Posted June 1997
Thus, in terms of action, the major challenge faced by the project has been:
to start a development process which would involve local populations in the design and implementation of a set of initiatives aimed at improving their social and economic conditions, and reversing the process of impoverishment.In order to be socially acceptable, economically feasible and environmentally sustainable, the initiatives undertaken also have to strengthen basic production and survival strategies already tested and adopted by the local populations. In order to counter the effects of the impoverishment process, the development model adopted by the project was the following:
Within the context of a participatory approach, these technical units have
had the role of designing and implementing, the most appropriate initiatives
aimed at increasing productivity. The Socio-economic Unit, on the other
hand, has had the role of:
|1. Discussions with all members of village/community||
- community understanding of the objectives and role of the project|
- identification of local needs
-identification of priorities
|2. Consulting Village council or Community Steering Committee||- points for establishment of a mutual
- precise definition of respective roles
- common decisions on technical matters
- decisions on local contributions (financial/labour)
- selection of village specialists
- establishment of systems for internal monitoring
|3. Training one or more village specialists||- build internal administrative/technical
- set up monitoring system
- establish the conditions facilitating the general education of all community members
|4. Starting activity||- specific benefits related to the initiative|
|5. Monitoring and evaluating||- assessment
of impact |
- indications for improvement/changes
|6. Formal evaluation by project and/or independent body||- assessment of impact |
- indications for improvement/changes
This methodology was followed for all the initiatives in which the SEU was involved. However, it was applied in a very flexible manner since the initiatives were of diverse nature and their requirements not comparable.
For certain initiatives, steps 1 and 2 were quite laborious, requiring much effort from the project staff and the members of the village/community. In several cases, these steps represented only the beginning of a long-term effort accompanying the entire implementation process.
For instance, the establishment of resting areas (pargora) in the communal grazing lands required a large consensus of all the members of the community as well as a precise understanding, on the part of the project staff, of local herding practices and, on the part of the members of the community, a certain environmental awareness. The selection of specific sites, the establishment of rules concerning their management, the definition of roles and functions within the community as well as decisions concerning dispute resolution mechanisms were difficult points which had to be worked out prior to taking any action. These were very sensitive points which led to delicate discussions, not only before, but also during the implementation process. In at least one pilot area (Kach Mulazai), for instance, internal monitoring/evaluation revealed that, even several months after the designation of the resting area, disagreements within the community remained concerning its siting and internal management.In other cases, the issues raised by certain initiatives were so delicate and sensitive that the project decided to delay any action until achievement of an unanimous consensus among the community members.
For instance, in Ragha Bakalzei, the rehabilitation of a communal spring had been identified as a priority. But in the initial discussions concerning the rules of its future management, the members of the community were incapable of overcoming factionalism and individualism, so as to perceive the interest of the community as a whole beyond the interest of their respective family lineages. After several attempts at a compromise, the project decided to suspend any involvement in that pilot area, foregoing initiation of an activity which could have created even deeper divisions within the community.For other activities, the participative methodology adopted by the project encouraged all the members of the community to assume their responsibility in the decision-making process. This created great enthusiasm, but also a 'jam' of ideas and opinions.
For instance, in the provision of spraying machines to village organizations for treatment of their orchards, several small decisions cropped up concerning the use of the machines which demanded certain decisions. The alternatives were numerous, and everybody had a different point of view. The project staff had to be careful to guarantee democratic procedures, while avoiding the loss of 'honour' by individuals or groups of individuals. Finally, after very long discussions (resembling somewhat 'ferocious' disputes), it was decided, for instance, that: the members of the village had to assume at least 25% of the cost of the machine; individual members had to pay a rental fee of 10 Rs. per tank for the use of the machine; two members of the Village Organization had to be in charge of the machine (one for the technical side and another for the financial side); 4 out of 10 Rs. per tank should compensate the technician for its work and the rest should be put in the Village Development Fund (in the special bank account of the village) for future activities; etc. All these points were the object of intense and detailed discussions, in which individuals invested all their energies.All the initiatives concerning women have also passed through a long process. The problem is that, cultural values required initial consultation with the male members of the Steering Committee and Village Councils in order to assess their points of view and take into consideration their hopes and fears. It was only after having achieved a general agreement among the men that the project's female group promoter was able to discuss these issues with the members of women's associations.
In Kach Mulazai, for instance, the issue of building a social centre for women was extremely complex. At first, the project was ready to assist the community in building only one centre. But men resisted that idea, opposing the principle of the mobility of their wives/daughters/sisters within the village area. When the proposal to build three social centres, one in each neighbourhood, was accepted by everybody, new discussions were started to select appropriate places. For men, it was out of the question to select a place from the communal land, because this land was located outside the habitat and women would not have been allowed to leave the residential area. For reasons linked to individual honour and prestige, several elders then offered a piece of their private land, near or even inside their compounds, where the social centres could have been built. Final negotiations were long and delicate. In one neighbourhood, male heads of two households situated only a few hundred meters from the selected site decided that their women would not be allowed to attend the social centre activities, because they would have to cross the entire neighbourhood to reach it. This demonstrates the particular difficulties of establishing communal facilities and activities for women in a socio-cultural setting marked by strict adherence to the principle of women's seclusion (parda).The training component (step n.3) varied in terms of time and methodology, according to the particular initiatives undertaken.
The training for Village Traditional Birth Attendants (or local mid-wives) had to comply with the rules established by the Health Department (such as a 15-day training course, choice of certain topics, use of defined pedagogical materials, etc.). On the other hand, the training of the accountants in charge of keeping financial records of the use for the spraying machines was given on the spot by the project's group promoters.Formal training courses were offered to only a few individuals (selected by the other members of the community) who were chosen to play a specific role (as 'village specialists') in providing a service to their group. In other cases, what was needed was only an informal 'demonstration' session open to everybody.
For instance, while a 10-day training course on animal health and nutrition was provided to only one person per village (who eventually obtained a certificate and a kit of veterinarian products and materials), a short (one hour) explanation of appropriate pruning techniques was judged sufficient to initiate everybody in improved pruning.As a general principle, activities were never initiated without a concrete financial contribution from the members of the Village Organization or without the signature (by the elders of the community and the project representatives) of a written agreement.
According to the overall methodology, the internal monitoring and evaluation of the activities (step 5) should be considered as a regular activity, to take place at least once a year, using participatory tools. In two of the pilot areas, the SEU has already completed this evaluation. A more formal external evaluation (step 6) could be done after 3 to 5 years.
Several policy orientations underlie the IRLDP approach to integrated participatory development. In line with these principles, the social and economic development of the populations living in the pilot areas requires some political, social and environmental conditions, such as:
However, past development experiences sadly show that lessons may be ignored or forgotten, that a favourable momentum may be lost, and that an original and harmonious development approach may be diluted and fragmented.
Care should be taken in the next phase of the IRLDP activities to build on the lessons learned and to guard against any encroachment on the principles of people's participation in all actions and decisions affecting their lives.
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