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Posted May 1997

Participatory action research and people's participation:
Introduction and case studies

by Gerrit Huizer
Third World Centre
Catholic University of Nijmegen
The Netherlands
This report is also available as a series of nine smaller files, starting with Contents/preface

Table of Contents

1. Participatory action research as a methodology of rural development
2. People's participation as an alternative development strategy
3. Brief history and main principles of PPP approach
4. Similarities and variety in application of PPP principles
5. PPP in Thailand - from local projects to national scheme
6. Sri Lanka - Integrated Rural Development and People's Participation
7. Zambia - people's participation and large-scale cooperatives
8. Sierra Leone - accelerated group formation and integrated rural development
9. Concluding remarks


This essay deals with the practical implications of participatory action research as a means to enhance people's participation in development on their own behalf. It is a result of about 20 years of experience with all kinds of grassroots organizations in different areas in the Third World, but particularly with projects of FAO's People's Participation Programme (PPP) since 1981. I am much indebted to many participants at all levels in this programme, some in way-out villages, others at coordinating government offices of FAO headquarters. An earlier version of this essay was used as a background paper for FAO's International Workshop on the Strategy and Methodology of Participatory Rural Development Projects, Arusha (Tanzania 7-13 September 1989). The responsibility for any shortcomings in this essays is of course entirely my own.

Gerrit Huizer

1. Participatory action research as a methodology of rural development

In a recent critical assessment regarding the conventional approach to development studies Edwards shows that in most cases research in this field has "become part of the problems of underdevelopment rather than being part of the solutions to these problems" [1]. This is related to the fact that advising developing countries had become a "major industry, employing 80.000 expatriates in Africa south of the Sahara. As an alternative to the conventional academic survey and policy (top-down) research Edwards pleads for the introduction or extension of participatory or action research. This kind of research appears the only type that can seriously take into account the knowledge about their own environment and problems that exists among the common people for whom all the studies are allegedly to serve.

Fortunately, at the margins of the mainstream academic and policy-studies participation- and action-research and - even better - participatory action-research has been carried out over the last few decades in several countries. This was mostly related to such fields as community- and peasant organization, adult education, and similar grassroots oriented development efforts, designed to lead to "empowerment of the poor" [2]. A brief overview of the emergence of action research and participatory action research as its offshoot should be given.

Action research has emerged just before and during the Second World War in social psychology as a form of social research in which the researcher learns about certain group processes or change processes by actively participating in or manipulating certain aspects of these group- or change processes. It is a kind of learning by doing. The inventor of the term action research, Kurt Lewin, once said: "If you want to know how things really are, just try to change them" [3]. His work intended to benefit minority groups in the USA, such as Jews and Blacks, but it could well be applied to rural areas in Third World countries. Lewin himself was a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany with a background in the Frankfurter Schule. He created within social psychology a current or school dealing with democratic and authoritarian leadership patterns in groups and conducted a great deal of group dynamics experimentation among various kinds of people [4]. Later his approach was applied also in group formation and community organization work in Southern Italy and Latin America [5].

During the 1960's and early 1970's an increasing number of social scientists particularly in Latin America recognized that most current forms of sociological or anthropological research were not able to deal adequately with the political implications of people's participation in development particularly where this manifested itself in acute local contradictions or conflicts. As controversial aspects were too often ignored, it was difficult for such research to contribute to any solution. In fact unintentionally such research often served the most powerful and vested interests in such cases. As an alternative form of social research which proved more apt to play a role in conflict situations and contribute effectively in finding solutions certain types of action research became increasingly practised [6].

Different forms of action research have been distinguished. One form is manipulative action research: the knowledge acquired through action research can be utilized to manipulate people e.g. workers in industry. This happened in certain fields of industrial "human relations" programmes in USA and Europe where this form of social psychology following Lewin's initiative has been widely used.

In grassroots work in Third World countries a form of action research has emerged which tried to utilize the research itself as well as knowledge acquired through it, to enhance the grip of the local people, the participants on their own communities. From research objects they became research subjects. This was called participatory action research. In this participatory form of action research, several important contributing elements can be distinguished for the activist-researcher:

  1. Required is an awareness of one's own limitations, a sense of insecurity and one's relative ignorance (compared with the local people involved). In addition to this one needs consciousness of oneself as working with certain values, which may differ considerably from those of the local people.

  2. Accepting one's relative ignorance, one tries to learn from the people concerned through empathy and friendship what their problems and needs and feelings are. Knowledge of the history and the overall political-economic situation in the village or area concerned is essential background information. This can be obtained through data-gathering from official statistics or through local informants and group interviews, where people check one another's information.

  3. After acquiring sufficient knowledge and understanding of local problems further dialogue with the local people, particularly through discussions in small groups, searching together for possible solutions is undertaken. This will be done prudently, since most problems are due to conflicts of interest existing in the village or area concerned. Although risky, it is important to not ignore but rather to discover such conflicts and underlying social structural contradictions. It is needed to bring them into the open and initiate step by step, to support or help the people concerned, to undertake activities or create organizations to remedy and correct the situation and to overcome the existing contradictions.
Participatory action research mostly had as a purpose to find solutions to concrete problems and conflicts. The results of such research, however, if carried out systematically and consistently, at the same time contributed to a greater knowledge of conflict-solving methods as such, which apply to a variety of concrete situations. This is important for the replication elsewhere of general theoretical knowledge in this field, from which grassroots groups in a variety of circumstances can benefit. The methodology of participatory action research has gained impact and recognition from the established social science circles in Latin America where special symposia on this method have been organized or sponsored by Unesco, Int. Sociological Association and other bodies, in Cartagend, Colombia (1977), Ayacucho, Peru (1979), Lubljana, Yugoslavia (1980) and Patzcuaro, Mexico (1982), and most recently in Managua (1989) [7].

Also in other parts of the Third World the importance of including participatory strategies into social science methodology has been applied for some time [8]. In the case of African countries where in the rural areas polarization between rich and poor and concentration of land property in few hands has not (yet) taken the alarming forms visible in Latin America and large parts of Asia, the need to practice participatory methods of research to mobilize peasants for effective rural development efforts has also been recognized [9]. Such research was related to study planning and implementation of concrete small self-sufficiency projects such as grain storage or local problem-solving for broader self-reliance as the Jipemoyo-project in Tanzania [10].

There are several ways in which action research, if properly implemented, can directly serve the population in peasant villages. Properly implemented means here that research should be undertaken in close dialogue with the people concerned. As regards the, often problematic, internal situation of villages it is important to discover the existing stratification and the kinds of contradictions between social strata if they exist. The nature of such contradictions can be discussed with the people concerned, particularly with the lowest categories which generally form the majority.

Discussion of these contradictions can be used creatively in a process of conflict-resolution. Thus dynamic mobilization of the people for their own benefit became an integral part of such action-research as happened in cases in Latin America or India. In cases where such contradictions have not developed too strongly, they can be checked or corrected before they become acute and violent. An important aspect of the uncovering of contradictions and polarization between rich and poor is to study the historical process through which these emerged in the near of far-away past, particularly in respect to land tenure.

As regards the external relations of peasant villages or rural areas study was made of the dependency patterns which existed between the local economy and the broader society, regionally, nationally and internationally (e.g. the world market). Such studies, also undertaken in close dialogue with the local people tried to design strategies in which relationships of dependence could be managed in such a way that the local villagers achieve a maximum of bargaining power to assure a measure of independence or even self-reliance. Also this research had to include a look into the history of the emergence of such dependency relationships with the broader economic and political structures and what the effects of these relationships were for the local population. In this context the recovering of oral history often was a strongly motivating force.

These forms of action research have contributed to awakening or heightening poor people's awareness about the conflicts and contradictions existing in their situation and ways to overcome these. Researchers supplied the people they worked with, with useful background information which helped those people to interpret more accurately their own situation. Such action research could direct itself simultaneously towards the development of theories and to the solution of concrete social problems. Some forms of action research are undertaken to facilitate the solution of concrete problems while other forms are directed towards a (more theoretical) search for general problem-solving methods which could apply to a variety of concrete situations. Thus in addition to helping conflict-resolution such action research could lead to valid scientific insights supplementing the type of research generally practised with orthodox methodologies which do not always capture sufficiently the realities of rapid social change.

In the course of years of experimenting it was learned that the processes of rapid change in which most communities and societies are involved at present, anywhere, can probably most fruitfully be studied and understood by participating in those change processes, from within, through active but careful participation in ongoing processes. In addition to this, such action research also had to be undertaken from below, which implied that the realities were being seen critically, through the eyes of those who were suffering the effects of changes, and watched these effects with suspicion, distrust and doubt. This view from below implied a kind of structural and historical consciousness about the causes of subordination, which can help poor peasants and women to maintain their self-esteem to some extent in spite of their down-trodden situation.

However, practising this view from within and from below is often difficult as a consequence of the ways in which the social sciences are generally being taught and implemented. At present social scientists are amply trained in tabulating, drafting questionnaires, observation and interviewing, but there is hardly any systematic training to become sensitive to the needs and values of fellow human beings, individually or in groups. Even less attention is given to oneself, as a researcher and as a human being, grown up with all the biases one's society imposes.

Similarly neglected is development of the capacities to bring 'experiences', impressions and biases through introspection and discussion in small groups into the 'objective' sphere, something that can be learnt like good interviewing as is amply demonstrated by many feminist consciousness-raising groups. Such 'sensitivity-training' is probably a good way to overcome the alienating, dehumanizing effects of most of the current social research methodology which is basically manipulative and not emancipatory. Introducing such a sensitive methodology, in addition to possibly helping the people being researched, may well have a liberating effect on the social scientists concerned themselves.

There exists a certain variety in forms of participatory action research in which research and action (understood as processes of social transformation) are related. The most important distinctions are: Participatory Research-for-action and Participatory Research-through-action.

1. Participatory Research-for-action mostly consists of the regular forms of survey research though questionnaires or interviews, with a view of quantifying data on the situation of villagers. It is self-evident that before starting such investigation in a concrete village or area, statistical and other overall material on the village which is available at competent government offices or statistical bureaus, should be collected and studied. Relevant topics are population, land tenure, economic activities, on-going or past project activities, if available also historical data.

In relation with certain action projects - e.g. various types of people's participation projects - it is necessary to involve participants according to criteria of relative poverty [11]. At the start of a project the activists or promoters visit local families. By making an inventory of the inhabitants of a village and their (lack of) wealth, income, land tenure, measure of indebtedness, number of cattle, they can in dialogue with the people determine who qualifies for participation in the project and who not. It is a principle of people's participation projects to exclude the better-off, to ascertain that they will not become the main beneficiaries of the project or dominate it as happened too often in all kinds of current development schemes as promoted by the World Bank and similar agencies.

The participatory action aspect of this simple quantifying survey research is that the results of inventarization are being fed back into the community in group meetings to verify in open discussions that the data are largely correct (most people in villages know the economic situation of other villagers and a mutual check, particularly if announced beforehand, can be a guarantee for correctness of data supplied). Of course such research should be explained in public meetings in advance, before it actually starts. Such public discussions can enhance awareness and the possible solution of certain contradictions or injustices existing within the village or in its relation with outsiders (merchants, transporters, moneylenders, landlords).

As will be shown below people's participation projects are launched by some governments or nongovernmental organizations in order to specifically help the poor sectors of the rural areas (often the majority) which have not benefited from or were even marginalized by the current Green Revolution and other rural development efforts such as the introduction of large capitalist farms. There are a number of other forms of participatory research-for-action in addition to such an inventory of existing social conditions which form the starting point of action projects. In many cases in addition to knowing the actual social structure of a community it is important to (re)discover the history of social relationships. Listening to the (oral) histories as told by aged men and women about themselves and their community in the past and discussing the findings in community or group meetings has proved to be a useful way to discover and enhance the aspirations living in a community.

Such research can include economic and political history of struggles and developments but also concern the religious and spiritual life, which in the past has often been more evident and important than to-day, though it still may be slumbering and thus influencing present decisionmaking in covert ways.

2. Participatory Research-through-action takes as a point of departure that most activities in the field of emancipatory social transformation can be seen as experiments proving (or disproving) that people can use certain group strategies to change their situation for the better and how to do this most effectively through group formation and common action on their own behalf. It implies therefore a careful recording, qualitative and quantitative, of the process of relevant activities undertaken.

This had to be done by the activist or promoter but in part also by the secretaries of the action-groups (e.g. minutes of meetings held). The promoter has to do the summarizing of all the collected records and to assess in dialogue with the participants cases of success and failure, problems or bottlenecks which occurred (e.g. regarding democratic or authoritarian style of group leadership and its effectiveness). The summarized experiences are presented for discussion in the groups concerned and in common meetings or workshops of representatives of various groups, so that feedback can take place and an overall and mutual learning-by-doing process emerges. Thus certain successful activities can be analysed and the factors leading to success be recognized and their occurrence enhanced in future activities. At the same time factors leading to failures can be detected and in the future possibly be avoided.

Participatory research-for-action and research-through-action generally complement each other as components of participatory action research. They can be implemented at various levels. These are mostly undertaken at the village or community level and have in such situations proved to be a useful approach to enhance the empowerment of disadvantaged people (peasants, women) through group formation and common action. The group members and -leaders as well as the activists or promoters learn a great deal from these exchanges. Promoters as well as participants can enhance their learning by keeping in addition to official records and logbooks about occurrences and activities a personal diary with reflections and observations particularly on difficult or controversial aspects of the processes involved. Personal development and group empowerment often go hand in hand and can be explicitly linked by conscious reflective effort. Thus objectivity in participatory action research can be enhanced by the distance, through self-reflection, which researchers can take from themselves and from their own personal and cultural biases and the political-economic context to which they structurally belong.

In the course of the last few years considerable experience has been accrued in some official or many non-governmental agency sponsored projects with various forms of participatory action research. One of the few official and UN sponsored programmes using this methodology is FAO's People's Participation Programme (PPP), working through pilot projects in about 10 different countries. In most of these projects some measure of systematic application of participatory action research has been an essential component.

2. People's participation as an alternative development strategy

In order to show the need for and effectiveness of the people's participation approach it is necessary to make a few observations about the context in which this approach as a rural development strategy emerged. This context is reflected in (a) the theoretical debates in circles of development agencies about advantages and disadvantages of certain strategies and (b) the concrete historical situations in which certain strategies have been more or less effectively applied. Since many years there has been considerable debate in rural development circles about the most appropriate strategy to achieve active participation of peasants, men and women, in large scale rural development efforts.

On the one hand there is the current which advocates the "betting on the strong" approach, sponsoring projects or programmes involving mostly the farmers which have a certain minimum of resources (land, know-how), supporting them with credit and agricultural extension in the hope of a "trickle down" of improvements and benefits to the poor. This approach has in not a few cases led to considerable results, rapidly spreading new agricultural technologies and crop varieties leading to higher yields - the so-called Green Revolution.

A disadvantage of this approach which has been recognised, and carefully evaluated by UNRISD [12] was that an important minority sector of the peasantry could gain benefits but that large and often majority sectors were not enabled to share in this process and remained behind. Growing contradictions between rich and poor led to social discrepancies and enhanced unrest in many rural areas.

On the other hand, and as a reaction to the former approach, there are strong advocates of a grassroots oriented bottom-up approach, appealing to the hidden potentials and creativity of the poor peasants and women, stimulating and supporting them in the creation of interest groups on their own behalf to bargain for better access to resources such as land and credit.

The concept of participation has been defined many times in different ways. Solon Barraclough, in a recent UNRISD overview of many studies regarding this topic in relation with food policy and hunger, indicated that UNRISD researchers identified over a dozen senses in which the concept participation was employed in the development literature. These concepts were to some extent overlapping and sometimes contradictory. Particularly with the participation of the poor in mind the UNRISD researchers accepted the following working definition for popular participation: "the organized efforts to increase the control over resources and regulative institutions in given social situations, on the part of groups and movements of those hitherto excluded from such control". [13] This is the people's participation approach. As Barraclough also indicated the most determinant factor for one development approach or the other is the "political will" and this depends on the institutional set-up prevailing in a country or region and the measure in which this set-up gives a certain influence to underprivileged groups.

The idea, widely cherished among development workers that underprivileged groups such as peasants and rural women, do not participate in development because of their apathy and resistance to change has been seriously challenged. [14] The main issue is not whether people can participate or not but rather how, in what form, they will participate. The main question is: will people effectively participate in (and share in the results of) development projects or will they participate in resistance or revolt against developments which frustrate their expectations or are disadvantageous to them. In the latter case, they may change the institutional set-up of rural or overall development through a radical reform programme or a revolution. The radical agrarian reforms in the fifties of China, Japan and Taiwan (and later South-Korea) are examples of people's participation on behalf of radical structural change, either through revolution (China) or through a more or less imposed reform (Japan, Taiwan) [15]. In all those countries networks of peasants associations and federations played a crucial role in effective rural development. This has not only benefited the majorities of the peasant population in those countries but could also create the internal market and other favourable conditions for rapid and sustained industrial development. This is well-known for the "newly industrializing countries" Taiwan and South-Korea, but less so for China. The World Bank, in a careful evaluation of China's "socialist economic development", sees its mobilization of popular participation in radical land redistribution and egalitarian rural development as contributing to a sustained average industrial growth rate of 10% per year between 1950 and 1980. Throughout this World Bank report comparisons are made with much slower developments in India and some other Asian countries [16].

In India the approach of (expected) participation through a "trickle-down" process was practised on a large scale through a National Community Development Programme and the Green Revolution. As part of this strategy community development and agricultural extension workers generally accepted that communicating new ideas and inputs through the established leaders in the villages would automatically benefit the whole community. This "communication" strategy, followed in most countries, has been called the "oil stain approach" or the "trickle down process". Information about improved technology, better seeds or fertilizers was given to the more advanced farmers, the "opinion leaders" who were prepared to adopt the new practices. The expectation was then that the other farmers would eventually follow their example. This approach completely ignored the uneven distribution of land and other resources; it strengthened the economic position of those who were already better-off in the villages and thus contributed to widening the contrast between poor and rich at the village level [17].

This community development strategy in fact enhanced and sharpened the contradictions and the potential for social conflict in the villages. Based on a number of evaluation studies of community development in India and Indonesia, Wertheim has called this approach "betting on the strong" [18]. Many observers of the rural scene in India have noticed this polarization and growing awareness among the rural poor of the increasing discrepancies. This gradually developing polarization was strongly accelerated by the Green Revolution and soon acquired alarming proportions. Hari P. Sharma has supplied statistical data indicating that the percentage of rural households living below the extreme poverty line rose from 38 percent in 1960 to 53 percent in 1968 [19]. Landlessness among the Indian peasants increased from 20 to 50% between 1950 and 1980 according to World Bank figures. Increasing frustration and deprivation enhanced the participation of more and more of the underprivileged in forms of resistance or rebellion leading to what an official enquiry report of 1969 called "agrarian unrest". This report of the Ministry of Home Affairs concluded:

"The problem, in other words, has to be tackled on a wide front effectively and imaginatively. Failure to do so may lead to a situation where the discontented elements are compelled to organize themselves and the extreme tensions building up within the `complex molecule' that is the Indian village end in an explosion" [20].
The build-up of tension in the rural areas has not been reversed in the meantime and may even have accelerated. Intensive field visits which I made as member of an ILO mission in 1977 confirmed these alarming observations. As only about 50 of the 550,000 villages in India were visited, in Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Bihar, only general impressions can be given. However, some observations were so strong in practically all cases (and are confirmed by the literature) that it seems worthwhile to note them, albeit with reservations. Official statistics which indicate a gradual increase of agricultural labourers, a decrease in the number of small farmers, tenants and sharecroppers, and a decreasing level of living, were amply confirmed by many dramatic life histories, told by the peasants concerned and by the women in the villages.

One sign of increasing frustration was that in several villages people bluntly told us that they did not see much use in answering questions. Their sense of grievance was so strong, however, that despite the interview situation they spoke quite frankly about their problems and, when they realized that they were attentively listened to, with considerable insight as well as bitterness [21]. The situation of considerable "agrarian unrest" continues to prevail until today in the Indian countryside, often consisting of atrocities committed by the wealthy against the restless poor [22]. India is not the only country where development without people's participation led to tensions and violence. As director of the World Bank Robert McNamara aptly summarized situations in many countries when observing in 1973:

"The data suggest that the decade of rapid growth has been accompanied by greater maldistribution of income in many developing countries and that the problem is most severe in the countryside", and ... "an increasingly inequitable situation will pose a growing threat to political stability" [23].
This statement of McNamara echoes some of the things he had already said in "The Essence of Security. Reflections in Office" a few years earlier, in 1968, when he still was US Secretary of Defense. After mentioning in these reflections on national security that the World Bank had divided the world's nations into four categories, rich, middle-income, poor and very poor, McNamara observed that particularly in the latter categories a great deal of violence was occurring related to increasing poverty. He then suggested to achieve people's peaceful participation in development :
"Only the developing nations themselves can take the fundamental measures that make outside assistance meaningful. These measures are often unpalatable and frequently call for political courage and decisiveness. But to fail to undertake painful but essential reform inevitably leads to far more painful revolutionary violence" [24].
Unfortunately the World Bank has, in spite of such repeated recommendations and statements, done very little to help governments to stimulate effective and peaceful participation of people in development. Not to speak of "painful but essential reform". Most of its projects continued to adopt the "trickle-down" approach, such as the T and V (Training and Visit) programme. According to Uphoff T&V "seeks to ensure and standardize the performance of extension cadre through fortnightly training sessions. Simple standard messages are given to extension agents to take to a series of 'contact farmers', whom they are to meet fortnightly and who in turn are supposed to carry the messages to other farmers" [25]. Based on field studies of T&V in Thailand and Sri Lanka Uphoff concludes that it lacks effectiveness because the contact farmers mostly do not represent a group and therefore the messages given to them do not reach much farther. Uphoff does not appear to be aware of the fact that the T&V method, like most other forms of supposedly "trickle down" communication methodologies, is mostly anti-participatory and tends to benefit almost exclusively the better-off, thus strengthening directly or indirectly the contradictions between them and disadvantaged in the villages. T and V has formed part of the development policies of various countries where later, probably after some problems had become visible, FAO helped to introduce its PPP approach as an alternative.

PPP was developed during the 197Os in Southeast Asia, where the problems created by the "betting on the strong" approach were most strongly felt. A brief review of the most essential characteristics will be given below. This implies that attention will have to be given to an adequate classification of the various categories of the rural population affected in a particular project area, utilizing e.g. Uphoff's categories and properly quantifying them, like: rich, middle class, subsistence, very poor and destitute [26].

This composition of the rural population should be inventarized for each specific area, which can often be done from available statistics but not always. It is precisely in inventarizing locally existing social stratification that participatory research as described above has proved useful to ensure that a correct picture comes forward. In informal and particularly in group discussions data about differences in wealth and poverty can be checked and become a topic of concern as a basis for possible action. This has been shown on many occasions. Terms as "very poor" or "destitute" should not be used in such research as they are offensive to the people concerned. More objective criteria that have been effectively used are:

Access to land is considered a crucial indicator for well-being and social status in almost all rural societies. It is also the issue that has most readily provoked forms of popular participation through emerging peasant organizations in past and present. Forms of participatory action research have been fruitful in several such cases [27].

In addition to a proper inventory and classification of the rural population the cultural and historical context has to be taken into account, since it has an influence in participation and leadership patterns. The cultural-historical context in many cases includes happenings of intergroup conflicts of class-, tribal- or other nature in past en present. Such influences or incidents have played a role in most PPP areas in one way or another, as can be seen from some of the presently on-going PPP projects with which I have become familiar in the course of the last few years. These are:

  1. the PPP projects in Thailand, presently intended to be spread as a nation-wide programme;
  2. in Sri Lanka, where the PPP example has influenced planning in a large scale Integrated Rural Development Project;
  3. in Zambia where PPP was serving as an example for a broader effort to organize the poor cooperatively through the Zambian Cooperative Federation;
  4. Sierra Leone where PPP has influenced, and upon its completion was more or less integrated in the large-scale Bo-Pujehun Rural Development Programme.
Before describing these cases the overall strategy of PPP will be briefly discussed.

3. Brief history and main principles of PPP approach

Since 1973 FAO has been engaged in an innovative programme in the Asian and Pacific Region aimed at helping the poorest of the poor in rural areas to participate in and benefit from on-going rural development programmes. This Small Farmers Development Programme (SFDP), as it became widely known, was the outgrowth of the FAO/UNDP Regional Project "Asian Survey of Agrarian Reform and Rural Development" (ASARRD) which terminated in June 1976.

From this process of multi-level and multi-disciplinary consultation the following six 'essential elements' were identified as necessary for any project to reach and benefit the rural poor:

To test the validity of these 'essential elements' eight Field Action Projects (FAPs) were then initiated: three in Bangladesh, two in Nepal and three in the Philippines. Two group organizers/promoters were assigned to each project with the task of assisting about 500 families of small farmers, small fishermen, tenants and landless agricultural labourers to organize themselves into income-generating groups called Small Farmers Development Groups (SFD Groups) [28]. This programme has operated from 1976-1979 with strong national and international backing and is continuing in some of the countries concerned with broader national or international support.

The basic strategy of SFDP until to-day is to help the rural poor organize themselves into small (10-15 persons), informal, socially and economically homogeneous groups around common income-generating activities so that they can benefit from the larger scale of operations. By exerting group influence in the community they will gain better access to production resources and so receive a more equitable share of development benefits which hitherto had escaped them as individuals. Group liability is a common feature of group membership. Through the process of group formation, group planning, group self-study, shared-leadership, decision-making by consensus, satisfactory completion of income-earning activities and group savings, group members learn at first hand the costs and benefits of group action. Successful cooperation amongst members of a small group leads eventually to inter-group cooperation and the desire to federate into an association of groups for increased social and economic benefits.

The central figure crucial to the success of the Programme is the group promoter. He or she is the agent of change. The group promoter is responsible for identifying eligible participants through participatory action research, assisting them to organize themselves into small groups around some nucleus supplementary income-generating activity, helping them to secure institutional credit and supplies and services from government agencies and institutions and in general guiding 20 to 25 groups towards self reliance over a period of two to three years. The group promoter is also responsible for monitoring, analysing and documenting the performance of the groups together with the group members (participatory monitoring and on-going evaluation).

Another essential feature of the Programme is the need for government agencies and institutions to reserve a portion of their supplies and services for the exclusive use of the disadvantaged rural poor. For properly channelling inputs projects are initiated with a system of planning from below. Participation of the group members and field staff of government departments and agencies in a two-way planning process is an essential element in FAO's approach a to Small Farmers Development. Local plans are eventually matched with those plans coming from the top national level so that the needs of the rural poor are accommodated within national plans. A communication and coordination network for all levels from central government to the farmer was established.

The 1979 FAO's World Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (WCARRD) in Rome strongly endorsed the bottom-up approach as described above. WCARRD adopted a Declaration of Principles and a Programme of Action which constituted a basic set of principles for the direction of rural development policy. It designated FAO as the lead agency in rural development within the UN system and gave the organization a mandate to implement the Programme of Action. Adopted by virtually all the countries of the world, this is a unique document outlining an anti-poverty approach which constitutes a platform on the basis of which FAO can assist countries and orient its own activities.

The main thrust of the Programme of Action can be formulated as growth with equity and people's participation. It aims at integrating the objective of growth with equity through people's participation and it stipulates that the beneficiaries of any programme or field project should primarily be the rural poor - small farmers, landless, rural women and other rural groups belonging to the disadvantaged majority. The traditional focus on growth thus remains but it is underlined that small farmers' participation is essential, both to achieve sustainable growth and equity. The WCARRD Programme of Action sees participation both as an end and as a means in rural development. It is also an indispensable means because rural development can only realize its potential through the motivation, involvement and organization of the rural poor. Women should be involved on an equal basis with men in the social, economic and political processes of rural development. Existing initiatives were integrated into "People's Participation in Rural Development through Promotion of Self-Help Organizations" (PPP) which is implementing village-level pilot projects in an increasing number of countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America since 1980. As emphasized by WCARRD the programme works closely with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) as implementors of the pilot projects whenever feasible.

In order to optimally benefit from the S.E. Asian experience, I was asked in 1981 to summarize the most important lessons from that experience and produce guidelines for the monitoring of the projects which were initiated in African countries. I was given a chance to familiarize myself sufficiently with SFDP in its 3 pilot countries, but not with the situation in the African countries envisaged for PPP. Thus preliminary guidelines were drafted only on the basis of Asian case studies [29]. Already during a first review of these guidelines in an introductory seminar on African PPP held in Berlin in 1982, doubt about the usefulness for Africa of the rather sophisticated Asian SFDP approach arose in the discussions with participants from the countries concerned, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Zambia, Kenya, Lesotho, Swaziland and Zimbabwe. In the course of the following years several efforts have been undertaken to evaluate and systematize those PPP experiences in order to enhance the effectiveness of the methods and strategies applied in a participatory manner and adjusted to the local situation. The same was done in a few S.E. Asian and Latin American countries where PPP (or SFDP) projects were more recently initiated (Thailand, Sri Lanka and Nicaragua). I participated in several of these efforts and could assess that participatory action research can successfully be utilized under many circumstances, if flexibly applied, taking into account the locally prevailing political context and cultural traditions. Some comparative observations will be made in the next section on crucial issues such as selection of group organizers and of beneficiaries of the group formation projects, their monitoring and evaluation and the problem of the rich-poor distinction. After that a few case studies will be presented.

4. Similarities and variety in application of PPP principles

a. Selection and training of group promoters or organizers

Selection of group promoters is crucial. There is a variety of experiences with different kinds of group promoters. While in some projects group promoters are local people with leadership qualities with a minimum of formal education who are selected by extension or other agency personnel to form groups in their own village (as happened in Zambia), elsewhere the group promoters are precisely those agricultural extension or similar agency personnel themselves (Thailand, Zimbabwe). Most projects have an intermediate position: non-local special staff, generally of the educational level of government agents or even higher, was recruited to work as group organizers, coordinating their work with local officials and promoting local leadership (Ghana). It is as yet not possible to assess which of the various forms is the best. There are indications that for the stability and consistency of the project the Zambian method is more risky (a great turn-over of group promoters). But in countries with a great lack of qualified personnel this method may still be preferred.

There is also considerable variation in the ways group promoters are integrated into a working and training programme broader than an FAO/PPP project as such. In Zambia they are chosen and supported by local extension staff of the Ministry of Agriculture and Water Development, with whom they have regular training workshops together, sponsored by PPP. In Swaziland they work side by side with the local credit advisors of the Swazi Development and Savings Bank, who also participate in PPP training activities. In Thailand most group promoters are local officials of the Department of Agricultural Extension, seconded by a few fulltime FAO/PPP promoters from NGOs. They are trained jointly and work closely together. In Nicaragua the group promoters are additional personnel of the implementing agency UNAG (National Union of Agriculturists and Cattle Holders), and are trained together with the regular staff of this organization [30]. In all those cases it is clear that more people are trained in and working with the PPP approach than the specific PPP group promoters. This guarantees a measure of integration of the PPP approach into the implementing agency and sometimes also collaborating agencies.

b. Selection of beneficiaries to form groups

Another crucial aspect is the selection of the project villages in the overall field project areas that were already selected in the preparation phase. In some cases villages have been selected because of the availability of local supporting extension personnel and group promoters, as in Zambia. In other cases the implementing agency had a certain preference for an area because there were already groups operating (as in Kenya) or their formation would not be too difficult (Lesotho). In no instance villages or groups were selected on the basis of previously undertaken survey research of some kind. Only in Thailand and Sri Lanka available statistics of the Ministry of Agriculture about poverty levels and a certain homogeneity or lack of acute contradictions were taken into account.

For the selection of beneficiaries of initially small-scale projects one can doubt the usefulness of special large-scale sample surveys undertaken as part of the initiation phase of PPP, except for very simple household benchmark surveys carried out by group promoters.

It is customary in large-scale FAO projects to conduct a thorough baseline sample survey to get benchmark data from where to judge the impact made by the project. Also regarding PPP projects a great deal of emphasis has been given on the need to conduct a base-line sample survey prior to the initiation of a project. In fact in no country this has been done, and one wonders about the need for such a survey. It generally is a costly (and academic) affair, not contributing to the participatory approach (as a sample survey is per definition top-down) and overall statistics about whole areas can be obtained in most countries from the Government's Statistical Office.

PPP has therefore introduced a simple household benchmark survey at the initiation stage to make a rough assessment of those families who qualify for participation and those who don't. These household survey data also form a rough benchmark for progress, though it should be taken into account that at the scale of the poor peasant economy, improvements made in only two or three years can hardly be measured and are partly intangible (e.g. organizational skill or group cohesion). It has been customary that these household surveys are carried out by the group promoters, partly as a way to become acquainted with the area where they are working.

Becoming familiar with questionnaire and interview techniques can form part of the GP training and can be quite successful, as shown in Thailand. It was less emphasized in Sri Lanka. Thus in Thailand, these household surveys were taken as a basis for member selection, trying to exclude the obviously better-off. In some African countries where social stratification in the villages is much less outspoken and the villages more homogeneous, even such simple house-hold surveys may be less needed, after an overall impression of the poverty level has been obtained.

Most African PPP projects got started without any survey at all. More important could be some initial research by group promoters into local dependency relationships, e.g. with a view on marketing. Apparently in most cases during the initial training little emphasis has been given to such scouting research.

It can be questioned if the considerable amounts spent on consultants from local universities or research institutions on the conducting of certain types of surveys (mostly long after the projects got started) was justified. In most cases the methodology used by these institutions was the orthodox social science approach which is far from participatory, if not "anti-participatory" [31]. Too rarely were simple participatory surveys conducted by the group promoters themselves, with some minor guidance from experienced PPP staff, as an introduction to the villages where they started to work. This did happen in Sri Lanka where the collection of benchmark data was undertaken purposely not as a sample survey but in a participatory manner as part of the action research approach typical for PPP.

PPP projects as well as the earlier SFDP projects are all pilot projects of an experimental nature to demonstrate the feasibility of the grassroots or bottom-up approach to rural development. Their implementation is at the same time an action- and a research effort. It was therefore that in the first SFDP projects in S.E. Asia the group promoters were called GO/ARF, Group Organizer/Action Research Fellow. This implies that they and the whole set-up of a PPP project should enable a systematic recording and analysis of findings and accomplishments. Only this way the experience becomes an experiment which can be replicated and serve as an example to others.

The beneficiaries themselves participate in the research effort as a form of self-evaluation, giving feedback in a dialogue with the group promoters. The National Project Coordinator should be able to guide and supervise this participatory action-research effort, though he may get at times assistance from an outside consultant, specialized in this field.

c. Participatory monitoring and on-going evaluation as a process

One of the most important aspects of such participatory project management is the monitoring and on-going evaluation, so that strategies can be adjusted in the course of the field action to best ensure the achievement of the objectives. Therefore in PPP great value has been attached to develop a way of participatory monitoring and on-going evaluation (PMOE) in which the beneficiaries can themselves influence the project strategy to their best interest. This method of PMOE has been carefully and quite successfully developed in the SFDP projects in S.E. Asia. The main elements of PMOE are:

l. Participatory action research. This research consists of a process through which the group organizers (GOs) or group promoters (GPs) conduct a simple household survey in the area chosen for the project to determine, together with the local people themselves who are the poor which qualify for participation. Beforehand the GP has become somewhat familiar with the area by studying available overall statistics on land tenure, and other socio-economic aspects of the area, including the recent history of developments (or underdevelopments) which have taken place there and the traditional culture(s) prevailing in the areas. This research-for-action is then combined with research-through-action.

Group discussions with the villagers have been a useful tool in familiarizing with the local situation and even of enhancing awareness of certain problems among the villagers themselves. Part of this action research is also a careful and systematic recording of findings by the GPs particularly of steps undertaken together with the participants to come to solutions through the formation of small groups. Learning by doing, trial and error, are the main tools of PMOE. This only requires systematic recording through group record books, kept by the groups themselves, and a logbook with happenings in the different groups kept by the GPs, in most cases supplemented with their personal diaries containing their own observations on problem areas, such as the role of leadership (autocratic or democratic) and group cohesion.

2. Participatory PMOE field workshops. The participatory action research data, all indicative for successes and for failures in the group formation process and further developments are regularly (e.g. 3 monthly) summarized by the GPs and discussed in local meetings with the groups or their representatives and in field workshops together with the other GPs in the project area, the national coordinator, and other directly involved staff, so as to learn from one another. At least once a year a national workshop for PMOE is held, preferably in one of the project areas to review the project as a whole together with the National Coordinating Committee and representatives of government and other agencies involved. The practice in S.E. Asia was, that in all of these workshops about one third of the participants were grassroots people, men and women.

Following the S.E. Asian examples some kind of field workshops have taken place in all projects, either nationally or locally or both. Though the participation of beneficiaries or their representatives was not always adequate, most workshops have tried to be of a participatory nature, and appear to have been a useful tool in the on-going evaluation and monitoring of projects. Learning took place in many fields, e.g. the domination of women's groups by men (the need to limit the number of men in such groups), the kind of income-generating activities which were most profitable and guaranteed the best repayment of loans, the kind of loans people prefer (short-term for crops or middle-term for tools, oxen, etc.),the need for saving to complement the credit programme, the need to spread risks over a variety of activities or crops, the need for feasibility studies in which the people themselves participate.

It should be observed that in most orthodox large-scale development projects monitoring and evaluation takes place with help of baseline sample surveys and nutritional standard surveys, but the kind of data obtained through those give only benchmarks, and no insight in changes which are taking or have taken place due to PPP activity. Though the emphasis on these elements is understandable in view of the desire of donors to get 'visible results', it appears unjustified in the case of the PPP approach. The most important results of PPP are by definition only in a limited sense quantitative, e.g. the number of groups formed. The quality of the groups, their cohesion, their ability to foster their members' best interests cannot, or hardly, be quantified.

It is therefore that in the Guiding Principles for PPP projects strong emphasis was given on the case history form (success-stories or failures) of presenting and evaluating the group work in participatory field workshops. Only at the halfway stage of the development of PPP projects in most countries it was discovered that the technocratic approach to MOE through a baseline sample survey and efforts to quantify income-increases, did not give much real insight. The usefulness of frank discussions of successes as well as failures proved its value in PPP already in its first stage, just as it did in SFDP. PPP officials of all levels have expressed to benefit from the exchanges taking place at the local and national workshops, even though these were not as optimally prepared through an effective recording system as they were in SFDP. At several occasions during PPP workshops highly placed government- or FAO officials have discussed the difficulties of subsistence agriculture or indebtedness with poor farmer women or (semi)landless peasants in a serious manner. The impact of such simple happenings is intangible and difficult to quantify but is due to be significant in the long run. A direct acquaintance at top-policy levels with the fate of the majority of the rural population is an asset.

d. The rich-poor contradictions

A main topic of concern and debate related to almost all presently functioning PPP projects is the issue how exclusively (or not) PPP has to concentrate on the poorest of the poor in the formation of homogeneous groups.

Particularly in Kenya there was considerable discussion on how to understand "poor". The group chosen to work with, which already existed before PPP entered, were farmers which were viewed as "middle class poor". They were settlers on a land reform settlement, created after Independence on land formerly belonging to a white farmer. They had 10-15 acres of land each, were not rich and rather homogeneous in their village. They were, however, considerably better-off compared to the majority of peasants in the surrounding areas, one of the most densely populated areas of Kenya where most peasants own less than 3 acres. These were the areas where many of the settlers in the settlement originated. It could be observed that the use of the term "poor" is leading to considerable confusion.

It was recommended above to introduce more precise terminology such as subsistence farmers, semi-landless and landless. Also more attention should be given to the social stratification in the area as a whole where PPP field projects are being initiated. One of the earliest learning experiences of PPP is that the search for homogeneous groups is a good principle to follow but that it is not to be applied rigidly. In a country like Nicaragua already at the initiating stage it was clear that the UNAG (National Union of Agriculturists and Cattle Holders) the NGO which is the implementing agency of PPP, has as many middle as small farmers in its ranks. Also in Thailand already before the actual implementation of the project, there was considerable discussion as to what extent PPP groups should be only and exclusively for the poor. Non-confrontation and emphasizing harmony in community relations is a deeply embedded value in Thai-Buddhist society (see below).

On the whole PPP has taken a pragmatic approach and has included more variety in its beneficiaries than the SFDP projects. Even the case of Kenya where PPP criteria have been stretched too much in the eagerness to quickly get a project started appears to be a good learning experience which can be replicated by orthodox development programmes "betting on the strong". Particularly a comparative evaluation of the successes and failures of clearly homogeneously poor peasant groups and those groups which do not strictly conform to this PPP standard in the same area or elsewhere, can give useful insights.

The last few years workers in rural development have increasingly discovered that the realities of development practice are in many cases not in agreement with the theoretical models such as either the top-down ("trickle-down") or the bottom-up approach. By trial and error intermediate forms (between one model and the other) have been, or are being tried out from which probably as much can be learned as from the "typical" cases. Thus large-scale projects, operating on the basis of huge investments, have had to come to grips with aspects of people's participation in order not to become too blatant failures. On the other hand, as noted above and below, typical People's Participation Projects have had to adapt themselves to local cultural conditions and traditional power relations in order to get off the ground, thus deviating from the "guiding principles" that were at their origin. In reality the contradiction between one model and the other is in not a few cases not antagonistic and rigid but rather fluid.

A few of the PPP projects with which I have been more or less closely involved in the course of the years and where a pragmatic and flexible application of PPP principles has led to the actual or potential replication on a large-scale basis will be described.

5. PPP in Thailand: from local projects to national scheme

Thailand is a country where the World Bank supported T&V (Training and Visit) or "trickle-down" approach has been widely and systematically applied but where at present the Government feels the need to complement or replace this strategy with the PPP approach. This after ample experimentation, since 1984, with PPP in 4 different regions: Khon Kaen (the North), Chiang Mai (North-East), Songh Kla (the South) and Nakon-sowan (the Centre). The PPP projects were under the direction of the Department of Agricultural Extension (DOAE). They were funded by the Netherlands, and still uses the old name SFDP.

Areas were chosen which were relatively close to agricultural universities, which could help the existing DOAE extension staff to work with the PPP approach. Some of these universities, as NGOs, had already gained experience with non-orthodox and bottom-up rural development efforts and were willing to help DOAE [32]. In addition to 25 carefully selected regular agricultural extension workers who showed a willingness to try out the bottom-up approach on a part-time basis besides their normal Training and Visit activities, the universities recruited with funds from the PPP programme six full-time group promoters to participate in the experimental projects. University staff specialized in agricultural extension helped to supervise and monitor both these six NGO workers and the 25 regular extension workers.

The selection of specific field project areas, districts and villages was further carried out on the base of statistical data on relative poverty already available through the overall surveys (1981) of the National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB).

Once starting their activities the group promoters collected more profound benchmark data through (a) a community statistics survey, relying mainly on data supplied by local key informants and leaders, to get an overall picture of the villages concerned. Main topics of this survey were

  1. the infrastructure and land situation (why is a village poor) - possible alternatives and solutions, social implications such as willingness to organize groups
  2. a household survey to identify the truly small farm families in the communities
  3. a detailed baseline household survey among the families which had been selected for participation in groups, in order to be able to assess progress (e.g. in raising the income) made during the years of the project's implementation.
The data, locally available, were used as a step in the process of group formation. They were also discussed at the provincial level workshops in each of the 4 provinces where SFDP got started.

As regards the various types of surveys which have been conducted it could be observed that a great deal of useful data were available and had been summarized at the community level, and to some extent also at the provincial level. In each province the university gave assistance to this process of data collection. While such elaborate data collection has on the one hand helped the choice of sectors of villages where the project would operate, on the other hand it may have delayed the effective formation of groups to some extent. Though more slowly than in other PPP projects elsewhere, group formation did come off the ground during the first year.

When evaluating and monitoring the methodology for drafting of group plans it could be observed that, as most of the GOs were trained as extension workers, for them the learning of participatory approaches was much needed and had to be accompanied by some measure of "unlearning" of the top-down, "convincing", approaches which most of them had been taught and practised before. There was, however, a great willingness to try out the participatory method although even the trainers initially didn't seem completely familiar with it. Some assistance was given in this field by FAO Regional Office for S.E. Asia.

It could be observed that as regards the surveys used for the group formation as well as the strategy for the group formation and formulation of group plans the participatory implications were recognized, discussed, and endorsed, but were not always fully appreciated. This was understandable as local DOAE agricultural extension staff including the 25 GOs, continued also using the World Bank promoted T and V System, which is a typical form of top-down rural extension management. Thus participatory action research, as envisaged by PPP did not easily take roots.

The main problem encountered and amply discussed at staff meetings and workshops was the poor-rich relationship. Reckoning with the local conditions and the existing relationships between rich and poor which vary considerably from village to village, the GOs were trying to focus on group formation of small farmers (SF) without too explicitly excluding the big farmers (BF). This way is in agreement with local Thai Buddhist traditions of harmony. It was considered essential to avoid social conflicts. (In one village the name Small Farmer Development Programme could therefore not be utilized). The risks of involving some big farmers in groups of small farmers were amply discussed but it appeared not realistic in the present Thai conditions to form only groups exclusively of small farmers.

To openly discuss survey data in public meetings with the farm people concerned was also against local custom of maintaining harmony. Participatory research under such conditions is more difficult than in most other countries where such customs do not prevail so strongly. It was emphasized by all GOs, however, that they did keep the target group, small farmers, strongly in mind and that cautiously they could accomplish to form groups of more or less homogeneously poor farmers, without using the term poor.

Considering these delicate problems which GOs had to face in their SFDP activities it was necessary to carefully assess the successes and failures in group formation in qualitative terms. In view of the inclusion of the SFDP approach in the next Thailand Five Year Plan on a nationwide scale, the experiences of the first pilot efforts in the 4 provinces were carefully reported, discussed and analysed. This was somewhat facilitated by the establishment of a participatory monitoring and ongoing evaluation (PMOE) system but this did not always result in a clear and systematic recording and analysis of successes and failures. However, it was helpful that regular workshops, envisaged as part of PMOE have been held in all provinces. There was unfortunately very little participation of group members and leaders in these workshops, though the need to include a good number of them for feedback has been recognized.

During short field visits in the course of the years it could be observed and verified in discussions with local people that the tradition of harmony is still cherished in the rural areas, but also that there is definitely taking place an erosion of this tradition. In several places poor peasants, particularly women were not afraid to speak up freely and express their grievances more or less openly. This makes the situation of the GOs altogether more delicate. Involving the existing official village committees in approving projects for group of (mostly) small farmers was taken as a way to avoid difficulties.

The influence of the predominant Thai-Buddhist worldview of harmony in the rural communities on the socio-economic context was discussed with a number of Thai specialists in universities in Bangkok and Chiang-Mai, formerly attached to UNRISD's research project on participation, and also with national and local SFDP personnel and consultants. It became clear that PPP/SFDP cannot be applied in Thailand according to a rigidly fixed model developed elsewhere. In the history of Thailand the impact of colonialism and a rapid advance of capitalist agriculture has been less strongly felt than in most other S.E. Asian countries. Though there occurred a polarization between poor and rich, it probably has been less strongly felt than elsewhere. The idea of harmony in rural communities has continued to prevail to some extent, enforced by the traditional Buddhist view that a position of being rich or poor depends on Karma, e.g. merit accrued during former lives, something that is difficult to challenge. This view is, however, being eroded by the fact that increasingly the rich are becoming richer at the cost of the poor as a result of modern developments. This is not necessarily in agreement with Buddhist traditions. Official policies could either foster this trend (as the T and V approach appears to be doing to some extent) or correct it, as PPP/SFDP is trying.

Evaluating the Thai PPP project, as presented in official reports or at the workshops, on its own merits, just comparing accomplishments of group formation with objectives, could easily lead to erroneous conclusions if not viewed in the context of the constraints which are specific to Thai society and which make SFDP there different from PPP projects elsewhere. A sociological "baseline" perspective for judging overall PPP/SFDP impact in Thailand can be obtained from the recent UNRISD report "Production, Power and Participation in Rural Thailand: Experiences of Poor Farmers' Groups" (Geneva: UNRISD, 1987) [33]. This report and some of its background material is based on intensive field studies by 23 well-known Thai scholars and experts, and was published with FAO backing.

This UNRISD report carefully observed how the social climate in most of the rural areas implies certain disadvantages for promoting PPP projects as envisaged for most other countries. The Report indicated as a main constraint for people's participation:

"First, we must note Thailand's relatively high degree of religious, linguistic and ethnic homogeneity; the absence of popular anti-colonial or successful revolutionary struggles; the historical continuity of ruling institutions; and the degree of geographical and political coordination and centralization. We must also note the absence of an established political party system with enduring local forms of organization and participation, and the existence of laws and authoritarian practices which expressly forbid the formation of rural organizations of a trade union type, and which suppress forms of political organization and dissent" [34].

Taking into account e.g. the shortlived history in some areas of the Peasant Federation of Thailand (PFT) in the early seventies, amply described by the UNRISD Report, one can imagine the hesitation of the government agencies concerned with agricultural extension to help organize poor peasants on their own behalf. Though initially small scale and local, such organizations, especially if helped by sympathetic outsiders such as students (as happened with the "Propagation of Democracy" programme in 1974), have a potential to become more vocal and express demands which could challenge the locally existing uneven access to resources. On the other hand, just leaving the situation of the poor peasants gradually deteriorate, as compared to that of the better-off, as it actually does in many areas, could lead to the growing of discontent into a socially disruptive force.

Between these two possibilities there remains the dilemma for those agencies which effectively try to promote local participation and group formation, of how far to go. Ideals and standards set by outside institutions, such as WCARRD, though officially endorsed by the Government, may not be in the interest, or even against that, of the local elites with which government agents generally have to have good relations to be able to accomplish something.

As has been experienced with PPP projects in other countries, to have a programme designed to benefit exclusively the poor and small farmers needs to be accompanied by a special effort to convince the better-off and big farmers that they should not interfere with such a programme. It can be shown to government officials, big farmers (BF) and middle farmers (MF) that to specially support the SF is to the benefit of a stable rural society and can help to stop the increasing discrepancies between rich and poor. In addition to using such arguments at the top bureaucratic level, they should be brought to the rural areas to enhance the collaboration or at least the acquiescence of the local elites. Such an effort also seems to be in agreement with fundamental teachings of Buddhism, as practised in Thailand and possibly the religious spokesmen (monks) could be helpful in efforts in this respect. Such efforts proved also quite feasible within DOAE strategy since all agricultural extension workers were already accustomed to work, through the T and V system, with the better-off farmers and had acquired goodwill in those circles. Thus the fact that most agricultural extension workers have a heritage of working with the top-down approach could be turned into an advantage if their re-training and conscientization is undertaken carefully.

No doubt the decision of the Government to spread SFDP nationwide implies a tremendous challenge to all those involved until now through DOAE, FAO, UNRISD or other efforts (e.g. by NGOs) in the field of people's participation in Thailand.

At the SFDP Replication Workshop (13-15 Dec. '87) SFDP programme director, Mr. Anant Dalodom (also Deputy Director General in the Ministry of Agriculture), indicated in his introductory statement as a main problem that now at the end of the 4th National Development Plan in Thailand 11,000,000 people were living in poverty and had not benefited from development. The seriously growing discrepancies between incomes of rich and poor in Thailand were exposed as the rationale for the Government's decision to embark upon a nationwide (in 73 provinces) SFDP programme, following the principles tried out in the FAO supported SFDP pilot projects in 4 provinces and the Netherlands bilaterally supported Small Farmer Participation Project (SFPP) in North-Eastern Thailand.

As compared to the Pattaya PPP Evaluation workshop 2 years earlier it was striking to see the considerable frankness with which politically sensitive issues such as the growing rich-poor contradiction and the need for empowerment of the poor were brought up. Alarming figures about that widening gap between rich and poor were presented, showing that the relationship of average rural income and average urban income (Bangkok) had deteriorated rapidly, now being about 1:8.

Against that background the Thai government had decided to embark upon a nation-wide programme of a "Planning and Farmer participation Development Project", covering 6.018 tambons (subdistricts) of 720 districts in 73 (almost all) provinces of the country over the years:

1988720 tambons
19891,440 tambons
19902,880 tambons
1991978 tambons

For the training (of the trainers first and then of the extension workers of the existing network) 15.5 million Baht had been assigned in the Government's 1988 budget. The personnel and experience accrued of the present SFDP and (bilaterally Netherlands supported) SFDP in the North-East, would be utilized optimally.

To switch from a top-down to a bottom-up approach is not an easy process and should be guided and monitored with great prudence and insight in social relations and contradictions as they exist in different forms in the various regions of Thailand, each with its own characteristics, history and problems. These latter have to be taken into account and carefully studied and the results of this channelled into the training and the monitoring and on-going evaluation of the nation-wide programme, and the sensitizing of local and provincial supervisory staff.

The fact that the government, in spite of the initially not very spectacular results of the SFDP projects (compared to other countries and expectations raised initially), is embarking upon a nation-wide replication, shows the urgency of the need for widely applying the PPP approach in Thailand, as well as the feasibility of the approach under the present circumstances.

6. Sri Lanka: integrated rural development and people's participation

In Sri Lanka, with a history of colonial exploitation and quite different from that of Thailand, the plight of the poor peasants has been a political issue for many years. Correspondingly popular participation in class organizations has a long and militant tradition. Emphasis on the need to include popular participation aspects in large scale development programmes and schemes has been part of the official rhetoric for years. Until recently, however, effective work in this field has been undertaken mainly by NGOs. The last few years some of the large-scale government schemes are trying to include the bottom-up approach to some extent. This is the case in some of the Integrated Rural Development Projects, large scale projects in specific areas of the country mostly supported by donor governments such as the Netherlands. The PPP approach is serving as an example of how to come to grips with the participatory implication of rural development.

From the outset one of the main objectives of the Integrated Rural Development Projects (IRDP) has been people's participation in development. IRDP's policy document (January 1981, p. 2) indicated as one of the three main objectives (as formulated by the Ministry of Plan Implementation): "Participation: to support the establishment of local societies which look after the well-being of rural people, to increase the degree of local participation in planning, to better satisfy the real needs of the people".

The project's "Guiding Principles" designed in 1980 by Netherlands experts in consultation with Sri Lankan counterparts stated: "More effective participation of the target groups should be secured by strengthening a setting up of local organizations which exercise certain affective powers ... a specific task for the (Planning) Unit will be to develop a method to set up local target group organizations or to strengthen existing organizations. Development efforts will fail in the end if the target group has not participated" (p. 4).

IRDP Medium Term Strategy Report 1982 (chapter 2) indicated as main target groups for the project the estate workers on the one hand and the low income groups in the village sector, particularly the landless, sharecroppers, and small-scale farmers. In the 1980 Guiding Principles for IRDP emphasis was placed on the need to work towards a greater control by the farm people over the means of production and credit facilities. It was also observed in these Guiding Principles (p. 10):

"The role of local organizations such as the Rural Development Societies, Village Community, Agricultural Productivity Committees and Agricultural Service Committee, proved ineffective as a means of Rural Development. The organizations became - in many a case - the victim of political interests and lost their influence as a real community based village organization. The rural people so far have had no adequate bottom-up organizations to fight for their interests, nor have the existing rural organizations been given judicial power, and ownership of the means of production and planning".
While in general terms such problems of lack of control over means of production are noted in the original project documents, and in the reporting over the years, hardly any attention is paid to it. There have moreover been differences of interpretation at various levels both among Sri Lankan and Dutch personnel involved about the meaning of "participation". Not infrequently reports of IRDP used a rather limited view on participation, just implying "free labour" for community projects. The original project documents were, however, quite clear about a much broader interpretation of participation, implying consultation of local people, particularly the poor, in the planning and implementation of projects to their benefit and enhancing or building of local organizations to that effect. In the IRDP "Report 1985 - Programme 1986" (December, 1985) for the first time such participatory aspects and the bottlenecks in this field were discussed, while in earlier reporting this topic was only dealt with in a rather casual way.

Though the "process approach" as an open-ended, flexible development strategy has been applied in IRDP to ensure that benefits reach the poorest sections of the rural people, particularly in the village sector, there is no clear indication that in this respect the project has optimally reached its goal. On the contrary: bottlenecks and constraints have been observed in most evaluation reports.

Rural Credit is one of the "local initiatives" with a strong people's participation potential, that has been a modest component of IRDP activities during the last few years. It was found that although this activity seems reasonably successful in spreading credit, mainly through the Rural Development Societies, there is doubt as to what extent these credits actually benefit IRDP's alleged target group of poor farmers (landless, or up to one acre of paddy land). There is evidence that the better-off farmers and even some traders (mudalalis) who traditionally have made out the Rural Development Societies (created as an institution several decades ago) have benefited most. An additional constraint for the poorest and landless farmers is that they are by definition not entitled to any institutional sources of credit, as they have no collateral.

Systematically collected data on the land tenure situation in each Division where IRDP is operating seemed not to have been considered as a base for choice of target groups or activities. This makes it difficult to assess to what extent the poorest section of the villages are being reached as a priority target group. From the few case studies available it can be concluded that lack of means of production, particularly landlessness, is one of the main problems in the area. More than half of the farm families had no land at all (about 25%) and 27% owned less than 0,2 HA.

It was recognized that for each village area where IRDP is concentrating the available land tenure data should be taken into account in the planning of the various activities to be undertaken. Field workers or local officials could be requested to supply such data if they are not centrally available. If needed locally a diagnosis of the prevailing situation could be undertaken, preferably in a participatory manner.

It is obvious that most activities undertaken by IRDP (such as irrigation, soil conservation, education, road construction) were not specifically designed to benefit the poor farmers, but were implemented to meet the broader, overall development objectives of the project. It was therefore recommended that, through relieving the existing constraints in staffing, IRDP be enabled to pay greater attention to the target groups. It was not considered feasible to make drastic changes, but the project could be more used to intensively experiment on a much larger scale with activities especially oriented towards the landless and the small farmers. If successful, these activities -and the bottom-up planning which forms part of it- could gradually be integrated into the overall planning effort.

It was also recognized that one of the main bottlenecks in promoting people's participation in the village sector has been the lack of sufficient personnel trained in the bottom-up approach. In Sri Lanka, as in most other countries were people's participation projects are presently being introduced, most rural development efforts have come from the top through a carefully designed hierarchical structure of government officials. Because of this top-down approach, it has generally not reached the poor effectively, in spite of the best intentions. Experience showed that in order to involve the rural poor in participation in planning and implementation of development efforts on their own behalf bottom-up institutional arrangements had to be introduced as a complement to the existing hierarchy. This needs personnel especially trained in helping to establish such arrangements.

Some of the few experiences IRDP has had in the field of small-holder development appear to confirm this need. But in order to demonstrate the validity of this approach a good number of experiments are to be carried out in different contexts in all the various concentration areas of IRDP. A variety of people's participation approaches will be tried out side by side and be carefully (and in a participatory manner) monitored and evaluated. Therefore the FAO/PPP project approach in Sri Lanka and the Change Agents Programme which served as a model for PPP there, are being integrated to some extent in IRDP.

Since 1984 the PPP bottom-up organization and institution-building approach has been combined with agricultural, fisheries and village industries development among the poorest farmers and women through the FAO and Netherlands Government support in selected areas in Matale, Kandi and Hambantota Districts. The PPP strategy is to stimulate, with help of part- or full-time group organizers who live in the villages, the formation of groups of 10-15 members (exclusively from among the poor and landless). After a diagnosis of the local situation the group organizer helps members to get together around feasible income raising activities decided upon by themselves. These groups, once they have proved their viability through some group savings, will be supplied with credits based on group collateral to undertake activities which can be agricultural or non-agricultural. The group's credit can be applied on an individual basis or for group enterprises, but is only supplied if the group members have agreed on a common plan. Leadership guidance and facilitation by group organizers enhances existing local capacities.

The PPP Programme is implemented by the Ministry of Agricultural Development and Research (MADR). The group promoters are employed for three years with funding from the Netherlands through FAO-PPP. They do not belong to the MADR staff. PPP works in three districts, in 18 villages with 21 part-time and full-time group organizers, half of them women. During the first year, 1985, these group organizers have received six months training, consisting of a few weeks classroom teaching and discussion in Colombo and for the rest on-the-job training in the villages assigned to them. For close supervision of the work of the group organizers the MADR had made available a National Project Director. They also work in close collaboration with the Assistant Government Agent (aga) in their respective aga divisions and try to coordinate activities with officials of various government agencies at that level. Each group organizer is envisaged to be able to cover up to five villages, forming about four poor farmer (and women's) groups in each village over the three years of the project.

The group organizers recruited are relatively highly qualified people (B.Sc or B.A. in social sciences) and since their employment in the project is only for three years, there has been a risk that they chose a more secure post in government service, if they got a chance. Their salary amounts to Rs. 600 per month (basic salary) plus RS. 50 field allowance per day they live in the village of their assignment. To this must be added about Rs. 300 per month for local travel costs. Altogether a group organizer thus costs the programme about Rs. 2,000 per month.

When all (except one) functioning GOs were interviewed, they proved to be committed people well-acquainted with the PPP approach and apparently well established in their villages. Their selection and initial training must have been thorough. Three of the four GOs who were attached to a former FFHC (Freedom from Hunger Campaign) directed programme have been maintained and have undergone the same training as the newly selected GOs, though their academic qualifications were less (one being a small farmer with only primary education). In all the villages where GOs were located, mostly in pairs, several groups have been formed. In some villages activities like mat weaving or bakery were used to gain initial group funds, so that later more important income-raising activities could be undertaken, such as animal husbandry or crop production. It was envisaged that group savings precede the application for credit based on group plans, and in most cases this seemed to work well. The training and initial monitoring of the group organizers had been undertaken with help from the consultant K.P.G.M. Perera, Director of the Ministry of Plan Implementation and its Rural Development and Research Institute, and since several years responsible for the UNDP supported Change Agents Programme (CAP) which has had considerable success (since 1978) with participatory action research strategies similar to those of PPP.

CAP works through trainers who are assigned to a village with a large component of poor farmers. They live in this village and after becoming thoroughly familiar with it, train a few agents from among the poor to organize groups to undertake income raising activities of a great variety, in agriculture, crafts, fishing etc. After a year one of the two or three trainers living in a village move to a neighbouring village and the others start to withdraw from the village in a similar way, once it is sure that the change agents in the village can carry out their group formation activities on their own.

This programme, which gained international attention, has been successful in several areas in Sri Lanka to organize the poorest section of villages (often 25-40 per cent of the people) which before remained outside the reach of most other government programmes. Unfortunately the cap has only a limited staff spread in a variety of districts.

In addition to learning from mistakes made during the initial PPP efforts (and those of cap) during the training, a number of positive experiences were highlighted and discussed, with help from concrete case studies. Aspects of communication, dialogue, group dynamics, identification of and with the poor, and other social psychological subjects were amply dealt with. Particularly these topics were highly appreciated as helpful and informative by almost all group organizers interviewed.

The training is continued in regular PMOE workshops and combined with in-service training and supervision. Problems encountered in the village, after a short introduction course of seven days, were carefully reported by the GOs and discussed together with their colleagues in the next training workshop. Strong emphasis was given during the training sessions on the need of self-reliance and particularly saving before outside aid or credit could be supplied. In fact the credit aspect was initially strongly de-emphasized. This should be seen in the light of the fact that in all kinds of rural development projects in Sri Lanka over the last decades much bad experience has been accrued about defaulting in repayment of officially supplied credit (also one of the main reasons for the hesitancy of local banks to get involved with a programme like PPP).

Therefore it is practice that groups in their formation process accrue some savings to prove their viability and then make a group plan of income-raising activities for which they can get credit from a kind of revolving fund, especially designed to supply credits to the poorest sections. Once several groups have been formed in a specific area an association of groups is formed where group plans are combined into a overall plan for activities in the area concerned.

As regards the surveys to be undertaken in PPP Sri Lanka it was being emphasized during the training that the experience of the Ministry of Plan Implementation's Change Agents Programme and also those of various NGOs indicates that in Sri Lanka household (sample) surveys, asking detailed questions on income and relative poverty have had an anti-participatory effect. It was found that people gave unreliable information on questions dealing with privacy, so as to protect themselves. They also showed resistance to the people who come to ask such questions. Such researchers then found it difficult to become accepted as group organizers with a bottom-up approach.

Based on this experience of the Change Agents Programme GOs have been stimulated to refrain initially from collecting household survey data and to do this only after they have become familiar with and accepted by the community. Initially only an overall type of data collection of a more general (including historical) nature on the community is undertaken in an inconspicuous way.

PPP group organizers have, once they were accepted, been able to collect and systematize essential data on the village where they are working. Such data were particularly important to distinguish which farmers (potential beneficiaries) were the poor to be supported in forming more or less homogeneous groups, not dominated by better-off farmers. These data were checked and discussed in local group meetings. In many cases these data were also used as a type of baseline or benchmark for the project activities. The important thing was to bring all data together in an appropriate framework or data base, serving participatory monitoring and on-going evaluation.

It is one of the crucial aspects of the people's participation approach that it becomes an integrating and facilitating factor for the regular government services delivery system to the poorest sectors. Coordination with such services can be achieved only gradually by trial and error and can best be initiated at the lowest levels of operation. Altogether by 1989 239 groups had been formed in Sri Lanka and in order to strengthen their bargaining power most of these groups had, in their specific areas, joined into 13 local federations or inter-group associations.

In order to facilitate effective coordination, mutual learning and monitoring and on-going evaluation in a participatory manner, the group organizers are requested to train all groups in some measure of record keeping about their meetings and other activities. They themselves also keep log books in which data of each group and its process of formation and growth are systematically brought together. It is common practice for the group organizers to also keep a personal diary in which observations on crucial but delicate topics (e.g. leadership problems) are collected, which served for the regular bi-monthly or half-yearly progress reports which they have to make. Such reports are crucial elements in the overall process of monitoring and on-going evaluation, as they are regularly discussed by all concerned.

One of the important integrating tools of the PPP approach is the regular conducting of workshops at the aga level where group organizers come together to discuss common problems, findings and other issues. For some of these workshops other government personnel at the local level, such as extension agents, health workers or cultivation officers are invited to participate, which can enhance some kind of coordination or mutual support. In some of the workshops representatives of the groups of beneficiaries also participate and have a chance to air their views. Once a year a national workshop is held where local level district and national level personnel together evaluate the whole programme after presentations of summarizing reports and case studies of selected success and failure stories of group formation. Representatives of beneficiaries also participate in such meetings.

In addition to helping large-scale IRDP to achieve a broader beneficiary participation, the PPP-FAO project can serve also with regard to participatory monitoring and on-going evaluation as an example to IRDP. There has been discussion about the need for a special baseline sample survey in IRDP. The PPP approach has experimented with useful alternative forms of data collection through the group organizers, in addition to simply using statistical data that were already available at government offices at local and district level.

7. Zambia: people's participation and large-scale cooperatives

The last few years not only in S.E. Asia but also in some African countries PPP has had some success in the formation of many groups and some inter-group associations. Such associations or federations of groups can be considered a kind of pre-cooperative, achieving economies of scale in marketing, hiring of transport or purchase of inputs. It is therefore not accidental that in Zambia the Zambian Cooperative Federation, a large-scale nation-wide organization of agricultural cooperatives, has shown interest in applying the PPP approach in extending its membership and include the poor sectors. This proved to be a challenge.

It has been pointed out frequently that cooperatives which do not have a more or less homogeneous or egalitarian basis generally tend to benefit the stronger and better-off members, often a minority. This is shown by ample evidence given in an evaluation of 40 cooperatives in Latin America, Africa and Asia, carried out in the early seventies by the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development [35]. Such non-homogeneous cooperatives fail to really benefit the poor majority: "A general conclusion of the study is that cooperatives introduced into rural communities characterized by significant inequalities of wealth, power and status are not likely to be very effective in bringing about fundamental social change in favour of the more disadvantaged groups" [36].

In the official discussion of the UNRISD reports additional evidence was brought in:

"An expert from the United States Agency for International Development said that the largely negative findings in the UNRISD studies regarding the role of rural cooperatives in development were not unique. An assessment of cooperatives in Latin America made under aid auspices had reached quite similar conclusions. It too found that most cooperatives were not viable and largely reproduced the pre-existing social stratification. Leaders who emerged from the peasant ranks were rare and soon became identified with urban interests. The memberships of many of the cooperatives were apathetic" [37].
To understand this problem it is important to take the specific conditions of Third World countries and the growing contradiction in the rural areas, into account. For example the fact that many cooperatives in the Third World, though non-egalitarian, are in many cases a correction to much more extreme inequalities of wealth which existed before cooperatives were created, so that these latter meant a relative improvement for some people. New contradictions, however, too easily emerged not necessarily due to the cooperative principles as such, but rather to the dynamics of their implementation in an overall environment which is not favourable, or - in fact - often quite unfavourable to the cooperative principles and practice.

It remains an often observed reality that due to the dynamics of cooperative development in strongly competitive societies many leaders of popular organizations are coopted into the dominating elites and loose their original motivation gradually. As has been observed in the case studies by UNRISD:

"During the formative years of the cooperatives these men gave priority to community interests, sacrificing their time, energy and personal resources. They were honest and dedicated to the collective cause. As time passed, however, their original altruism diminished and they became more concerned with personal interests and private advancement under the influence of the socio-economic milieu" [38].
Another reason for the failure of many cooperatives to benefit the majority of their members was due to the fact - noted by protagonists of the cooperative movement - that most cooperatives in Third World countries are not really cooperatives but pseudo-cooperatives, as they are imposed from above by official development agencies or "charity institutions" [39]. Efforts to "de-officialize" cooperatives which have been formed with strong governmental backing and transform these into more authentic cooperatives have generally not been successful [40]. It has been suggested that the formation of special cooperatives for the poor in addition to those of the better-off, bringing both kinds together under a kind of "umbrella" cooperative, could be a solution to the dilemma of cooperative development benefiting the poor [41].

Particularly in some African countries where contradictions between rich and poor farmers are less extreme than in other continents, this approach may be viable. One example of an umbrella organization where such an effort to bridge the gap is presently being tried out, with help from SIDA (Swedish International Development Agency) as a donor, is the Zambian Cooperative Federation (ZCF). In addition to a great deal of support for its regular cooperative efforts, mainly benefiting the better-off farmers, ZCF is receiving a special Fund for the Disadvantaged from SIDA which has to be dedicated to the really poor, particularly women. ZCF claims a membership of 100.000 farming families (of the total of 600.000 rural families), of which only 30.000 are actually benefiting, mainly the commercial and emergent farmers. ZCF, strongly related to the United National Independence Party (UNIP) has however also a stake in mobilizing poor Zambians for development.

In order to initiate activities particularly among women, which are complementary to the regular cooperative programme, the "people's participation" approach as sponsored by FAO-PPP and other institutions, is considered useful. This approach implies the formation, with help of group promoters, of small homogeneous groups of poor who will jointly undertake modest income-raising activities and later federate into a larger interest group or inter-group associations.

Before giving some observations on the people's participation approach for a typical cooperative organization as ZCF some general characteristics of the majority of the poor Zambian peasants subsistence or below-subsistence farmers, should be highlighted.

Most of those who are poor and disadvantaged are the countless rural families which live relatively self-reliantly as subsistence farmers, or below that level. Goran Hyden qualifies their age-old way of life, the" peasant mode of production", as a main stumbling block for dynamic development, either capitalist or socialist [42]. In fact many aspects of this traditional way of life and its "economy of affection" are also present in modern type organizations, including ZCF, as observations during field trips clearly indicated. This makes planning from below as well as efficiency at the top not easily to achieve. My own observations as well as those of others [43] indicate that in both these levels women, basically responsible for household survival, are relatively better qualified. The men at the higher levels, however, appear not always prepared to appreciate this potential. Some of the farmers themselves, like those in Matambazi (see below), however, appeared less fearful to give the poor women a real chance, than some of the officials. This also became obvious during a workshop but particularly during field visits.

The problematic of the majority of subsistence farmers, men and particularly women, side by side with a minority of commercial and emergent farmers is complicated particularly if one tries "the view from below". In this respect Zambia seems to confirm the points made by Goran Hyden when he indicates that African technicians and bureaucrats, of capitalist as well as socialist orientation, generally are inclined to use strategies of development, which are not necessarily identical to the ways in which subsistence farmers view their own interests. This discrepancy was noted as a main reason why so many peasants, and particularly peasant women (although Hyden appears to ignore these) remain -and probably prefer to remain- outside strong involvement in the market economy and official projects. To the view of the disadvantaged the development agents do not always offer solutions but are often rather part of the problem they have to face [44].

Though it was feasible to discuss such issues frankly with some SIDA advisors to the ZCF, among the directors and managers of the Federation there appeared to be some hesitation to come to grips with them. This is understandable since these are closely related to high-level policy-making. At the local level, on the other hand, where cooperative officials are more directly confronted with discrepancies and potential problems, there was a clear awareness and willingness to come to grips with such items in a participatory manner.

The Matambazi Cooperative Society in Sinda, Eastern Province shows an interesting positive experience of women's participation in a large cooperative enterprise, and a willingness to arrange for a more systematic inclusion of poor members. This cooperative has over 800 members, 450 of which are receiving loans of which the back payment is about 80%. There are still many non-members however, in this relatively densely populated area. The Cooperative has a paid manager, a pick-up truck bought of its own funds and a 5-year plan for future activities. One gets the impression that in this area certain (class) contradictions between better-off and poor are prevailing and possibly growing, which enhances the need for the typical people's participation approach. As regards the position of women, the fact that the Cooperative Society's membership includes 218 female members (of whom 190 active) may indicate that the position of women in the local Nyanja culture is comparatively better than in other local cultures in Zambia. (There are e.g. areas where 1 man living off 5 women is not exceptional).

The board members, guided by the Ward Chairman, the local party (UNIP) leader, expressed the need to particularly work among the unmarried poor female household heads of which there were quite a few in the area and who are in a disadvantaged position. The need to recruit female group promoters for such a project appeared the best guarantee for reaching the female peasants. Experiences already obtained in PPP indicated that this is possible, if properly guided (by participatory MOE). Since women appear to be careful with resources they may prove to be as creditworthy, or more so, as their male colleagues, as was especially demonstrated in PPP projects in S.E. Asia, but now also in Zambia itself.

Since 1983 a PPP project had been developed in Western Province in Zambia, sponsored by the Ministry of Agriculture and Water Development (MAWD), particularly its Agricultural Extension Staff. The provincial extension staff of the MAWD had determined the areas to be operated in on the base of availability of well qualified extension staff, considered fit to carry out the promotion of PPP. Such staff happened to be available in Kalabo and Kaoma districts. Kalabo is about 4 hours by boat, across the Zambesi and its floodplain from Mongu, the provincial capital. Kaoma is 2 hours drive from Mongu on the road to Lusaka. Both areas were considered in agreement with PPP criteria and sufficiently different from each other to guarantee a broad variety of projects.

With an overall coordinator in Mongu the PPP projects were locally initiated and coordinated from the Office of the MAWD in Kalabo and Kaoma, where two district home economics officers became the local coordinators. These four persons, in consultation with local level agricultural extension workers, selected the villages where projects were to be started, depending on the availability of suitable group promoters at that level. Other criteria for village selection were accessibility throughout all seasons and variety of agricultural activities. Local chiefs and representatives of the United National Independence Party (UNIP) were also consulted. In one of these areas an additional input came from a Dutch volunteer working at grassroots level, in coordination with the MAWD districts office.

Since the four MAWD village level home economics agents (commodity demonstrators) were already busy with a great variety of activities, they were considered not to be the most apt to become themselves group promoters of PPP. Such promoters were recruited from among experienced women living in specific villages where because of their availability activities were to be carried out. Because of the wide spread of primary and secondary schools in Zambia, it was possible to find almost everywhere some women who had at least a degree of secondary education (3-5 grade).

It was considered also essential that the group promoters in addition to their local language (70 different languages in Zambia) know sufficient English to be able to attend the workshops and communicate with personnel from other areas. These group promoters were not as qualified as those who work in the SFDP projects in S.E. Asia, but in Zambia those who have higher qualifications can get better government or similar posts and appear little inclined to live for a long time in villages.

During various field visits it became obvious that agricultural extension staff at all levels had at some stage been involved in the identification of group promoters, women with a certain educational level and human skills as noted above. The agricultural extension and home economics staff in the areas selected proved to be knowledgeable (as noted above, availability of such committed type of MAWD staff was a main area selection criterion). It was generally considered essential that to work in a village be started after consultation and with the agreement of the (traditional) village headman. In case women (group promoters as well as members) were married, the husbands also had to be consulted.

The group promoters I met generally proved to be able and enthusiastic women who, in spite of initially lacking any funds, credits or means (bicycles), had immediately started to form a few small groups of women. These women's groups in most places had initiated small income-raising activities on their own (generally basket-weaving) to earn some money as a beginning of group-saving for buying seeds for common or individual vegetable gardens.

It was interesting to see what names in their Lozi language the women gave to their groups once they were formed, e.g. Unity is Strength, Together we come forward, Still behind, etc. When asked about it women expressed the need for credit, small amounts, for fertilizers and seeds. Also simple processing equipment. The chances that groups would get some land from the traditional village head for income raising activities were considered reasonable. While some groups expressed a willingness to undertake collective projects, others - partly as a result of former bad experiences - preferred individual, or subgroup projects (2 or 3 members together) as part of a group plan, e.g. vegetables, groundnuts. Some groups agreed to levy a kind of entrance fee, others came together to raise money through basket-weaving or dress-making.

It was emphasized by all concerned that regular supervision particularly by the district coordinators (who received a motor bicycle to that effect) and other local agricultural extension personnel was helpful. There was also close coordination with the local home economics commodity demonstrators (who only stay for 1 year in a village, before being selected for further training). Regular in-service training has been given by the overall coordinator particularly through training workshops at the Farm Institute in Namushakende, near Mongu.

During the various brief training workshops of group promoters use was made of presenting and discussing concrete cases; role-playing, based on a play written by the coordinator about group dynamics and other problem areas of group formation (dividing group income, election of functionaries, role of village headman, decisionmaking, man-woman controversies, budgeting, cost/benefit analysis). Also how to introduce oneself as a group promoter and how to do an initial survey were taught through role-playing. All group promoters, the district coordinators and some of the local commodity demonstrators (grassroots home-economics staff) have followed such workshops which were regularly organized.

For MOE purposes record books had been supplied to all group promoters and coordinators and were being used. As regards use of baseline and household surveys in the selection of group members a problem encountered was the great lack of statistics available in the rural areas. Reason for this was the difficulty in assessing population in communities where so many (particularly men) are often on the move as migrant worker. Land tenure was almost impossible to assess since land is not owned privately but given out by traditional chiefs to those who need. There is a great deal of moving (partly because of shifting cultivation), settlement and resettlement. Marketable surpluses are non-existent or so small that hardly any quantifying of income is possible. In the course of the years, however, interesting data have been collected while the groups progressed. There was also the problem that people are known for answering questions according to what they think could be the purpose (good or bad in their eyes) of the enquiry.

Except for the group promoters who belong to the slightly better-off villagers, the women in the groups appeared to belong to the poorest. This was particularly so for the unmarried women (with children) who apparently often constituted half or more of the group members. Since many rural men between 16-40 years in practically all areas of Zambia have migrated to the cities to work in the mines or in similar activities, there is a relatively large number of female-headed households. In some cases efforts to organize women in clubs for home economics purposes had been taking place before, but these clubs were often inactive, due to failures of projects undertaken such as vegetable gardens.

Conditions for success and guidance by some kind of group promoter had not been optimal in such cases, from which the women had learnt. Some group promoters have formerly had bad experiences in such groups. It was envisaged that when the women in the groups have formed a small savings fund from the income of basket-weaving and similar activities, they would start modest agricultural, horticultural, processing or similar activities. Some minor credits could then be assigned to them based on their undoubtedly prudent initial individual proposals which could be brought together in a modest group plan with help from the group promoters and local coordinators.

The relative success of PPP in Western Province (97 groups involving over 1,000 members, mainly women) may be related to the prevailing Lozi (Barotse) culture in that area where traditions of organized action exist (the traditional structure of the Barotse Kingdom is still intact) which may be stronger than among other ethnic groups in Zambia. How the various traditional cultures in Zambia and possible rivalries between those, affects the potential for people's participation is difficult to assess. It becomes clear from this case study that in order to see to what extent cooperatives for the poor or similar people's participation projects can function more or less successfully, the local culture has to be taken into account, and this can mostly be done from existing and available sociological or anthropological literature [45].

The PPP effort clearly shows that not only can the poor and specially women become organized in small groups but that inter-group associations (3 in 1988) can be fruitfully started and lay a foundation for more large-scale cooperative interest articulation.

8. Sierra Leone: accelerated group formation and integrated rural development

One of the more successful and relatively speaking large-scale PPP projects in Africa with which I became familiar was that carried out by the Ministry of Social Welfare and Rural Development (MSWRD) in Sierra Leone from 1982 onward. This project showed to have considerable potential to be replicated and/or integrated in a larger regional development scheme, supported by the German Development Cooperation, covering much of the two provinces of Bo and Pujehun. This came out during the project's final evaluation in 1986.

In the Plan of Operations the overall objective and the specific objectives of this PPP project was formulated as follows:

"The project would help to initiate a suitable sub-village development approach for and with lowest income rural people by involving subsistence farmers actively in development through the promotion of self-created self-help groupings to engage inter alia in income-generating and other need-fulfilling economic and social activities".
This overall objective will be accomplished by:
  1. Promotion, by the subsistence farmers themselves of adequate forms of self-help groupings and organizations which they regard as their own, for the satisfaction of their specific economic and social needs;

  2. Identification, planning and implementation of employment-generating and income-raising agricultural and other activities for and with such groupings of subsistence farmers, with a view to increasing the income of the poor, through economically viable group action;

  3. Increasing the effectiveness of the local and higher level government organizations to support the rural weak and promote their active participation in self-development efforts".
It was found that in view of the overall objective the specific objectives as stated above had been largely achieved by the project. Implicit in this observation was a comparative perspective with PPP projects in other countries. While initially it appeared, as was also observed in the PPP Workshops in Harare (1984) and Swaziland (1985), that the Sierra Leone PPP went ahead much faster than other projects in the rate of group formation, later the rhythm became stable and consolidation or reorganization of too rapidly formed groups could take place. However, altogether the formation of almost 70 viable groups by 8 group promoters (assisted by 2 agricultural technicians and 1 literacy supervisor) is not a bad achievement compared to the effectiveness of similar efforts elsewhere. In S.E. Asia the number of PPP groups formed per GP was mostly more than 10 in 3 years. This was the average rate in Pujehun but under the relatively difficult circumstances prevailing there the achievement appears quite satisfactory, particularly as the quality of most groups appeared relatively stable.

It could be observed that conditions for the setting up of PPP projects in Sierra Leone are quite different from those of S.E. Asian countries where the PPP approach originated. This is not only so as regards the methodology and approach but also as regards its intended beneficiaries. In most S.E. Asian countries in the rural areas in every corner of the countries concerned a sharp class differentiation has emerged between exploiters and exploited with a number of intermediary layers. There it can also often be observed that the gap between the better-off and poor is widening as a result of modernization and that a large part of the poorer sectors are suffering an acute deterioration, visible in increasing percentages of landlessness and indebtedness. Though in African countries the same trend has been noted in many cases, this trend is not yet general and in many areas all or most of the farm population has access to land. This is certainly the case in Sierra Leone, which is not densely populated.

In Pujehun district farmers in all villages visited appeared to have easy access to land for private (household) use. Some people, e.g. the chiefs to whom the holding of land in a specific area is entrusted, have more easily access to land than others, but all can get it according to their needs. This is traditionally established and a main determinant for a certain homogeneity within the villages in spite of existing differentiation. In this respect it is more difficult but at the same time easier to determine potential PPP beneficiaries. It is easier because of the relative homogeneity. It is difficult because criteria used elsewhere cannot be applied. In all the villages visited enquiries were made about social stratification and access to land and from the answers everywhere (without any exception) it could be concluded that social differentiation of some kind does exist, but that it is not as acute and antagonistic as it is in other (e.g. S.E. Asian) societies, so that it is difficult to determine its exact nature and implications.

This observation is confirmed by the few anthropological studies made about the area under consideration. As Kenneth Little's classical study of the Mende, to which most of the inhabitants of Pujehun and surrounding areas belong, observed, "secrecy" is of institutional significance in Mende life [46]. A large part of their culture is controlled by societies and cults whose most important rites are intentionally concealed from the wider community. There is also a special political and economic value attached to information of certain kinds. One of the greatest sins a Mende man can commit is to "give away the secrets of the country". Though these observations were made many years ago, the Mende agree that in many fields such as economics and politics they are still valid. This explains why it has in the PPP project in Pujehun been even more difficult than elsewhere to get precise, quantifiable and correct data on differences in wealth (or poverty) and social status within and between villages. This was to some extent highlighted in the first baseline study carried out in 1983 by Harry Turay of Njala University when he observed:

"Questions of wealth and poverty, abilities to save and spend, are difficult to translate from traditional to modern terms. Social status tends to increase the potential for personal wealth through various types of social interaction. It also determines varying levels at which people take advantage of services rendered by development institutions. The dilemma is that most of the socially disadvantaged cannot easily thrive as an independent force without the help of those that are of better social standing in the community. The rural family in Sierra Leone is so closely knit that the only seeming break is at the secret society level where males are separated from females. At that level, all other aspects of social status tend to be subject to society dictates. There is a coherence and group unity overriding all other concerns. It is therefore difficult for now to have a set of socio-economically depressed people in a given community to emerge and function independent of a less depressed set who may be bound by strict traditional laws of community solidarity" [47].
Field observations and interviews during the visits to villages, do confirm the difficulty to locally discuss social contradictions, and a certain closeness towards outside observers. This does not mean, however, that at the same time there are no strong rivalries, discrepancies, disunities. In almost all villages visited it was expressed that a unity between the (extended) households has on the whole been lacking and that rivalries and jealousies between sections of villages had often prevented people from undertaking common projects. Thus some groups formed were an easy victim of exploitative practices of some individuals who had managed to accrue some wealth and status as traders. These were often alhadjis, persons who have made a pilgrimage to Mecca (Islam is the predominant religion in Pujehun district). Such individuals were powerful in a non-traditional fashion through shrewd trading, monopolizing certain facilities, and money lending. (Traditional local town chiefs appeared on the whole not to be much wealthier than others in their villages). In over half of the villages visited problems with such individuals were brought up either spontaneously or after some questioning. This problem was also observed by Turay:
"Indebtedness continues to be a matter of concern, mainly because this is the least documented phenomena. If the local moneylender continues to have an overwhelming control of income expenditure pattern, it is not easy for groups to abandon this vital service. Groups should therefore be directed in some subtle way towards considering advantages of groupsavings, storage for the hungry season and the development of a creditsystem within the village community" [48].
Turay did not specify the measure of indebtedness which is, indeed, hard to determine. The next surveys carried out by other scholars have not given significantly more precise insights into the social differentiation in the Mende villages so as to determine with some measure of exactness which are the poorer villages and/or who are the poorest people in those villages. Thus there were considerable constraints in Mende society regarding investigating what PPP considers one of its crucial issues. As noted above this is related to the fact that "today these peoples are entering rapidly into the world community and they naturally expect the same regard for their susceptibilities that Western nations extend to each other" [49]. Such susceptibilities exist particularly in the field of the exercise of power. Political authority traditionally has been supported by the poor societies, secret societies which "instilled general awe of a religious kind and derived its power entirely through the intercourse its senior officials claimed to have with the world of the spirits" [50]. That also these societies today play a crucial role in the Pujehun area is a recognized fact that could easily be observed.

How this exactly happens is, by its nature, difficult to assess. But as a more recent anthropological study noted "knowing one's place and respecting traditional hierarchies is strongly embedded in Mende society" [51]. To what extent the traditional hierarchies are more important (or less) than modern political and administrative institutions is difficult to assess. The role of e.g. Members of Parliament of the ruling party in determining PPP project sites may have been important. In one area where the opposition party had a strong following in Eastern Pujehun district during 1983, and in some cases up to recently, political violence had caused whole villages to be abandoned temporarily. Some extremely low returns of investments in some PPP villages was said to be related to such problems. One village was said to be chosen because it had been victimized by the turmoil, though precisely in this village there was a predominant, though possibly rather benevolent, well-to-do family owning a small rubber plantation and factory (now out of order because of the troubles).

During the working-visits to villages to become acquainted with the PPP groups it could be observed that many of the Mende traditions still prevailed including secret/sacred activities and places and a great respect for elders and particularly chiefs, always the first to be contacted during field visits. Most important, however, are the paramount chiefs, descendants of the most outstanding warrior leaders who conquered the area and established the Mende society in the last century [52]. It was therefore quite natural that the selection of PPP villages was such that clusters of villages were chosen in each of the chiefdoms (area of influence of a paramount chief) around Pujehun and a group promoter assigned to each cluster.

One of the important criteria for the selection of beneficiaries of PPP projects is landownership. In the Pujehun district the land is traditionally communal and made available by the local chief to any household which requests it [53]. From the few relevant baseline survey data on how much land each household cultivates, it appears that all who want can have land for their sustenance. There is still idle land available in each village for common projects such as PPP groups are undertaking. Social differentiation is hard to determine in many areas in Africa where those who manage to accrue some wealth have the obligation to let a large extended family benefit from this, one way to ensure some measure of redistribution. There is considerable differentiation even within such an extended family where some (wives and her children e.g.) get less than others and some maybe rather poor though belonging to a household which is relatively well-to-do.

Another complicating factor in determining measures of differentiation is the concept household, called mawe in Mende, consisting - if large - of one or two older men and his wives, some or all of their sons and daughters, wives and husbands of the latter and a number of grandchildren [54]. It may include also more distant relatives or dependents who are unrelated. There are, however, also small households consisting of a man and his wives and their children and some close relatives such as mother or sister. Villages of over a hundred people may thus contain e.g. only four households, extended families. If intermarriage between households and the presence of affinal and non-relatives are taken into account one can see that aggregates of households which constitute localities or compounds can be relatively heterogeneous. Baseline sample surveys to detect "poor families" are not easy to design under such conditions. Therefore one cannot blame the various efforts to conduct such surveys too much for being rather inadequate.

In view of the non-availability of an adequate baseline-sample survey or any other survey in its implementation phase PPP Sierra Leone has used a rather unorthodox approach in member selection as was observed already in 1983:

"Members were not selected by the beneficiaries themselves. Instead they were hand-picked by the group promoters and the national project coordinator. Each group did not select its chairman and secretary-treasurer even though the project is one year old. Secondly proper criteria for identification of target groups have not been well developed, and head of families as well as dependents have been selected as legitimate members of groups instead of a single individual, presumably the head of a household" [55].
This observation should, in view of the above stated constraints in applying precise criteria in Mende society, be placed in its proper context. While undoubtedly at the initial stage groups have been formed haphazardly and without careful procedures just because there were certain inputs to obtain, a basis thus had been laid from which to go on with a corrective and/or consolidating process.

During the final evaluation it could be assessed that in practically all the 19 villages visited and the 45 groups contacted the beneficiaries were the kind of poor farmers and women for which PPP has been designed. The few villages where rich individuals (alhajis) had tried to introduce and dominate PPP groups were later abandoned when the problems of domination became too obvious. In some villages such persons tried in vain to manipulate the process but, because of the united opposition they thus provoked, they contributed, in a dialectical fashion, to group strength.

The overall impression of the baseline-survey could be confirmed by field visits showing, that in fact all PPP villages could be considered poor. Some villages were poorer than others, some were homogeneously poor while in others there were a few better-off (visible in relatively fancy type of housing). In some villages it was not difficult to discuss contradictions between poor and rich, in others this topic was not feasible or not relevant. In some villages local differentiation between poor and better-off appeared overshadowed by threats from outside (due to political turmoil which had affected some parts of the project after elections in 1983). In villages where people had successfully achieved collective facilities (e.g. a cassava grater), which made them independent of a monopoly by a big man/trader (alhadji), people liked to talk about underlying contradictions. Elsewhere, where some better-off leaders or chiefs had a paternalistic or traditional hold on village life, contradictions could hardly be brought up in public.

In addition to the rich-poor dilemma another issue related to beneficiary participation was the role of women in the group formation. As regards the role of women in Mende society it was observed that it "is complementary rather than subordinate to that of the men, and in performing it, they obtain political as well as social compensations which are substantial enough to offset most of the nominal disadvantages. At the same time, it has to be admitted that their influence operates, in the main, indirectly and beneath the surface" [56]. In Mende society where people generally adhere to Islam, polygamy is prevailing and it seems not uncommon that men when they get older gradually extend their number of wives.

This explains the large size of many of the local households. (In fact there was one case where a man and his seven wives together tried to form a PPP group - which was not accepted as such). While men do the heavy tasks of bush cleaning, the women do a great deal of the other agricultural tasks; they are the main labour force of the household. In the discussions and interviews in most of the villages the complementary role of men and women in households and also in PPP groups and group activities was emphasized or highlighted. While women's participation in groups has been strong from the outset, about half of the membership being female, this was mainly because no agricultural activity can be undertaken without their participation.

Income distribution is difficult to assess in the Pujehun area not only because people are - as almost everywhere in the world - not eager to discuss such affairs with strangers, be they researchers or government officials, but also because of the difficulty to determine the most crucial economic unit. A household in Mende society can contain from 8 to 50 persons or even more, all interrelated and mutually dependent. How e.g. the income of a plot of land worked by a man and his various wives is divided among those wives and their children is already difficult to assess, and this relatively simple case becomes even more complicated, as these persons often are all integrated into the household of the man's father including brothers, sisters and other relatives.

While it is difficult to determine income distribution within a household and its components, it is virtually impossible to make comparisons between households in a village, though everybody is probably aware which households (or components) are among the poorest and who are somewhat better-off or relatively well-to-do. The obvious cases of rich exploiting the poor, however, are mostly known and not too difficult to discover. They are the traders, those who "pay other to work for them", and who monopolize certain productive assets such as mills or cassava graters. PPP groups are not infrequently formed to counteract their influence, though in a few cases without success. Such powerful persons have at times tried to disturb the group formation or -consolidation process. The income derived from the acquirement of a cassava grater through PPP is considered considerable by group members in all villages where such an enterprise has been undertaken.

The input through FAO-PPP of improved seeds (credit in kind) the past years, which have at times doubled the yield, has given villages the opportunity to build up a stock of seeds of this kind for the next years. Individual households have been able to obtain these seeds for their own cultivation from the common stock in several cases. Villages which had not yet started with this have been enabled by other villages to do this in cases where input scarcity of seeds at the national market became a problem.

Notable in the project was the relatively good recovery rate of credits that had been supplied. The few problems which caused failure of repayment were due to lack of regular control by the agricultural technicians as well as the credit officer. If it was known what the main causes were, such as carelessness on the side of group (lack of fencing or bird scaring) no new loan was given unless the old loan was fully repaid. Quarrels were settled with help of the group promoter if possible. Although the repayment rate was certainly a considerable achievement, loans made up altogether only 5% of the project inputs.

In view of the modesty of this overall financial impact there was a need to carefully review the non-quantifiable benefits which a PPP project should bring according is its objectives. In the Final Evaluation Workshop in Bo the beneficiaries made understood that they initially accepted the project on trial as a risk but that to their feeling the PPP project had accomplished much better than other even more ambitious schemes which they had experienced in earlier years, such as the Integrated Agricultural Development Programme (IADP) promoted by the World Bank in Sierra Leone. At the Final Evaluation Workshop the increased ability to organize and plan together and to develop leadership was emphasized by the beneficiary representatives as the main achievement of the project, before the more tangible items such as access to credit, which were also highly appreciated. Intervillage contacts, workshops, getting to know a different world (some visited Bo for the first time) and the fact that important government officials now had come to their village, were mentioned as achievements in the sphere of social welfare and organization.

As main accomplishment of the project was highlighted: bringing new types of group formation to enable a traditional society to better cope with the potentially disruptive processes of modernization, politics and the market-economy. The MOE system, introduced by P. Oakley gives some indications regarding the measure of group strength achieved in the project [57]. It can be seen that all functioning groups after ups and downs have at least passed the first stage and reached a certain unity. During the field visits this was confirmed in all cases visited (i.e. more than half of all existing groups), and in a few cases groups had gone far beyond this first stage of group strength. This is a considerable achievement. While it is only partially quantifiable it is quite obvious to the participant observer and one of the few items on which information or opinions gathered were consistent and practically unanimous among those well familiar with the local situation.

The Pujehun project seems to show not only that getting much qualifiable data on such rather intangible objectives as participation is not easy, but also is rather 'relative' and not always needed. It could also be self-defeating to some extent. The fact that in the initial stage of the project group promoters were inclined to form as many groups as possible in a short time, letting quantity prevail over quality, though as such a useful learning process, has also caused setbacks and disappointments in some cases. Careful introduction and monitoring in a participatory manner of the MOE methods became highly desirable. Avoiding prevalence of quantity over quality looking for better ways to measure quality, training group promoters in qualitative forms of assessment, such as making good case descriptions, were given emphasis in PPP and have resulted in some very useful material, that came available. Thus it is understandable that the MSWRD itself is enthusiastic enough about the results of the PPP that it was willing to take it upon itself to continue (and possibly extend) its activities. It was clear from interviews at all levels at the MSWRD that the potential and impact of the PPP approach for Sierra Leone rural development had been well understood and appreciated after the four years of FAO supported pilot projects.

A favourable aspect of PPP's location in Pujehun district was that more or less at the same time in that area a new integrated rural development scheme was set up, which has contributed to the work of PPP and vice versa. This was the Bo-Pujehun Rural Development Project (B/PRDP) with its headquarters in Bo. The B/PRDP, with an input of 40 million DM over 8 years since 1980 was initially conceived for the districts of Bo and Pujehun during a Project Finding Mission of the German Society for Technical Cooperation (GTZ) in July 1979. "Rural poverty was viewed within the wider context of the weaknesses of malfunctioning governmental services" (B/PRDP, Plan of Operations, 07.85-08.86, p. 4). "The overall objective of the project is to improve living conditions for the rural population in the two districts through a two-pronged approach of strengthening existing institutions and responding to community initiatives directly by providing material and technical support" (ibid).

A pre-investment phase (Jan '81-June '82) and a pilot-investment phase (July' 82 - June '84) were implemented before a main-investment phase (July '84 - June '88) was started in which sector programmes (i.e. Fishery, Health, Women's and Community Development) could be carried out in a integrated and coordinated manner. Important emphasis was given to "participation of target groups in problem identification, planning, implementation and control of sectoral development activities" (ibid, p. 6). "Thus the central focus is not on the delivery of inputs per se but on the underlying processes which guarantee sustainability in the past project period" (ibid).

The major instrument for encouraging participation was the Community Action Fund (CAF) which provides assistance to village based projects. "Participation is seen as a process in which all interest groups exercise initiative stimulated by their own thinking and over which they have specific control". (ibid).

The activities of all ministry-agencies working in the districts of Bo and Pujehun were integrated into the B/PRDP, through the Ministry of Development and Economic Planning (MDEP) and its Central Planning Unit which operates through a specially created Planning and Coordination Office (PCO) in Bo. This Office supports the line ministries in their planning and coordination of activities. The Ministry of Social Welfare and Rural Development (MSWRD) is responsible for the Women's Programme and the Community Development Programme within the overall context of B/PRDP and thus forms an integral part of its set-up. The B/PRDP Women's Programme reported over the year 1985 the activities of 87 women's groups with about 1,300 members mostly in agriculture related fields (B/PRDP, Progress Report 01.12.85, Jan. '86).

"An internal evaluation of the programme, conducted on request of Project Management reveal a number of unsolved problems connected with programme implementation. The evaluation concludes that consolidation of existing groups should have priority over the creation of new ones and that supervision of existing groups was not optimal" (ibid, p. 16). The Community Development Programme reported "little visible progress on mobilization of communities apart from initial contacts on village and chiefdom level of management and some field workers". (ibid, p. 17). Limited personnel and improved supervision were mentioned as problems to be tackled. It was therefore logical that the MSWRD after taking upon itself the full responsibility for the PPP project in Pujehun tried to integrate this valuable component into its joint programme with B/PRDP.

During the field visits and in talks with PPP/MSWRD and B/PRDP personnel it became clear that both sides felt that in the social field PPP is doing precisely those things which according to the various evaluations of B/PRDP, are yet somewhat underdeveloped in the more technically oriented approaches of B/PRDP. The latest evaluations undertaken by the Bo/Pujehun Rural Development Project also gave to understand that is was precisely in the field of assessing villagers' needs and stimulating village bottom-up planning for activities to be undertaken that the Bo/Pujehun Rural Development Project has not yet fully developed its capacities. It is precisely here that the PPP experience was going to serve.

9. Concluding remarks

Both people's participation and participatory action research cannot be judged or evaluated in a uniform manner. Based on former experiences in this field I propose that such activities have to be placed in their broader context which can vary from one of harmony and consensus on the one hand and conflict or antagonism at the other extreme. This appears implied in studies, made in the sixties by UN on the effects of community development and people's participation, which came to the conclusion:
"An emphasis on general community interest may lead to the establishment of community consensus; individuals and groups which present a threat to this consensus are generally viewed as selfish or disruptive who place self-interest over community needs. This approach, while at times correct, is not always valid in all places or at all times. Consensus should not be viewed as a positive quality regardless of the goals around which it is formed, nor should conflict be necessarily viewed as undesirable. For instance, a consensus built around traditional goals and secured through traditional means may have greater development-impeding rather than development-promoting consequences. An over-emphasis on consensus may hinder innovation; it may also serve as a pretext for the dominant groups in the community to control individuals and groups challenging consensually-determined goals and means. A more effective strategy than that of community consensus could take the form of identifying creatively deviant individuals, helping them to cultivate leadership qualities, and creating new groups and organisations around them. Such a strategy could weaken the established consensus; however, when the process of development is sufficiently advanced a new consensus may emerge around individuals or groups whose values are more oriented towards development" [58].
As the case-studies presented above show, in some societies harmony still prevails to some extent, while in others conflict between classes or ethnic groups has come to be predominant or is rapidly emerging. Both the manner of people's participation and participatory action research depend on where between the extremes of harmony and open conflict a society finds itself.

From the case-studies presented it may also be clear, in both contexts and the many varieties in between, that participatory action research can contribute, if systematically applied, to support and enhance people's participation in rural development. It can also be concluded that there can be no uniform approach for all cases. On the contrary, only a flexible application of the participatory approach can result in effective improvement and empowerment of the disadvantaged. Its application requires considerable creativity and a willingness to go beyond trodden paths and orthodox methodologies. A lot depends on the political and social context prevailing in each country or region, particularly the emergence or not of sharp contradictions between better-off and disadvantaged, and the ways this is taking shape.

In a country like Sri Lanka, where such contradictions are in an advanced stage participatory action research can only be fruitfully undertaken by those willing to side with the various categories of underdogs, helping them to find ways to organize, often against many odds. In Thailand where such contradictions are emerging but apparently not yet in an acutely felt stage, the taking of sides can be more moderate. Participatory action research can possibly fulfil a more or less mediating role, depending on the local situation of prevailing contradictions and traditions. This approach may demand even more inventiveness than the taking of sides where contradictions are clear cut. If, however, implemented in a sufficiently dynamic manner, the organization of the disadvantaged for their best interests can probably keep pace with the developments that the better-off village sectors are enjoying. A lot depends on the attitudes of these latter: to either advance rapidly at the cost of the majority, or to tolerate or even stimulate a simultaneous progress for the lower echelon community members. Careful assessment of trends and the interplay of interest-articulation of the various social strata is an essential component of participatory action research in such cases.

In many African countries where access to means of production to the majority is not yet a great problem, participatory action research will have to be oriented towards understanding of local cultural and traditional constraints or assets. Real participation in the life of the peasants - and in Africa this often means mostly women - can reveal that traditional survival strategies are very valuable and should not be abolished too easily to be replaced with modern Western technologies, not necessarily suited for the local situation.

Local people's own observations expressed at PPP workshops, e.g. the one in Sierra Leone, or encountered during the field visits there, appear to confirm that there exists considerable creativity and age-old wisdom in dealing with local resources through traditional approaches or adaptation of those. This was also found by scholars in that country's Agricultural University not far from the site of the PPP projects. After analysing the failure in that area of too many cases of the Green Revolution and the World Bank's "scientific" approach to rural development, Richards made a plea for "informal R&D", "participatory research" and even "people's science". His view was based on experience with seriously taking into account the experiential knowledge of African cultivators regarding their own environment as a base for new developments rather than outside technology. He did himself extensive and experimental research into - and with - local African agricultural methods in Eastern Sierra Leone and found that the rationality of indigenous practices is often seriously underestimated by people who themselves live of "scholarship":

"It is not hard to locate examples of research initiatives undertaken more in response to debates in the literature than to the practical problem of farming in the communities adjacent to the research station. The opposite side of this coin is the evident surprise of many agricultural researchers at the idea that small-holder farmers in Africa are active experimenters" [59].
Similar observations have been made in other African countries where innovative rural development efforts have emerged as part of grassroots movements with some support from change agents who were sensitive to local needs and potentials. A good example is the emergence of the organization of Rural Associations for Progress (ORAP) as a strong peasant development organization in Western Zimbabwe in the years after Independence [60]. Unfortunately, the Development Establishment, as Edwards [61] noted, had not yet taken much into account what peasants and rural women have accomplished on their own behalf outside the official institutional set-up.

Such accomplishments are, on the whole, not very spectacular beyond the local level for which they are intended unless local initiatives merge into larger movements or organizations such as ch accomplishments are, on the whole, not very spectacular beyond the local level for which they are intended unless local initiatives merge into larger movements or organizations such as ORAP. The potential for such autonomous development efforts is often ignored or viewed in terms which do not value them in a positive manner. Thus Goran Hyden's "uncaptured peasantry" (in Tanzania) rather than be viewed as an obstacle to development, could be seen as a potential source of creativity.ox, basically top-down type and not "from within and from below". Some recent efforts at "participatory action research" of some sort have come to more positive conclusions about those potentialities. Examples are the six years of action-cum-research by Vera Gianotten and Ton de Wit among peasants in the Ayacucho province in Peru highlighting their indigenous organizational capacities [63]. Carla Risseeuw through active participation in the course of several years in the formation of a women choir-workers cooperative in Southern Sri Lanka showed that such women can accomplish such organizational achievements against tremendous odds of monopolizing merchants and gender oppression [64]. Joke Schrijvers participated in the formation of a cooperative of peasant women elsewhere in Sri Lanka and showed the possibility for autonomous development [65].

Jos Kronenburg analyzed, in a research-after-action, his twelve years experience with both the top-down and the bottom-up approach in rural development among the Maasai and other groups in Kenya and shows the excellent possibilities for "empowerment" present among the peasants and women there [66]. Claudia von Werlhof made a careful analysis of an experience of autonomous peasant development in Venezuela [67]. Particularly in women studies the debate on autonomous development versus integration into the overall development has gained importance in part as a result of such participatory action research inputs.

Most authors on the topic of people's participation or non-participation in development take the prevailing institutional status quo for granted and study possibilities within that context and seem to view alternatives with doubts or hesitation. Thus Uphoff recognized that where social stratification is "serious", it may be useful to create what he calls "alternative organizations" with a membership restricted to the "less advantaged" to complement the regular institutional set-up. This is particularly so where land tenure is a problem, as he notes:

"Unfortunately in agriculture relations between landless and landed are more likely to be zero-sum and competitive than in other areas of rural development activity" [68].
Uphoff points out that local institutional development though not completely dependent on the "political will" of governments to come about, does need support from the centre [69]. He does not reflect upon the possibility that people sometimes create their own local institutions and bargaining organizations without support and - if needed - against the "will" of governments. Many cases of small and large scale peasant organizations testify to this capacity [70]. In spite of strong recommendations of UN agencies like FAO and ILO to that effect in the mid-sixties, most development agencies and literature do not take into account such forms of authentic peasant interest articulation. Historical developments in many countries show that while one should not assume that elites will always use local institutions to pursue their own interests to the exclusion of other's advantage, as Uphoff suggested [71] in reality they mostly do so, as has been amply documented [72]. Peasants then have to create their own institutions.

Land reform as an effective redistribution of assets, among the disadvantaged, in spite of its successful implementation in China, Japan, Taiwan and S. Korea, appears to be mostly ignored as a form of "local institutional development", in spite of the fact that in many countries (like Brazil, El Salvador, Guatemala, Philippines and India) peasants or peasant leaders, organizing for such reforms, are persecuted or even assassinated with a certain regularity because their emancipatory activities endanger the status quo.

It should be clear by now that participatory action research is a delicate and in many countries highly controversial affair. Only rarely can such research be undertaken by expatriates of the country where it is being implemented. Persons getting involved should be highly familiar with the local intricacies of economic and political power. The group organizers used in PPP were all nationals, although at the national coordination level in some countries certain forms of technical assistance has been given by expatriate advisors from international (UN) agencies. Undoubtedly there is ample scope for participatory action research contributing to people's participation at all levels.


1. Michael Edwards, "The irrelevant of development studies", Third World Quarterly, vol. 11, no. 1, 1989, p. 117.

2. Jos Kronenburg, "Empowerment of the Poor. A Comparative Analysis of two Development Endeavours in Kenya, Amsterdam, Nijmegen", kit-dwc, 1986.

3. Kurt Lewin, "Resolving Social Conflicts", New York, Harper, 1958.

4. See for a brief summary of Lewin's efforts J. Kronenburg, op. cit.,p. 233-241.

5. Gerrit Huizer, "Het woord moet actie worden", Sociologische Gids, 8, no. 3, 1961, p. 113-122 and Gerrit Huizer, "Evaluating community development at the grassroots: Some observations on methodology", America Indigena, XXV, 3 July 1965, p. 279-301.

6. Gerrit Huizer, "Research-through-action: some practical experiences with peasant organisations", in Gerrit Huizer and Bruce Mannheim, ed., "The Politics of Anthropology: From Colonialism and Sexism toward a view from below", The Hague-Paris, Mouton (World Anthropology Series), 1979.

7. See for a discussion of such types of research: "Simposio Mundial de Cartagena, Critica y Politica en Ciencias Sociales: El Debate sobre Teoria y Practica", Tomo I & II, Ed. Punta de Lanza, Bogota, 1978. Also the various seminars on aspects of "participatory research" organized by the Participatory Research Project of the International Council for Adult Education (29 Prince Arthur, Ont. Canada), and various contributions of its editor, Budd Hall. Further: F. Vio Grossi, V. Gianotten, T. de Wit (ed.), "Investigacion Participativa y Praxis Rural, Nuevos Conceptos en Education y Desarrollo Comunal", Mosca Azul Editores, Lima, Peru, 1981. Anton de Schutter, "Investigacion Participativa: una Opcion methodologica para la Education de Adultos", CREFAL, Patzcuaro, Mexico, 1981. Most of these experiences are summarized in the dissertation by Vera Gianotten and Ton de Wit, "Organizacion Campesina: El Objectivo Politico de la Educacion Popular y la Investigation Participativa", Amsterdam: CEDLA, 1985

8. For Asia see Wahidul Haque, Niranjan Metha, Anisur Rahman and Ponna Wignaraja, "Towards a Theory of Rural Development", in "Development Dialogue", Uppsala, 1977: 2, p. 1-137. Also Walter Fernandez and Rajesh Tandon, ed., "Participatory Research and Evaluation: Experiments in Research as a Process of Liberation", New Delhi, Indian Social Institute, 1981.

9. Goran Hyden, Beyond Ujamaa. "Underdevelopment and an Uncaptured Peasantry". London, Heinemann, 1980, p. 251 ff.

10. E.V. Mduna, "Grain Storage Project at Bwakiri Chini village in Tanzania", in Helen Callaway, ed, Participation in Research: Case Studies of Participatory Research, Studiecentrum NCVO, AmerSFoort (Netherlands), 1980. Kemal Mustafa, "The Role of Culture in Development: Jipemoyo Project, Tanzania", in Folke Dubell, Thord Erasmie and Jan de Vries, ed., "Research for the People, Research by the People", Linköping University, 1981.

11. See e.g. Gerrit Huizer, "Guiding Principles for People's Participation Projects", FAO, Rome, 1983; Bernard van Heck, "Draft Guidelines for Beneficiaries Participation in Agricultural and Rural Development", FAO, Rome, 1989.

12. Ingrid Palmer, "The New Rice in Asia: Conclusion from Four Country studies", Geneva, UNRISD, 1976.

13. Solon Barraclough, "Social Origins of Food Policy and Hunger", UNRISD, Sept. '89, mimeo, p. 279-280.

14. G. Huizer, "Peasant Rebellion in Latin America", Harmondsworth, Penguin Books, 1973; Carla Risseeuw, "The Fish Don't Talk about the Water"; "Gender Transformation, Power and Resistance among Women in Sri Lanka", Leiden: Brill, 1988.

15. Ronald Dore, "Land Reform in Japan", Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1959; Gerrit Huizer, "Peasant Movements and their Counterforces in S.E. Asia", New Delhi: Marwah Publ., 1985.

16. World Bank, China: "Socialist Economic Development", 3 vols., Washington D.C., 1983.

17. United Nations, "Report of a Community Development Evaluation Mission in India" (23 November 1958 - 3 April 1959; prepared for the Government of India by M.J. Coldwell, R. Dumont and M. Read, TAO/IND/31, New York, 1959), 41.

18. W.F. Wertheim, "Betting on the Strong", in his East-West Parallels (The Hague, Van Hoeve, 1964). See also A.R. Desai: "Community Development Projects: A Sociological Analysis", in A.R. Desai (ed), Rural Sociology in India (Fourth Revised Edition, Bombay, Popular Prakashan, 1969), 615, and 617-188.

19. Hari P. Sharma, "The Green Revolution in India" in Kathleen Gough and Hari P. Sharma (ed): "Imperialism and Revolution in South Asia" (New York; Monthly Review Press, 1973), 94.

20. Ministry of Home Affairs, Research and Policy Division, "The Causes and Nature of Current Agrarian Unrest" (New Delhi, Mimeo, 1969).

21. For a complete report on the mission see Gerrit Huizer, "The Rural Training Camps of NLI", National Labour Institute Bulletin. New Delhi, 3, 8 (August 1977), 336-48.

22. Such atrocities are regulary described and denounced in pages of the Economic and Political Weekly (Bombay). See e.g. Arvind Das, "Revolutionary movement in Bihar", epw, XXII, 22, May 30, 1987; T. Prabhakar Reddy. "Tribal land alienation in Andhra Pradesh", epw, XXIV, 28, July 15, 1989.

23. Robert McNamara, Address to the Board of Governors of the World Bank, Nairobi, Sept. 24, 1973.

24. Robert McNamara, "The Essence of Security. Reflections in Office", London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1968, 152.

25. Norman Uphoff, "Local Institutional Development: An Analytical Servicebook with Cases", West-Hartfort, Conn., Kumarian Press, 1986, p. 121-122; "About the T and V system"; see also: Daniel Benor and James Harrison, "Agricultural Extension: the Training and Visit System", Washington D.C., World Bank, 1977 and Michael Cernea, John Coulter and F.A. Russell, "Agricultural Extension by Training and Visit", Washington D.C., World Bank, 1983.

26. Norman Uphoff, "Collective Self-Help: A Strategy for Rural Development in Ghana", FAO/PPP Report, Accra, 1987.

27. See footnote 6.

28. FAO, "Small Farmers Development Manual", Vol. I and II, FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Far East, Bangkok, 1978/79.

29. See footnote 11.

30. About PPP in Nicaragua see Kees Blokland e.a., "Peasant organization in El Rama, Nicaragua", Convergence, XXI, 2/3, 1988, p. 110-122.

31. J. Gabriel Campbell, Ramesh Shrestha and Linda Stone, "The Use and Misuse of Social Research in Nepal", Research Centre for Nepal and Asian Studies, Kathmandu. Tribhuvan University, 1979 gives detailed case studies of the limitations of survey research on sensitive topics in Asia.

32. Koenraad Verhagen, "Cooperation for Survival. An Analysis of an Experiment in Participatory Research and Planning with Small Farmers in Sri Lanka and Thailand", Amsterdam: kit, 1984 deals with such experiments at Khon Kaen University.

33. UNRISD, "Production, Power and Participation in Rural Thailand" (Andrew Turton, editor), Geneva: UNRISD Participation Programme, 1987.

34. Ibid., p. 31

35. For a summary of this evaluation and a debate of its results see UNRISD, "Rural Cooperatives as Agents of Change: A Research Report and a Debate", Report No. 74.3, Geneva, 1975.

36. Id., p. 7.

37. Id., p. 34.

38. Id., p. 75-76.

39. Koenraad Verhagen, "Cooperatives and Rural Poverty - Eight Questions Answered", Plunkett Development Series, no. 1, Oxford, 1980, p. 1.

40. Id., p. 3.

41. Id., p. 18.

42. Goran Hyden, "Beyond Ujamaa in Tanzania: Underdevelopment and an Uncaptured Peasantry", London, Heinemann, 1980, 18 ff.

43. See e.g. Lionel Cliffe, "Labour migration and peasant differentiation: Zambia's experiences", in Ben Turok, ed., "Development in Zambia", London, Zed Press, 1977.

44. G. Hyden, op. cit., p. 6.

45. See e.g. W. van Binsbergen, "The Unit of Study and the Interpretation of Ethnicity", Journal of Southern African Studies, October 1981; there exists an extensive literature about the Lozi (Barotse land), particularly from the hand of Max Gluckman.

46. Kenneth Little, "The Mende of Sierra Leone", London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1949, p. 12.

47. Harry Turay, "Baseline Survey, Pujehun", 1983, p. 3-4.

48. Ibid., p. 50.

49. K. Little, op. cit., p. 12.

50. Ibid., p. 183.

51. W.T. Harris and A. Sawyer, "The Origins of Mende Belief and Conduct", Freetown, University of Sierra Leone Press, 1968, p. 116.

52. K. Little, op. cit., p. 28 ff.

53. Ibid., p. 82 ff.

54. Ibid., p. 96.

55. H. Getahun, Back to Office Report 15.12.83, FAO/ESH.

56. K. Little, op. cit., p. 164.

57. Peter Oakley, "Manual for the Monitoring and Evaluation of a People's Participation Project", University of Reading, Mimeo, Jan. 1985.

58. United Nations, "Popular Participation in Development: Emerging Trends in Community Development", New York, U.N., 1971, p. 26.

59. Paul Richards, "Indigenous Agricultural Revolution, Ecology and Food Production in West-Africa", London: Hutchinson, 1985, p. 156.

60. D. Chavunduka, G. Huizer a.o., Khuluma Usenza: "The Story of the Organization of Rural Associations for Progress in Zimbabwe's Rural Development", Bulawayo: ORAP, 1985; also Dharam Ghai, "Participatory Development: Some Perspectives from Grassroots Experiences", Geneva: UNRISD, Discussion Paper no. 5, p. 12.

61. P. Edwards, op. cit.

62. G. Hyden, op. cit.

63. V. Gianotten and T. de Wit, op. cit.

64. C. Risseeuw, op. cit.

65. Joke Schrijvers, "Mothers for Life", Delft: Eburon, 1985.

66. J. Kronenburg, op. cit.

67. Claudia von Werlhof, Wenn die Bauer wiederkommen. "Frauen, Arbeit und Agribusiness in Venezuela", Bremen: Herodot, 1985.

68. N. Uphoff, op. cit., p. 156.

69. Ibid., p. 219.

70. G. Huizer, "Peasant Movements and their Counterforces in S.E. Asia", op. cit.

71. N. Uphoff, op. cit., p. 157.

72. See particularly Solon Barraclough, "Social Origins of Food Policy and Hunger", an UNRISD Report, Sept. 1989 (Geneva).

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