In 2006 oil was discovered in Uganda. With the country’s economy highly dependent on fuel imports, national oil production could make a long-term contribution to poverty alleviation. But for sustainable development to occur, participatory governance must ensure that people are involved in the decision-making processes affecting their lives. This paper, therefore, first analyses the adequacy of the existing legal framework on access to information and participation. Its findings show that although law and policy in Uganda indicate certain efforts to open up environmental decision-making processes to public influence, this is not the case in the oil production sector. On the basis of interviews and focus group studies it further examines the main practical barriers to better public participation. The author finds that in practice, public participation is subject to several financial, technical and political constraints. The culture of secrecy within government bodies, weak civil society structures as well as the politics of patronage remain substantive challenges for the fair and equitable management of natural resources in Uganda.
Participatory approaches and methods can generate quantitative as well as qualitative data. Mainly since the early 1990s, a quiet tide of innovation has developed a rich range of participatory ways, many of them visual and tangible, by which local people themselves produce numbers. The approaches and methods have variously entailed counting, mapping, measuring, estimating, valuing and scoring, and scaling, together with comparing and combinations of these, and have had many applications.
The methodological pioneers in going to scale in the 1990s rarely recognised the significance of what they had been doing. The pioneers of the 2000s have shown ingenuity, skill, patience and courage, sometimes in the face of opposition driven by conventional reflexes. Participatory numbers have been taken to scale most notably through participatory surveys with visuals and tangibles, through aggregation from focus groups and through wealth and wellbeing ranking. There have been breakthroughs in producing national statistics, and also on subjects and with insights inaccessible through questionnaires.
Statistical principles can be applied to participatory numbers. Ways have been found of overcoming the vexing problem of commensurability between communities. As with all ways of finding out, there are trade-offs, in this context notably between participatory open-endedness and standardisation for comparability.
The question 'who counts' - raises issues of ownership and power. Participatory Monitoring and Evaluation (PM and E) has taken many forms, with varied degrees of ownership and empowerment. Whether participatory statistics empower local people is sensitive to official attitudes and acceptance and whether these lead to changes in policy and practice that make a real difference. Questions are raised of the mix and balance of extraction and empowerment, and whether and how the quiet revolution of participatory approaches and methods can get the best of both qualitative and quantitative worlds.
The benefits of participatory methodologies to develop effective community dialogue in the context of a microbicide trial feasibility study in Mwanza, Tanzania
During a microbicide trial feasibility study among women at high-risk of HIV and sexually transmitted infections in Mwanza, northern Tanzania we used participatory research tools to facilitate open dialogue and partnership between researchers and study participants.
A community-based sexual and reproductive health service was established in ten city wards. Wards were divided into seventy-eight geographical clusters, representatives at cluster and ward level elected and a city-level Community Advisory Committee (CAC) with representatives from each ward established. Workshops and community meetings at ward and city-level were conducted to explore project-related concerns using tools adapted from participatory learning and action techniques such as listing, scoring, ranking, chapatti diagrams and pair-wise matrices.
Key issues identified included beliefs that blood specimens were being sold for witchcraft purposes; worries about specula not being clean; inadequacy of transport allowances; and delays in reporting laboratory test results to participants. To date, the project has responded by inviting members of the CAC to visit the laboratory to observe how blood and genital specimens are prepared; demonstrated the use of the autoclave to community representatives; raised reimbursement levels; introduced HIV rapid testing in the clinic; and streamlined laboratory reporting procedures.
Participatory techniques were instrumental in promoting meaningful dialogue between the research team, study participants and community representatives in Mwanza, allowing researchers and community representatives to gain a shared understanding of project-related priority areas for intervention.