As RRA and PRA gain currency among an increasingly wide variety of international, governmental and non-governmental agencies, it is inevitable that the quality of RRAs and PRAs carried out in the field is going to become more variable. Some RRAs and PRAs will be poorly executed while some will be extremely valuable, just as, in the past, there have been formal questionnaire surveys which have been both wasteful and inappropriate and others which have produced extremely important results.
Perhaps one of the most widespread dangers is that of coming to regard the use of RRA as a panacea for all the complex problems facing development workers. RRA is a tool and it can be used to carry out certain specific functions. It can be a useful and flexible tool, but it is only as good as the use made of it. Trying to use it to do everything is to risk ending up doing nothing.
Likewise PRA can make an extremely important contribution to ensuring greater participation in development activities in the field. But, as discussed earlier, used in the wrong circumstances it could be positively counterproductive.
There is a real danger that, as more and more agencies make RRA and PRA a regular part of their activities, some planners may become blind to its very real limitations and start regarding it as the only means of collecting information and planning which they need to use.
This, and some of the other risks mentioned in this document associated with the use of RRA and, in particular, PRA, should not be underestimated. They are particularly relevant to planners working in fields such as aquaculture. The work of aquaculturists is relatively focused on a particular technical field and it may be difficult, in the short-term, to ensure proper integration with other disciplines so that planning can be more holistic. This is turn can limit the applicability of RRA and PRA.
However, at the same time, there may be pressure, either from higher levels in the bureaucracy or from donors, to be “more participatory” and to use RRA or PRA during project planning regardless of its real relevance within existing institutional and political frameworks. This document has aimed to put aquaculture planners in a position where they can actually assess the real, as opposed to rhetorical, relevance of RRA and PRA to their work. Hopefully this will put them in a position to resist pressure to use these approaches where they are patently not applicable as well as helping them to make good use of them in the right circumstances