This article conveys experiences from a project in Himachal Pradesh (HP), a rural mountainous state in India, aimed at finding an effective, local methodology for identifying and funding community priorities and reducing wastage. The article document the approaches used and their impact. It begins by explaining the Panchayati Raj Act established in 1994 to strengthen devolution, leading to the formation of Panchayats; administrative units for community development. It looks at the history and background to Panchayat Micro Planning (PMP) that was introduced in HP in 1996, and how this led up to a trials of a Panchayat level PMP in Chamba district in 2003. The PMP methodology applied in this project is described with initiation and organisation formation; ward-level participatory data collection; ward-level data interpretation and planning by communities and support agencies; and Panchayat-level plan formulation. Positive aspects and limitations of the PMP process are evaluated. Finally the article goes through the lessons learned from the project and it is concluded that the experiences of designing and introducing PMP in HP show that it is possible for semi-literate communities in the mountains to work in a participatory mode and deliver community-based plans into the hands of Panchayati Raj institutions.
International Institute for Environment and Development