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ANNEX 1: Participatory learning techniques
ANNEX 2: Participatory rural appraisal techniques
ANNEX 3: Sources
ANNEX 4: Addresses

ANNEX 1: Participatory learning techniques

This Annex lists participatory learning techniques that GPs should use during group formation and development of income-generating enterprises.

The list is intended as a guide only. Be creative when using methods. Try to use drawings rather than words as much as possible. Use pictures, drawings, a flannel board, puppets and so on. Write and draw on poster-size sheets of paper. Special attention should to be paid to women’s roles and work. For more details and more ideas, see the list of sources (ANNEX 3: Sources).

Activity profile

Ask different people about their daily activities. Where, when and how much money do they spend? Interview and observe or ask them to write notes.

Approach members constructively

Reward members either verbally or through privilege for taking initiative and for actions of any kind. Everyone needs to know their contributions are appreciated. Even if their comments are not practical, a reply can begin with “That’s a good point but what about...”, or “That’s an interesting point, what do others think?”

Assignments (theoretical and practical)

Ask participants to practise new roles and new skills - e.g. ask a different person to act as a chairperson or fill in record book. Set assignments to find out the current market prices for something. As an exercise, work out the likely demand for a product - e.g. chickens - in a village for one year.


Ask members to think of any ideas that come to mind. List all the ideas without evaluation or judgement. The quantity, not the quality, is what matters. Ideas can be discussed later for practicality. Sometimes unlikely or seemingly ridiculous ideas lead to a more practical idea which would otherwise not have been considered.

Case studies

Discuss an imaginary or real situation from the village (e.g. a successful group of marketing women) to encourage discussion on marketing strategies. Use the case study to ask questions about an activity the group is working on.

Community surveys

Survey individuals in the community for their knowledge or opinions. Ask a number of people who represent the audience you are thinking about. For example, if you are trying to find out the extent of demand for wooden chairs in the village, ask a number of people - men, women, village elders, school teachers, etc. If you want to know which people are poor, ask several people about their jobs, houses and standard of living and if they think they are above or below average for the village.

Consultation with specialists

Carry out an interview with a specialist or knowledgeable person on an issue for which you need more information - e.g. for chicken-raising, contact your local extension agent. For a health issue, contact your local health centre.

Critical incident

Use problem situations to analyse advantages and disadvantages and possible solutions to a given situation. Pictures or drawings will help. For example: “A group has saved up a lot of money - enough to build a chicken house and start up a chicken raising activity. Just before they go to buy the materials, the treasurer tells them all the money has been burnt. What should they do?” Hold a discussion on the issue.

Describing visual images

Choose a photograph or drawing with a clear, relevant message. Before displaying the image, ask three volunteers to leave the room. Discuss with the other participants how to describe the picture. Ask person A to return and listen to a description of the image (without seeing it). Let person A tell B and B tell C. Ask C to draw the picture. Discuss. Use this to highlight how messages become distorted when passed from one person to another.

Field visits and excursions

These can be combined with observation and interviewing. Arrange a visit to a place of relevance to the group - e.g. if they want to start a carpentry activity, arrange a trip to a carpentry business in another village (but far enough away so they would not compete if the activity becomes successful). A visit to another group successfully running an activity your group would like to try can be very useful in building members’ confidence.

Folk songs

Ask people to sing local traditional songs and explain them. You will learn a lot about values, practices and local terminology.

Good, bad or in-between

Show participants pictures, each with a scene that could be interpreted as good, bad or in-between, depending on the point of view. Ask participants to sort the scenes into the three categories, and discuss the different alternatives.

How to make a meal

Use a daily activity like cooking to illustrate the importance of sequencing and planning. Write out the sequence of activities that have to be done to cook a meal. Show how they have to be done in a certain order and need to be planned in advance.

Information collection

Ask members to collect information on relevant subjects at the local library, offices, service organizations, etc. This is useful for finding out what is needed or the likely results of an idea before trying it out in practice.


Ask questions of key informants individually or as a group, near a meeting point such as a tea shop or a village pump. Use semi-structured interviews (i.e. with some guideline questions prepared in advance) or open interviews. Interviewing each other is also a good way to practice interviewing skills.

Local histories

Ask villagers for a detailed account of the past and how things have changed.

Making puzzles

Cut large sheets of paper into two or more puzzle pieces, then mark the “right” side. Give each participant a piece and ask them to combine the pieces with or without talking. Watch what happens and use the results to discuss communication and group cooperation.

Making something together

Provide materials and objects and ask participants to make something. Watch and use the results to discuss communication and cooperation.

Memory game

Show 20 objects found locally. Ask the participants to remember them. Put them in a bag one by one. Then ask one volunteer to name them and write them down on a list. Ask the other participants as a group to write them down as well. Compare the lists and discuss the advantages of cooperation.

Participation game

Give five sticks to each participant. Start a discussion. Everybody who speaks has to give away one of her/his sticks. No one may speak without sticks. Discuss subjects such as dominance, shyness and importance of participation.

Participatory discussion

Used in combination with other methods. Gather the members in small or large groups and discuss a topic of interest. Provoke reactions by using open questions: “What do you see here? Why do you think it happens? When this happens in your situation, what problem does it cause? What can we do about it?” Ask questions that need definite answers: “When was the last time... and what did you do then? What did you do yesterday? How many...? What happens in your family...?”

Pictures, posters or story cards

Present a story about a relevant topic using pictures, and discuss the content and results. Use together with case studies or critical incidents.

Practical demonstration

Show exactly how something should be done - e.g. filling in a record book. Then ask the members concerned to do the same thing. If you do not have the skill in question, ask an expert to demonstrate - e.g. for fertilizer application, you could ask an extension worker.

Preference ranking

Ask villagers to rank items according to the villagers’ criteria (e.g. for six seed varieties - which is best to worst for harvesting, fodder, food, storage, etc.).

Presentation by a resource person

Ask a specialist to give a presentation in a workshop - for instance a market women or trader explaining about purchase and sale.

Presentation of a progress report

Ask a participant to give a personal report about the group’s progress. Discuss the presentation among the group. If one member is very critical, you can always ask them to do better!

Presentation of experiences

Ask one participant to describe personal experiences related to daily life or work - e.g. a woman telling what she does from morning until evening, or a man telling how he runs his market stall.


Make a table with four columns. List main problems of participants in the first column, possible solutions in the second column, what prevents them from solving the problem in the third column, and what will help them solve the problem in the fourth column. Discuss.

Puppet shows

Use puppets to express opposing ideas (e.g. chatting and quarrelling about “women’s work”). Puppets are particularly good for discussing controversial issues as they are not “real” and so can be allowed to say what they like without causing offence.

Skits or plays

Ask participants to do a short skit or role-play on the subject being discussed (e.g. participants act out the election of a committee or selling their goods at market). This can also do a mime (a play without words).

Socio-economic dimensions

A wealth/well-being ranking or sorting exercise - make cards or slips of paper, each with one household name written on it. Ask villagers or participants to sort the cards into piles according to “wealth”. You can combine this method with social mapping.

Song composing

Ask members to make up and sing a song about something the participants have learnt (e.g. how to increase group cooperation).

Spoken messages (also known as “Chinese whispers”)

Think of a message that suits the situation (e.g. “tomorrow we will start interviewing market women about how they sell their chickens”). Give the message to one member and tell him/her to pass the message around from one person to another by whispering. Ask the last person to repeat what she/he has heard. Discuss how and why the message changed, how misunderstanding can be avoided, and what can be learnt from this game.

Systematic walk

Take a systematic walk through the village and surroundings, observing the village structure and processes. Ask how and why people do what they do. Listen more than talk.

Testing and experimenting

Carry out practical trials or experiments (e.g. test different seed varieties to see which work best).

Time line

Ask the members to draw a line and mark on it major events in the community, with the approximate dates. Discuss changes that have occurred.

Two-circle exercise

Draw two circles - one circle represents the community, the other the group in the community. List the problems in the community and list the problems that affect the group especially in the group circle. Discuss how the problems are connected, possible solutions to the problems and how solving group problems will affect the community.

Venn diagrams

Ask people to draw a circle to represent themselves and other circles to represent groups and institutions with which they have relations. The distance to their circle indicates the strength of the relation, the size of the circle their importance to the people. Circles can overlap.

ANNEX 2: Participatory rural appraisal techniques

Participatory rural appraisal (PRA) is a set of participatory and largely visual techniques for assessing group and community resources, identifying and prioritizing problems and appraising strategies for solving them.

Key characteristics of PRA

Some features of PRA which make it well-suited as a learning and problem-solving tool for the rural poor are:

· It encourages group participation and discussion

· The information to be processed is collected by group members themselves

· It is presented in highly visual form, usually out in the open and on the ground, using pictures, symbols and locally available materials

· Once displayed, the information is “transparent rather than hidden” - all members can comment on it, revise it and criticize it. This assists in cross-checking and verifying collected data.

Some useful PRA techniques

Participatory mapping

· Create a wall or ground map with group participation. Members should do the marking, drawing and colouring with a minimum of interference and instruction by outsiders.

· Using pencils, pens or local materials (e.g. small rocks, different coloured sands or powders, plant material) members should draw maps that depict/illustrate certain things. Each group member is then asked “to hold the stick” to explain the map or to criticize it or revise it.

· Create resource maps showing the location of houses, resources, infrastructure and terrain features-useful for analysing certain community-level problems.

· Create social maps, showing who is related to whom and where they live - useful in conducting PPP baseline surveys, etc.

Seasonal calendars

These charts show monthly changes in climate (rainfall or temperature) or agricultural activities (agricultural hours worked, different activities undertaken, crop cycles). The calendars are useful in identifying planting and harvesting times, labour constraints and marketing opportunities.


These are grid formats used to illustrate links between different activities or factors. They are useful in information gathering and analysis. An example is “problem-solving matrices,” where a series of problems affecting a group are placed on the vertical axis and their possible causes placed on the horizontal axis as below:


Possible causes:

Other work

No profit

Distrust of leader

Low member attendance

Low savings

Lack of unity

The matrix technique is useful for identifying and prioritizing problems, in spotting inter-relationships, etc.

ANNEX 3: Sources

Berold, Robert & Collette Caine (eds.), People’s workbook, working together to change your community. EDA, Johannesburg, 1981

Buzzard, Shirley & Elaine Edgecomb (eds.), Monitoring and evaluating small business projects: a step by step guide for private development organizations. PACT, New York, 1987

Crone, Catherine D. & Carman St. John Hunter (eds.), From the field, tested participatory activities for trainers. World Education, New York, 1980

Feuerstein, Marie-Thérèse, Partners in Evaluation, Evaluating Development and Community Programmes with Participants. Macmillan Publishers, London, 1986

Grandin, Barbara E., Wealth ranking in smallholder communities: a field manual. IT Publications, Rugby, 1988

ILEIA Newsletter, for low external input and sustainable agriculture. Leusden

Kindervatter, Suzanne, Women working together, for personal, economic, and community development. A handbook of activities for women’s learning and action groups. OEF International, Washington, 1983

Kindervatter, Suzanne (ed.), Doing a feasibility study: training activities for starting or reviewing a small business. OEF International, Washington, 1987

Kindervatter, S. & M. Range, Marketing strategy, training activities for entrepreneurs. OEF International, Washington, 1986

Mascarenhas, James et al., Participatory Rural Appraisal, Proceedings of the February 1991 Bangalore PRA Trainers Workshop, RRA Notes Number 13, August 1991

Natpracha, Patchanee & Alexandra Stephens, Taking hold of rural life. FAO, Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific (RAPA), Bangkok, 1990

Participation in practice: lessons from the FAO People’s Participation Programme, FAO, Rome, 1990

RRA Notes, series on Rapid Rural Appraisal and Participatory Rural Appraisal, Sustainable Agriculture Programme, IIED, London. (This reference provides pictures and more detailed information on a variety of PRA methods.)

Seslar Svendsen, Dian & Sujatha Wijetilleke, Navamanga, training activities for group building, health and income generation. Women’s Bureau of Sri Lanka and OEF International, Washington, 1983

Vella, Jane, Learning to teach, training of trainers for community development. Save the Children and OEF International, Washington, 1989

Srinivasan, Lyra, Tools for community participation. A manual for training trainers in participatory techniques. PROWWESS/UNDP technical series involving women in water and sanitation. PROWWESS/UNDP, New York, 1990. (Distributed by PACT)

Stephens, Alexandra, Participatory monitoring and evaluation. FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, 1990

Thomas, Graeme. Empowering the rural poor: FAO experiences in participatory rural development. FAO, Rome, 1993

Uphoff, Norman, Participatory self-evaluation of PPP group and inter-group association performance: a field methodology. FAO, Rome, 1989

ANNEX 4: Addresses

OEF International
1815 H Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20006

PACT, Inc.
777 United Nations Plaza
New York, NY 10017

Small Farmer Group Development Unit
Ministry of Agricultural Development and Research
Gatambe, Peradeniya
Sri Lanka

EDA (Environmental and Development Agency)
Box 62054, Marshallton
2107 Johannesburg
South Africa

Intermediate Technology Development Group
Myson House, Railway
Rugby CV 21 3 HT
United Kingdom

IIED (International Institute for Environment and Development)
3 Endsleigh Street
London WC1H ODD
United Kingdom

Information Centre for Low-External-Input and Sustainable Agriculture (ILEIA)
P.O. Box 64
3830 AB Leusden
The Netherlands

World Education
1414 Sixth Avenue
New York,
New York 10019

The group promoter (or GP) is a key figure in rural development. He or she has three important tasks: to help the rural poor to form small, autonomous groups, to help group members develop their skills, and to facilitate communication between groups and development services.

This resource book is designed to guide GPs in all phases of group development. It provides a step-by-step approach to identifying the poor in rural communities, forming groups, linking them in associations and building group income-generating activities.

It includes detailed suggestions for strengthening democracy within groups and for planning group enterprises.

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, 00100 Rome, Italy


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