Posted November 1997
Participation in practice / 11
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 storyThree 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.
"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".
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.