Aspects of RRA are discussed which suggest how a divergence might occur between its social and scientific value. As a positive exercise, it often serves only a legitimating function for policies already confirmed by its sponsors; the prior existence of relevant organized knowledge and the extent of formal method are also determinants of the status of the appraisal. The use and shortcomings of indicators are discussed with reference to the example of social relations within an unsupervised credit strategy. A case study of a rapid appraisal in one village in Comilla District in Bangladesh is described.
Appraisal of rural resources using aerial photography : an example from a remote hill region in Nepal
Aerial photographs were used in rural Nepal as a basis for natural and human resource appraisal, leading to the development of a management plan for a village area. A standard 1:20,000 aerial photograph enlarged to 1:5,000 proved most useful. "Presentation of natural and human resources data on an aerial photographic base permits integration of otherwise unwieldy data". Rural Nepalis were adept at interpreting the photographs without any formal training, being able to pick out their own homes, farmland, water sources etc. The author suggests this is because Nepalis often look from ridges into valleys "in the same manner as presented by aerial photography". The aerial photographs therefore provided an effective bridge between planners and non-literate villagers when discussing plans for their area.
This book examines 'the ways in which people form images of other places and how these images influence many decisions'. Examples are given of how people's mental maps reveal their perceptions and beliefs about the world. Planners asked people in Birmingham, UK, for 'the maps that they had in their heads and which they used in moving around the centre of the city'. The response was very large because 'people seemed to like the idea of helping planners and being involved in some small way with the planning process going on in their town'. As in PRA mapping activities, the maps drawn reflected people's experiences. In another example, a black school boy in Boston drew five educational institutions in the area, 'indicative of his perception of education as an escape route from the segregated life he leads'. Our mental maps are influenced and shaped by information, such as that provided by the media and school text books. School leavers ranked the places where they preferred to live, revealing 'local domes of desirability and a shared national viewpoint' regarding images of certain towns. The book ends by looking at how to change people's mental maps : 'the maps and models of the world we carry around with us need larger and much more relevant information inputs'.
Soft-Systems Methodology for Action Research: The Role of a College Farm in an Agricultural Education Institution
This paper concerns the use of action research within a research institute both to meet immediate objectives of the staff and to learn about the research methodology. In a situation characterised by decreased funding and curriculum reform based on the concepts of experiential learning, the Checkland soft-systems methodology was adopted to manage a change in the role of university farms using a consensus approach. Two outcomes of the research process were (i) improvement in financial returns in the farms, a better working climate and greater use of farms in experiential education, and (ii) the researchers learned about the methodology and how it is able to accommodate purposeful behaviour and issues of power. Following description of the initial situation, the paper outlines the steps involved in applying the soft-systems methodology to that situation.
Aerial photographs were used as the focus for discussions about land use practices in an area of Kenya. Details are given of how the photographs were taken. The photographs helped to reduce spatial biases, such as the tendency for field workers to walk along the contours and along ridges. They also seemed to "confirm what made sense intuitively" in terms of land use options. During household interviews, people seemed happy interpreting the photographs though they were mostly literate and had seen aerial photographs before.
Aerial photographs were used as a communication tool to discuss land use with farmers in Ethiopia. The farmers had no problems interpreting the photographs and could even "take one to any spot on their land shown to them on the mosaic". Each village used the photographs to present their proposals for land use allocation. The author concludes that whilst aerial photography helps technical staff "to visualise development options", its main function for the farmers was not as a planning tool (they already know their land well) but to help illustrate and demonstrate their ideas to others.
This report presents the results of a PRA focusing on natural resources management in Kenya. It contains descriptions of historical background on the locality, natural resources, water and soil conservation, agricultural practices, discussions of key social issues and infrastructure (health and education) and analysis of institutions and local leadership. Problems and opportunities are identified, and a village resource management plan was devised. Action by the community and other actors as a result of the PRA is discussed, and some problems in implementation are noted. The report ends with reflections on PRA and the participatory planning process. Positive reflections include enabling the community to undertake their own analysis, promoting an integrated view of development, and development of the village plan. Problems included insufficient participation by marginal groups and by women, and the feeling that PRA is inappropriate to statistical analysis.
This report is a review of the different participatory methodologies used in development throughout Africa. It includes overviews of the literature on participatory development, and participation in agriculture and natural resource management, forestry, health, credit, literacy, water, and urban programming. Numerous methodologies are outlined (e.g. animation rurale, auto-evaluation, GRAAP, Theatre for Development, RRA etc.). ACORD's experience with participatory methodologies in Burkina Faso, Mali, Uganda and Sudan are discussed in detail. There are annotated bibliographies on ACORD and key general publications relating to participatory methodologies, and lists of key institutions.
Successful Approaches to Participatory Research: The Sudan Reforestation and Antidesertification Project
This paper introduces a Government of Sudan project to restore agricultural production and rehabilitate drought affected areas in western Sudan. This is to be done by (i) collecting information on tree and vegetation cover, and (ii) providing assistance to support institutions and communities in forest resource management and conservation. The project's main thrust is a farmer/client -oriented, participatory approach to forestry and research. The organisation of the project and the PRA methods used are outlined, and the activities involved are described in detail. The project involved collaboration between researchers, NGOs and clients (resource users). The advantages and constraints of these linkages are discussed in depth.