless of the amount of the loan or the repayment time. The members involved in this type of lending say that the repayment time is short, within a month or two usually. Interest from such loans is put back into group savings to be lent out again or used for other group activities. In three group meetings attended, members discussed who would go to check on people who owed the group money. Some groups distinguished between lending to group members for uncontrollable emergencies and for productive uses. In emergency cases the money is not always expected to be repaid, but it is always expected to be repaid if used for business or social purposes. In Lukulu, groups are also lending to field workers. This has brought in some income for the groups, but has had the negative effect in one instance of terminating visits from a fieldworker who owed the group money.


3. Conclusions

Based on the findings described above, some conclusions about the group development process and access to services can be drawn. Some of these conclusions are described below.

3.1 Meeting the needs of women

The most impressive accomplishment of PPP so far is the success it has achieved in promoting the participation of women in the various development initiatives in the Western Province. Many other development programs in the province want to work with organised groups to achieve economies of scale and are trying to incorporate gender considerations into their programs. None of them, however, are able to give these two aspects of development the attention needed. Groups are easily formed, but do not easily survive without assistance in group development. Women are easily invited to training or workshops, but are not easily encouraged to actively participate in discussions and planning. The impact that PPP has had by forming solid groups in which women are actively participating has increased the effectiveness of many rural services and development initiatives in the Province.

The precise impact that PPP has had on the status of women was impossible to measure given the time and logistical constraints faced in this research. However, anecdotal evidence shows that there has indeed been an impact. In discussing benefits of group membership it was always the women who brought up the fact that they feel more confident now and less shy. They can make decisions now that they would not have thought to make before being part of a PPP group. One group of women mentioned the pride they now take in the ways they have learned (from each other) to take better care of their families. They mentioned cooking skills and nutritional knowledge as sources of pride all stemming from PPP membership. In another group, women said that they now feel more respected by their husbands, because they are bringing income into the household and are now able to send their children to school. These women never thought they could be involved in cash earning activities before starting their group.

Around 30% of all households in Western Province are female headed (Masona et. al., 1990) and FHHs are the most food deficient group of the Province (Bus and Vierstra, 1991; Masona, et. al, 1990). PPP is forming relatively stable groups which are mostly women, with many female headed households included. Out of the 73% of all PPP participants who are women, 32% of those women represent female headed households (Appendix III). Thus, PPP is laying the foundation on which other programs can build. Without its existence, other development programs would continue to fall into the trap of overlooking the most disadvantaged people in their target areas.

3.2 Linkages

A conclusion to be drawn from the linkage patterns identified with groups is that PPP group formation has successfully increased group members access to rural services. Groups have become effective receiving systems for the development service organisations in the Province. They are also acting as acquisition systems which are able to go out (through the GP mostly) and obtain services which are available in their area. However, they currently are not able to participate in the decisions about which services will be provided. The large majority of these decisions continue to be made by people outside the community.

The legacy of Zambia's second republic is that people continue to expect the government to provide basic social services for free, like education, health, and agricultural extension. This explains the initial complacency of many groups who feel like they must just wait for service providers to come to them. However, through the example of the GPs, group members are beginning to understand the changes occurring in their country and the need for them to seek out services. The next step now is for the GPs to encourage the group members themselves to approach service providers so that the services will indeed be on demand.

Things are definitely changing with the required cutbacks in public provision of various services under national liberalisation policies which have eliminated subsidies to state supported input supply and marketing service and have initiated fees for health services. Changes in other services may also be on the way and PPP group members with their pool of resources and focus on self-help may be in a better position to respond to these changes than other small farmers.

3.2.1 Linkages to be Strengthened. Linkages between groups and service providers seem quite strong at the group level and also at the provincial level. However, where linkages could be strengthened is in each district. Group members have the potential to evaluate the performance of field level workers and offer useful information to their superiors in the district. The GPs already serve as a link in obtaining these services. They could also be helpful to district and provincial managers of programs to make them aware of any problems at the village level. The PPP District Co-ordinators could also play an important role in this and help improve the quality of services in their areas. Currently, this type of evaluation may be restricted since District Co-ordinators are government staff and may be wary of criticising colleagues. However, once independent DCs are hired this could be an important addition to their responsibilities.

Input supply is currently a pressing problem for many group members. Though the problem cannot be addressed directly by PPP, continued effort should be put into finding linkages for groups with private seed traders and others. PPP staff negotiated with an input supply and marketing project in Kaoma (KIMIA) to change some of their restrictions so that PPP group members could use their services. Unfortunately, PPP group members for the most part do not meet the KIMIA requirements for loans of seed and fertiliser. However, in Mongu District, Mongu Nutrition Group could be asked to expand into areas where they currently do not reach. In Lukulu, some District agriculture staff (including the DC for PPP) have been trying to contact seed traders in Lusaka to come and sell seed there. In Sesheke, the Red Cross was providing seed, but the groups did not know exactly where or how. This is an area where the role of the DC should be encouraged.

3.3 Group Strength

More details on group strength in each action area were provided in two internal reports presented to project management. These reports tied area estimation to an overall assessment of GP performance. The rough estimate of 70% is used for this report to show that over the 12 years of operation PPP has developed a solid base of self-reliant farmer groups which will likely be sustained even after external assistance ends. In order to progress beyond the many social benefits of shared knowledge, working together and emergency assistance and into more successful economic activities, the groups need strengthened organisation, especially at the inter-group association (AAC) level. Such progress to more complexity in organisation is unlikely to occur without some continued external assistance because of the extreme logistical and communication constraints of the Province.

3.4 Group Sustainability

3.4.1 Sustainability of Social Capital. Most of the groups interviewed felt quite confident that their groups would continue to function even without the assistance of a GP. Indeed, many groups meet often without the GP present and in a few cases an AAC is assuming some GP responsibilities. This likely sustainability can be attributed to the social benefits of group membership. Learning from each other and having people to assist them in times of crisis, especially illness, are important benefits of group membership for individual members. These are strong social benefits that are relatively easy to sustain once a group is formed, and contribute to the social capital of the community. Exposure and access to services is also mentioned as a benefit for group members. Access to services will most likely also continue after project assistance ends. This access, however, seems more vulnerable to group dependence on a GP as GPs continue to act as a link from groups to services in most cases.

The empowerment of group members is also something which will remain after the project ends. A ripple effect of this empowerment is the observed increase in involvement by group members in other community initiatives. PPP group members through their increased confidence and problem solving capacities are also showing others in their community what can be accomplished by working together.

3.4.2 Economic Viability. The very limited market opportunities in the Province make significant economic benefits for the groups harder to both achieve and sustain than the existing social benefits discussed above. From observations based on the group interviews, ideas for IGAs tend to come from individual group members and if they sound good a group will agree to try them. If they fail then the group tries another. There appears to be little detailed discussion of the resources required and the potential profitability.

The participatory monitoring and evaluation (PM & E) system to be created could also help improve the economic prospects of groups by helping them to think through their current IGAs and evaluate their real profitability. This could also strengthen the planning for future activities. Most groups could state plans for the future which were mostly related to IGAs. Some groups could even say how much more savings they needed before beginning or what other actions needed to be taken, but these were the exceptions. Most plans were simply ideas of what could be done without the details about what it would take to accomplish them. Strengthened evaluation and planning on issues decided on by the groups themselves should accelerate economic progress of the groups.

The key to success in the trading ventures is obtaining current and correct market information and seeking out market niches that others have not yet discovered. Training PPP groups in simple techniques for market research could strengthen these trading activities and eliminate some of the trial and error of IGAs. Such training would be especially useful if conducted by a group member who has successfully identified prices, transport costs and availability and the extent of a customer base before embarking on an IGA. Such individuals exist among current group members in Halapembe Group (Kaoma), Lima Group (Lukulu) and Wakano Kutonena Group (Kalabo) just to name a few.

3.5 The Evolving PPP Institutional Structure

The institutional structure of PPP is currently changing with the proposal to move out from under the umbrella of the Department of Agriculture. All projects currently running under the Department were supposed to be realigned under the Agricultural Sector Investment Programme (ASIP), as of 1 January 1996. The PPP approach, with its reliance on GPs, would not fit into the existing structure of the Department of Agriculture. Thus, a new set up had to be found. The exact structure is still under negotiation. However, the basic idea agreed upon by the Ministry, FAO and the Donor is one of an independent service organisation called the People's Participation Service (PPS) to continue assisting the groups in order to facilitate the solidification of the PPP groups themselves into independent grass roots organisations.

The findings of this research concur with those of the Mid-term Review which found that the outcome of the project, basically a strong base of self-reliant groups, has good prospects to be sustained. The challenge now is to help the groups become more than small groups functioning on their own. Progress toward addressing the more difficult economic challenges facing the groups will take strengthening their inter-group linkages. Regardless of the exact structure chosen for PPP there are two considerations which will be very important in eventually facilitating the creation of viable organisations which will be able to function on their own without external funding. Those important considerations are the role of the Group Promoters, the role of the AACs, and the management of the credit scheme.

3.5.1 The Role of the Group Promoter. The group promoters are the key to the success of PPP groups. They will continue to play an important role as groups seek increased linkages outside the community and with other PPP groups in their areas. However, there is a weakness in the use of group promoters which has been identified by previous reports on the project. There has been a tendency for GPs to form around 10 groups in their area and then stop. Some of these GPs have been working with the same groups for years and it has been suggested by evaluators to focus on weaning off groups which are already self-reliant.

As with most project weaknesses this one exists for a reason. The challenge of keeping GPs productive is problematic, because one of the major strengths of the GPs is that they come from the community in which they work. Once all the groups that can be are formed in the area, the GPs cannot easily reach out to other areas due to very real logistical constraints. Even working within one area, GPs often must walk 4-5 hours to visits some groups. To address this problem, transferring GPs to new areas has been done but has had mixed results.

3.5.2.1 Motivation. By remaining in their communities, there is little motivation for GPs to encourage the groups to become completely independent from their assistance. Though most GPs understand the need for self-reliance in theory, they continue, as most anyone would, to maintain a role for themselves among the groups. This was observed to be the reason that GPs continue to act as a link to service providers even when group members are very capable of doing this themselves.

There appear to be no easy solutions to this problem, but two examples from the field could provide some guidance. What both scenarios have in common is that the GP has "somewhere to go." In one case, a very effective GP has been forced to cover a large distance with two action areas. Strong AACs exist in these areas and are beginning to assist the GP in her work in order to cover the distances. In the other case, a GP is working very hard in order to eventually pursue further education. In this case, the AAC is just forming, but this GP is very motivated to get it well organised and able to take over the work. If successful, the GP will be able to leave happily knowing the groups in the area will continue to function.

There has been discussion of promoting very effective GPs to become DCs. This seems like an excellent idea, though with the importance of the DC role it should be understood that extra training which will be required to make such an idea work for the promoted GPs. A promotion or opportunities for further study would provide the incentive for the GPs to work oneself out of a job. Some sort of incentive could be put in place for forming an AAC which is organised well enough to perform the functions of a GP. An idea for those who would not be interested in promotion, could be a bonus when the AAC in their area reaches a certain level of self-reliance by supporting groups and helping to form new ones.

3.5.2.2 Accountability. A final word on the role of the Group Promoters (GPs) also relates to the incentive structure under which they work. During the implementation of the PM & E exercise, consideration should be given to incorporating some way for groups or, more appropriately, AACs to evaluate the performance of GPs. Currently, though they are most often committed to the groups, the GPs are accountable to PPP who pays their monthly allowances. If the project, in whatever form it eventually takes, has as a goal serving the needs of groups, then the accountability of each GP needs to be directed toward them. An evaluation by the groups of the GPs performance could achieve a partial redirection, especially if a part or all of the monthly allowance was affected by a positive or negative evaluation.

It should be noted that the large majority of the groups seemed very happy with the assistance of their GP and would likely give a very positive evaluation. An AAC even now supports their GP in her work by paying for some of her transport when she does things specifically for the AAC. Another group said that if the project stopped they would try to continue supporting their GP in any way they can. Ideally, an AAC should contribute something toward an allowance for the GP in the area even if only for a small bonus.

3.5.2 The Role of the AAC. The role of the AAC becomes important as it is related to replacing the group promoter whose allowances are dependent on external funding. Currently, the main function of AACs seems to be assisting groups with conflict resolution and problem solving. Other roles of an AAC could include seeking out input supply and marketing services for the groups. No groups were found which are doing any group marketing or purchasing of inputs. Though the pros and cons of such activities need to be thought through by the groups themselves, this could be an area where an AAC could improve the economic viability of groups. At the AAC workshop representatives thought this was a good idea even though they had not tried such activities yet. The AACs are also in a position to link groups with various credit providing institutions as these institutions begin to function again in the Province.

Most individual PPP groups are likely to be sustainable. However, it will take the strengthening of this second tier to create viable grass roots organisations which can act as links to services and a voice for the farmers in their communities after the project ends. Hopefully, the results of the AAC workshop and the work being done on a manual for the creation of AACs by the FAO will assist project staff in solidifying the role of the AACs for future group support, development and sustainability.

3.5.3 Credit. Group promoters who were well trained and patient enough to resist using the hope of loans as an enticement to group formation have facilitated the development of the strongest groups. However, credit remains a big issue in Kaoma and Mongu, because credit institutions have functioned there in the past and have closed now. Even in other Districts, groups are struggling with credit issues. Training in issues of credit like, interest, cash management, and profitability are needed in most groups. Unfortunately, when such training is attempted by project staff, discussions do not get beyond negotiating for changes in loan approval and conditions.

Intra-group lending may be an alternative to formal credit in areas which are further from banking and lending facilities. Besides the one problem of fieldworker conflict identified with this type of lending, the idea seems to be quite successful for some groups by bringing in extra income. For groups located far from a Bank and who would have difficulty accessing the revolving fund credit scheme, this "village bank" model appears to be a viable credit alternative which could be explored.

3.5.4 Study Limitations. The above conclusions were based on the findings presented in the previous chapter. It should be noted, however, that there were limitations to the research effort which should be kept in mind while interpreting the findings and conclusions. The change in research focus upon arrival, the lack of previous research at the group level on this program and the fact that it was the researcher's first time in Zambia made it necessary for this study to be exploratory. The majority of the insights presented here are based on qualitative data from group interviews. These interviews were only slightly structured in order to allow group members to discuss what they saw as important. By allowing the interviews to flow according to group member areas of focus, many unanticipated and valuable insights were uncovered. However, this meant that not all research questions were discussed with every group. Thus, the percentages presented above are very rough especially those related to benefits of group membership. The data reveal that these categories of benefits do exist for group members, but measurements of their importance relative to each other should be interpreted with caution.

The other limitation was the lack of in-depth information on individual group members and their communities. The planned revisits to sample action areas was made impossible due to unforeseen logistical constraints and project scheduling conflicts. However, in place of such information, more data was gathered on AACs and their relationships with the groups than would have been possible otherwise. This provided the basis for some useful and practical recommendations.


4. Recommendations

Based on the above conclusions, some suggestions for action are presented below. These recommendations are related to staffing, linkage development, information dissemination, monitoring and evaluation and credit provision and are intended to build on the strong group base which already exists.

4.1 Staffing

As the move to an independent service organisation begins, care should be taken in staffing changes as follows:

4.2 Linkage development

PPP has been very successful at developing linkages between groups and service providers. The following are areas which need more attention.

4.3 Information Dissemination

The following recommendations would build on the strength of groups as forums for knowledge and information sharing. These suggestions also would help develop inter-group linkages and therefore facilitate AAC formation and functions.

4.4 Monitoring and Evaluation

As the planned participatory monitoring and evaluation system is developed with the groups, the following should be part of the exercise.

4.5 Credit Provision

The following are suggestions about the management of the PPP credit scheme. These suggestions may not be possible without other changes in the Province. However, they are worth exploring. If the credit scheme remains part of PPP, then the challenge is not to change the loan conditions, but to help groups find viable IGAs which will allow for successful repayment.


5. Closing remarks

There are many lessons to be learned from the PPP experience in Western Province which could benefit other programs around the world through their communication. This report is just the beginning. As group formation and thus PPP has become the basis on which the majority of development initiatives in the Province are being planned, continued study of the program would also be valuable for scholars and practitioners of local institution and rural development. PPP is one of the few projects which has taken seriously the call for greater emphasis in development aid on participation, empowerment and addressing the needs of resource poor women farmers. Real progress in these areas was identified in PPP groups while many field programs seem unable to get beyond the rhetoric. Such progress in building local capacity takes time and patience. The benefits, however, are worth the investment as they will continue contributing to the equitable development in the Western Province for years and hopefully, generations to come.


References

Bus, G. and G.A. Vierstra. 1991. "Report of a Survey on Agricultural Production Constraints of Women Farmers in Senanga-West (Zambia) - DRAFT." Adaptive Research Planning Team; Department of Agriculture, Senanga District; and Senanga-West Agricultural Development Area Project.

Chibinga, P., Groverman, V.; and C. Ruben. 1994. "Mid-term Review, People's Participation in Rural Development through the Promotion of Self-Help Organisations, Phase III." GCP/ZAM/047/NET, FAO, November 1994.

Masona, M.; Vierstra, G. and C. Vijfhuizen. 1990. "Women Farmers: The Need to Recognise their Needs. Experiences of a number of development workers, involved in women issues in the field of agriculture, livestock, extension and health in Western Province (Zambia)." Adaptive Research Planning Team/Western Province. Zambia.



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