Posted November 1997
Participation in practice / 2
The 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
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
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 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.
A review of PPP revealed many similarities, but also marked differences,
in implementation of the principal elements of the participatory approach.
These elements are:
- Focus on the rural poor. PPP beneficiaries included immigrant
settlers in Zimbabwe, artisanal fishing communities in Tanzania and subsistence
farmers in Ghana, Nicaragua and Thailand. In Lesotho and Swaziland most
participants were female household heads, one of the poorest strata in rural
- Promotion of women in development. About 5,000 women - or 37%
of all participants - were actively involved in PPP projects. While their
involvement was weak in some countries, women made up more than seven
out of every 10 participants in Lesotho, Swaziland and Zambia.
- Small groups. The key element in PPP is the formation of small
homogeneous self-help groups. More than 1,000 such groups with average membership
of 12 persons were formed, almost a third of them in Ghana and Sri
Lanka. In other countries the number of groups ranged from 18 to 90. Groups
were run democratically, with members holding regular meetings and electing
their leaders. This group approach facilitated farmers' access to credit,
extension and other services.
- Implementing agencies. Government ministries or semi-government
institutions had responsibility for implementing projects in Pakistan,
Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Swaziland, Tanzania, Thailand, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
FAO believes, however, that NGOs can make an important contribution. With
government agreement, NGOs were appointed as implementing agencies
in Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho and Nicaragua.
- Coordinating committees. To maximize efficiency in use of resources
and promote better understanding of PPP, FAO encouraged the formation of
project-level and national-level coordinating committees. At field level,
these consisted of beneficiaries, project staff and administrators who guide
project implementation. At national level, representatives of government
ministries, NGOs and FAO monitored project performance.
- National project staff. All project coordinators were nationals
trained by FAO. Each project coordinator was recruited directly by the implementing
agency, usually from the ranks of government services. Project coordinators
included extension officers, economists and youth workers.
- Group promoters (GPs). Some 130 GPs were selected and trained
to assist in PPP group development and in linking groups to government services.
While most GPs were agricultural extension agents, school teachers or secondary
school graduates, the Programme encouraged the recruitment of "second-generation"
GPs from among PPP members.
- Income-generation. Encouraged by their GPs and assisted by government
services, PPP members undertook additional income-generating activities
to build up and diversify their economic base. The majority of groups were
engaged in staple food and animal production, coming together on individual
members' plots or group farms for land preparation, planting and harvesting.
Many groups marketed their produce in bulk.
- Group savings. An important objective of PPP was to mobilize group
savings to serve as additional credit, cover loan defaults and build up
the members' capital base. At one point, PPP participants - most of whom had
no previous experience of saving with banks - had saved a total of $68,000.
- Group credit. To facilitate credit for PPP groups, FAO covered
the banks' risk of loan defaults with a Credit Guarantee Fund held at lending
institutions. Thanks to these arrangements, PPP groups
received annually a total of $350,000 in loans, an average of $324 per group.
PPP loan repayment rates were generally much higher than those recorded by
"low-cost" credit programmes for small farmers.
- Training. High priority was given to improving the organizational
and production skills of PPP members, mainly through small field workshops.
Training was usually conducted by government extensionists at the request
of project staff or groups. It covered a wide field, including project planning,
recordkeeping, food storage, animal rearing and soil conservation.
- Participatory monitoring and evaluation. Group members participated
fully in action research connected to the project, and in monitoring and
evaluation of project activities.
- Self-reliance. Once groups began to consolidate their economic
base, they were urged to increase their self-reliance in preparation for
the withdrawal of their GPs and of FAO assistance. Self-reliance was stressed
through training, savings mobilization and consolidation of PPP groups in
self-governing umbrella organizations serving their wider interests. Some
121 inter-group federations were formed, along with loan committees
that process loan requests and distribute credit.
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.