The effects of Hurricane Mitch in 1998 and the subsequent 10 years' worth of rain which fell in five days brought environmental and agricultural devastation to Central America. World Neighbors (WN) had worked for many years on the promotion of soil and water conservation; the hurricane provided an opportunity for WN to study the effectiveness of this work in combating the disastrous effects of a potentially destructive climate and this newsletter gives details their work. They decided to carry out Participatory Action Research (PAR), a level of study which not only allowed the involvement of those most greatly affected by the climate - the local people - but other participants who expanded their own knowledge through the research methods and results. The system used was a pairing of plots with similar characteristics such as location and vegetation, but which provided a sharing of data through a direct comparison of agro-ecological and conventional cultivation. Other organizations were invited to participate in the study and form teams with the farmers, and all participants attended a workshop to learn methodologies. The methods used to analyse different variables such as slope, top soil thickness, texture, organic matter, insect and animal life, vegetation, erosion, landslides, and conservation practices are detailed along with the findings and lessons learned.
This paper describes a game and a story that were presented during the workshop to show how PRA can "help people to address and resolve conflict". The TASO game (described in the appendix) was used to illustrate current HIV transmission rates in Uganda. The story showed how PRA exercises conducted by Redd Barna in Zimbabwe brought out women's and men's different views of a proposed irrigation scheme. The potential for PRA to help resolve such conflicts is the emphasis placed on "the value of good communication skills". Development workers need to learn "facilitation and arbitration skills" in order to deal with, rather than "glossing over" conflict and "failing to acknowledge the political dimensions to all our interventions". Psychological stress (particularly in relation to HIV and AIDS) also needs to be recognised as "a valid development issue".
This book presents a participative action model to assist groups in developing the organisational, analytical and management skills required for community action to achieve sustainable use of land and water resources at the local level. Groups using this book are expected to develop participatory mechanisms for planning and implementing land and water management projects. It is aimed at developing self-learning skills by community leaders, extension officers and students in Australia. The contents are divided into short learning units in which outlines of theories, concepts and principles are followed by personal and group activities. The organisation of chapters follows the pattern of group development. It explains the philosophy of participative action in land care (Ch. 2); and discusses learning to work together, development of leadership skills and defining of roles and responsibilities (Chs. 3-5). The next eight chapters are on 'how to' aspects of group functioning: running a meeting, organising activities, planning, motivating oneself and others, effective communication, finding human and financial resources for projects. The last two chapters discuss how to keep momentum going and how to manage conflicts that accompany change.