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There is increasing recognition that the participation of rural people in the development process is of crucial importance. It is apparent that the approaches, methods and tools that are used to work with rural people in the management of forest and tree resources need to be strengthened and further developed. This paper outlines the concepts, approaches and techniques that need to be an integral part of a truly participatory development strategy.

The Forest, Trees, and People (FTP) Programme, which is coordinated within FAO by the Community Forestry officer, is designed to support this type of development effort. It has provided much of the funding for this paper. The FTP programme encourages projects to use an approach which starts by asking people what they want to do, why they want to do it, and how they want to do it. It expects these questions to then be followed-up by a cooperative process that identifies common and conflicting goals, establishes a direction, and develops a set of project indicators to measure project progress and success.

This concept paper on participatory assessment, monitoring and evaluation is a result of a literature survey that revealed that there are few action-oriented publications which not only tell the reader what participation is, but also tell the field worker how to get to know, work with, and build on the enthusiasm of rural people. The paper was developed by D'Arcy Davis-Case, a forester who specializes in grass-roots participation.

Some of the background information and underlying concepts for this publication come from collaborative work that was done by CARE, The Ford Foundation and six NGO projects in Africa. They developed case studies to analyse information gathering, analysis, and dissemenation. They are continuing to work together to test new participatory tools and approaches to development. Ms. Davis-Case is currently finalizing an accompanying field manual which will translate the approach presented here into a form appropriate for use by field staff and community leaders.

FAO would greatly appreciate any feedback, comments or experiences which readers might care to provide. The comments will not only be used to improve this concept paper, they will also be used in production of the field manual.

Comments should be sent to: Marilyn Hoskins, Community Forestry Officer, Room 823bis, Policy and Planning Service, Forestry Department, FAO, Via Delle Teeme di Caracalla, Rome 00100, Italy.

Working Definitions

The terms "insider" and "outsider" are used to define the two major actors in the development process. "Insiders" are those who are a part of the community, are privy to community information and hold the community perspective. "Outsiders" are those who come into the community from time to time, but are not considered community members, although with consent, they can represent the interests of the community. Outsiders can often be beneficial to insiders because they have access to different information or power and can mediate conflict within a community.

The terms "community" and "community group" and "local people" refer to all people who live in a specified area. In this document, these terms are used when the beneficiaries and non-beneficiaries in the community are both being considered.

The terms "beneficiaries" and "project participants", when used in this document, refer only to those who are working directly with the project.

"Participation" and "participatory" are words which are frequently used in development. They have many different meanings. Various studies, project documents and manuals, have interpreted participation in different ways:

The * * are the meanings most closely reflecting the use of the word participatory in this document.

Participatory development is a new frontier. Different interpretations can be expected. A precise, global definition may not emerge for some time, nor may one even be desirable.



A study of a women's fuelwood project in Kenya found that there were two definitions of participation within the project, instrumental participation and transformational participation. Instrumental participation is when participation is viewed as a way of achieving certain specific targets, the local people participate in the outsiders project. Transformational participation is when participation is viewed as an objective in and of itself, and as a means for achieving some higher objective such as self-help and/or sustainability.

In this case the drive to achieve the project's physical targets was most compelling because it could be measured, and "rewards" for project success could be assured. The result was that transformational participation and the objectives of self-help and sustainability were set aside.

Source: Kruks (1983)

The word concept, when used in this document, refers to the ideas, or the philosophical underpinnings of the Participatory Assessment, Monitoring and Evaluation (PAME) approach. These are that the community or beneficiary perspective is the primary focus of PAME. The project participates in the life of the community, rather than the community participating in the project. This concept necessitates a perceptual "flip" by outsiders, an invitation for them to view the world through the eyes of the community. It also requires a perceptual "flip" by insiders, to view the project as belonging to them.

The methods of PAME are discrete sets of steps to serve a particular information gathering purpose. The methods of PAME are:


Community Selection (by Outsiders)
Community Problem Analysis
Participatory Baselines


Participatory Monitoring and Ongoing Evaluation (PMoe)


Participatory Evaluation Events


Analysis of Information and Communication of Results

The tools of PAME are the devices used to gather information. Some tools are especially suited to certain methods, while others can be used in many of the methods. Some tools have analysis built-in while others assist in collecting information which must then be analysed.

The example of planting a seedling might highlight the difference between methods and tools. The way one might be instructed to go about digging the hole would be a method, while the shovel (spade, hoe, dibble, etc.) would be the tool.


Participatory Assessment, Monitoring and Evaluation (PAME) is a concept whose time has come.

It is a new and promising concept. It is an exciting, adaptive, dynamic, and creative approach to sustainable and appropriate community development.

The key to PAME is that the community's perspective is paramount. PAME "flips" the traditional top-down development approach where outsiders first decide community objectives, then monitor and evaluate to judge whether these objectives were met. Instead, the PAME approach encourages, supports and strengthens communities' existing abilities to identify their own needs, and objectives, and then monitor and evaluate to adjust these within the project time frame.

The PAME approach encourages the project team and the community to work as partners because it is built on two-way communication, clear messages, problem solving techniques, and a joint commitment to what "works" for the community. PAME focuses on the relationship between the field staff and the community.

PAME is the combination of three interlinked components. The CONCEPT is backed up by participatory METHODS and participatory TOOLS for information gathering.

While PAME has been developed in this report to apply to community forestry projects, it can be adapted to apply to other fields such as health care, fisheries and agriculture.

It may not be possible to adopt the whole PAME approach in every project, but it is possible to experiment with the "perceptual flip" that PAME encourages in just some components of a project. Try it, adapt it, play with the ideas presented here, and observe the effects.

Successful community development can be built on the foundation that PAME sets out, especially when approached with the sense of adventure and creativity called for by new ways of thinking.

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