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Posted November 1997

Participation in practice
Lessons from the FAO People's Participation Programme

Introduction | People's Participation Programme (PPP)| Project preparation | Forming groups | Group activities | Implementing agencies | Financial component | Group promoters | Participatory training | Monitoring and evaluation | Project sustainability | Costs and benefits | Replicating the PPP approach | Complete Special as a single 121K file

1. Introduction

Rural development efforts have failed to deliver on their promises. An evaluation found that half of rural development projects funded by the World Bank in Africa were outright failures. A review of assistance to agricultural cooperatives reported similar results. A study by the International Labour Organisation of "poverty-oriented" projects worldwide showed that the poorest were excluded from activities and benefits.

The limits of "conventional" projects

How do some conventional projects discriminate against the poor? A classic example comes from Nigeria, where a large scale agricultural development project channeled assistance to "progressive" farmers and chose to work through the existing socio-economic structure, assuming that this would win local cooperation. Result: subsidized credit to buy tractors and pay for labour and fertilizer helped to create a small class of "overnight farmers", mainly wealthy city dwellers. Most inputs went to richer landowners, while subsidized fertilizer encouraged farmers to abandon traditional manuring practices. And none of this led to production increases: per hectare yields of staple crops was the same for project participants and non-participants.
What has gone wrong? Recent years have seen growing criticism of rural development strategies followed, with only minor adjustments, since the 1960s. These conventional strategies have seen development primarily as a series of technical transfers aimed at boosting production and generating wealth. In practice, conventional projects usually target medium to large scale "progressive" producers, supporting them with technology, credit and extension advice in the hope that improvements will gradually extend to more "backward" strata of rural society. In many cases, however, the channeling of development assistance to the better-off has led to concentration of land and capital, marginalization of small farmers and alarming growth in the number of landless labourers.

The basic fault in the conventional approach is that the rural poor are rarely consulted in development planning and usually have no active role in development activities. This is because the vast majority of the poor have no organizational structure to represent their interests. Isolated, undereducated and often dependent on rural elites, they lack the means to win greater access to resources and markets, and to prevent the imposition of unworkable programmes or technologies. The lesson is clear: unless the rural poor are given the means to participate fully in development, they will continue to be excluded from its benefits. This realization is provoking new interest in an alternative rural development strategy, that of people's participation through organizations controlled and financed by the poor.

The WCARRD concept of rural development

People's participation in rural development is by no means a new concept. It was formulated in the mid-1970s, amid growing awareness that development efforts were having little impact on poverty. At the World Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (WCARRD), held in Rome in 1979, the international community identified the reason for this failure - the lack of active participation of the poor in programmes designed, supposedly, to assist them.

WCARRD declared that participation by rural people in the institutions that govern their lives is a basic human right. If rural development was to realize its potential, the Conference said, disadvantaged rural people had to be organized and actively involved in designing policies and programmes and in controlling social and economic institutions. WCARRD saw a close link between participation and voluntary, autonomous and democratic organizations representing the poor. It called on development agencies to work in close cooperation with organizations of intended beneficiaries, and proposed that assistance be channeled through small farmer and peasant groups.

Participation in practice

Since WCARRD, developing countries have suffered economic set-backs unforeseen in 1979. With their economic survival at stake, many countries have been forced to cut back on rural development, giving priority to growth ahead of WCARRD's concern for participation and equity. During this same period, however, great progress has been made in the elaboration of participatory principles and methodologies. Spurred by WCARRD, the Food and Agricultural Organization launched the People's Participation Programme, or PPP, in 1980. Since then, PPP has implemented pilot projects throughout the developing world in an attempt to test and develop an operational method of people's participation for incorporation in larger rural development schemes.

The experience of PPP has demonstrated that true participation is possible only when the rural poor are able to pool their efforts and resources in pursuit of objectives they set for themselves. The most efficient means for achieving this objective, FAO has found, are small, democratic and informal groups composed of eight to 15 like-minded farmers. For governments and development agencies, people's participation through small groups offers distinct advantages:

The pivotal role of people's participation in development is now re-emerging in economic and social development thinking. One striking example of this trend comes from the World Bank. In its proposed strategy for sustainable development in Africa, the Bank calls for a "people-centred" approach that will improve the poor's access to productive assets, allow them to participate in designing and implementing development programmes, and foster their involvement in institutions from village to national level. UNICEF has proposed similar measures in its strategy for structural adjustment "with a human face", stressing people's participation in the formulation of development policy, and efforts to make full use of local potential. FAO believes that the participatory approach described in the following pages will be an essential part of any strategy to meet the challenges ahead.


2. The People's Participation Programme

Experience in Asia

FAO involvement with small farmer organizations in Asia provided much of the conceptual framework and field experience for the development of PPP. In the 1970s, FAO studies found that informal groups, consisting of 8-15 members from similar socio-economic backgrounds, were better vehicles for participation in decision-making and collective learning than heterogeneous, large scale and more formal organizations. This served as a stimulus for the FAO Small Farmers Development Programme (SFDP), which organized thousands of participatory groups in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Laos PDR, Nepal, The Philippines, Sri Lanka and Thailand.
The FAO People's Participation Programme arose from WCARRD and its call for "the active involvement and organization of the grass roots level of the rural people". PPP's main emphasis is on formation of small, informal, self-reliant groups of the rural poor as part of a longer-term strategy to build institutions serving their interests. These groups allow members to work together on income-generating activities, serve as receiving mechanisms for development services, and provide a voice for members in dealing with local authorities. Facilitators in this process are project coordinating committees, government and NGOs, and locally recruited group promoters.

The first PPP project was launched in Sierra Leone in 1982. Later, other projects were implemented in Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Swaziland, Tanzania, Thailand, Zambia and Zimbabwe. In all, more than 13,000 people have actively participated in PPP; including their household dependents, beneficiaries totaled more than 80,000 people.

PPP elements

A review of PPP revealed many similarities, but also marked differences, in implementation of the principal elements of the participatory approach. These elements are:

Replication of PPP

FAO considers that PPP's working hypothesis - that of realizing people's participation through small group formation - is a valid concept and method. The task ahead is to replicate the approach on a much larger scale. Replication does not mean duplication: rather, it is the diffusion of PPP concepts, methodologies and practices to governments, donors and other development organizations and their adaptation to local conditions.


3. Selecting project areas and participants

Participatory rural development projects seek to improve the economic, social and political conditions and capacities of the rural poor. Among the first tasks of the project planner, therefore, are:

Selecting project action areas and villages

Areas with a high concentration of poor people are characterized by very limited natural resources and physical infrastructure, a lack of basic development services, inequitable land tenure, subsistence or marginal agricultural production and a shortage of on- and off-farm employment opportunities.

Planners can make a fairly accurate delineation of impoverished areas through discussions with rural administrators and a rapid analysis of existing data sources, including population censuses, household surveys and production statistics for different geographic areas.

How PPP areas were chosen

Planners used a range of criteria in selecting PPP project areas and villages. In Thailand, project areas were identified after a review of statistical data on relative poverty. Once the project began, group promoters collected detailed information through a community level survey, followed by a household survey to identify poor families and their needs.In Zambia, a PPP project was sited in one of the country's poorest regions. Provincial authorities chose two districts as project areas mainly because well-qualified staff were available locally. Project villages were selected in consultation with local leaders and agricultural extensionists. In Kenya, the implementing agency selected villages where farmers' groups were already operating.
Once poor areas have been identified, planners need to select from among them areas suitable for participatory development projects. Here, somewhat different considerations apply. It would be counter-productive to select areas with development problems so serious that they limited the project's chances of success. Preference should go, therefore, to poor areas where there is relatively greater potential for development of viable economic activities, availability of at least some development services that could be channelled to the poor, and market outlets for goods and services.

The next step is to select village clusters - i.e. a group of adjacent villages with cultural, economic or physical links - where project activities will begin. To identify these clusters, project planners should conduct exploratory socio-economic surveys, preferably in cooperation with group promoters. Villages selected should have potential for development and a low degree of social stratification.

Selecting project participants

In most developing countries, the rural population can be divided into three broad socio-economic categories: the rich, who usually control most of the means of production (chiefly land) and have greatest access to development services; the middle class, with secure and sufficient access to income and assets; and the disadvantaged or poor, who live at or below subsistence level.

The rural poor depend for their livelihoods on full- or part-time employment in agriculture, forestry, fisheries, handicrafts and related occupations. They include small and marginal landowner-farmers, tenants, sharecroppers, landless labourers and small fishermen, as well as forestry workers, rural artisans, nomadic pastoralists and refugees.

Problems in selecting participants

Experience with PPP highlights constraints and shortcomings in the application of criteria for the selection of project participants. In Kenya, the lack of sufficient and well-defined guidelines led to the formation of groups that included well-off farmers as well as poor subsistence farmers for whom the project was intended. Other problems stem from difficulties in defining adequate criteria for identifying the poor. In Sierra Leone, for instance, many "households" were multi-family units of more than than 25 people. Assessing the division of income from land worked by one member of these extended families proved almost impossible. In Zambia, land tenure was nearly impossible to assess: land is not owned privately but allocated temporarily by traditional chiefs to those in need.
Levels of deprivation also exist among the poor. Small farmers are sometimes considered "marginally poor" because they have some access to income and assets. Usually worse off are sharecroppers, landless labourers and hawkers (the very poor), who are dependent on the better-off for their survival. The most deprived people in rural areas are destitutes, such as widows and the handicapped, who have no economic base whatsoever.

To identify potential participants, project staff should gather existing information on the rural population in the selected project action area, including data on population, land tenure, economic activities and income distribution. From this information, the staff can assess directly the numbers, proportion and main characteristics of the poor and non-poor.

For a more accurate assessment, it may be necessary to develop poverty criteria specific to the area. Possible criteria include level of access to productive resources, ethnic and caste characteristics, level of skills available in the family, on- and off-farm family income, the extent of family indebtedness, housing conditions, nutrition status, level of education and family health, and extent of participation in rural people's organizations and in local decision-making.

Typically, project participants will be people whose main source of income is agriculture, fishing or related activities, whose principal source of labour is their family, and whose income is below the average in the area concerned. They will have little or no access to inputs, credit, markets, training, extension and other services.

While a participatory project seeks to benefit all categories of the rural poor, it need not necessarily start with the poorest. In fact, some projects deliberately seek to involve first the marginally poor small farmers rather than the very poor or destitutes. Experience has shown that small farmers are often keener to create organizations because they can afford to risk some of their assets in group activities. The very poor have fewer assets and more debts, and are more dependent on their employers. For this group, risk-taking can pose a threat to their very survival. Involvement of poorer people may be achieved only in later phases.

Identifying participants' needs

As the participatory project will form groups of the poor to help them satisfy their priority needs, these needs must be clearly identified. The poor's needs, which are directly related to group and family-level poverty, may have physiological, psychological, economic or socio-cultural dimensions. Moreover, among the poor, these needs have rankings of importance that may not be perceived by untrained observors.

To make a preliminary assessment of the rural poor's needs and aspirations, staff should consult with the intended participants. For this reason, an applied sociologist or anthropologist, and one or more experts in agronomy or other fields depending upon the type of project and its action areas, should be included in either the project identification mission or a reconnaissance mission undertaken beforehand.

Reconnaissance teams should carry out relatively rapid but practical social and economic studies, consulting a representative cross-section of local people - in particular the poor - as well as key members of local people's organizations and traditional leaders. The team's inquiries should cover such topics as existing development efforts, felt needs, aspirations and constraints. The information collected - although sufficient to devise a flexible project framework - should be regarded as preliminary and, in part, suspect. More reliable in-depth data will be gathered by field staff as they gradually gain the people's confidence while working with them during project implementation.

Needs identification - and the search for ways to satisfy needs - should be regarded, therefore, as a continuous process, as groups and organizations involved in the project assert their felt needs and delivery staff endeavour to meet them.


4. Forming groups of the rural poor

The central element in PPP is the formation of self-help groups of the rural poor as the first step in a long-term institution building process. Groups are formed around activities designed to satisfy the priority needs of the intended participants. Group membership offers the poor a number of advantages:

Forming small, homogeneous groups

Receiving systems

Government and NGO delivery systems often have no matching receiving system through which development assistance can be channelled to the poor. As a result, development agencies find it easier to serve a minority of better-off farmers than large numbers of small scale producers. The group approach helps the poor to create their own receiving mechanisms. To undertake economic activities, groups seek support - in the form of training, credit, inputs and social services - from local delivery agencies. For the delivery system, groups offer significant economies of scale: tools and inputs can be delivered in bulk, training conducted in groups and credit dispersed as group loans. Thus, the poor win greater access to technical advice and production inputs, while the delivery agencies broaden the impact of their assistance.
The project should first make an inventory of all existing forms of people's groups organizations within the proposed action area. These groups and organizations may be traditional or more modern types, such as farmer associations, cooperatives and trade unions.

The question is whether or not these organizations genuinely represent the interests of the rural poor. Cooperatives are often too large and their structures too hierarchical to be effective vehicles for participatory development. Similarly, traditional tribal or community groupings are often managed in a top-down fashion and may provide limited opportunities for participatory learning and decision making.

If the inventory indicates that participatory groups are lacking, the project should promote their formation among project participants. In PPP's experience four essential guidelines should be followed:

The project should then organize informal meetings with prospective group members to discuss the purpose, methods of operation and benefits of groups, as well as possible enterprises and means of production. Group promoters should make a list of potential group members and leaders, possible group activities and required inputs.

Once the participants have identified viable income-raising activities, those interested in a particular activity should decide on criteria for group membership: for example, whether members should belong to a specific category (such as small-holders, tenants or landless) or whether the group should be male-only, female-only or mixed. They should also assess their productive resources, including capital, skills and experience.

By consensus or formal voting, the group members should then elect a chairperson, secretary and treasurer. Project staff should encourage rotation of leadership positions among group members in order to give all members leadership experience, thus minimizing the risk of domination by a few. Finally, the group should formulate its own constitution and procedures, setting out rules on such matters as the frequency of group meetings and the use of savings and loans.

Formation of viable and stable groups requires patience and, in most cases, a period of from two to six months. Both overly rapid formation and overly long delays, which may dampen the interest of potential group members, should be avoided.

Obstacles to group formation

"A natural division of interests"

Conflicts are more likely to arise in heterogeneous groups, when better-off members attempt to influence decisions or expropriate benefits. Problems of this kind arose in Sri Lanka, where small scale business people managed to join some PPP groups. "Over two or three seasons they undermined their groups with offers of credit and inputs at high interest rates," the project coordinator said. "The groups gradually broke up because of this natural division of interests." Confidence in the project was restored only after the non-poor were excluded. In some cases, however, group homogeneity may conflict with local social structures and traditions. In Thailand, the formation of groups of the poor was seen in some areas as a threat to social harmony. The project decided not to exclude better-off farmers, although group promoters did manage to form more or less homogeneous groups.
The process of group formation often faces formidable obstacles. Many arise from within the ranks of the rural poor themselves. Heavy work loads and generally poor health often leave the poor with little energy for "participation", while their low level of education and geographic isolation cuts them off from progressive ideas. Perhaps the most insidious obstacles to be overcome are the rural poor's own lack of unity and their psychological dependence on the rich. In most cases, the rural poor are economically dependent on landowners, traders and middlemen. Accustomed to leaving initiatives and decisions to their traditional "leaders", they may fear intimidation or expulsion from their land if they become involved in independent peasant organizations.

Other constraints are posed by local power-holders - and even slightly better-off farmers - who may see the groups as a threat to age-old, and often highly profitable, patron-client relationships.

At local level, project staff can help overcome this antagonism by winning the support of traditional, administrative and other leaders. They may need to call meetings to sensitize leaders to the objectives of the participatory project and, above all, to illustrate the benefits of its activities to the area as a whole. These benefits include improvements in community living standards, an increased flow of government services to the village and, consequently, greater prestige for the village and its leaders.

Inter-group federations

Once groups have established a sound economic base, PPP promotes their consolidation into local-level inter-group federations. It does this because small groups usually become stronger and more efficient when horizontally and vertically linked. Inter-group federations promote solidarity and economies of scale both in group activities and delivery of development services, and enable members to develop a broad base for action. In addition, development of local - and, eventually, regional and national - structures can stimulate the formation of more groups.

Forms of federation

There is no universal model for inter-group federations. In Ghana, for example, participants in one village cluster all belonged to an inter-group federation, while in another the federation was made up only of group representatives. In a neighbouring area, a federation consisted of two groups involved in cassava processing. In Sri Lanka, federations are made up of two delegates from groups in each cluster, while in Lesotho, they consist of elected group delegates plus a representative of the traditional local leader.
An inter-group federation represents its constituent groups and is not an executive body: it must be accountable to all group members. It should have a facilitating, coordinating and educational role and become a source of technical assistance, economies of scale and guidance. For instance, a federation can offer training to new groups and even help finance their activities from accumulated savings. Moreover, it can serve as a reference point for formation of new inter-group federations and eventually perform at least some of the functions of group promoters.

In most cases, federations should, initially, represent groups with a variety of economic activities, rather than a single activity. Multi-activity federations are usually better able to meet common needs of the groups, such as training and information exchange, and to exert pressure on the delivery system. Single-activity federations may emerge at a later stage.

Inter-group federations may be legalized as pre-cooperatives or federations in order to obtain more recognition, legal status, services and facilities. They may also link themselves to participatory, rural poor-oriented cooperatives or other people's organizations. It should be stressed, however, that the groups do not replace cooperatives and other village institutions. They remain autonomous interest groups that may operate within, and help to strengthen, existing traditional or informal organizations, thus broadening the network of institutions serving the rural poor.

Linking federations to existing organizations not only facilitates delivery of development services and facilities, but also the consolidation of group plans into multi-group or federation plans that can be matched with area and regional development plans through local coordination committees. Thus, a two-way planning process can be developed.

Through inter-group activities and federations of groups, the poor become increasingly self-confident and recognized by their wider community. They obtain organizational power and may eventually be represented in local government bodies.


5. Group activities

Participatory groups are formed around activities that meet the identified priority needs and aspirations of those who wish to become members. The purpose of these activities is primarily economic and developmental: to increase members' production and income, reduce costs, promote financial self-reliance and contribute to community welfare.

The nature of group activities will depend on the needs, desires and capabilities of each group, local economic, social and institutional potentials, and the project's design, objectives, staff and resources.

Raising income

PPP groups developed a wide variety of income-generating activities. In Ghana, groups engaged in maize farming, cassava processing, brickmaking and production of baskets and beads. In Thailand, they raise pigs, poultry and freshwater fish. Zambian groups have set up rural nurseries to propagate cashew seedlings for sale. Other groups earn income from production and marketing of vegetables. In Lesotho, activities ranged from sewing and knitting to crop, poultry and animal production (one piggery group recently won first prize for its piglets at a national agricultural show). Groups in Sri Lanka earn extra income through intensive production of cash crops, sesame oil extraction, rearing chickens, goats and milking cows, and labour contracts.
Although group activities vary widely, four general types can be distinguished:

Selecting group income-generating activities

The principal objective of group activities in all PPP projects is to improve group members' incomes and mobilize group savings. That is why PPP emphasizes income-generating or cost-saving activities based on local experience and low-cost technology. These undertakings do not replace but are meant to supplement members' normal production. Activities of this type are most likely to broaden the groups' economic base, mobilize savings, strengthen group cohesion and develop their enterprise management skills. Groups are encouraged to undertake social or community improvement activities only at a later stage.

Building a rural enterprise

Two PPP groups in Ghana, established a highly profitable cassava processing enterprise. The groups began producing gari (dehydrated cassava meal) in 1983 to raise extra income. They soon realized they could make better profits by increasing the volume - and improving the quality - of output. Members made an inventory of available raw materials, labour and processing technology, and assessed their needs for transport, marketing, technical skills and capital. After attending an FAO workshop on cassava processing methods and small scale enterprise management, they built a processing plant on land obtained from the relative of one member. The enterprise has expanded rapidly. The members process more than 50 tonnes of cassava a year and have won orders from government institutions and food exporters.
It is important that - as far as possible - each group identifies, plans, carries out and evaluates its own activities. This is essential for group development and, eventually, self-reliance. While group promoters have an important role in encouraging group activities, especially in the initial stages, theirs is a facilitating role that will be reduced gradually as the groups develop.

Since the main objective of any enterprise is to produce something that people will buy, the group should be taught how to conduct simple market surveys in their community to identify a product or service needed and how much customers are prepared to pay for it. The group should then decide whether members have the resources and skills to supply it. The group should choose a product or service it can produce economically and well, avoiding complex production processes. Next, the group should calculate what is required to establish the enterprise, i.e. what skills and other resources each member can contribute. The final, and most important step, is to calculate expected profits.

Each group should prepare a simple group business plan dealing with the socio-economic conditions, resources and problems of the participating households. They should also prepare a schedule of operations and plans for future subsidiary on- or off-farm income-raising activities of individual members that may strengthen their economic base.

Small-scale feasibility studies may be needed in order to produce workable proposals for group activities. These studies should consider existing income-generating and other activities promoted by government or NGO agencies in the area. The identification of viable group activities also forms part of on-going action research - for example, a number of proposals may emerge from household survey data.

Problems in developing group activities

Development of group activities faces a number of obstacles. Among them are insufficient, inadequate or late delivery of inputs, lack of training of local field staff and group members in group dynamics and group enterprise management, and insufficient consideration of the feasibility, cost/benefit and creditworthiness of the group enterprise

The importance of group planning

Examples from Zambia and Swaziland highlight the importance of planning in group activities. A Swazi group decided to raise broilers for sale. Members obtained credit to build a chicken shed, then discovered some of the problems of running a rural enterprise: wild fluctuations in the availability of chickens, high transport costs and unreliable markets. After three years, the activity had barely made a profit and members had to repay the loan from their own savings. In Zambia, meanwhile, two groups decided to establish orange groves only after a detailed feasibility study which showed that they could expect profits of $7,500 a year within 10 years. The study estimated total costs of $3,800 in the five years before the trees became productive. Thereafter, the groves would yield 1.5 tonnes of oranges, rising to nine tonnes by the fifth season. In this period, total profit was expected to be $21,000.
The first hurdle faced by most groups is that of financing the activity. While the project may envisage provision of credit for the groups, experience indicates that initial activities should be funded by group members themselves through savings. This ensures that the scope of the activity is within the group's existing capacity and resources, builds commitment to the group and reduces debt dependency. Another common problem in developing activities is the groups' need for training. Members often have low literacy and numeracy skills, both of which handicap sound management. Unfortunately, there is a serious lack of training materials for the rural poor in this field.

As a group develops its activities and sees the rewards they bring, it usually begins to undertake additional, more complex enterprises. The risk here is that groups may "bite off more than they can chew". Group promoters should help their groups examine objectively the feasibility of proposed new activities by assessing the availability of group resources, funding and local markets.

It is no easy task to teach groups with limited literacy, numeracy and organizational skills how to manage an enterprise. The project may need to develop training materials and methods tailored to the learning capacities of group members. These should focus on developing skills in two critical areas: operational and strategic management. Operational management deals with issues arising from groups' day-to-day activities. For effective operational management there is a great need for instructional manuals on group dynamics, group business management, monitoring and evaluation, and savings/credit.

Strategic management focuses on solving problems related to the long-term development of certain group activities, allowing members to anticipate the impact of external factors (for example, new price policies or environmental damage caused by over-cropping or over-fishing).

Finally, the groups need to examine very carefully the feasibility of undertaking collective production activities. Experience with PPP has shown that while group members obtain better returns by sharing production inputs and experience, many have learnt - the hard way - that actual production is often best conducted on an individual basis. Many attempts to farm communal plots have failed owing to disputes over the allocation of labour and the division of income.

Project staff generally advise those groups wishing to use communal plots to plan the activity together, but divide the land into individual plots for production. Collective efforts are better suited to the sharing of newly acquired technical skills, or expensive or laborious tasks such as transporting inputs and produce.


6. Project implementing agencies

PPP projects are implemented with the active involvement of supporting government institutions - such as line departments, banks, training and research centres and women and youth councils - as well as NGOs, including church-related development agencies, national NGO federations and small development-oriented organizations.

Choosing the implementing agency

A local NGO or a government agency, or a partnership of both, can implement the project. Where the political climate is favourable, government agencies are preferred. In other cases, NGOs with experience at the grassroot level might be more suitable: experience indicates that NGOs usually have closer ties with grassroots rural people, are less hierarchical and bureaucratic and provide services more efficiently.

The selection of an implementing agency will also depend on the type of project concerned and the capabilities and willingness of agencies to provide the participatory groups with the services and facilities they need.

Project planners should also consider whether prospective implementing agencies are prepared to second field workers, such as extensionists and social workers, to serve as project group promoters. In the case of training or socio-economic research centres, the project should ascertain whether these institutions have genuine concern for the rural poor and whether they can provide the expertise needed for participatory training, action research and evaluation. Regardless of which agency is eventually chosen to implement the project, overall government support should be guaranteed from the outset.

The project coordinator

The project coordinator is employed by the implementing agency and is specifically charged with supporting, coordinating and supervising all operations concerned with the rural poor's participation.

"On the side of the poor"

Sudath de Abrew was an extension agent before becoming coordinator of the Sri Lanka PPP project. "In a line agency, you are expected to produce results," he said. "The shortest cut is to work with the middle-level and rich farmers who have the means of implementing your advice. I was not reaching the small farmers and was not aware of their problems." His attitude has changed with PPP: "When you work with the poor, you are reoriented so much that within 18 months you are on their side. I am happy that I found the right place for me." The Zambia project coordinator, Lydia Ndulu, agreed. "A coordinator must be committed to the people and to the cause of the people because she will always be in contact with them," Ms. Ndulu said. "I know now that when a group is formed, it should be up to them to do everything and perceive everything in their own way. I am there to help them or find someone who can help them better than I can."
In line with these duties, he or she should be a member of the coordination committee at project level, should brief committee members on project activities and progress and should assist in the selection, training and guidance of group promoters. The coordinator should also be a member of the national coordinating committee.

The essential qualifications of a project coordinator include close acquaintance with the problems of the rural poor and the motivation to assist them, experience in working with field agents such as extensionists and social workers, familiarity with government and international development bodies at various levels, and experience in organizing training activities. The coordinator should also have an academic degree or equivalent in economics, social or agricultural science, and a good knowledge of the local language in the project area.

Coordination of project support

The success of a participatory project depends on firm political backing and the allocation of sufficient development resources to meet participants' needs. The project should, therefore, establish coordination mechanisms that guide agencies involved in project implementation and support, monitor progress, avoid duplication of efforts and disseminate information about project activities. These coordination mechanisms are of two types:

Local coordination committee in the project area. This committee should be composed of group delegates, project staff, representatives of local delivery agencies and, where opportune, local leaders. The committee's task is to provide local-level support for the project by promoting people's participation and solving implementation problems, especially in the delivery of services and facilities to the groups.

It does this by helping to recruit and train project staff, especially group promoters, providing project staff with guidelines for the planning, implementation and evaluation of the rural poor's participation, and promoting effective two-way communication between low-income groups in the project areas and government and NGO officials at various levels.

Reducing frictions, and speeding up bank loans

In Ghana, where many PPP participants were landless, the project coordination committee proved useful in reducing frictions with local landowners. The committee consisted of elected cluster leaders, the local bank manager, and representatives of the implementing NGO and the landowning traditional council. One issue addressed by the committee was the rent levied on tenant farmers. Through the committee, PPP groups negotiated a new three-year contract with the traditional council.
   National coordinating committees are in a position to solve bottlenecks affecting the delivery of project inputs. In Sri Lanka, the Central Coordinating Committee was made up of high-ranking officials from several Government ministries and FAO. At one of its monthly meetings, the project coordinator reported that groups had not received their seasonal loans on time. The committee decided that before the next season the lending bank should scrutinize and approve loan applications in one day. The committee's instruction was transmitted through the bank's head office to its branch managers.
The committee should also work to secure training for the groups from government and NGO bodies, promote the consolidation of the project's activities and their multiplication in other areas of the country, and perform any other function that will enhance the success of the project.

In areas where a task force for a larger project already exists, the coordinating committee could be constituted as a participation sub-committee of the task force. Within this body, small technical committees could also be created for training, approval of group loans and monitoring and evaluation.

National coordinating committee. While coordination of project support services should be undertaken mainly at local level, encouragement and support from national level is essential. In the case of large projects, support might be organized through a special national coordinating committee or task force, or an existing national committee established for similar development programmes. National committees might also appoint a sub-committee or special task force to deal with general policies, personnel, finance and other matters affecting participatory development.

Although the coordination mechanisms described above are desirable, flexibility is also needed. Arrangements will vary according to local conditions and the type of coordination bodies already existing in a country or project area. In addition, a project involving mainly government agencies may require a coordination mechanism different to that needed for a project implemented by an NGO.

For the latter type of project, it may be appropriate to set up one or more small task forces at national and at lower levels that include representatives of the NGOs concerned and possibly of the supporting government agencies.


7. The financial component

Accumulation and reinvestment of wealth are driving forces behind economic development. Financial institutions - such as banks, credit unions and informal savings societies - have, therefore, an important role to play in participatory projects: they provide a secure place for group members' savings, facilitate financial transactions and supply credit for investment in group activities.

In most developing countries, however, the rural poor have little, if any, access to institutional finance. This is partly because the rural poor lack the physical collateral normally required to qualify for bank loans. Another disincentive for banks is the high per unit cost of delivering financial services to the poor. Reaching and servicing large numbers of scattered and unorganized rural people is time-consuming, and the volume of their individual savings and loan operations is low. Dealing with the poor as individuals is simply not cost-effective for banks, nor is it profitable, given the interest rate ceilings under which most banks operate.

Facilitating savings and access to credit

Savings first

PPP experience highlights the importance of "savings before credit" in group financial development. In Sri Lanka members of newly formed groups are asked to determine how much they will save each week, based on the capability of the poorest member. Savings come from weekly membership fees, profits on activities, and interest earned on emergency loans to members. Sums of $40 or less are usually kept by the treasurer; larger amounts are banked. The "savings first" philosophy has paid off: so far, the Sri Lanka groups have accumulated savings of $9,000, an average of $5 per member in areas where the poor earn less than $1 a day. Loans to individual members are channeled into a group account before being distributed. In this way, the group is made responsible for the entire loan. "We tell the groups that unless they are extremely sure of the creditworthiness of a member, they should not forward an application for that member," the project coordinator said.
Given these constraints, PPP has developed a set of financial strategies designed to improve the rural poor's access to essential financial services and promote their financial self-reliance. PPP projects introduce, on a pilot basis, new financial mechanisms and incentives that modify the existing rural financial environment: first, by reducing the cost to the banks of delivering savings and credit services to small farmers; and, second, by lowering the cost to project participants of gaining access to these services.

Although PPP financial approaches vary according to local conditions, all of them share five basic elements:

Financial arrangements

The success of a PPP project may depend, to a large extent, on the support of an existing rural financial institution. Selecting an appropriate institution during project formulation is, therefore, of the upmost importance.

Adapting to local conditions

The design and operation of the PPP financial component is tailored to conditions in individual countries. When the PPP project began in Ghana, for example, the country suffered from high inflation and a shortage of foreign exchange. To facilitate project operations, the guarantee fund was transferred into an Input-Import Fund held in convertible currency outside the country, while the Ghanaian Government allocated funds sufficient to cover most local currency costs. The collaborating bank received the inputs, which were then distributed to the participants on credit. The price of inputs in local currency was determined jointly by the government, the project and the bank. In Sierra Leone, where the PPP project provided credit directly, a detailed system was developed to provide and recover loans in kind. In Zambia, credit is administered by a national cooperative organization. Other project-specific arrangements include group marketing of surplus in Ghana and the formation of local credit unions in Lesotho.
There are several selection criteria. First, the institution should have a widespread network of branches in rural areas, and particularly in the project action area. Its management should be willing to introduce and test group approaches to delivering financial services to small farmers and should accept the concept of group-based social collateral. The institution should also agree to the establishment of the Credit Guarantee Fund. Finally, it should also be prepared to provide group-based or individual savings facilities for project participants and to introduce mechanisms to stimulate saving. Once an appropriate banking institution has been selected, the next step is to negotiate the Credit Guarantee Fund agreement. In PPP's experience, negotiation of this agreement may take time and project activities may have to begin before the actual agreement is signed. Nevertheless, the proposed agreement with the selected institution should be made a part of the project document.

To ensure that the bank provides proper supervision and technical support to its new clients, CGF agreements usually call for the setting up of a small farmer finance management committee within the bank to monitor the implementation of the project's financial component. Representatives of the cooperating bank may also be asked to serve on local or national project coordinating committees.

Finally, group promoters play a critical role in building up financial-self reliance among PPP groups. The GP must not only train members in basic financial skills, but assist the bank in recovering loans and building stronger links with the groups. As the groups reach maturity, however, this responsibility should be assumed gradually by inter-group federations. The federations thus complement - and help reduce the costs of - the bank's own supervisory and monitoring support.


8. Group promoters

The group promoter (or GP) is a key agent in any participatory project: his or her task is to facilitate development of the groups' capacity to organize and manage their activities. Whereas extension agents, community development workers and project field staff normally deal with entire rural communities, irrespective of the communities' social and economic divisions, group promoters assist exclusively the poor.

Unlike many extensionists, GPs do not see their "clients" as passive recipients of new technical knowledge: their aim is to work side by side with the poor, building up their confidence in their own abilities and promoting their self-reliance. Since this must be done without creating patron-client dependencies, the GP's task is essentially that of an intermediary, with three basic roles:

In FAO's experience, one group promoter can help to organize an average of 15 groups in three years. Thus, each GP should reach directly over three years some 150 households, or at least 900 people, including direct participants and their dependents. However, a crucial test of a GP's effectiveness is the capacity of the groups to reduce and finally end the need for his or her assistance.

Selecting GPs

Profile of a GP

PPP group promoters come from a variety of backgrounds. In Zambia, where there is a lack of well-qualified personnel willing to work in isolated villages, GPs were recruited from among local women with a secondary education. The were trained in group formation, the role of village headmen, decision making and cost/benefit analysis. In Sri Lanka, group promoters were university graduates (with a BSc or BA in social sciences) employed for three year periods. They receive six months training, most of it on-the-job in the project area. In Zimbabwe and Thailand, GPs were drawn mainly from extension services or similar government agencies, while in Kenya they were recruited from the NGO implementing agency's field staff.
The selection, recruitment, training and guidance of GPs are crucial steps in any participatory project. To be effective, GPs should have experience in working with people and local organizations in rural areas, and familiarity with the problems of the poor. It is essential that candidates have a strong commitment to live with, work with and assist the rural poor for at least two years.

They should be familiar with the language and culture of the project area and willing to leave decision making to the group members, promoting among them attitudes of self-help and self-reliance. Desirable GP qualifications are a rural background, secondary level education, and experience in community or rural development or in such fields as social work, elementary economics or sociology, agriculture and extension.

While GPs may be part of the same ethnic or linguistic group as the project participants, they should not be from the project area: the effectiveness of locally recruited GPs may be limited by kinship obligations and fear of alienating local leaders. In some cases, however, GPs can be recruited from and posted to their own village or zone of origin, the advantage being that their experience and know-how can continue to be utilized after withdrawal of the project.

Government extension agents performed well

The PPP project in Thailand seconded 26 GPs from the government agricultural extension service. The extension agents, who normally used the "Training-and-Visit" method based on individual contacts with farmers, had expressed willingness to try a bottom-up approach. Their enthusiasm and extension experience proved a distinct advantage: they had a sound knowledge of agriculture, had built up good relations with their target rural communities, and needed training only in participatory methods to prepare them for their new role. The GPs performed well and helped promote a participatory approach among their colleagues in the extension service.
Capable group promoters may be recruited from government agencies or local NGOs. In some countries, preference should go to government agencies willing to second their own staff to the project. Several PPP projects found excellent group promoters among government extension staff, who later returned to their agencies to propagate the participatory approach. Thus, the agencies were sensitized and better able to serve the rural poor, while project sustainability increased because recurrent costs were lower. The use of seconded government workers also enhances project expansion and multiplication.

If the project lacks the funding needed to recruit full-time GPs, their task can be performed in part by trained project staff who have other technical duties. However, such staff should preferably be locally recruited, with tasks that bring them into direct contact with the intended project participants.

Posting GPs

GPs are expected to live in, or very close to, the village cluster in which they work. Once clusters have been identified, at least two group promoters should be assigned to each cluster and begin work in a core village (in most cases, male-female teams may be more effective). The GPs should make themselves constantly available to the project participants.

The image of group promoters among the population in their action area is important. They should gradually build up confidential relationships with the local community, being careful to begin with the project participants and only thereafter dealing with better-off social strata. Through daily interaction with the poor, the GPs will gradually come to be regarded as animators and guides, and not as "top-down" government officials or outsiders interfering with the local culture and habits.

Promoting group self-reliance

While group promoters are promoting the self-reliance of their groups, they are also working towards their own redundancy in the action area. GPs promote self-reliance by involving the group members in activities that allow them to develop leadership and recordkeeping skills. He or she should encourage group-to-group exchanges, and ensure the presence of one or more group members whenever he or she deals with supporting institutions such as banks and delivery agencies.

When and how should GPs gradually withdraw from their groups? Experience in the implementation of PPP projects indicates that it takes from three to five years for groups to achieve complete self-reliance. Clearly, the disengagement process is a delicate one and depends on the rate at which each group develops. Once a group is capable of gaining access to government and NGO services and taking other initiatives without GP assistance, the GP can gradually withdraw to concentrate on serving other more needy groups, making only occasional return visits to ensure that progress continues.

Setting up inter-group federations in the third or fourth years of project implementation is important, as these bodies can gradually assume many of the GPs' support responsibilities. Self-reliance may not always mean total disengagement of group promoters: in some cases, GPs could be maintained by federations to perform certain specific functions.

Internal group promoters

Internal group promoters are group members who possess the skills needed to undertake GP tasks within their own communities. Suitable candidates may emerge during the process of identifying project participants or, more commonly, during group development, as organizational and management skills are diffused among members.

A group member becomes an internal GP when others begin to recognize his or her capacity to promote and facilitate group action. Given the dynamic nature of the participatory process, the training of internal GPs cannot be a static once-only activity. It should cover both group dynamics and practical skills needed to improve the rural poor's capacity to implement and manage their own activities.


9. Participatory training

To be successful, participatory projects need to adopt a participatory approach to training. Conventional training methods are didactic and often paternalistic: the trainer views the trainee as a near-empty vessel to be filled with knowledge. Participatory training is based, instead, on an active dialogue between trainer and trainee that constitutes a learning experience for both.

In participatory projects, the main objectives of training are:

The "target groups" of training are group members, project staff (including group promoters), supporting government and NGO staff, and local leaders and other influential people. Training should be pragmatic and based on solving immediate and recognized problems. Therefore, it must be on-going training, a continuous process implemented within the context of any project action to improve the production, income and social conditions of the participants.

Trainers must have practical experience. They should include group promoters and other project staff, technical officers of delivery agencies, experienced small scale producers as well as successful groups that train and motivate others.

Training of participants

Training benefits

PPP groups in Zambia have a busy training schedule. Each project district organizes one residential course a year for group leaders and as many mobile workshops as the extension system can provide. Training has had a positive impact on farming practices. "The most important thing we have learned is about agriculture," reported one group secretary, recalling the days when farmers waited until maize plants had grown before adding fertilizer to the soil. The secretary took a course at the district farmer training centre on crop production, savings and group management. On her return she shared what she had learnt with other members. Now the group has requested training in the extraction of groundnut oil, which they plan to sell.
Training topics for project participants should include: Other recommended training topics include legal matters (such as tenancy rights), mortgaging, wages, and banking and administrative procedures. Useful information on these topics is frequently not communicated to the poor. Group literacy classes for adult women and men help them to analyse their problems and plan actions, and reduce their dependency upon literate villagers or group members.

Training for project staff

Training of the project coordinator, GPs and other project staff aims at introducing them to participatory approaches and procedures and fostering motivation and team spirit. It should teach basic technical skills needed for group development, and experiment with innovative ways of poverty eradication.

The implementing agency should train the project coordinator in these topics as early as possible. GPs need, in particular, management training in production planning and implementation, transfer of appropriate technology, marketing, communication techniques, leadership, team-building, recordkeeping and writing of reports.

An inception training workshop of at least three weeks should be given in or near the project area for GPs, other project staff and key officials of the delivery system. It is advisable to invite twice as many candidate GPs as needed initially in the project in order to secure a reserve pool of these field workers. The curriculum should be pragmatic and include work experience presentations by participants.

After this inception training, GPs need initial field training of 2-3 months, a period that coincides with the start of their field activities in the project area. They should learn as a team to prepare and carry out village and household surveys, to solve problems met in the field and to cooperate with delivery agencies.

Follow-up training of GPs should be carried out through monthly meetings to evaluate team performance, to identify and solve work problems and to prepare field workshops and refresher courses in such subjects as innovative income-raising activities and credit schemes. The GPs might also collaborate in issuing a project newsletter and take part in exchange visits to other participatory projects.

Training of government and NGO staff

Government and NGO support staff also need training to familiarize themselves with participatory approaches and procedures, the difficulties encountered by the rural poor in gaining access to delivery agencies, and the role these agencies should play in helping solve the problems of the poor. In many instances, these officials may need to be "de-trained" and then re-trained through an on-going exchange of experiences and views.

Training opportunities for government and NGO staff consist mainly of participation in GP training courses, field workshops, briefing sessions, project coordination committees, beneficiary training, inter-country seminars, and inter-group or inter-project exchange visits.


10. Participatory research, monitoring and evaluation

Research, monitoring and evaluation are essential functions of any development project. Properly performed, they help donors, governments and implementation agencies to identify project constraints and beneficiary needs, to monitor progress toward project objectives and to evaluate results. Since one of the main aims of participatory projects is to develop the rural poor's own capacity to identify and solve their problems, they must be involved directly in all phases of this process.

In PPP, research, monitoring and evaluation are intended primarily to meet the information needs of the participants and solve concrete problems they confront. The approach is viewed as a participatory learning tool that helps groups to strengthen their problem-solving capacity and achieve self-reliance.

Participatory action research

A basic tenet of the PPP approach is that, in planning and implementing participatory projects, field investigators should involve the rural poor in collecting and analysing information on social and economic conditions, on constraints affecting the poor and their organizations, and on the community as a whole. Only through participatory action research of this kind can the project learn about the problems of the poor and help them to find solutions.

Initially, the main research objectives are to select the project area and - within these, village-clusters - to identify the rural poor and to determine whether they are involved in development efforts, especially through existing local organizations. Research is then conducted to assess potentials for group formation, to plan and implement group activities and to develop appropriate training programmes.

During project implementation, ongoing participatory research aims at solving concrete problems and providing data for field workshops, developing and sustaining a workable participatory monitoring and evaluation system, carrying out case studies of rural poor groups and developing appropriate technologies for project participants.

Tools for participatory action research are simple household and village surveys conducted periodically, mainly by GPs in collaboration with participants. These surveys will help to establish economic and social benchmarks, which highlight the status of the beneficiaries in the initial phase of the project and allow progress to be evaluated.

Group discussions with villagers are useful in familiarizing project staff with the local people and their situation, and in enhancing awareness of the villagers' problems. Part of this action research is a careful and systematic recording of GPs' findings, particularly of steps taken by participants to form their groups.

Participatory monitoring

Participatory monitoring is a process of collecting, processing and sharing data to assist project participants in decision making and learning. The purpose is to provide all concerned with information as to whether group objectives are being achieved. Implementing agencies and donors also require data on progress toward overall project objectives.

A workable participatory monitoring system should, therefore, be based on a multi-level approach that harmonizes the different - and often competing - information needs of those involved in the project and provides for regular meetings at each level to make use of the data generated.

The main tools for participatory monitoring are:

The information gathered should indicate shortfalls in project performance and discrepancies between objectives planned and those achieved. This information will be used in modifying project objectives and rectifying project deficiencies.

Participatory monitoring should be conceived from the beginning as part of the group learning and action process. This means that baseline and benchmark data, as well as data on inputs, outputs, work plans and progress made in group development, should be recorded, discussed and kept for later use.

Groups should keep records of their meetings and of major problems discussed, decisions made and actions undertaken, using elementary standardized forms contained in simple log-books. Each group should also learn a minimum of bookkeeping in order to record their loans and savings. The systematic collection of data on loans and repayment, in conjunction with simple cost-benefit analyses, gives essential insights into the capacity of groups to manage their affairs and improve their conditions.

Participatory evaluation

On-going evaluation is the systematic analysis by beneficiaries and project staff of monitored information, with a view to enabling them to adjust or redefine project objectives, policies, institutional arrangements, resources and activities, where necessary.

The main evaluation tools are:

These tools should all be used to promote a constant two-way flow of information between groups and the project staff.

The groups should also be encouraged to evaluate the performance of the delivery system. This helps groups to "talk back" to the delivery system by, for example, focusing on shortcomings and identifying bottlenecks. The results may then be brought up in field workshops.

Evaluation done in this way stimulates critical awareness and motivation for better group self-management. Self-evaluation results need to be presented systematically to other project participants at local and higher levels.

Evaluation should include not only tangible and measurable results of group activities but, as much as possible, spill-over benefits that facilitate the group members' economic, social and human development. It should consider, for example, progress in acquiring verbal and writing skills, in presenting ideas logically and clearly, in overcoming timidity when dealing with officials and in overcoming anti-social habits, such as excessive drinking and gambling.


11. Project self-sustainability

Participatory projects aim at building self-sustaining grassroots rural organizations by promoting groups of the rural poor and by influencing service delivery agencies to direct more of their resources through these organizations to the poor. Experience has shown that this institution building process normally takes time. It involves the introduction of a participatory learning process that gradually teaches the rural poor organizational, group problem-solving and leadership skills which they did not have before.

The GP obviously plays a pivotal role in initiating and empowering this learning process in its initial phases. Yet it is equally critical to recognize when groups have reached a point of self-sustainability and no longer require special assistance from the project.

Indicators of group self-reliance

Sierra Leone success story

Three years after the Sierra Leone PPP project terminated, small farmers groups it helped to form were actively involved in rural development. "Participation in group activities has actually grown as non-PPP members see the benefits of group work", an FAO consultant reported after a visit to the project action area. "The PPP villages have undertaken a number of community development projects, raising money to build schools, bridges and grain stores. Some groups have branched out into palm oil, groundnut and vegetable production." The visitor found that while the groups no longer had regular access to credit, they continued to save, investing their capital in construction projects and in small businesses. The groups still kept record books and had adopted a participatory monitoring and evaluation system. Two former GPs had formed rural workers' associations that met regularly with government extensionists and local leaders to discuss project ideas and to coordinate the delivery of farm inputs.
Project staff can use a number of indicators to measure the progress made by groups. These include:

Monitoring progress towards self-sustainability

"Graduation day"

The Small Farmers Development Programme in Nepal developed guidelines for judging whether participatory groups have progressed to the point where they no longer require special assistance. The programme identified as possible candidates for "graduation" small farmer groups that had been established for more than 10 years and were located near development agencies. Within these groups, "graduate" members were those who had accumulated produtive assets, had stable off-farm employment, were meeting the basic needs of their family through their own net income and had a good "credit rating".
It is important to teach the group how to monitor its progress towards self-sustainability. Group PMOE systems should be geared to monitoring this progress using their own simple set of ranking indicators, perhaps based on the indicators outlined above. Indicators can be developed through group meetings in which all members try, by consensus, to rank their group's progress according to a number of selected self-reliance variables, such as regularity of meetings, attendence and savings growth, assigning scores for good, satisfactory and unsatisfactory performance.

GPs may also adopt a group self-reliance monitoring system, perhaps based on a review of group record books. At the project level, monitoring may be carried out through frequent GP meetings in which group-by-group progress is reviewed, and through periodic sample surveys conducted with randomly selected groups.


12. Costs and benefits

The cost-effectiveness of the participatory approach is, at present, difficult to determine. This is because economic and social parameters are only partly adequate in measuring costs and benefits. The assessment of benefits is however, very important: it indicates economic and financial viability to government decision makers and planners who see development predominantly from an economic point of view.

In reviewing costs and benefits, it should be remembered that the very essence of the participatory approach is promoting the self-reliance of the rural poor. This implies low and decreasing recurrent costs, and increasing cost-recovery by the project participants. Although a participatory process needs some "start-up" external aid, the basic objective is that the process becomes self-propelling as soon as possible.

Costs of participatory projects

A typical PPP project lasts three years, with a donor contribution averaging $210,000. This contribution covers most of the total project cost. Since PPP began in 1982, each participatory project has formed, on average, 90 groups with total membership of 1,098 people. Including group members' families, total beneficiaries per project were at least 6,588 people.

Total external aid costs averaged, therefore, $63 per year per group member and less than $11 per beneficiary (i.e. the group member's dependants). While average cost per participant and beneficiary is high in the initial phase of the project, it declines rapidly as project staff are trained and as groups become more self-reliant. Average beneficiary costs in larger participatory projects would be lower due to economies of scale.

The incremental costs of including participatory elements in a larger project are low in relation to those of other technical components. Thanks to economies in administration and coordination, the incremental cost per beneficiary of including a participatory component would be lower than in smaller scale PPP projects. Incorporating participatory elements would involve the following extra costs:

The cost of adding these elements would be balanced by the improved design of the project and, in the long run, by its economic and social benefits. In some cases, extra budgetary allocations might not be needed to fund participatory elements - it may be sufficient to reallocate existing funds and staff.

Benefits

A letter from the rural poor

More than 1,200 PPP group members in Sri Lanka and Zambia wrote to FAO in appreciation of the assistance they had received through the People's Participation Programme. "It is impossible to quantify all the benefits we have derived from PPP", said the letter from Sri Lanka, signed by 1,100 small farmers. "Now there is unity among the members of our groups. We work together in land preparation, cultivation of crops, weed control and repairing houses and wells. Thanks to our training programmes, joint purchase and use of inputs and access to credit, our income has increased. There is a marked decrease in alcoholism, gambling and other wasteful habits. We execute health programmes, are tackling our marketing problems and are trying to solve our land ownership problems as well. "We strongly believe that through organized action based on PPP principles, poverty and social injustice can be overcome." The Zambian groups listed similar benefits: access to fertilizer, seed, ploughs and oxen, improvements in farming methods, higher savings and better family nutrition.
Do the benefits of participation outweigh the costs? There is no easy answer to this question: the benefits of participation are difficult to assess, primarily because they take many forms, are often difficult to quantify or evaluate, and may take several years to manifest themselves.

While data are still fragmentary, there is sufficient evidence to show that PPP's benefits are significant. These benefits can be measured from two perspectives, that of individual participants and that of society in general. Benefits to participants include:

Benefits for society as a whole include:


13. Replicating the PPP approach

The decision on whether or not to replicate a pilot participatory project depends on a number of factors. These include the extent to which groups organized under the pilot project have reached a satisfactory level of maturity or self-sustainability, whether a well-trained cadre of group promoters and project staff exists, and whether government and donor support is forthcoming.

Replication can be pursued in one of three ways:

In all cases, strategies for replication need to be carefully designed, taking into account all of the above factors as well as such considerations as the geographic, economic and social conditions of the proposed project area, the type of project intervention planned, experiences accumulated from ongoing participatory development efforts and the cost effectiveness of the planned intervention.

Project expansion/multiplication

A participatory project should be conceived as the first phase in a longer development process. Therefore it is usually necessary to prepare - as early as possible before a project terminates - a flexible plan for a second phase. The data required for this exercise should be obtained partly from an independent evaluation, but mainly from the project's own monitoring and evaluation system.

Recognizing the right to organize

A primary condition for the promotion of rural people's participation is the removal of barriers to their association in organizations of their choice. This calls for the ratification and enforcement by governments of International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions and recommendations on the role of rural workers organizations in social and economic development. ILO Convention No. 141 calls on governments to give rural workers "every encouragement" to develop, on a voluntary basis, "free and viable organizations". ILO Recommendation No. 127 defines a cooperative as a voluntary, democratically controlled and independent organization that is expected to become an instrument through which members are able to participate in decisions at higher levels. ILO Recommendation No. 149 calls for "active encouragement" of rural workers organizations and recommends that they "be independent and voluntary in character" and "free from all interference, coercion or repression".
In preparing for expansion or multiplication of participatory projects, planners should consider several basic points. First, expansion carries with it the risk of diluting key features of the ongoing participatory project. Planners should seek, therefore, to consolidate progress made in establishing groups and inter-group federations and in redirecting the services of delivery agencies. Without this consolidation, the expansion phase of the project could entail a decline in group activities.

New areas to be covered by the project during its expansion or multiplication phase should be adjacent to the original project area. This facilitates project management and supervision, as well as cooperation among existing and potential project participants and service agencies. Expansion and multiplication also implies a need for more field staff, particularly group promoters. GPs should be carefully selected and trained, preferably by senior group promoters who performed well during the project's first phase. Inter-group associations can play an important role in project expansion by assisting in recruitment of internal cadres, training new groups and federations, and disseminating improved technology.

To establish fruitful linkages in the expansion phase, it is indispensable to obtain information on existing groups, people's organizations and public and NGO development agencies in the new project areas, and ongoing projects and programmes with which the expanded project could cooperate.

Finally, in planning expansion and multiplication, various operations involved in the identification and preparation of the original project can be streamlined, thanks to the experience accumulated. For example, data collection can be more selective as considerable information will already be available. Incorporating participatory elements in large scale rural development programmes PPP projects are not pursued as ends in themselves, but rather to demonstrate to donor, government and NGO decision makers the benefits and cost-effectiveness of using group-based participatory approaches. These decision makers are best convinced by concrete results achieved in the field. Therefore, results must be communicated to them effectively.

The local and national level coordinating committees described in Chapter 6 play a key role as forums for discussion and exchange of views. However, other strategies may also be needed. They include:


Further information

For a complete set of information materials on the FAO People's Participation Programme, write to:
John Rouse
Small Farmers and Rural Organizations Officer, SDA
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
Via delle Terme di Caracalla, 00100 Rome, Italy
E-mail: John.Rouse@fao.org



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