Previous PageTable Of ContentsNext Page

3.5. Interactive Tools for RRA and Participatory Planning

3.5.1. Overview

As survey exercises have become adapted to the need to collect information for planning through a more participatory process, which involves local people both in assembling data and in drawing up project plans for their community or local area, the tools have changed. An exciting development is the proliferation of interactive data-gathering and planning tools. These include: ranking games, problem-solving games, sketches of village resource-use patterns, participatory environmental assessments, transact overlays, seasonal labor calendars, and preparation of village plans by local villagers (planning games).

These tools provide checklists of information that remains to be collected about the problems, issues, and local situation and provide a forum conducive for interactive appraisal of land-use patterns, problem analysis, and for local participation in the planning process.

3.5.2. Ranking Games

These have been developed by a number of RRA proponents to elicit local knowledge about plants, trees, cropping systems, grasses, and to learn how local farmers make cropping or planting decisions or allocate household resources. The boxed pages following provide a detailed description of the ranking game as prepared by Robert Chambers at IDS, Sussex. This has been used to elicit a local set of wealth criteria or indicators developed in a paper by Barbara Grandin.

Local criteria can be considerably different from those of the researcher. A recently completed, long-term study of agro-forestry practices in the middle hills of Nepal took a dramatic turn when one informant being asked to rank fodders mentioned a categorization model that earlier informants had failed to mention in the same ranking exercise. This informant, a woman farmer, told researchers that fodders were selected by their position in a wet-dry continuum. Animals were healthy when fed a proper mix of wet and dry fodders. Species might be inherently wet or dry, but more often, species became wet or dry in different seasons. When this categorization was discussed with other farmers by the researcher, it became apparent that it was commonly used and understood (Eric Rustin, Research in Progress). One cautionary note that emerges from this example is that ranking exercises may not elicit the same depth of information from one informant or set of informants as another, so in a limited-time frame f research (RRA-style), some very important categories may be missed. Also, ranking games are quite time-consuming.

More attention is needed to this issue in future development of this interactive tool. Can ranking be done with a group of people or only with an individual? How representative is an individual's response to the cultural categories of the rest of that person's social group? How much is imposed on the informant in the ranking game, particularly when this involves listing of priorities? How does this differ from more complex game theory-based exercises to assess farmers' probable responses to risk of different kinds?

Box no.14 - A Ranking: Exercise to Elicit Farmer Criteria for Decision Making

(Condensed from Robert Chambers, IDS)

Ranking by rural women or men can: take many forms. Barbara Grandin's wealth ranking method for enabling rural people to stratify their own community is one example, using the sorting of cards,' each of 'which represents a household, by respondents who place: them in piles of similar wealth.. Another is Gordon-Conway's method which starts by identifying entities of importance to people (e.g: vegetables,: trees), writing: the names on cards, asking a respondent which she/he would prefer in a forced-choice scenario, and then asking why the choice was made.

In our ranking: exercises, we relied on groups, not individuals, which has severs advantages:

1) a wider 'range of experience is: brought to beer, 2) responses tend to be: quicker, 3) if one person gets tired, others may take over, 4} more criteria may be identified; and more quickly,. and 5) arguments which develop can be-revealing :and can identify issues for further investigation.


    1. Choice of group: a homogenous group (e.g., all men, or all women) may be easiest:

    2. Choice of type: of item: The item can be chosen by the outsiders) or by: the- group, but it, should be :important to the group and familiar to them.

    3. Choice of individual items: Ask which items (e.g. which varieties, species of` tree; vegetables) are important and: familiar and list these. With respondents, choose between 3 and 7.

    4. Eliciting criteria.: For each item, ask, "What is good` about it?"-- and continue asking until there are: no more replies; then ask, "What is :bad about it?" and similarly continue to exhaustion.

    5. Listing criteria: This can be the trickiest stage, for two reasons:

    • all criteria have to be expressed positively (ornegatively) -- e.g., "easily damaged by flooding" becomes "not easilydamaged by flooding".

    • similar criteria have to be merged. This can be moredifficult. An example with vegetable ranking: one positive criterion washigh off-season prices if farmers could produce and sell at that time.However, more generally the group: valued stable prices, so that was takenas the criterion. So far, merging has been done by the interviewersalone.

    6. The ranking: Draw a matrix, with the items across the top, and the criteria down the side. The sequence of items and of criteria may, not matter much, except that it may be best to start with easy criteria so that the group can get the idea easily': Questioning does not have to follow the sequences in which criteria are written down. For the first criterion; ask which item is best. If there are 5 or 6 items, it can help to shift at once to the other end and ask which is the worst. This narrows the remaining ranking more manageably to those left in the middle. Alternatively, the sequence can be best, next best, worst, next worst. Write 1 for good, and 4, 5 or 6, etc., for bad, or vice versa. Continue through all the criteria. A final good question can be: "If you could only have one of these, which would you choose first?" The results can be surprising.

    7. Weighting: The next possible stage is to explore relative weightings, but this might make the whole procedure unwieldy.

    8. Further probing: The group may well be tired at this stage, but further probing may be very useful, either: 1) with key informants who have shown up in the meeting; or 2) in a further meeting; or 3) inspecting the items physically to help focus the discussion.

Further Suggestions

- Find out the most convenient time and place for the group

- Do the same exercise with different groups (e.g., men, women; farmers with irrigation, farmers without; farmers, landless laborers; etc.).

- Have one person conducting the exercise while another takes notes of key points, issues for further investigation; and key people.

- Identify who is to take part or has taken part, and their relevant details (e.g., Landholding). For reasons of informality, this may sometimes best be done at the end of the exercise.

(Source: Robert Chambers, "Notes of the RRA Workshop at IDS," Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex, Brighton; Great Britain, May, 1988.)

3.5.3. Tools to Generate Discussion of Resource Management Issues

There are several tools that have been developed to generate participatory discussion of resource management issues and to help villagers devise plans for addressing those issues, using resources available through projects as well as their own time, labor, and capital. One is carrying out an environmental assessment with local villagers to understand how they view their environmental problems and to exchange information between specialists and local people about possible ways to resolve perceived problems. A second is the use of planning games, in which villagers are presented with specific, relevant problems and interact in a structured format with a team of outsiders to try to resolve those problems. Both of these tools have the advantage of being entertainment as well as work, and of providing a non-threatening setting in which to discuss difficult problems. When a heterogeneous group of villagers is present, the less outspoken of those villagers begin to express their opinions in the course of the "games". When villagers take conscious "roles" during these games or exercises, it provides a window for the outsider into many aspects of the problems that villagers fail to discuss in a formal meeting or household interview.

These exercises may be a solid first step in development of a village plan of action. Rather than the researchers collecting a quantity of information, sifting through it away from the village, and returning with a proposed plan of action, the villagers should be present at all stages of the operation. One cautionary note on the use of these tools is the need to ensure that less visible groups are also participants, such as landless and women. They will have quite different needs and perspectives, that may add a very different set of constraints on generating a viable plan of action.

3.5.4. Eliciting Local Categories for Action Planning

One innovation being experimentally introduced in the joint program between World Resources Institute (Center for International Development and Environment, 1987) and Clark University, From the Ground Up, is to try to move and away from pre-set criteria for resource sustainability (such as those categories developed for agro-ecosystems analysis: sustainability, productivity, stability, and equity) to elicit categories from the community members themselves against which to design a viable, village action plan. One issue that arises is whether these concepts are in fact defined as the villagers of different cultures understand them, or whether their own concept of sustainability is quite different from that of the researchers. Local choices of terms may lead to action plans that combine different strategies than action plans based on pre-defined criteria. This is an issue deserving more attention as more adaptations of agro-ecosystems analysis are developed in different parts of the world.

Box no.15 - Buhi Watershed Workshop

A USAID-funded project in the Philippines made very effective use of the problem-solving agro-ecosystems analysis approach for planning a solution to a conflict over development around a lake and the use of the lake as a fishing ground. A planning workshop with administrators, technical experts, and resource users from the watershed analyzed the situation in-depth on the basis of available information and agro-ecosystems principles of sustainability. What resulted were several practical provisional solutions and support for research on key issues from administrators who would otherwise not have assigned such priority to this initiative.

(Source: Gordon Conway, Percy Sajise and William Knowland, "Lake Buhi: Resolving Conflicts in a Philippine Development Project," AMBIO 8(2), 1989.)

3.5.5. Seasonal Labor and Other Seasonal Calendars

One visual tool that seems to work well for interactive discussions with non-literate villagers is a graph of the seasonality of labor demands and activities. One practitioner has made extensive use of seasonality graphs of labor allocation to different farming, animal husbandry, food processing, wage employment, and fuel and fodder collection activities. When such graphs are drawn on the ground or on paper and discussed with different groups of villagers, a surprisingly detailed amount of information emerges about the labor demands of different activities and differences in the labor demands on different household members in varying seasons. Women in Indian villages, for instance, have been outspoken when presented with such graphs in explaining the differences in the demands placed on their labor compared to men's in tree planting seasons.

This tool must be used sensibly, without placing too much faith in the quantitative results, but it can be a useful cross-check to labor estimates emerging in informal interviews. One ever-present danger in RRA exercises is a tendency to ask quantitative information without adequate cross-checks or without asking for information in small enough time intervals to get a logical answer. An example of this is fuel and fodder collection time spent by village women. There is a tendency to ask women about their collection time as a weekly average or a daily average, when the year's collection pattern is really very complex, depending on product availability and other demands on their time. As a result of researchers' tendencies to aggregate information about the long distances women travel to collect fuel and fodder into an annual sum that has little basis in women's complex collection patterns, there are data used extensively in project planning that greatly over-estimate women's time allocation to these activities. Thus while detailed time-allocation studies seldom attribute more than 20% of a woman's work time to fuel, fodder, and water collection, project documents may assume 40% or more of their time is spent this way. Logically, this is an impossible conclusion for the majority of developing-country women, who are productively engaged in many other activities, including farming. Such interactive tools provide some cross-check to what researchers are gathering in group or individual interviews.

Box no. 16 Malian Women's Perception of Time Burdens

Dolores Koenig (1987) has found that Malian women in some villages have' responded poorly to cookstove programs because they have different perceptions of the fuel collection burden than do planners. For' such women, food preparation time -- cooking and processing --is so much more burdensome than fuel collection, they prefer a stove that saves cooking time, not fuel.

Figure 4: Sample Diagrams from RRA's in India, Ethiopia, and Indonesia

Sketch map of a Peasant Association in Wollo, Ethiopia (Ethiopian Red Cross Society, 1988)

(Source: McCracken, Jennifer A., Jules N. Pretty, and Gordon Conway, An Introduction to Rapid Rural Appraisal for Agricultural Development, International Institute for Environment and Development, London, 1988, p. 34.)

Figure 4: continued ...

Complete seasonal calendar of Lathodra

(Source: McCracken, Jennifer A., Participatory Rapid Rural Appraisal in Gujarat: A Trial Model for the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme (India), International Institute for Environment and Development, London, November 1988, p. 34.)

Figure 4: continued ...

Transect through time illustrating land use trends in a village in East Java (Pretty et al., 1988)

(Source: McCracken, Pretty and Conway, p. 41.)

Figure 4: continued ...

Example of a Bar Diagram

(Source: Conway, Gordon R., Rapid Rural Appraisal for Agroecosystem Analysis; Training Notes for The Aga Khan Rural Support Programme (Northern Pakistan), Aga Khan Rural Support Programme, Babar Road, Gilgit, Northern Pakistan, September 1985, p. 31.)

3.5.6. Transects and Sketch Maps

Sketch maps of the village and its resource base are useful tools for interactive discussions with villagers. Pre-drawn maps of the village constructed from existing maps can be filled in with villagers to show where different kinds of resources are and to what extent they are used for a variety of purposes. One technique developed by Brian Carson (Carson, 1989; and see article in Khon Kaen, 1987) uses aerial photographs as a basis of discussions with villagers and then filling in sketch maps on the basis of what the villagers explain about the information in the aerial photographs. Sketch maps are a good presentational tool as well, since different types of information can be collected in a series of sketch maps and then overlaid to demonstrate different linkages between land uses and land condition.

Transects are good summaries of the types of resource use in a village site. These show differences in resource use by altitude. The agroecosystems-approach practitioners have greatly refined this tool and use it as a planning/presentational device to visually link up types of resource use and types of development problems with different altitude ranges depicted in the transects (See example from Poffenberger, Box 17, and McCracken, Pretty and Conway, 1988). Trends over time can also be juxtaposed vertically in a series of transect graphs to show major shifts in land-use patterns due to a changing resource base or new markets and improved road access.

3.5.7. Other Tools for Interactive Planning

A number of individuals working in the developing countries have designed village-level planning approaches. One common tool in these approaches (Microplanning, Village Dialogue Approach, Local Negotiations) is the iterative structure of village discussions. Such planning should not be a one-day process, but allow time both for the villagers to reflect on the questions and issues and to allow time for the project staff or assisting team to reflect on what the villagers have said. One sample structure for this process is to have extension agents, villagers, and assisting researchers engage in a series of group discussions. First the villagers meet with everyone as a whole for an introductory session. Then the villagers are divided into separate, homogenous groups (or assembled at a separate time in this fashion) who discuss the same issues from the perspective of their own needs and concerns. Then the village as a whole is ,reassembled to discuss the issues. At this point, the less outspoken village members, who have had a separate chance to speak apart from other villagers, are more willing to air their differences, add perspectives, and share in the planning process. Several such sessions are needed before the process is complete.

Box no. 17 - Homegardens Indonesia

Properly carried out, an RRA can reveal important differences in the value farmers place on different aspects of their cropping system and the value assumed by agricultural departments. Researchers in Indonesia who are sensitive to the information from microstudies regarding the importance of multistoried homegardens in upland farming systems have collected detailed information through agroecosystem-style analyses on the nature of homegardens and the productivity and destination of products grown inside of them.

(Source: Poffenberger, ed. Forest and Farmers: Management Alternatives in Southeast Asia. Kumarian Press, Inc., forthcoming.)

3.5.8. Interactive Planning as a Subset of RRA

A new application of RRA tools is as part of village-level planning. Projects for land-based natural resource management are increasingly trying to achieve sustainable interventions by involving local people in the development of village-level action plans. RRA tools, particularly interactive tools, are potentially very powerful in such endeavors. Key pitfalls in this application of RRA are failing to provide adequate training to teams undertaking village-level planning, conducting superficial planning discussions, not involving villagers in all stages of planning, raising expectations that government agencies cannot realistically meet, and failing to ensure that villagers and other team members really understand one another.

While participatory planning is a different topic than RRA itself, some of these approaches are worth mention here for readers interested in the experience with this application of RRA.

Box no.19 - Some Possible Elements to Include in Participatory Planning Models

a)Should be simple enough to be carried out by Local-level extension staff, and adequate training should be provided for that purpose.

b) One central first step is a diagnosis of the environmental situation that should emerge through` a dialogue with the local people.

c) That diagnosis should focus' not upon people's needs for environmental resources as much as upon present patterns of utilization of environmental resources (by all types of people) and constraints perceived by them in that utilization, including changes over time.

d) Many approaches include the use of a "group organizer" or "facilitator" who is from the region, but not of the community itself. That person is trained to act as a go-between between the government, the project staff, and the villagers, so that the villagers understand the perspective of the staff and the government and can translate their concerns in' a way that the staff and government can understand.

e) Works best when planners are not locked into a limited, preset menu of technological interventions. The most successful approaches were ones with a variety of optional interventions, not just tree planting or irrigation construction. Interventions were phased, beginning with the villagers' own priorities and only then moving towards the priorities of the planners, if these were still appropriate.

f) Good approaches include equal attention to technical and social science expertise in training and support. Over-emphasis on one or the other usually leads to a bad intervention.

3.5.9. What Training is Required to Do Interactive Information Gathering or Planning

There is a common pitfall of assuming that, because the objective of interactive planning is to get people involved at the lowest level, the proper individuals to guide a planning session are the lowest level extension workers (forest extension workers, village agricultural extension workers, etc.); and that, because those workers are often in the local setting, they are more likely to elicit the needed information. This has led to the development of a number of non-participatory and non-viable plans in a number of programs.

What is key is the level of training that is provided to the individuals who are engaged in interactive planning with local villagers. Initially, staff need a solid orientation in carrying out this exercise and then this training must be followed by an adequate period of apprenticeship to planning teams that give trained structured experience in carrying out local negotiations. Government programs and non-governmental programs usually include training, but it is usually too short to give the staff the level of understanding they need of the process, and this training is not followed up by an apprenticeship to individuals with experience, so that they can learn by doing and learn from their mistakes in the process.

More training initiatives are going on in developing countries, and centers of experience are developing. They are still quite limited in number in relation to the demand and still provide too short a training period and too little time for gaining guided experience in the field. Planners designing programs in forestry and natural resource management need to include an assessment of the training capabilities in the project areas in which they wish to work, and to include the training needs in the design of a program, so that there is a capability development adequate to the participatory needs of the program.

Annex 3 includes some information about the training capabilities of some of the RRA centers. It does not include the smaller institutions which are of more recent existence, but tries to give readers some inkling of the training capacity.

3.6. Minimum Data Sets and Proxy Indicators

3.6.1. The Value of Minimum Data Sets

Much work is being done both on the generation of minimum data sets and the generation of minimum indicators as a framework for information gathering in a number of instances in which RRA tools are used: project design, special studies, baseline survey design, project monitoring exercises, evaluation, and village-level planning. These "sets" have been developed in response to a recognition that RRA fails most often due to the fact that important aspects of a particular issue are not covered (the importance of labor resources and their allocation, market access for products, nutritional value of forest products, etc.). Some of the `package approaches' such as ICRAF's D&D or different iterations of the Agroecosystems Analysis models include minimum data sets as a major part of their toolkit. Agroecosystems analysis, for instance, provides a framework for collecting information on cropping systems, prices, labor allocation, productivity over time, institutional linkages and arrangements, and criteria for measuring stability of a resource management system over time. D&D provides a checklist of topics related to the social, economic, bio-physical, and cultural systems at play. Cornell has prepared a checklist of FSR items that place new emphasis on consumption, diet, and nutritional patterns.

The use of minimum data sets evokes considerable controversy among practitioners, because a key principle of RRA tool use is that checklists should be combined with a "nose in the wind" exploratory technique. On the other hand, well-defined data sets ensure that information irrelevant to the focused questions being asked is not collected to the detriment of the problems in need of analysis. For example: farmer income levels are of little interest in a field exercise to evaluate smallholder interest in private tree planting because:

a) this is impossible to measure with any accuracy in such a setting, since farmers either cannot or will not report their income with accuracy in a limited interview frame and small sample size will limit conclusions;

b) for reasons of (a), the team will estimate project area income patterns from secondary data sources, not from their own field judgements;

c) this is not a central indicator of tree planting potential, and if it is, can more accurately be evaluated by proxy indicators of income levels; and d) the more salient indicator is resource availability (land, labor, marketability, water, or inputs) which may be linked to income, but is not the same.

Some excellent minimum data sets have been developed for evaluation purposes. The Office of Technology Assessment, U.S. Congress (see African Development Foundation, 1988), has developed a set of indicators for projects in Africa. Kathy Parker, et al (1988) (see Figure 5) have been working on a set for evaluation of watershed development projects that combines information on technological efficiency, institutional appropriateness, productivity, and levels of local participation. What is creative about her model is that, rather than ranking project sites on individual categories, the model only ranks them on the indicators across categories as a whole. In evaluations where this technique has been applied, the evaluations are quite different than would otherwise be the case, because this summative ranking compensates for a team's tendency to place undue emphasis on one category over another (participation over technical soundness, for example) (Parker, et al, 1988).

Figure 5: Use of a Minimum Data Set to Evaluate Sites in a Resource Management Project in Nepal

[Note: the scale used ranges from +3 (very important significant positve impact) to -3 (very significant negative imapact)]

A seasoned user of the RRA toolkit, John Holtzman, has developed an excellent conceptual framework for generating a minimum data set for a particular set of topics or issues. He developed this framework for evaluating agricultural marketing systems:


(Ex.) Commodity Characteristics

a) different grades, end uses. 1) Review commodity manuals, studies. a) Commodity characteristics can influence operation of sub-system, which functions are performed, how performed, and relative cost.
  b) Degree of bulkiness, perishability. 2) Observation of handling and processing. b) Nature of prod. process influences timing and magnitude of producer sales and marketed flows.
  c) Physical handling requirements. 3) Develop commodity calendars showing periods of production and transformation.  
  d) Degree/type of processing.    

For an agro-forestry project, one element could be:

Common Property Management a)types of common lands, and uses by different types of individuals. 1) Review of ethnographic information.

a) Use of common lands is often deceiving since rights are not necessarily equal for all types of villagers, seasona usage varies (private land becomes common grazing land during fallow period; outside herders use village lands seasonally).

  b)History of and incidence of conflicts over use of lands. 2) Discussions with villagers.

b)Different inds. may be treated differently in their access to lands -- women vs wealthy livestock owners, and have different access to products grown on those lands.

    3) Review of reports, documents on land tenure, holdings, legislation.  
    4) Court records.  
    5)Discussions with district officers.  

Based on such an analysis, the team may decide to focus on common property management factors, price fluctuations of trees and crops, employment of farmers in livestock-based enterprises (dairying, renting oxen), outside employment of household members (and labor constraints), group decision-making situations and labor arrangements (irrigation management, grazing management, road/trail repair: voluntary, exchange, cash wage, kind), seasonal labor requirements (whether people will have time to water, tend trees), gender-based labor inputs and gender-based income channeling in household, traditional agro-forestry practices and local knowledge of trees.

Once this has been determined, existing minimum data sets become useful to ensure that the range of questions will be covered that can be pertinent to key hypotheses, findings. For example, a Cornell manual on farming systems analysis (Garrett, 1987) lists the following questions on non-wage labor, which I have annotated with "reasons for investigating" in light of a possible scenario in which I want to know if a project that imagines tapping village exchange labor for constructing contour bunds is realistic:

1. Are there times when a group of people from the community all work together? What tasks do they do? 1. Is there a limited range of situations in which such labor can be used (i.e. maybe not considered appropriate for your purposes)?
2. Why do people accomplish Task A,B,C, . . with exchange labor? 2. Is this task labor-intensive? Done at a labor-scarce time of year?
3. What kind of person organizes or requests the work party? 3. Must you be influential to organize group? Are groups any villagers or only members of kin or economic role group?
4. What kind of rewards do workers receive? 4. Is it expensive to pay workers? Could a poor group of villagers afford it?
5. How do people feel about being called to a work party? 5. Is it something dying out or still considered important/acceptable?

The RRA investigator may ask all these questions 5/ of many people or only a few, depending on the gap in their knowledge of the answers. If there is good secondary information on this aspect of village life, they may only discuss this in one village to confirm what that secondary information said. If there Js hardly any information they can base their analysis on, they may ask this for every village they visit, and to a wide range of individuals to ensure they have answers for all kinds of tasks for which exchange labor is used and to ensure that all age groups still use this type of labor and that wage labor has not replaced it for some tasks among villagers more linked into a market economy. But the data set ensures the RRA team does not come back with an incomplete vision of exchange labor groups that leads them to put too much or too little weight on their appropriateness for project interventions. From a sociological perspective, it prevents interviewers from wasting valuable time asking a host of questions about exchange labor that may be interesting for sociological reasons, but have little bearing on project design. But it equally prevents non-sociologically trained team members from missing the importance of a comprehensive interview regarding a key social issue. 5

3.7 Specific RRA Approaches: Packages of RRA Tools

3.7.1. Diagnosis and Design International Center for Research on Agroforestry

Basic Approach: Use of a multi-stage set of diagnostic surveys and planning discussions at village and agency level to analyze problems, and existing knowledge, and develop an action plan for community and farm forestry.

Key Concepts: Surveys should elicit information on problems and potentials, functional needs of the system, what landscape niches are available for supply needs, what indigenous and exotic species are appropriate in what arrangements, and what management practices are needed to achieve performance objectives.

Comments: This is basically an adaptation of a Farming Systems Research/Extension methodology to tree planting and integrated agroforestry systems. This has recently been applied as well to watershed management diagnosis and research program design. "D&D nests research questions within technology design questions to keep research relevant to technology generation and technology generation to rural development" (Raintree and Hoskins, in Regional Wood Energy Programme, 1988).

Tools: Minimum Data Sets, Flow Charts on Socio-Economic Attributes of Trees

Training: ICRAF has two training courses a year in this methodology for African institutes and researchers.

Materials: Numerous documents on basic methodology, case studies using D&D, and detailed checklists of information that may be pertinent to design.

Write To: John Raintree, ICRAF House, off Limuru Road, Gigiri, P.O. Box 30677, Nairobi, Kenya.

3.7.2. Rapid Rural Appraisal Methods at Khon Kaen University Thailand

Basic Approach: RRA has been adapted to natural resource management and forestry over a period of years at the FSR center in Khon Kaen University. RRA techniques are used to: 1) explore, identify and diagnose rural situations, problems and issues; 2) design, implement, monitor and evaluate programs, projects and development actions; 3) help develop, extend and transfer technology; 4) assist in policy formulation and decision-making; 5) respond to emergencies and disasters; and 6) improve, supplement or complement other forms of research.

Key Concepts: Adequate preparatory phase of data analysis to elaborate research objectives, and to help guide interviews, interactive research tools, open-ended research plans, agroecosystems analysis, time/space/logic schematics, dialogue at local level, iterative learning, indigenous categories of knowledge and resources.

Comments: Have generated many study examples in Thailand by Khon Kaen and Khon Kaen-trained practitioners on forestry, fisheries, water resource management, education, small-scale enterprise, and health and nutrition.

Training: Intensive training capability which Khon Kaen is now trying to transfer to other institutions in Thailand to allow training staff to work on own research and programs. Developing training materials for dissemination outside. Stresses that training skills are not quickly acquired and focuses on apprenticing newer practitioners to experienced fieldworkers. "As an analogy, the musician plays easily, but this skill is not as easily acquired as it looks."6

Materials: Two-volume set of articles and case studies on RRA. Numerous case studies of RRA applications.

Write To: Dr. Terd Charoenwatana, KKU-Ford Rural Systems Research Project, Khon Kaen University, Khon Kaen, Thailand.

3.7.3. Rapid Rural Appraisal Methods at Institute for Development Studies, Sussex. Great Britain

Basic Approach: This Institute's work in RRA under Robert Chambers has focused on generating materials on overall methods and underlying principles. Two key areas emerging from the work at IDS are: 1) elaboration of the concept of the "resource-poor farmer" as a focus of investigation and planning; and 2) work on irrigation management systems and planning (for farmer-participating irrigation systems).

Key Concepts: Basic principles are cross-checking (triangulation), avoiding biases and pitfalls due to poor interview methods, tight team interaction, and attention to the gains and losses of less visible groups in the population from planned or executed interventions. Concerned with interactive tools, such as ranking, schematics, and systems mapping. In comparison to agroecosystems analysis, has slightly different concepts for water management, as outlined below.

Training: Runs various workshops at IDS or for other organizations using RRA. The RRA methodology is taught as part of the two-year MPHIL program in Development Studies. IDS also runs a three-month course for planners and researchers in rural development with RRA as a major theme.

Materials: A wealth of articles and manuals/guidelines on general RRA, irrigation management, rural poor, resource-poor farmers, and specific RRA tools.

Write To: Robert Chambers or Robin Mearns, Institute for Development Studies, University of Sussex, Brighton BN1 9RE, United Kingdom.

3.7.4. Agroecosystems Analysis and other RRA Methods -- International Institute for Environment and Development. London. Great Britain

Basic Approach: Drawing upon principles of bio-physical and cultural systems, agroecosystems analysis evaluates natural resource management problems on the basis of productivity, stability, sustainability and equitability in a package of tools that are being refined by IIED for use in project design, monitoring, and interactive village planning. This approach depends heavily on schematics to generate data interactively and assemble that information in a form conducive to problem-solving discussions.

Key Concepts: In addition to organizing principles, changes in system elements over time (markets and prices included), seasonability, labor changes, interactive tools, mapping, and transects of resources that require the team to spend more time with local people and generate data in analyzable form, Venn diagrams for institutional analysis.

Training: Courses for field personnel and planners which are mainly learned by doing. IIED team takes trainees and directs them through an actual RRA exercise.

Materials: Case examples of RRA/agroecosystems analysis carried out for specific projects or institutions, training manuals, general articles on methodology, publishes "RRA Notes," a newsletter on developments in RRA methodology.

Write To: Jules Pretty or Jennifer McCracken, International Institute for Environment and Development, 3 Endsleigh Street, London WClH ODD, United Kingdom.

3.7.5. From the Ground Up: Center for International Development and Environment, and Clark University

Basic Approach: From the Ground Up is a collaborative program between the Center for International Development and Environment (CIDE)7, Clark University, and the South Africa Office of IUCN. It assists government agencies and NGO's to develop applied research and problem-solving methodologies, using case studies of sustainable, indigenous systems of natural resource management and adapting RRA and agroecosystems analysis tools to the African context.

Key Concepts: Began with a main focus on case studies as a basis of workshops and planning research, and now adds a strong RRA focus. Concerned with helping NGO's and agencies understand and adapt effective, local-level systems of management and technology use to other communities in similar circumstances.

Training: Runs village-based training workshops, short courses and conferences. Courses on RRA methods, including Agroecosystems Analysis, and research on indigenous knowledge for policy- and decision-makers, research staff, extension agents, and village leaders.

Materials: Completed case studies and material from other RRA training groups (IIED, London, IDS, and Khon Kaen University).

Write To: Richard Ford, Director, International Development: Research, Clark University, 950 Main Street, Worcester, Massachusetts 01610, U.S.A.; or, Peter G. Veit, Center for International Development and Environment, World Resources Institute, 1709 New York Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20006.

Box no.20 - Agroecosystem properties

However, this complexity, at least in terms' of its dynamic' consequences,, can be` captured by four system, properties which, together, describe the essential behavior of agroecosystems (Conway, 1983, 1985). These are productivity, stability, sustainability and equitability. They are relatively easy to define, although not equally easy to measure:

Productivity is the net increment in valued product' per unit of resource (land, tabor, energy or capital). It is commonly measured as annual yield or net income per hectare or man hour or unit of energy or investment.

Stability is the degree to which productivity remains constant in spite of normal, small scale fluctuations in environmental variables, such as climate, or in the economic conditions of the market; it is most conveniently measured by the' reciprocal of the coefficient of variation in productivity.

Sustainability can be defined as the ability of a system to maintain its productivity when subject to stress or perturbation. A stress is here defined as a regular, sometimes continuous, relatively small and predictable disturbance, for example the effect of growing soil salinity or indebtedness. A perturbation, by contrast, is an irregular, infrequent, relatively large and unpredictable disturbance, such as is caused by a rare drought or flood or a new pest.' Unfortunately, measurement is difficult and can often only be done retrospectively. Lack of sustainability may be indicated by declining productivity; but, equally, as experience suggests, collapse may come suddenly and without warning.

Equitability is a measure of how evenly'' the productivity of the agroecosystem is distributed among its human beneficiaries. The more equitable the system the more evenly are the agricultural products, the food or the income or the resources, shared among the population of the farm, village, region or nation. It can be represented by a statistical distribution or by a measure such as the Gini coefficient.

(Source: Conway, 1986.)

3.8 Examples of Specific Village-Level or Participatory Planning Applications

3.8.1. Microplanning: Indian Social Forestry Projects, National Wasteland Development Board, India

Basic Approach: Microplanning is a method of village level planning that is intended to be used by forestry field staff in helping villages and communities to make up action plans for afforestation and forest management activities and local natural resource management. Focusing on collecting key information about present use of available resources and perceived needs and priorities, this approach simplifies the information-gathering requirements while ensuring foresters interact with local villagers in developing action plans.

Key Concepts: Draws upon existing information from household and group interviews, and physical evaluation of local resources using sketch maps and rough measurements. Interviews are done using a modified stratified sample of equal numbers of individuals from each social group using the resources in question. Aims to interview equal numbers of men and women. Tries to assess supply and demand and devise an action plan for meeting demands, including attention to technological options. Strong focus on need for sound forestry expertise as well as social science expertise in microplanning method that will be of value to villagers.

Training: Training workshops have been held in Indian states for social forestry staff. More work is needed on how to quality lower-level staff to interview sensitively.

Materials: Manual on microplanning techniques and technological options published by National Wasteland Development Board. Completed plans in several states. Articles from workshops on extension methods and village-level planning techniques.

Write To: A.K. Banerjee, ASTAG, World Bank, 1818 H Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20433, U.S.A.

3.8.2. Village Dialogue: Resource Conservation and Utilization Project, and Tinau Watershed Development Project. Nepal

Basic Approach: Multidisciplinary team of researchers, facilitators, and extension agents (including agency and local development officials) assist villagers in devising action plans for rehabilitation and management of village resources, based on a fit between local needs/priorities and available government programs and resources.

Key Concepts: Combination of participatory environmental assessments, village discussions over one-week period or ten-day "workshop," and household interviews. Iterative process of village and official discussions, which pays attention to differing needs, problems, attitudes and priorities of men and women and different social and economic groups.

Training: Training of agency staff, officials, and researchers/facilitators by doing actual action plans with villagers. More work is needed on what to do when village expectations are greater than government agents can deliver.

Materials: Articles on methodology, project documentation, case studies of successfully drawn up action plans.

Write To: Don Messerschmidt, Institute of Forestry, P.O. Box 43, Pokhara, Nepal; or, Project Coordinator, Tinau Watershed Development Project, HMG/SATA, Tansen, Palpa, Nepal.

3.8.3. Groupe de Recherche et d'Appui pour l'Autopromotion Paysanne

(GRAAP -- Group for Research and Application of Self-Training Approaches for Rural People), Burkina Faso

Basic Approach: This Burkina Faso NGO has developed visual training materials for forestry and environment which are being tried out in a small scale in different projects in this country. There are four basic modules using feltboard and tested visuals for use with local communities (these have been circulated as mimeos under the Ministry of the Environment, Burkina Faso: 1) Our Changing Environment [allowing discussion of changes over time in community area], 2) Trees in Our Lives, 3) The Life of the Soil, and 4) Conserving Soil and Water.)

Key Concepts: Self-training for rural people, use of visual aids tailored to nonliterate rural people, environmental assessment.

Training: In country, GRAAP gives training in the use of the materials on arrangement with interested agencies/projects.

Materials: The complete set of visuals and background are available to projects from GRAAP for purchase.

Write To: GRAAP, B.P. 785, Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso.

3 Notice that in this instance, leading questions are an artful solution to a particular problem. The interviewer in this case is consciously leading the discussion in a direction that respondents are likely to avoid otherwise.

4 These include, for example, getting off the main road, not interviewing only elites, travelling in the wet season as well as the dry season, interviewing males and females, old and young, and complementing the project staff's choice of interview villages with others.

5 These guide the questions to be asked but are seldom the actual word for word questions put to interviewees.

6 Grandstaff, Terry, and Somluckrat W. Grandstaff, "Rapid Rural Appraisal in Forestry Extension," in Planning Forestry Extension Programmes, Field Document No. 8, Regional Wood Energy Development Programme in Asia, FAO, May, 1988.

7 of the World Resources Institute, Washington, D.C.

Previous PageTop Of PageNext Page