Posted November 1997
Participation in practice / 9
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:
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
Training of participants
Training benefitsPPP 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.
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
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.