This article examines the guiding ideas and ultimate realities of government-led participatory research in Tanzania and Uganda. It considers the extent to which research results have influenced meso- (e.g. district) and macro- (e.g. national) level planning for poverty reduction and why; the degree to which research processes have contributed to democratisation and citizen empowerment and implications for the future of participatory approaches to policy oriented research. The article reflects over the consequences of recent initiatives from development aid donors to streamline development assistance and improve the performance of sector ministries, leading to unprecedented pressure for poor countries to generate up-to-date, detailed socio-economic data. It looks specifically on how this has affected East Africa. It goes on to give a background to the development and role of Participatory Poverty Assessments (PPAs) in Africa, and looks specifically at the Tanzania PPA (TzPPA), 2002-2003, and the Ugandan PPA Process (UPAP), 1998-2001. It compares the methodological differences of the two projects, where the bad experiences with Community Action Plans (CAPs) in UPAP led TzPPA; and UPAP focussed more on involving as many individual community members as possible while TzPPA only sought large community-wide. Finally an analysis is made of the benefits of participatory approaches in UAPAP and TzPPA on policy and empowerment, and it concludes with the potentials and pitfalls of PPAs.
International Institute for Environment and Development