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Lessons from the FAO People's
FOOD AND AGRICULTURE ORGANIZATION OF THE UNITED NATIONS Rome, 1990
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1 Why participation?
2 The People's Participation
3 Selecting project areas
4 Forming groups of the rural poor
5 Group activities
6 Project implementing agencies
7 The financial component
8 Group promoters
9 Participatory training
10 Participatory research,
monitoring and evaluation
11 Project self-sustainability
12 Costs and benefits
13 Replicating the PPP approach
Annex Participatory project phases
The cover photograph shows a meeting
of small farmers participating in an FAO
People's Participation Programme project
in Wenchi district, Ghana.
A group effort
This publication is based on Guidelines
for beneficiary participation in agricul-
tural and rural development, by Bernard
van Heck (FAO 1989). Additional material
was written by FAO consultant Graeme
Thomas and the FAO People's Participa-
tion Programme Coordinator, John Rouse.
Ideas and information were also pro-
vided by an International Workshop on
the Strategy of People's Participation in
Rural Development, held in Arusha, Tan-
zania, in September 1989 and funded by
FAO and The Netherlands. All workshop
participants contributed to this publica-
tion. Special thanks are due to PPP project
coordinators S. de Abrew (Sri Lanka), A.
Haider (Pakistan), O. Kibwana (Tanza-
nia), E. Kissiedu-Ayi (Ghana), L. Kolobe
(Lesotho) and L. Ndulu (Zambia). Grateful
acknowledgement is also made to: A.
Amisi, Kenya; A. Carloni, FAO; C. Clark,
Canada; D. Dhungel, Nepal; J. Dlamini,
Swaziland; V. Groverman, FAO; V. Gupta,
India; G. Huizer, Netherlands; P. Kitomari,
N. Mussa-Nda and E. Mutasim, CIRDAf-
rica; K. Kornher, USA; G. Kumi, Ghana; R.
Meghji, Tanzania; M. Mensah, Ghana; L.
Mlowe and G. Mongella, Tanzania; H.
Mongi, FAO; C. Sikanyika, Zambia; G.
Thareparambil, FAO; P. Ter Weel, Neth-
erlands; and B. Vigier, Canada.
The authors thank Dr. Nikolaus Newiger
for his encouragement and support.
Designed and edited by Graeme Thomas
Layout: Giulio Sansonetti
The 1980s have been described as a "lost decade" for rural de-
velopment, a period when economic recession and external
debt forced many countries to cut back their development pro-
grammes and give priority instead to structural adjustment. In
the process, they have suffered falling levels of food produc-
tion, deterioration in rural infrastructure and growing political
instability. The number of rural poor has risen to at least 900
million. Unemployment, malnutrition and misery in the coun-
tryside are provoking a mass exodus of rural people to already
overcrowded cities, with potentially explosive consequences.
A concerned international community is now seeking a new
strategy to revitalize rural development. The basic elements of
the strategy are already clear: equity and self-reliance. Future
development efforts must aim at releasing the energies of rural
people and guaranteeing that they share fully in the fruits of
their efforts. This can only be achieved by enabling the rural
poor to take charge of their lives, to make full use of productive
resources and to manage their own activities.
This publication is a contribution to the "new thinking" on
rural development. Written for policy makers and development
practitioners, it reports on lessons learnt from the People's
Participation Programme (PPP) of the UN Food and Agriculture
Organization (FAO). Through PPP, 13,000 men and women in
12 countries have formed autonomous self-help groups. By
pooling their resources'and working together, they have revi-
talized their communities, achieving remarkable improvements
in income, savings and agricultural production.
FAO believes that this grassroots approach if incorporated
in rural development programmes could energize a vast res-
ervoir of under-used human resources, providing developing
countries with a key to generating rural employment, achiev-
ing food self-sufficiency, slowing the rural-urban exodus and
building national self-reliance.
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a global problem
The rural poor make up one fifth of total
world population (above), while demo-
graphic trends (below) reveal a massive
exodus of rural people to urban centres.
in developing countries
1980 1985 1989
1960 1965 1970 1975
what goes wrong
How do some conventional projects dis-
criminate against the poor? A classic ex-
ample comes from Nigeria, where a large
scale agricultural development project
channeled assistance to "progressive"
farmers and chose to work through the
existing socio-economic structure, assum-
ing that this would win local cooperation.
Result: subsidized credit to buy tractors
and pay for labour and fertilizer helped to
create a small class of "overnight farm-
ers", mainly wealthy city dwellers. Most
inputs went to richer landowners, while
subsidized fertilizer encouraged farmers
to abandon traditional manuring
practices. And none of this led to produc-
tion increases: per hectare yields of staple
crops was the same for project partici-
pants and non-participants.
I WHY PAH I IUIPAI IOUN
Rural development efforts have failed to deliver on their prom-
ises. A recent evaluation found that half of rural development
projects funded by the World Bank in Africa were outright
failures. A review of assistance to agricultural cooperatives
reported similar results. A study by the International Labour
Organisation of "poverty-oriented" projects worldwide showed
that the poorest were excluded from activities and benefits.
What has gone wrong? Recent years have seen growing criti-
cism of rural development strategies followed, with only minor
adjustments, for the past three decades. These conventional
strategies have seen development primarily as a series of
technical transfers aimed at boosting production and generat-
ing wealth. In practice, conventional projects usually target
medium to large scale "progressive" producers, supporting
them with technology, credit and extension advice in the hope
that improvements will gradually extend to more "backward"
strata of rural society. In many cases, however, the channeling
of development assistance to the better-off has led to concen-
tration of land and capital, marginalization of small farmers and
alarming growth in the number of landless labourers.
The basic fault in the conventional approach is that the rural
poor are rarely consulted in development planning and usually
have no active role in development activities. This is because
the vast majority of the poor have no organizational structure to
represent their interests. Isolated, undereducated and often
dependent on rural elites, they lack the means to win greater
access to resources and markets, and to prevent the imposition
of unworkable programmes or technologies. The lesson is clear:
unless the rural poor are given the means to participate fully in
development, they will continue to be excluded from its bene-
fits. This realization is provoking new interest in an alternative
rural development strategy, that of people's participation
through organizations controlled and financed by the poor.
.-*.'."*- "- '" '.ja T .-'- c
_ .. . .-.. I -
The WCARRD concept of rural development
People's participation in rural development is by no means a
new concept. It was formulated in the mid-1970s, amid growing
awareness that development efforts were having little impact
on poverty. At the World Conference on Agrarian Reform and
Rural Development (WCARRD), held in Rome in 1979, the inter-
national community identified the reason for this failure the
lack of active participation of the poor in programmes designed,
supposedly, to assist them.
WCARRD declared that participation by rural people in the
institutions that govern their lives is a basic human right. If rural
development was to realize its potential, the Conference said,
disadvantaged rural people had to be organized and actively in-
volved in designing policies and programmes and in controlling
social and economic institutions. WCARRD saw a close link
between participation and voluntary, autonomous and demo-
cratic organizations representing the poor. It called on develop-
ment agencies to work in close cooperation with organizations
of intended beneficiaries, and proposed that assistance be
channeled through small farmer and peasant groups.
Participation in practice
Since WCARRD, developing countries have suffered economic
set-backs unforeseen in 1979. With their economic survival at
stake, many countries have been forced to cut back on rural
development, giving priority to growth ahead of WCARRD's
concern for participation and equity. During this same period,
however, great progress has been made in the elaboration of
participatory principles and methodologies. Spurred by
WCARRD, the Food and Agriculture Organization launched
the People's Participation Programme, or PPP, in 1980. Since
then, PPP has implemented pilot projects throughout the devel-
oping world in an attempt to test and develop an operational
method of people's participation for incorporation in larger rural
The experience of PPP has demonstrated that true participa-
tion is possible only when the rural poor are able to pool their
efforts and resources in pursuit of objectives they set for
themselves. The most efficient means for achieving this objec-
tive, FAO has found, are small, democratic and informal groups
composed of eight to 15 like-minded farmers. For governments
and development agencies, people's participation through small
groups offers distinct advantages:
Economies of scale. The high cost of providing develop-
ment services to scattered, small scale producers is a major
constraint on poverty-oriented programmes. Participatory
A recent study by the International La-
bour Organisation (ILO) of 40 "poverty-
oriented" rural development projects re-
vealed that the poorest of the poor are
frequently excluded from project activi-
ties and benefits.
In Mali, a project used village develop-
ment associations to channel inputs to
small farmers. However, these associa-
tions existed only in better-off villages.
Result: the project did not reach poor vil-
lages that had no associations and no
prospect of forming them. A dairy devel-
opment programme in India supplied
credit mainly to larger farmers who had
enough land to keep more than one ani-
mal; the poor had resources for no more
than one buffalo. In Nepal, prosperous
farmers exerted pressure to participate
in a project intended to benefit the poor.
The ILO study concluded: "Until impor-
tant changes are introduced in the way
poverty-oriented projects are conceived
and set up, the claim that they will neces-
sarily alleviate poverty or, at least,
improve equity remains questionable."
Closing the gap
Many governments appreciate the need
for a participatory development approach
to overcome the persistence of poverty in
rural areas and to avoid the threat of
At a workshop in Thailand in 1987, top
level policy makers said that, at the close
of the country's latest development plan,
11 million Thais were still living in pov-
erty and had not benefited from develop-
ment. Figures presented showed a wid-
ening gap between city and countryside:
the ratio of average urban income to
average rural income stood at more than
8:1. This troubling discrepancy had
prompted the Government's decision to
embark on a nationwide farmer particip-
ation programme based on experience
with FAO and Netherlands-funded
The programme calls for people's par-
ticipation in planning development proj-
ects, and the channeling of extension and
other services to the poor through small
groups constitute a grassroots "receiving system" that allows
development agencies to reduce the unit delivery or transaction
costs of their services, thus broadening their impact.
Higher productivity. Given access to resources and a guar-
antee that they will share fully in the benefits of their efforts, the
poor become more receptive to new technologies and services,
and achieve higher levels of production and income. This helps
to build net cash surpluses that strengthen the groups' eco-
nomic base and contribute to rural capital formation.
Reduced costs and increased efficiency. The poor's contri-
bution to project planning and implementation represent sav-
ings that reduce project costs. The poor also contribute their
knowledge of local conditions, facilitating the diagnosis of
environmental, social and institutional constraints, as well as
the search for solutions.
w Building of democratic organizations. The limited size and
informality of small groups is suited to the poor's scarce organ-
izational experience and low literacy levels. Moreover, the
small group environment is ideal for the diffusion of collective
decision-making and leadership skills, which can be used in the
subsequent development of inter-group federations.
Sustainability. Participatory development leads to increased
self-reliance among the poor and the establishment of a net-
work of self-sustaining rural organizations. This carries impor-
tant benefits: the greater efficiency of development services
stimulates economic growth in rural areas and broadens do-
mestic markets, thus favouring balanced national develop-
ment; politically, participatory approaches provide opportuni-
ties for the poor to contribute constructively to development.
A strategy for the 1990s
The pivotal role of people's participation in development is now
re-emerging in economic and social development thinking. One
striking example of this trend comes from the World Bank. In its
proposed strategy for sustainable development in Africa, the
Bank calls for a "people-centred" approach that will improve
the poor's access to productive assets, allow them to participate
in designing and implementing development programmes, and
foster their involvement in institutions from village to national
level. UNICEF has proposed similar measures in its strategy for
structural adjustment "with a human face", stressing people's
participation in the formulation of development policy, and
efforts to make full use of local potential.
FAO believes that the participatory approach described in
the following pages will be an essential part of any strategy to
meet the challenges of the 1990s.
* J ,
A Ip HE PERLE'S
The FAO People's Participation Programme arose from WCARRD
and its call for "the active involvement and organization of the
grass roots level of the rural people". PPP's main emphasis is on
formation of small, informal, self-reliant groups of the rural poor
as part of a longer-term strategy to build institutions serving
their interests. These groups allow members to work together
on income-generating activities, serve as receiving mecha-
nisms for development services, and provide a voice for mem-
bers in dealing with local authorities. Facilitators in this proc-
ess are project coordinating committees, government and NGOs,
and locally recruited group promoters.
The first PPP project was launched in Sierra Leone in 1982.
Since then, other projects have been implemented in Ghana,
Kenya, Lesotho, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Swaziland,
Tanzania, Thailand, Zambia and Zimbabwe. By 1989, some
13,200 people had actively participated in PPP. Including their
household dependents, beneficiaries totaled 80,000 people.
A review of PPP in 1990 reveals many similari-
ties, but also marked differences, in imple-
mentation of the principal elements of the
participatory approach. These elements are:
Focus on the rural poor. PPP beneficiaries
include immigrant settlers in Zimbabwe, arti-
sanal fishing communities in Tanzania and
subsistence farmers in Ghana, Nicaragua and
Thailand. In Lesotho and Swaziland most par-
ticipants are female household heads, one of
the poorest strata in rural society.
Promotion of women in development.
About 5,000 women or 37% of all partici-
pants are actively involved in PPP projects.
The origins of PPP
FAO involvement with small farmer or-
ganizations in Asia provided much of the
conceptual framework and field experi-
ence for the development of PPP.
In the early 1970s FAO launched its
Rural Organizations Action Programme
(ROAP) in an attempt to identify rural
institutions that facilitated farmer partici-
pation. Its major findingwas that informal
groups, consisting of 8-15 members from
similar socio-economic back-grounds,
were better vehicles for participation in
decision-making and collective learning
than heterogeneous, large scale and more
ROAP served as a stimulus for the FAO
Small Farmers Development Programme
(SFDP), which was launched in 1976 to
test ROAP's hypotheses through pilot
projects. Assisted by an FAO task force
based in Bangkok, the pro-
gramme organized thou-
sands of participatory
groups in Bangladesh, In-
donesia, Laos PDR, Nepal,
The Philippines, Sri Lanka
and Thailand. The project
in Nepal (at left) has been
particularly successful: by
1989, it had organized
100,000 farmers and hopes
to cover 325,000 poor
households by 1995. SFDP
projects in Sri Lanka and
Thailand have been incor-
porated into PPP projects.
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PPP projects worldwide
1. Sierra Leone 2. Ghana 3. Kenya
4. Tanzania 5. Zambia 6. Zimbabwe
7. Swaziland 8. Lesotho 9. Pakistan
10. Sri Lanka 11. Thailand 12. Nicaragua
While their involvement is still weak in some countries, women
make up more than seven out of every 10 participants in
Lesotho, Swaziland and Zambia.
a Small groups. The key element in PPP is the formation of
small homogeneous self-help groups. Some 1,080 such groups
with average membership of 12 persons have been formed,
almost a third of them in Ghana and Sri Lanka. In other
countries the number of groups ranges from 18 to 90. Groups
are run democratically, with members holding regular meet-
ings and electing their leaders. This group approach has facili-
tated farmers' access to credit, extension and other services.
Implementing agencies. Government ministries or semi-
government institutions have responsibility for implementing
projects in Pakistan, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Swaziland, Tanza-
nia, Thailand, Zambia and Zimbabwe. FAO believes, however,
that NGOs can make an important contribution. With govern-
ment agreement, NGOs have been appointed as implementing
agencies in Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho and Nicaragua.
Coordinating committees. To maximize efficiency in use of
resources and promote better understanding of PPP, FAO
encourages the formation of project-level and national-level
coordinating committees. At field level, these consist of bene-
ficiaries, project staff and administrators who guide project
implementation. At national level, representatives of govern-
ment ministries, NGOs and FAO monitor project performance.
National projectstaff. All project coordinators are nationals
trained by FAO. Each project coordinator is recruited directly
by the implementing agency, usually from the ranks of govern-
ment services. Project coordinators include extension officers,
economists and youth workers.
Group promoters (GPs). Some 130 GPs have been selected
and trained to assist in PPP group development and in linking
groups to government services. While most GPs are agricul-
tural extension agents, school teachers or secondary school
graduates, the Programme is encouraging the recruitment of
"second-generation" GPs from among PPP members.
Income-generation. Encouraged by their GPs and assisted
by government services, PPP members undertake additional
income-generating activities to build up and diversify their
economic base. The majority of groups are engaged in staple
food and animal production, coming together on individual
members' plots or group farms for land preparation, planting
and harvesting. Many groups market also their produce in bulk.
Group savings. An important objective of PPP is to mobilize
group savings to serve as additional credit, cover loan defaults
and build up the members' capital base. By 1989, PPP partici-
,, ,' *
A. _._ k "
pants most of whom had no previous experience of saving
with banks had saved a total of $68,000. Average savings
were more than $5.10 per person.
Group credit. To facilitate credit for PPP groups, FAO
covers the banks' risk of loan defaults with a Credit Guarantee
Fund held at lending institutions in all eight countries. Thanks
to these arrangements, PPP groups received in 1989 a total of
$350,000 in loans, an average of $324 per group. PPP loan
repayment rates are generally much higher than those re-
corded by "low-cost" credit programmes for small farmers.
Training. High priority is given to improving the organiza-
tional and production skills of PPP members, mainly through
small field workshops. Training is usually conducted by gov-
ernment extensionists at the request of project staff or groups.
It covers a wide field, including project planning, recordkeep-
ing, food storage, animal rearing and soil conservation.
Participatory monitoring and evaluation. Group members
participate fully in action research connected to the project, and
in monitoring and evaluation of project activities.
Self-reliance. Once groups have begun to consolidate their
economic base, they are urged to increase their self-reliance in
preparation for the withdrawal of their GPs and of FAO assis-
tance. Self-reliance is stressed through training, savings mobi-
lization and consolidation of PPP groups in self-governing
umbrella organizations serving their wider interests. Some 121
inter-group federations have been formed, along with loan
committees that process loan requests and distribute credit.
Replication of PPP
FAO considers that PPP's working hypothesis that of realiz-
ing people's participation through small group formation is a
valid concept and method. The task ahead is to replicate the
approach on a much larger scale. Replication does not mean
duplication: rather, it is the diffusion of PPP concepts, method-
ologies and practices to governments, donors and other devel-
opment organizations and their adaptation to local conditions.
To stimulate this process further, development workers from
14 countries met in Arusha, Tanzania, in 1989 for an interna-
tional workshop that helped to produce the present guidelines
for replication of the PPP approach. With publication of the
following guidelines, the People's Participation Programme
enters a new phase: participatory concepts and practices
developed over the past decade are being made available for
incorporation in rural and agricultural development programmes
throughout the developing world.
The role of FAO
Each PPP project is implemented by na-
tional project staff employed by the des-
ignated implementing agency. FAO's role
is one of overall technical guidance. It is
closely involved in the identification, for-
mulation and launching of each project,
and makes the necessary legal agree-
ments with implementing agencies and
credit institutions. During implementa-
tion, it supplies its own staff or locally-
recruited consultants for, backstopping,
training and monitoring and evaluation,
and provides overall project administra-
tion (including budget control, purchase
of major inputs and reporting to donors).
As PPP is a pilot scheme, FAO's role has
been intensive, especially in monitoring,
steering and the development of manu-
als and training programmes. It is ex-
pected, however, that the second gen-
eration of PPP projects will require less
How PPP areas
Planners have used a range of criteria in
selecting PPP project areas and villages.
In Thailand, project areas were identi-
fied after a review of statistical data on
relative poverty. Once the project began,
group promoters collected detailed infor-
mation through a community level sur-
vey, followed by a household survey to
identify poor families and their needs.
In Zambia, a PPP project was sited in
one of the country's poorest regions. Pro-
vincial authorities chose two districts as
project areas mainly because well-quali-
fied staff were available locally. Project
villages were selected in consultation
with local leaders and agricultural exten-
sionists. In Kenya, the implementing
agency selected villages where farmers'
groups were already operating.
*3S ELIzUII NU
Participatory rural development projects seek to improve the
economic, social and political conditions and capacities of the
rural poor. Among the first tasks of the project planner, there-
to identify rural areas where the majority of the population
to select project action areas and, within them, village
clusters where group formation will begin
to identify poor inhabitants who may wish to participate in
to identify the poor's development needs.
Selecting project action areas and villages
Areas with a high concentration of poor people are character-
ized by very limited natural resources and physical infrastruc-
ture, a lack of basic development services, inequitable land
tenure, subsistence or marginal agricultural production and a
shortage of on- and off-farm employment opportunities.
Planners can make a fairly accurate delineation of im-
poverished areas through discussions with rural administrators
and a rapid analysis of existing data sources, including
population censuses, household surveys and production
statistics for different geographic areas.
Once poor areas have been identified, planners need to
select from among them areas suitable for participatory
development projects. Here, somewhat different considerations
apply. It would be counter-productive to select areas with
development problems so serious that they limited the project's
chances of success. Preference should go, therefore, to poor
areas where there is relatively greater potential for development
of viable economic activities, availability of at least some
development services that could be channelled to the poor, and
market outlets for goods and services.
. ... ... .; ..'...... ..'-.* .- .
The next step is to select village clusters i.e. a group of
adjacent villages with cultural, economic or physical links -
where project activities will begin. To identify these clusters,
project planners should conduct exploratory socio-economic
surveys, preferably in cooperation with group promoters.
Villages selected should have potential for development and a
low degree of social stratification.
Selecting project participants
In most developing countries, the rural population can be
divided into three broad socio-economic categories: the rich,
who usually control most of the means of production (chiefly
land) and have greatest access to'development services; the
middle class, with secure and sufficient access to income and
assets; and the disadvantaged or poor, who live at or below
The rural poor depend for their livelihoods on full- or part-
time employment in agriculture, forestry, fisheries, handicrafts
and related occupations. They include small and marginal
landowner-farmers, tenants, sharecroppers, landless labourers
and small fishermen, as well as forestry workers, rural artisans,
nomadic pastoralists and refugees.
Levels of deprivation also exist among the poor. Small farmers
are sometimes considered "marginally poor" because they
have some access to income and assets. Usually worse off are
sharecroppers, landless labourers and hawkers (the very poor),
who are dependent on the better-off for their survival. The most
deprived people in rural areas are destitutes, such as widows
and the handicapped, who have no economic base whatsoever.
To identify potential participants, project staff should gather
existing information on the rural population in the selected
project action area, including data on population, land tenure,
economic activities and income distribution. From this
information, the staff can assess directly the numbers,
proportion and main characteristics of the poor and non-poor.
For a more accurate assessment, it may be necessary to
develop poverty criteria specific to the area. Possible criteria
include level of access to productive resources, ethnic and
caste characteristics, level of skills available in the family, on-
and off-farm family income, the extent of family indebtedness,
housing conditions, nutrition status, level of education and
family health, and extent of participation in rural people's
organizations and in local decision-making.
Typically, project participants will be people whose main
source of income is agriculture, fishing or related activities,
whose principal source of labour is their family, and whose
Why village clusters?
The village-cluster approach has several
advantages. It allows better coordination
and supervision of project activities and
promotes the rapid spread of these activi-
ties from the core village to adjacent ones.
Thanks to the cluster approach, groups
keep in closer contact (the photo above
shows a meeting of PPP groups of a clus-
ter in Zambia), making it easier for them
to form inter-group federations. Clusters
also enhance economies of scale in the
supply of inputs, processing and market-
ing facilities, and other services, such as
health and education.
Problems in selecting
Experience with PPP highlights con-
straints and shortcomings in the applica-
tion of criteria for the selection of project
In Kenya, the lack of sufficient and well-
defined guidelines led to the formation of
groups that included well-off farmers as
well as poor subsistence farmers forwhom
the project was intended.
Other problems stem from difficulties in
defining adequate criteria for identifying
the poor. In Sierra Leone (above), for in-
stance, many "households" were multi-
family units of more than than 25 people.
Assessing the division of income from
land worked by one member of these ex-
tendedfamilies proved almost impossible.
In Zambia, land tenure was nearly
impossible to assess: land is not owned
privately but allocated temporarily by
traditional chiefs to those in need.
income is below the average in the area concerned. They will
have little or no access to inputs, credit, markets, training,
extension and other services.
While a participatory project seeks to benefit all categories of
the rural poor, it need not necessarily start with the poorest. In
fact, some projects deliberately seek to involve first the
marginally poor small farmers rather than the very poor or
destitutes. Experience has shown that small farmers are often
keener to create organizations because they can afford to risk
some of their assets in group activities. The very poor have
fewer assets and more debts, and are more dependent on their
employers. For this group, risk-taking can pose a threat to their
very survival. Involvement of poorer people may be achieved
only in later phases.
Identifying participants' needs
As the participatory project will form groups of the poor to help
them satisfy their priority needs, these needs must be clearly
identified. The poor's needs, which are directly related to group
and family-level poverty, may have physiological, psychologi-
cal, economic or socio-cultural dimensions. Moreover, among
the poor, these needs have rankings of importance that may not
be perceived by untrained observers.
To make a preliminary assessment of the rural poor's needs
and aspirations, staff should consult with the intended
participants. For this reason, an applied sociologist or anthro-
pologist, and one or more experts in agronomy or other fields
depending upon the type of project and its action areas, should
be included in either the project identification mission or a
reconnaissance mission undertaken beforehand.
Reconnaissance teams should carry out relatively rapid but
practical social and economic studies, consulting a
representative cross-section of local people in particular the
poor as well as key members of local people's organizations
and traditional leaders. The team's inquiries should cover such
topics as existing development efforts, felt needs, aspirations
and constraints. The information collected- although sufficient
to devise a flexible project framework should be regarded as
preliminary and, in part, suspect. More reliable in-depth data
will be gathered by field staff as they gradually gain the
people's confidence while working'with them during project
Needs identification and the search for ways to satisfy
needs should be regarded, therefore, as a continuous process,
as groups and organizations involved in the project assert their
felt needs and delivery staff endeavour to meet them.
~~` -~--- r;.;- ~ -. -~~~- TI~*7i;(~~ i:.r(;li- I
F THMINRURA POORU
OF THE RURAL POOR
The central element in PPP is the formation of self-help groups
of the rural poor as the first step in a long-term institution
building process. Groups are formed around activities de-
signed to satisfy the priority needs of the intended participants.
Group membership offers the poor a number of advantages:
Groups are starting bases for development activities. By
pooling their capital, labour and other resources, members are
able to carry out profitable self-help activities which, if under-
taken by individuals, would involve greater risk and effort.
Groups are efficient receiving mechanisms. Well trained
and motivated groups offer government and NGO development
agencies cost savings in the delivery of inputs, services and fa-
Groups are learning laboratories. Members learn from
their group promoter, and from each other, such skills as man-
aging group enterprises, articulating, discussing and solving
problems, and keeping accounts.
Groups help empower the rural poor. Groups provide the
poor with an effective instrument for participation in local
decision-making, helping them to cooperate more fully in the
development of their communities and to exert pres-
sure, where necessary, to improve their conditions.
Forming small, homogeneous groups
The project should first make an inventory of all existing
forms of people's groups organizations within the pro-
posed action area. These groups and organizations may
be traditional or more modem types, such as farmer
associations, cooperatives and trade unions.
The question is whether or not these organizations
genuinely represent the interests of the rural poor.
Cooperatives are often too large and their structures too
hierarchical to be effective vehicles for participatory
Government and NGO delivery systems
often have no matching receiving system
through which development assistance
can be channelled to the poor. As a result,
development agencies find it easier to
serve a minority of better-off farmers than
large numbers of small scale producers.
The group approach helps the poor to
create their own receiving mechanisms.
To undertake economic activities, groups
seek support in the form of training,
credit, inputs and social services from
local delivery agencies. For the delivery
system, groups offer significant econo-
mies of scale: tools and inputs can be
delivered in bulk (below), training con-
ducted in groups and credit dispersed as
group loans. Thus, the poor win greater
access to technical advice and produc-
tion inputs, while the delivery agencies
broaden the impact of their assistance.
:" .,` -i. .'-- r.-: ... ~:-.-~ ~-~
The limits of
One argument against the participatory
group approach is that cooperatives may
already exist to serve the interests of
small scale producers. By one recent esti-
mate, some 375,000 agricultural coopera-
tives, with total membership of 187 mil-
lion people, were registered in develop-
By definition, these cooperatives should
be voluntary, autonomous and demo-
cratic. However, many are pseudo-coop-
eratives imposed from above. Some gov-
ernments see cooperatives as their in-
struments for development: they appoint
managers, retain the power to dismiss
board members and, in some cases, con-
trol the production, processing and mar-
keting of members' goods.
Most cooperatives have failed to involve
the majority of the rural poor. In some
cases, they have served the interests of
privileged strata in rural society, to the
point of reinforcing rural inequality.
Drafting a constitution
PPP project staff in Swaziland held work-
shops with 18 groups to discuss and for-
mulate group constitutions.
The groups used role plays to highlight
problems in group cooperation, such as
non-attendance at meetings. They con-
cluded that constitutions were necessary
to set out clearly their responsibilities to
each other and to guide group activities.
The workshops adopted a constitution
framework that covered such issues as
group objectives, membership criteria,
disciplinary action, and rules for han-
dling members' contributions and shar-
ing of profits. Following the workshop,
project staff reported a clear improve-
ment in the functioning of the PPP groups.
development. Similarly, traditional tribal or community
groupings are often managed in a top-down fashion and may
provide limited opportunities for participatory learning and
If the inventory indicates that participatory groups are lacking,
the project should promote their formation among project
participants. In PPP's experience four essential guidelines
should be followed:
Groups should be small. The optimum number of members
is between eight and 15. Small groups facilitate dialogue
between members, have greater economic flexibility, and are
less likely to be dominated by management elites or break
down into factions.
Groups should be homogeneous. Members should live
under similar economic conditions and have close social affin-
ity. Homogeneity reduces conflict at group level: members
with similar backgrounds are more likely to trust each other
and accept joint liability for their activities.
Groups should be formed around viable starter income-
raising activities. Income-raising activities are crucial to group
development because they generate assets that help build
Groups should be voluntary and self-governing. Partici-
pants should decide who will join the groups, who will lead
them, what rules they will follow, and what activities they will
undertake. Decisions should be taken by consensus or majority
Prior to beginning group formation, project staff should
conduct a household survey with the local population to identify
homogeneity factors, poverty levels, priority needs and criteria
for group membership. The objectives of the project and its
focus on the poor should be openly discussed and the villagers
involved in selection of criteria for participation in the groups.
The project should then organize informal meetings with
prospective group members to discuss the purpose, methods of
operation and benefits of groups, as well as possible enterprises
and means of production. Group promoters should make a list
of potential group members and leaders, possible group
activities and required inputs.
Once the participants have identified viable income-raising
activities, those interested in a particular activity should decide
on criteria for group membership: for example, whether
members should belong to a specific category (such as small-
holders, tenants or landless) or whether the group should be
male-only, female-only or mixed. They should also assess their
productive resources, including capital, skills and experience.
By consensus or formal voting, the group members
should then elect a chairperson, secretary and treasurer.
Project staff should encourage rotation of leadership
positions among group members in order to give all
members leadership experience, thus minimizing the
risk of domination by a few. Finally, the group should
formulate its own constitution and procedures, setting
out rules on such matters as the frequency of group
meetings and the use of savings and loans.
Formation of viable and stable groups requires
patience and, in most cases, a period of from two to six
months. Both overly rapid formation and overly long
delays, which may dampen the interest of potential
group members, should be avoided.
Obstacles to group formation
The process of group formation often faces formidable ob-
stacles. Many arise from within the ranks of the rural poor
themselves. Heavy work loads and generally poor health often
leave the poor with little energy for "participation", while their
low level of education and geographic isolation cuts them off
from progressive ideas. Perhaps the most insidious obstacles to
be overcome are-the rural poor's own lack of unity and their
psychological dependence on the rich. In most cases, the rural
poor are economically dependent on landowners, traders and
middlemen. Accustomed to leaving initiatives and decisions to
their traditional "leaders", they may fear intimidation or
expulsion from their land if they become involved in independent
Other constraints are posed by local power-holders and
even slightly better-off farmers who may see the groups as a
threat to age-old, and often highly profitable, patron-client
At local level, project staff can help overcome this antagonism
by winning the support of traditional, administrative and other
leaders. They may need to call meetings to sensitize leaders to
the objectives of the participatory project and, above all, to
illustrate the benefits of its activities to the area as a whole.
These benefits include improvements in community living
standards, an increased flow of government services to the
village and, consequently, greater prestige for the village and
Once groups have established a sound economic base, PPP
promotes their consolidation into local-level inter-group fed-
"A natural division
Conflicts are more likely to arise in hetero-
geneous groups, when better-off mem-
bers attempt to influence decisions or
Problems of this kind arose in Sri Lanka,
where small scale business people man-
aged to join some PPP groups (above).
"Over two or three seasons they under-
mined their groups with offers of credit
and inputs at high interest rates," the
project coordinator said. "The groups
gradually broke up because of this natu-
ral division of interests." Confidence in
the project was restored only after the
non-poor were excluded.
In some cases, however, group homo-
geneity may conflict with local social
structures and traditions. In Thailand,
the formation of groups of the poor was
seen in some areas as a threat to social
harmony. The project decided not to
exclude better-off farmers, although group
promoters did manage to form more or
less homogeneous groups.
Forms of federation
There is no universal model for inter-
group federations. In Ghana, for example,
participants in one village cluster all
belong an inter-group federation, while
in another the federation is made up only
of group representatives (pictured above).
In a neighboring area, a federation
consists of two groups involved in cassava
In Sri Lanka, federations are made up of
two delegates from groups in each clus-
ter, while in Lesotho, they consist of elect-
ed group delegates plus a representative
of the traditional local leader.
An inter-group committee in Zambia
operates a successful oxen hire service
for its member groups.
The oxen, which are used for ploughing
rice and maize fields, are rotated among
the groups, each of which contributes to
a fund for veterinary supplies. Before the
ploughing season, the committee draws
up a work plan assigning the oxen to each
group for two weeks. Group members
wishing to use the animals pay a fee of
just 30c a day. Thanks to this collective
system, farmers now pay less than $1 for
services which, using hired oxen, would
cost up to $10.
erations. It does this because small groups usually be-
come stronger and more efficient when horizontally and
vertically linked. Inter-group federations promote soli-
darity and economies of scale both in group activities
and delivery of development services, and enable
members to develop a broad base for action. In addition,
development of local and, eventually, regional and
national structures can stimulate the formation of more
An inter-group federation represents its constituent
groups and is not an executive body: it must be
accountable to all group members. It should have a
facilitating, coordinating and educational role and
become a source of technical assistance, economies of scale
and guidance. For instance, a federation can offer training to
new groups and even help finance their activities from
accumulated savings. Moreover, it can serve as a reference
point forformation of new inter-group federations and eventually
perform at least some of the functions of group promoters.
In most cases, federations should, initially, represent groups
with a variety of economic activities, rather than a single
activity. Multi-activity federations are usually better able to
meet common needs of the groups, such as training and
information exchange, and to exert pressure on the delivery
system. Single-activity federations may emerge at later stage.
Inter-group federations maybe legalized as pre-cooperatives
or federations in order to obtain more recognition, legal status,
services and facilities. They may also link themselves to
participatory, rural poor-oriented cooperatives or other people's
organizations. It should be stressed, however, that the groups
do not replace cooperatives and other village institutions. They
remain autonomous interest groups that may operate within,
and help to strengthen, existing traditional or informal
organizations, thus broadening the network of institutions
serving the rural poor.
Linking federations to existing organizations not only
facilitates delivery of development services and facilities, but
also the consolidation of group plans into multi-group or
federation plans that can be matched with area and regional
development plans through local coordination committees.
Thus, a two-way planning process can be developed.
Through inter-group activities and federations of groups, the
poor become increasingly self-confident and recognized by
their wider community. They obtain organizational power and
may eventually be represented in local government bodies.
Participatory groups are formed around activities that meet the
identified priority needs and aspirations of those who wish to
become members. The purpose of these activities is primarily
economic and developmental: to increase members' produc-
tion and income, reduce costs, promote financial self-reliance
and contribute to community welfare.
The nature of group activities will depend on the needs,
desires and capabilities of each group, local economic, social
and institutional potentials, and the project's design, objectives,
staff and resources.
Although group activities vary widely, four general types
can be distinguished:
Direct income-raising activities. These are existing or new
enterprises, in any economic sector or subsector, that produce
income. For example, groups may intensify production of food
or cash crops, develop small-scale animal husbandry, small-
scale aquaculture or agro-processing, and build small scale
irrigation, drainage or anti-erosion systems. Other activities
include development of low-cost storage, transport and mar-
keting facilities, supply points for inputs or utility stores, and
micro-industries such as blacksmithing.
Cost-saving activities. These are activities that in-
crease net income by reducing costs. They include ac-
tivities that reduce production costs, such as bulk pur-
chasing of inputs, group transport and marketing of
products, and consumer savings through joint purchas-
ing of consumer goods in bulk. Groups might also benefit
from social savings e.g. group agreement to cut spend-
ing on alcohol and gambling and social insurance
through group welfare funds or collective insurance
Production-facilitating activities. These aim at cre-
ating favourable conditions for group production. They
PPP groups have developed a wide vari-
ety of income-generating activities.
In Ghana, groups are engaged in maize
farming, cassava processing, brickmaking
and production of baskets and beads. In
Thailand, they raise pigs, poultry and
freshwater fish. Zambian groups have
set up rural nurseries to propagate cashew
seedlings for sale. Other groups earn
income from production and marketing of
vegetables (pictured below are group
members in their vegetable garden).
In Lesotho, activities range from sew-
ing and knitting to crop, poultry and ani-
mal production (one piggery group re-
cently won first prize for its piglets at a
national agricultural show). Groups in Sri
Lanka earn extra income through
intensive production of cash crops, ses-
ame oil extraction, rearing chickens, goats
and milking cows, and labour contracts.
*. .,' ... .---.. .. ;
~ilCV~L~ir-~X'" "' :~' .~ ..;-- : i -~ .......
PPP groups in Ghana decided that one of
their priority needs was a school for their
children. With help from a group pro-
moter, they obtained a small plot from a
landowner, built a schoolhouse from
packed earth and bamboo, then con-
ducted a census to show that 60 children
in the area were of school age.
The group promoter took the census
results to the Education Service, along
with a request that teachers be assigned
to the school. The service agreed the
school (below) now has three teachers
and caters for all children in the area, not
only those of PPP members.
PPP groups have also sponsored one-
day health education rallies conducted
by Health Department officials.
include consolidating members' holdings for joint production,
cleaning irrigation canals, building or repairing roads, and
village electrification. At the political level, groups might lobby
for enforcement of land reform laws.
Community development activities. Many groups under-
take social and cultural activities in the fields of health and
sanitation, education, family planning, folk theatre and village
beautification. In many areas there is an acute need for group
action to promote better nutrition and improved food storage,
and install clean water supplies.
Selecting group income-generating activities
The principal objective of group activities in all PPP projects is
to improve group members' incomes and mobilize group savings.
That is why PPP emphasizes income-generating or cost-saving
activities based on local experience and low-cost technology.
These undertakings do not replace but are meant to supple-
ment members' normal production. Activities of this type are
most likely to broaden the groups' economic base, mobilize
savings, strengthen group cohesion and develop their enter-
prise management skills. Groups are encouraged to undertake
social or community improvement activities only at a later
It is important that as far as possible each group identifies,
plans, carries out and evaluates its own activities. This is
essential for group development and, eventually, self-reliance.
While group promoters have an important role in encouraging
group activities, especially in the initial stages, theirs is a
facilitating role that will be reduced gradually as the groups
Since the main objective of any enterprise is to produce
something that people will buy, the group should be taught
how to conduct simple market surveys in their community to
identify a product or service needed and how much customers
are prepared to pay for it. The group should then decide
whether members have the resources and skills to supply it.
The group should choose a product or service it can produce
economically and well, avoiding complex production processes.
Next, the group should calculate what is required to establish
the enterprise, i.e. what skills and other resources each member
can contribute. The final, and most important step, is to calculate
Each group should prepare a simple group business plan
dealing with the socio-economic conditions, resources and
problems of the participating households. They should also
prepare a schedule of operations and plans for future subsidiary
* .*.'"5 ;', ,*'-*-? -* '. *"
4 .*:'- ~
'.'. .4~ ~
on- or off-farm income-raising activities of individual
members that may strengthen their economic base.
Small-scale feasibility studies may be needed in order
to produce workable proposals for group activities. These
studies should consider existing income-generating and
other activities promoted by government or NGO
agencies in the area. The identification of viable group
activities also forms part of on-going action research -
for example, a number of proposals may emerge from
household survey data.
Problems in developing group activities
Development of group activities faces a number of ob-
stacles. Among them are insufficient, inadequate or late deliv-
ery of inputs, lack of training of local field staff and group
members in group dynamics and group enterprise manage-
ment, and insufficient consideration of the feasibility, cost/
benefit and creditworthiness of the group enterprise
The first hurdle faced by most groups is that of financing the
activity. While the project may envisage provision of credit for
the groups, experience indicates that initial activities should
be funded by group members themselves through savings.
This ensures that the scope of the activity is within the group's
existing capacity and resources, builds commitment to the
group and reduces debt dependency. Another common problem
in developing activities is the groups' need for training. Members
often have low literacy and numeracy skills, both of which
handicap sound management. Unfortunately, there is a serious
lack of training materials for the rural poor in this field.
As a group develops its activities and sees the rewards they
bring, it usually begins to undertake additional, more complex
enterprises. The risk here is that groups may "bite off more
than they can chew". Group promoters should help their
groups examine objectively the feasibility of proposed new
activities by assessing the availability of group resources,
funding and local markets.
It is no easy task to teach groups with limited literacy,
numeracy and organizational skills how to manage an enterprise.
The project may need to develop training materials and methods
tailored to the learning capacities of group members. These
should focus on developing skills in two critical areas:
operational and strategic management. Operational manage-
ment deals with issues arising from groups' day-to-day activities.
For effective operational management there is a great need for
instructional manuals on group dynamics, group business
management, monitoring and evaluation, and savings/credit.
Building a rural
Two PPP groups in Ghana, have estab-
lished a highly profitable cassava proc-
The groups began producing gari (de-
hydrated cassava meal) in 1983 to raise
extra income. They soon realized they
could make better profits by increasing
the volume and improving the quality -
Members made an inventory of avail-
able raw materials, labour and process-
ing technology, and assessed their needs
for transport, marketing, technical skills
and capital. After attending an FAO work-
shop on cassava processing methods and
small scale enterprise management, they
built a processing plant on land obtained
from the relative of one member.
The enterprise has expanded rapidly.
The members (pictured above with a cas-
sava plant) process more than 50 tonnes
of cassava a year and have won orders
from government institutions and food
Recently, the groups used their own
savings to buy a gasoline-driven process-
ing machine. They have started a cas-
sava farm to boost supplies as well as a
piggery enterprise (the pigs being fed on
CY:'"'"''"' `~`-- :
7..:-... ..; :'~. *' ~ A'i.. ...,. '... c t .. .. AX
of group planning
Examples from Zambia and Swaziland
highlight the importance of planning in
A Swazi group decided to raise broil-
ers for sale. Members obtained credit to
build a chicken shed, then discovered
some of the problems of running a rural
enterprise: wild fluctuations in the
availability of chickens, high transport
costs and unreliable markets. After three
years, the activity had barely made a
profit and members had to repay the
loan from their own savings.
In Zambia, meanwhile, two groups
have decided to establish orange groves
only after a detailed feasibility study
which showed that they could expect
profits of $7,500 a year within 10 years
(see chart above). The study estimated
total costs of $3,800 in the five years
before the trees became productive.
Thereafter, the groves would yield 1.5
tonnes of oranges, rising to nine tonnes
by the fifth season. In this period, total
profit was expected to be $21,000.
:itrus project Strategic management focuses on
ousand. solving problems related to the long-term
me development of certain group activities,
, allowing members to anticipate the impact
of external factors (for example, new price
policies or environmental damage caused
S by over-cropping or over-fishing).
Finally, the groups need to examine
very carefully the feasibility of undertaking
collective production activities. Experience
with PPP has shown that while group
members obtain better returns by sharing
production inputs and experience, many
have learnt the hard way that actual
production is often best conducted on an
individual basis. Many attempts to farm
3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 communal plots have failed owing to
disputes over the allocation of labour and
the division of income.
Project staff generally advise those groups wishing to use
communal plots to plan the activity together, but divide the
land into individual plots for production. Collective efforts are
better suited to the sharing of newly acquired technical skills,
or expensive or laborious tasks such as transporting inputs and
PPP projects are implemented with the active involvement of
supporting government institutions such as line depart-
ments, banks, training and research centres and women and
youth councils as well as NGOs, including church-related
development agencies, national NGO federations and small
Choosing the implementing agency
A local NGO or a government agency, or a partnership of both,
can implement the project. Where the political climate is fa-
vourable, government agencies are preferred. In other cases, Typi al PPP
NGOs with experience at the grassroot level might be more impl mentation
suitable: experience indicates that NGOs usually have closer
ties with grassroots rural people, are less hierarchical and arra gements
bureaucratic and provide services more efficiently. Most P P projects are implemented by
The selection of an implementing agency will also depend on govern ent ministry staff supported by
local lin agencies (see chart below). In
the type of project concerned and the capabilities and some ca es, the implementing agency is
willingness of agencies to provide the participatory groups an NG FAO provides donor funding
with the services and facilities they need. and tec nical assistance, and guaran-
Project planners should also consider whether prospective tees baik credit provided to groups.
implementing agencies are pre-
pared to secondfield workers, such
as extensionists and social work-
ers, to serve as project group pro-
moters. In the case of training or INTER-GROUP
GOVERNMENT .. .. E FEDERATION
socio-economic research centres, AGENCIES
the project should ascertain N NSTRY
whether these institutions have A
genuine concern for the rural poor F
and whether they can provide the
expertise needed for participatory A BANK
training, action research and DONOR CROUS
"On the side
of the poor"
Sudath de Abrew (pictured above) was
an extension agent before becoming co-
ordinator of the Sri Lanka PPP project. "In
a line agency, you are expected to pro-
duce results," he said. "The shortest cut
is to work with the middle-level and rich
farmers who have the means of imple-
menting your advice. I was not reaching
the small farmers and was not aware of
His attitude has changed with PPP:
"When you work with the poor, you are
reoriented so much that within 18 months
you are on their side. I am happy that I
found the right place for me."
The Zambia project coordinator, Lydia
Ndulu, agrees. "A coordinator must be
committed to the people and to the cause
of the people because she will always be
in contact with them," Ms. Ndulu said. "I
know now that when a group is formed,
it should be up to them to do everything
and perceive everything in their own way.
I am there to help them or find someone
who can help them better than I can."
Regardless of which agency is eventually chosen to imple-
ment the project, overall government support should be guar-
anteed from the outset.
The project coordinator
The project coordinator is employed by the implementing
agency and is specifically charged with supporting, coordinating
and supervising all operations concerned with the rural poor's
In line with these duties, he or she should be a member of the
coordination committee at project level, should brief committee
members on project activities and progress and should assist in
the selection, training and guidance of group promoters. The
coordinator should also be a member of the national coordi-
The essential qualifications of a project coordinator include
close acquaintance with the problems of the rural poor and the
motivation to assist them, experience in working with field
agents such as extensionists and social workers, familiarity
with government and international development bodies at
various levels, and experience in organizing training activities.
The coordinator should also have an academic degree or equiva-
lent in economics, social or agricultural science, and a good
knowledge of the local language in the project area.
Coordination of project support
The success of a participatory project depends on firm political
backing and the allocation of sufficient development resources
to meet participants' needs. The project should, therefore,
establish coordination mechanisms that guide agencies in-
volved in project implementation and support, monitor prog-
ress, avoid duplication of efforts and disseminate information
about project activities. These coordination mechanisms are of
SLocal coordination committee in the project area. This
committee should be composed of group delegates, project
staff, representatives of local delivery agencies and, where
opportune, local leaders. The committee's task is to provide
local-level support for the project by promoting people's partici-
pation and solving implementation problems, especially in the
delivery of services and facilities to the groups.
It does this by helping to recruit and train project staff,
especially group promoters, providing project staff with guide-
lines for the planning, implementation and evaluation of the
rural poor's participation, and promoting effective two-way
communication between low-income groups in the project
Pt4bo ke fe,,, I", M 'b_
V M_ tu./CA40.
areas and government and NGO officials at various levels.
The committee should also work to secure training for the
groups from government and NGO bodies, promote the consoli-
dation of the project's activities and their multiplication in other
areas of the country, and perform any other function that will
enhance the success of the project.
In areas where a task force for a larger project already exists,
the coordinating committee could be constituted as a participa-
tion sub-committee of the task force. Within this body, small
technical committees could also be created for training, approval
of group loans and monitoring and evaluation.
National coordinating committee. While coordination of
project support services should be undertaken mainly at local
level, encouragement and support from national level is essen-
tial. In the case of large projects, support might be organized
through a special national coordinating committee or task
force, or an existing national committee established for similar
development programmes. National committees might also
appoint .a sub-cotimittee or special task force to deal with
general policies, personnel, finance and other matters affecting
Although the coordination mechanisms described above are
desirable, flexibility is also needed. Arrangements will vary
according to local conditions and the type of coordination
bodies already existing in a country or project area. In addition,
a project involving mainly government agencies may require a
coordination mechanism different to that needed for a project
implemented by an NGO.
For the latter type of project, it may be appropriate to set up
one or more small task forces at national and at lower levels that
include representatives of the NGOs concerned and possibly of
the supporting government agencies.
In Ghana, where many PPP participants
are landless, the project coordination
committee has proved useful in reducing
frictions with local landowners.
The committee consists of elected clus-
ter leaders, the local bank manager, and
representatives of the implementing NGO
and the landowning traditional council
(see diagram below).
Group delegate Group
L Traditional M
Council delegate Group
[ Traditional LI
Council delegate Group
NGO  Project
officer NGO, coordinator
One issue addressed by the committee
is the rent levied on tenant farmers.
Through the committee, PPP groups have
negotiated a new three-year contract with
the traditional council.
...and speeding up
National coordinating committees are in
a position to solve bottlenecks affecting
the delivery of project inputs.
In Sri Lanka, the Central Coordinating
Committee is made up of high-ranking
officials from several Government
ministries and FAO. At one of its monthly
meetings, the project coordinator reported
that groups had not received their
seasonal loans on time. The committee
decided that before the next season the
lending bank should scrutinize and
approve loan applications in one day. The
committee's instruction was transmitted
through the bank's head office to its
- rjC~ ~CC~i T`-~`~:-"=~ ``-' Y:'.-
Adapting to local
The design and operation of the PPP fi-
nancial component is tailored to condi-
tions in individual countries.
When the PPP project began in Ghana,
for example, the country suffered from
high inflation and a shortage of foreign
exchange. To facilitate project operations,
the guarantee fund was transferred into
an Input-Import Fund held in convertible
currency outside the country, while the
Ghanaian Government allocated funds
sufficient to cover most local currency
costs. The collaborating bank received
the inputs, which were then distributed
to the participants on credit. The price of
inputs in local currency was determined
jointly by the government, the project
and the bank.
In Sierra Leone, where the PPP project
provided credit directly, a detailed sys-
tem was developed to provide and recover
loans in kind. In Zambia, credit is
administered by a national cooperative
organization. Other project-specific ar-
rangements include group marketing of
surplus in Ghana and the formation of
local credit unions in Lesotho.
of their activities, to accumulate wealth and to build credit-
worthiness. The group promoter plays an important role in this
education process and serves as a link between the group and
the cooperating bank.
The success of a PPP project may depend, to a large extent, on
the support of an existing rural financial institution. Selecting
an appropriate institution during project formulation is, there-
fore, of the upmost importance.
There are several selection criteria. First, the institution
should have a widespread network of branches in rural areas,
and particularly in the project action area. Its management
should be willing to introduce and test group approaches to
delivering financial services to small farmers and should accept
the concept of group-based social collateral. The institution
should also agree to the establishment of the Credit Guarantee
Fund. Finally, it should also be prepared to provide group-
based or individual savings facilities for project participants
and to introduce mechanisms to stimulate saving.
Once an appropriate banking institution has been selected,
the next step is to negotiate the Credit Guarantee Fund
agreement. In PPP's experience, negotiation of this agreement
may take time and project activities may have to begin before
the actual agreement is signed. Nevertheless, the proposed
agreement with the selected institution should be made a part
of the project document.
To ensure that the bank provides proper supervision and
technical support to its new clients, CGF agreements usually
call for the setting up of a small farmer finance management
committee within the bank to monitor the implementation of
the project's financial component. Representatives of the
cooperating bank may also be asked to serve on local or national
project coordinating committees.
Finally, group promoters play a critical role in building up
financial-self reliance among PPP groups. The GP must not only
train members in basic financial skills, but assist the bank in
recovering loans and building stronger links with the groups.
As the groups reach maturity, however, this responsibility
should be assumed gradually by inter-group federations. The
federations thus complement and help reduce the costs of -
the bank's own supervisory and monitoring support.
The group promoter (or GP) is a key agent in any participatory
project: his or her task is to facilitate development of the
groups' capacity to organize and manage their activities.
Whereas extension agents, community development workers
and project field staff normally deal with entire rural communi-
ties, irrespective of the communities' social and economic
divisions, group promoters assist exclusively the poor.
Unlike many extensionists, GPs do not see their "clients" as
passive recipients of new technical knowledge: their aim is to
work side by side with the poor, building up their confidence
in their own abilities and promoting their self-reliance. Since
this must be done without creating patron-client dependencies,
the GP's task is essentially that of an intermediary, with three
group adviser, strengthening the groups' leadership, or-
ganizational and planning capacity
participatory trainer, teaching groups basic technical, lit-
eracy and problem-solving skills
"link person", facilitating communication between the
groups and government and NGO development services.
In FAO's experience, one group promoter can help to organ-
ize an average of 15 groups in three years. Thus, each GP
should reach directly over three years some 150 households, or
at least 900 people, including direct participants and their
dependents. However, a crucial test of a GP's effectiveness is
the capacity of the groups to reduce and finally end the need for
his or her assistance.
The selection, recruitment, training and guidance of GPs are
crucial steps in any participatory project. To be effective, GPs
should have experience in working with people and local
organizations in rural areas, and familiarity with the problems
Profile of a GP
PPP group promoters come from a variety
In Zambia, where there is a lack of well-
qualified personnel willing to work in
isolated villages, GPs were recruited from
among local women with a secondary
education. The GPs (one of whom is pic-
tured below) were trained in group for-
mation, the role of village headmen, deci-
sion making and cost/benefit analysis.
In Sri Lanka, group promoters are uni-
versity graduates (with a BSc or BA in
social sciences) employed for three year
periods. They receive six months train-
ing, most of it on-the-job in the project
area. In Zimbabwe and Thailand, GPs are
drawn mainly from extension services or
similar government agencies, while in
Kenya they were recruited from the NGO
implementing agency's field staff.
agents performed well
The PPP project in Thailand seconded 26
GPs from the government agricultural
extension service abovee. The extension
agents, who normally used the "Training-
and-Visit" method based on individual
contacts with farmers, had expressed will-
ingness to try a bottom-up approach.
Their enthusiasm and extension expe-
rience proved a distinct advantage: they
had a sound knowledge of agriculture,
had built up good relations with their
target rural communities, and needed
training only in participatory methods to
prepare them for their new role. The GPs
performed well and helped promote a
participatory approach among their col-
leagues in the extension service.
of the poor. It is essential that candidates have a strong
commitment to live with, work with and assist the rural
poor for at least two years.
They should be familiar with the language and culture
of the project area and willing to leave decision making
to the group members, promoting among them attitudes
of self-help and self-reliance. Desirable GP qualifications
are a rural background, secondary level education, and
experience in community or rural development or in
such fields as social work, elementary economics or
sociology, agriculture and extension.
While GPs maybe part of the same ethnic or linguistic
group as the project participants, they should not be
from the project area: the effectiveness of locally recruited GPs
may be limited by kinship obligations and fear of alienating
local leaders. In some cases, however, GPs can be recruited
from and posted to their own village or zone of origin, the
advantage being that their experience and know-how can
continue to be utilized after withdrawal of the project.
Capable group promoters maybe recruited from government
agencies or local NGOs. In some countries, preference should
go to government agencies willing to second their own staff to
the project. Several PPP projects found excellent group promot-
ers among government extension staff, who later returned to
their agencies to propagate the participatory approach. Thus,
the agencies were sensitized and better able to serve the rural
poor, while project sustainability increased because recurrent
costs were lower. The use of seconded government workers
also enhances project expansion and multiplication.
If the project lacks the funding needed to recruit full-time
GPs, their task can be performed in part by trained project staff
who have other technical duties. However, such staff should
preferably be locally recruited, with tasks that bring them into
direct contact with the intended project participants.
GPs are expected to live in, or very close to, the village cluster
in which they work. Once clusters have been identified, at least
two group promoters should be assigned to each cluster and
begin work in a core village (in most cases, male-female teams
may be more effective). The GPs should make themselves con-
stantly available to the project participants.
The image of group promoters among the population in their
action area is important. They should gradually build up confi-
dential relationships with the local community, being careful to
begin with the project participants and only thereafter dealing
with better-off social strata. Through daily interaction with the
poor, the GPs will gradually come to be regarded as animators
and guides, and not as "top-down" government officials or
outsiders interfering with the local culture and habits.
Promoting group self-reliance
While group promoters are promoting the self-reliance of their
groups, they are also working towards their own redundancy
in the action area. GPs promote self-reliance by involving the
group members in activities that allow them to develop leader-
ship and recordkeeping skills. He or she should encourage
* group-to-group exchanges, and ensure the presence of one or
more group members whenever he or she deals with support-
ing institutions such as banks and delivery agencies.
When and how should GPs gradually withdraw from their
groups? Experience in the implementation of PPP projects
indicates that it takes from three to five years for groups to
achieve complete -self-reliance. Clearly, the disengagement
process is a delicate one and depends on the rate at which each
group develops. Once a group is capable of gaining access to
government and NGO services and taking other initiatives
without GP assistance, the GP can gradually withdraw to
concentrate on serving other more needy groups, making only
occasional return visits to ensure that progress continues.
Setting up inter-group federations in the third or fourth
years of project implementation is important, as these bodies
can gradually assume many of the GPs' support responsibilities.
Self-reliance may not always mean total disengagement of
group promoters: in some cases, GPs could be maintained by
federations to perform certain specific functions.
Internal group promoters
Internal group promoters are group members who possess the
skills needed to undertake GP tasks within their own
communities. Suitable candidates may emerge during
the process of identifying project participants or, more
commonly, during group development, as organizational
and management skills are diffused among members.
A group member becomes an internal GP when others
begin to recognize his or her capacity to promote and
facilitate group action. Given the dynamic nature of the
participatory process, the training of internal GPs can-
not be a static once-only activity. It should cover both
group dynamics and practical skills needed to improve
the rural poor's capacity to implement and manage their
recruited from groups
A growing number of PPP group promot-
ers are being recruited from among group
In Sri Lanka, older PPP groups are en-
couraged to select two members each for
in-depthtraining as "internalGPs". Train-
ing consists of three-day courses cover-
ing the PPP approach, planning, account-
ing and group efficiency. The project
reports that one group of internal GPs
formed 10 new groups within two months.
In Ghana (below) three experienced
members, including two group secretar-
ies, have become GPs, with a monthly
salary of $25 a month. "They do the same
job at the first-generation promoters,"
the project coordinator said, "mobilizing
new members and connecting groups to
services. They are all insiders, and the
rural people like them."
V9PAH I UIkHIPA1
To be successful, participatory projects need to adopt a partici-
patory approach to training. Conventional training methods
are didactic and often paternalistic: the trainer views the
trainee as a near-empty vessel to be filled with knowledge.
Participatory training is based, instead, on an active dialogue
between trainer and trainee that constitutes a learning
experience for both.
In participatory projects, the main objectives of training are:
to improve the economic and social conditions of the poor
to help participants to become active and productive group
members and leaders
to encourage GPs and supporting staff to adapt conven-
tional training methods to meet the real needs of the poor
to stimulate all those involved in the project to develop
more appropriate training methods and materials.
The "target groups" of training are group members, project
staff (including group promoters), supporting government and
NGO staff, and local leaders and other influential people.
Training should be pragmatic and based on solving immediate
and recognized problems. Therefore, it must be on-going
training, a continuous process implemented within the
context of any project action to improve the production,
income and social conditions of the participants.
Trainers must have practical experience. They should
include group promoters and other project staff, techni-
cal officers of delivery agencies, experienced small scale
producers as well as successful groups that train and
Training of participants
Training topics for project participants should include:
n Generalparticipatorytechniquesthat enhance mem-
ber participation in decision making through efficient
:-~.-:...,, .- ..... -. .. -,., .. . ... . .- i ,,...
PPP groups in Zambia have a busy train-
ing schedule. Each project district organ-
izes one residential course a year for
group leaders and as many mobile work-
shops as the extension system can pro-
vide (in the photograph below, group
members learn to prune cashew trees).
Training has had a positive impact on
farming practices. "The most important
thing we have learned is about agricul-
ture," reported one group secretary, re-
calling the days when farmers waitedr-
until maize plants had grown before add-
ing fertilizer to the soil. In 1987 the secre-
tary took a course at the district farmer
training centre on crop production, sav-
ings and group management. On her
return she shared what she had learnt
with other members. Now the group has
requested training in the extraction of
groundnut oil, which they plan to sell.
group formation and action. Subjects include group
dynamics, leadership, planning of group activities, sav-
ings and credit, accounting, enterprise management,
monitoring and evaluation, and negotiating and bar-
gaining. Training might also centre on eliminating social
problems such as alcohol abuse and gambling.
2 Specialized trainingtailored to the type of project as
well as to specific needs identified by the groups. This
includes training in crop production, small livestock de-
velopment, soil and water conservation, small-scale
aquaculture, forestry and group marketing, and non-
farm activities such as crop processing, weaving, tailor-
ing, pottery, and production of house-building materials
a Trainingin home and community development, especially
for women. Subjects include health, sanitation, first aid, nutri-
tion and child care, as well as management leadership and
Other recommended training topics include legal matters
(such as tenancy rights), mortgaging, wages, and banking and
administrative procedures. Useful information on these topics
is frequently not communicated to the poor. Group literacy
classes for adult women and men help them to analyse their
problems and plan actions, and reduce their dependency upon
literate villagers or group members.
Training for project staff
Training of the project coordinator, GPs and other project staff
aims at introducing them to participatory approaches and
procedures and fostering motivation and team spirit. It should
teach basic technical skills needed for group development, and
experiment with innovative ways of poverty eradication.
The implementing agency should train the project coordina-
tor in these topics as early as possible. GPs need, in particular,
management training in production planning and implement-
ation, transfer of appropriate technology, marketing, commu-
nication techniques, leadership, team-building, recordkeeping
and writing of reports.
An inception training workshop of at least three weeks
should be given in or near the project area for GPs, other project
staff and key officials of the delivery system. It is advisable to
invite twice as many candidate GPs as needed initially in the
project in order to secure a reserve pool of these field workers.
The curriculum should be pragmatic and include work experi-
ence presentations by participants.
After this inception training, GPs need initial field training of
-: .~t "`~'.. -~Y
Members of a PPP group in Kenya de-
cided to rebuild their houses in brick.
After the group had borrowed $300 to pay
for a brickmaking machine (pictured
above), project staff arranged to have
them trained in brickmaking techniques
at the district college of applied arts and
Since then group members have not
only built new homes for themselves, but
are frequently asked to provide bricks for
others in the community. One contract
was for construction of housing for teach-
ers at the local school.
*~- V'4r~ I'~# ~.~
An exchange of views
A two-day workshop held in Mbabane,
the capital of Swaziland, in 1988 brought
together PPP project staff and officials
from key government units supporting
The workshop was organized by the
implementing agency in an attempt to
analyse reasons for uneven performance
of the project. Among the 26 people in
attendance were group promoters, the
project coordinator, two community de-
velopment officers, nine senior officers of
the Swaziland Development and Savings
Bank (the cooperating financial institu-
tion) and three staff members of a UNDP
The workshop included presentations
on the PPP approach, group discussions,
role plays and a visit to-project action ar-
2-3 months, a period that coincides with the start of their field
activities in the project area. They should learn as a team to
prepare and carry out village and household surveys, to solve
problems met in the field and to cooperate with delivery
Follow-up training of GPs should be carried out through
monthly meetings to evaluate team performance, to identify
and solve work problems and to prepare field workshops and
refresher courses in such subjects as innovative income-rais-
ing activities and credit schemes. The GPs might also collabo-
rate in issuing a project newsletter and take part in exchange
visits to other participatory projects.
Training of government and NGO staff
Government and NGO support staff also need training to
familiarize themselves with participatory approaches and pro-
cedures, the difficulties encountered by the rural poor in gaining
access to delivery agencies, and the role these agencies should
play in helping solve the problems of the poor. In many in-
stances, these officials may need to be "de-trained" and then
re-trained through an on-going exchange of experiences and
Training opportunities for government and NGO staff con-
sist mainly of participation in GP training courses, field work-
shops, briefing sessions, project coordination committees,
beneficiary training, inter-country seminars, and inter-group or
inter-project exchange visits.
Research, monitoring and evaluation are essential functions of
any development project. Properly performed, they help do-
nors, governments and implementation agencies to identify
project constraints and beneficiary needs, to monitor progress
toward project objectives and to evaluate results. Since one of
the main aims of participatory projects is to develop the rural
poor's own capacity to identify and solve their problems, they
must be involved directly in all phases of this process.
In PPP, research, monitoring and evaluation are intended pri-
marily to meet the information needs of the participants and
solve concrete problems they confront. The approach is viewed
as a participatory learning tool that helps groups to strengthen
their problem-solving capacity and achieve self-reliance.
Participatory action research
A basic tenet of the PPP approach is that, in planning and
implementing participatory projects, field investigators should
involve the rural poor in collecting and analysing information
on social and economic conditions, on constraints affecting the
poor and their organizations, and on the community as a whole.
Only through participatory action research of this kind can the
project learn about the problems of the poor and help them to
Initially, the main research objectives are to select the proj-
ect area and within these, village-clusters to identify the
rural poor and to determine whether they are involved in devel-
opment efforts, especially through existing local organizations.
Research is then conducted to assess potentials for group for-
mation, to plan and implement group activities and to develop
appropriate training programmes.
During project implementation, ongoing participatory re-
search aims at solving concrete problems and providing data
for field workshops, developing and sustaining a workable par-
.-' .~-~;: *.----
Using local knowledge
Researchers tend to treat the rural poor
as objects to be studied. Participatory ac-
tion research uses local knowledge to ex-
plore local situations and problems.
K C. .a K TA..C FIELD %h.CKE
WHOCICX FOI TRAIC FIEID HOLKCKS
ermt xM 04*ea flu wt S
Mroraunrw sruao1w nn n
A simple guide
FAO's Regional Office for Asia and the
Pacific has published a simply written
and brightly illustrated handbook on
participatory monitoring and evaluation
(PMOE). The handbook is used in train-
ing field workers to help village groups
set up their own PMOE system.
It states that PMOE is a dual process by
which group members gather and gener-
ate data to monitor and evaluate their
progress, and through which they edu-
cate themselves and others to increase
control over their destiny. The handbook
then explains in clear language the role of
monitoring and evaluation in small farmer
development, the selection and use of
indicators, and basic PMOE procedures.
It also illustrates practical applications
of a PMOE system: in monitoring group
development, assessing the role of women
in the project, and measuring environ-
mental pollution and improvements in
health and nutrition.
ticipatory monitoring and evaluation system, carrying out case
studies of rural poor groups and developing appropriate tech-
nologies for project participants.
Tools for participatory action research are simple household
and village surveys conducted periodically, mainly by GPs in
collaboration with participants. These surveys will help to es-
tablish economic and social benchmarks, which highlight the
status of the beneficiaries in the initial phase of the project and
allow progress to be evaluated.
Group discussions with villagers are useful in familiarizing
project staff with the local people and their situation, and in
enhancing awareness of the villagers' problems. Part of this
action research is a careful and systematic recording of GPs'
findings, particularly of steps taken by participants to form
Participatory monitoring is a process of collecting, processing
and sharing data to assist project participants in decision
making and learning. The purpose is to provide all concerned
with information as to whether group objectives are being
achieved. Implementing agencies and donors also require data
on progress toward overall project objectives.
A workable participatory monitoring system should, there-
fore, be based on a multi-level approach that harmonizes the
different and often competing information needs of those in-
volved in the project and provides for regular meetings at each
level to make use of the data generated.
The main tools for participatory monitoring are:
At group level, group log-books, meetings, ledgers and
At GP level, GP diaries and log-books, and meetings to
monitor group progress
At project level, project records and accounts, sample
surveys, field visits, preparation of periodic progress reports
and GP meetings to review their progress
At donor level, external monitoring and workshops.
The information gathered should indicate shortfalls in proj-
ect performance and discrepancies between objectives planned
and those achieved. This information will be used in modifying
project objectives and rectifying project deficiencies.
Participatory monitoring should be conceived from the be-
ginning as part of the group learning and action process. This
means that baseline and benchmark data, as well as data on
inputs, outputs, work plans and progress made in group devel-
opment, should be recorded, discussed and kept for later use.
Groups should keep records of their meetings and of major
problems discussed, decisions made and actions undertaken,
using elementary standardized forms contained in simple log-
books. Each group should also learn a minimum of bookkeeping
in order to record their loans and savings. The systematic
collection of data on loans and repayment, in conjunction with
simple cost-benefit analyses, gives essential insights into the
capacity of groups to manage their affairs and improve their
On-going evaluation is the systematic analysis by beneficiaries
and project staff of monitored information, with a view to
enabling them to adjust or redefine project objectives, policies,
institutional arrangements, resources and activities, where
The main evaluation tools are:
GPs' log-books summarizing group records, and diaries
containing personal observations on the process and results
of beneficiary participation
monthly review and evaluation meetings of GPs
quarterly group and inter-group evaluation sessions
newsletters in the local language based on information
provided by the groups
evaluation studies and surveys
field workshops that allow participants, project staff and
concerned outsiders to assess the project fully.
These tools should all be used to promote a constant two-
way flow of information between groups and the project staff.
The groups should also be encouraged to evaluate the
performance of the delivery system. This helps groups to "talk
back" to the delivery system by, for example, focusing on
shortcomings and identifying bottlenecks. The results may
then be brought up in field workshops.
Evaluation done in this way stimulates critical awareness
and motivation for better group self-management. Self-evalu-
ation results need to be presented systematically to other
project participants at local'and higher levels.
Evaluation should include not only tangible and measurable
results of group activities but, as much as possible, spill-over
benefits that facilitate the group members' economic, social
and human development. It should consider, for example,
progress in acquiring verbal and writing skills, in presenting
ideas logically and clearly, in overcoming timidity when deal-
ing with officials and in overcoming anti-social habits, such as
excessive drinking and gambling.
Top level government policy makers,
project staff, group promoters and group
representatives met in Colombo in Octo-
ber 1987 to discuss progress and prob-
lems in the country's PPP project. The
two-day workshop analysed experiences
in the implementation of PPP's major
components, including group activities,
support from government agencies, and
savings and credit.
During discussions, it emerged that
local-level government agencies had not
assisted the groups adequately many
officials in the project area had not been
briefed about the project and some saw
the organized poor as a threat to their
authority. The workshop participants,
who included the Secretary of the Minis-
try of Agricultural Development and
Research, agreed that in future all rele-
vant officials should be informed about
PPP and that the extension office in the
area should coordinate government sup-
port for the groups.
The workshop also recommended that
the project expand its links with NGO
delivery agencies and the State-sponsored
Three years after the Sierra Leone PPP
project terminated, small farmers groups
it helped to form- (below) are actively in-
volved in rural development.
"Participation in group activities has
actually grown as non-PPP members see
the benefits of group work", an FAO
consultant reported after a visit to the
project action area. "The PPP villages
have undertaken a number of community
development projects, raising money to
build schools, bridges and grain stores.
Some groups have branched out into palm
oil, groundnut and vegetable production."
The visitor found that while the groups
no longer had regular access to credit,
they continued to save, investing their
capital in construction projects and in
small businesses. The groups still kept
record books and had adopted a partici-
Two former GPs
had formed rural
tions which met
cal leaders to dis-
cuss project ideas
and to coordinate
the delivery of
11 POHUJU I SEL-
Participatory projects aim at building self-sustaining grass-
roots rural organizations by promoting groups of the rural poor
and by influencing service delivery agencies to direct more of
their resources through these organizations to the poor.
Experience has shown that this institution building process
normally takes time. It involves the introduction of a participa-
tory learning process that gradually teaches the rural poor
organizational, group problem-solving and leadership skills
which they did not have before.
The GP obviously plays a pivotal role in initiating and
empowering this learning process in its initial phases. Yet it is
equally critical to recognize when groups have reached a point
of self-sustainability and no longer require special assistance
from the project.
Indicators of group self-reliance
Project staff can use a number of indicators to measure the
progress made by groups. These include:
Regularity of group meetings and level of member
attendance. These two indicators provide clear evidence of
whether members are benefiting from
the learning process. When regular
meetings and high attendance continue
in the absence of the GP, the group is
obviously well on the way to achieving
Shared leadership and member
participation in group decision making.
Groups that share leadership reponsi-
bilities and in which there is a high
level ofparticipationin decision-making
tend to learn more quickly and develop
a broader leadership base than those in
which leadership and decision making responsibilities are
monopolized by a minority. The latter groups tend to be much
more vulnerable to leadership crises and less able to maintain
Continuous growth in group savings. The ability of the
group to accumulate savings is a key measure of members'
faith in and financial commitment to group activities. It is also
a good indicator of the profitability of the group activity and of
the group's financial ability to weather risk and adversity.
Groups which do not save, or save very little, are less likely to
achieve self-sustainability quickly.
High rates of loan repayment. A group's capacity to repay
loans on time is another indicator of group financial discipline,
as well of the profitability of its income-generating activity.
Group problem-solving. The ability of the group to solve
problems and take initiatives to achieve its self-development in
the absence of the GP indicates members' confidence in their
Effective links-with development services. The self-reli-
ance of a group also depends on its abilityto maintain links with
government and NGO development services, in the absence of
Monitoring progress towards self-sustainability
It is important to teach the group how to monitor its progress
Group PMOE systems should be geared to monitoring this
progress using their own simple set of ranking indicators,
perhaps based on the indicators outlined above. Indicators can
be developed through group meetings in which all members
try, by consensus, to rank their group's progress according to
a number of selected self-reliance variables, such as regularity
of meetings, attendance and savings growth, assigning scores
for good, satisfactory and unsatisfactory performance.
GPs may also adopt a group self-reliance monitoring system,
perhaps based on a review of group record books. At the
project level, monitoring may be carried out through frequent
GP meetings in which group-by-group progress is reviewed,
and through periodic sample surveys conducted with randomly
z ( '. Olin
.-7 .."!A '
The Small Farmers Development Pro-
gramme in Nepal is developing guide-
lines for judging whether participatory
groups have progressed to the point
where they no longer require special
During 1988, the programme identified
as possible candidates for "graduation"
small farmer groups that had been estab-
lished for more than 10 years and were
located near development agencies.
Within these groups, "graduate" mem-
bers were those who had accumulated
produtive assets, had stable off-farm
employment, were meeting the basic
needs of their family through their own
net income and had a good" credit rating".
The programme acknowledges that
some basic questions have still to be
resolved for example, whether individ-
ual members or whole groups should be
The chart above shows the breakdown of
expenditure, by percentage, in a typical
PPP project. The largest component is
supplies, equipment and materials, which
includes the FAO Credit Guarantee Fund.
The cost-effectiveness of the participatory approach is, at
present, difficult to determine. This is because economic and
social parameters are only partly adequate in measuring costs
and benefits. The assessment of benefits is however, very
important: it indicates economic and financial viability to
government decision makers and planners who see develop-
ment predominantly from an economic point of view.
In reviewing costs and benefits, it should be remembered
that the very essence of the participatory approach is promot-
ing the self-reliance of the rural poor. This implies low and
decreasing recurrent costs, and increasing cost-recovery by
the project participants. Although a participatory process needs
some "start-up" external aid, the basic objective is that the
process becomes self-propelling as soon as possible.
Costs of participatory projects
A typical PPP project lasts three years, with a donor contribu-
tion averaging $210,000. This contribution covers most of the
total project cost.
Since PPP began in 1982, each participatory project has
formed, on average, 90 groups with total membership of 1,098
people. Including group members' families, total beneficiaries
per project were at least 6,588 people.
Total external aid costs averaged, therefore, $63 per year per
group member and less than $11 per beneficiary (i.e. the group
member's dependants). While average cost per participant
and beneficiary is high in the initial phase of the project, it de-
clines rapidly as project staff are trained and as groups become
more self-reliant. Average beneficiary costs in larger participa-
tory projects would be lower due to economies of scale.
The incremental costs of including participatory elements in
a larger project are low in relation to those of other technical
components. Thanks to economies in administration and coor-
dination, the incremental cost per beneficiary Zambia project
of including a participatory component would N
be lower than in smaller scale PPP projects. In- o. o pan
corporating participatory elements would in- 160
volve the following extra costs: 140
Financing a small number of locally re- 120
cruited field workers who act for a limited 100
period as group promoters (if selected from so
extension staff, they will need special train- 60
ing in group formation and action only) -354--
Inception and training workshops on the
participatory approach and procedures, and
yearly follow-up evaluation workshops 1985
Training for participants and project staff
in people's participation, particularly group dynamics and
other topics directly related to group formation and action
Participatory socio-economic research and participatory
monitoring and evaluation covering group formation, action,
performance and constraints.
The cost of adding these elements would be balanced by the
improved design of the project and, in the long run, by its
economic and social benefits. In some cases, extra budgetary
allocations might not be needed to fund participatory elements
- it may be sufficient to reallocate existing funds and staff.
Do the benefits of participation outweigh the costs? There is no
easy answer to this question: the benefits of participation are
difficult to assess, primarily because they take many forms, are
often difficult to quantify or evaluate, and may take several
years to manifest themselves.
While data are still fragmentary, there is sufficient evidence
to show that PPP's benefits are significant. These
benefits can be measured from two perspectives,
that of individual participants and that of society in
general. Benefits to participants include:
Increased food production. PPP groups have
achieved notable increases in food crop and meat -
production. In Ghana, for example, groups' maize
output per hectare is 20 percent higher than that of
non-participating farmers. Similar results have been
recorded in Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka and Kenya.
Higher net family incomes. Although income
data is notoriously difficult to collect, proxy indicators
such as high PPP group loan repayment rates, rising
levels of group savings and visible improvements in
S ---- '- ..... 1,595
1986 1987 1988 1753989
1986 1987 1988 1989
of PPP projects
The chart above shows how annual costs
per participant and per beneficiary
declined during implementation of the
Zambia PPP project. In 1985, when 354
people had joined groups, average cost
per participant was about $120. By 1989,
1,595 people were actively participating
in the project, and costs per head had
fallen to only $28.
More maize -
Progress in Kenya's PPP project is evi-
denced by improvements in maize out-
put-from an average 10bags to 20 bags
per acre and a big increase in savings:
from $12,300 in 1984 to $60,000 in 1987.
But perhaps the
most telling sta-
tistic is provided
by the local
school: in 1984
only 40 children
were able to at-
regularly due to
the high cost of
fees; by 1987, at-
jumped to nearly
190, more than
the school's ca-
t costs mUSdollars
pants -cosyarampant cossenetici"
from the rural poor
In October 1989, more than 1,200 PPP
group members in-Sri Lanka and Zambia
wrote to FAO's Director-General to thank
him for the assistance they had received
through the People's Participation Pro-
"It is impossible to quantify all the
benefits we have derived from PPP", said
the letter from Sri Lanka, signed by 1,100
small farmers. "Now there is unity among
the members of our groups. We work
together in land preparation, cultivation
of crops, weed control and repairing
houses and wells. Thanks to our training
programmes, joint purchase and use of
inputs and access to credit, our income
has increased. There is a marked de-
crease in alcoholism, gambling and other
wasteful habits. We execute health pro-
grammes, are tackling our marketing
problems and are trying to solve our land
ownership problems as well.
"We strongly believe that through or-
ganized action based on PPP principles,
poverty and social injustice can be over-
The Zambian groups listed similar bene-
fits: access to fertilizer, seed, ploughs
and oxen, improvements in farming meth-
ods, higher savings and better family
participants' housing conditions point towards increased net
Increased employment. Production technologies employed
by PPP groups tend to be low-cost and labour intensive. The
most common indicator of greater rural employment opportuni-
ties is the participants' increased output per hectare, which
generates demand for more farm labour.
Higher rates of saving. Savings mobilized by PPP group
members may appear low to outsiders. But the per capital
savings registered in PPP projects e.g. $21 in Kenya, $39 in
Swaziland and $40 in Zimbabwe represent a major achieve-
ment by rural people who, previously, had no savings at all.
Acquisition of new skills. A clear benefit emerging from
PPP evaluations is the acquisition by participants of technical,
organizational and leadership skills. Groups have proven to be
an ideal learning environment, providing opportunities for
discussion, problem-solving and the exchange of new ideas.
Benefits for society as a whole include:
Creation of "zero-cost" receiving systems. Perhaps the
most important benefit of PPP is the creation of new types of
rural service receiving systems that become self-propelling
and require little or no outside subsidy support. For delivery
systems, the provision of financial, extension and other
development services to organized small farmers is more cost-
efficient than traditional methods. For example, group credit
and savings arrangements greatly reduce financial transaction
costs to banks, while higher loan recovery rates produce sig-
nificant cost-savings for governments.
Building of rural community infrastructure at low-cost.
Groups in all PPP projects have initiated community improve-
ment activities, from construction of primary schools to village
electrification. Since labour and most materials for these
activities are contributed free of charge by group members,
such infrastructure is built and maintained at minimum cost to
Strengthening ofruralinstitutions. Many rural institutions,
such as cooperatives, do not function efficiently because
members have little scope for participation in decision making.
As PPP groups link up with these organizations, they stimulate
greater participation and improvements in organizational per-
formance, reducing the need for government support.
The decision on whether or not to replicate a pilot participatory
project depends on a number of factors. These include the
extent to which groups organized under the pilot project have
reached a satisfactory level of maturity or self-sustainability,
whether a well-trained cadre of group promoters and project
staff exists, and whether government and donor support is
Replication can be pursued in one of three ways:
through expansion of project activities in adjacent areas
through multiplication, i.e. the launching of similar proj-
ects in other areas of the country
through the introduction of participatory components in
larger-scale rural development projects and programmes.
In all cases, strategies for replication need to be carefully
designed, taking into account all of the above factors as well as
such considerations as the geographic, economic and social
conditions of the proposed project area, the type of project
intervention planned, experiences accumulated from ongoing
participatory development efforts and the cost effectiveness of
the planned intervention.
A participatory project should be con-
ceived as the first phase in a longer de-
velopment process. Therefore it is
usually necessary to prepare as early
as possible before a project terminates
- a flexible plan for a second phase. The
data required for this exercise should
be obtained partly from an independent
evaluation, but mainly from the pro-
ject's own monitoring and evaluation
PPP groups move
As FAO support for PPP projects draws to
a close in several countries, government
and NGO agencies are integrating PPP
groups into other development efforts.
In Kenya, the implementing agency in-
tends to integrate the PPP project into a
larger scale enterprise development pro-
gramme funded by USAID. In Lesotho,
members will be trained in cooperative
procedures to encourage them to form
credit unions and expand their activities.
Provincial Agriculture Departments in
Sri Lanka have expressed interest in
continuing PPP activities, possibly using
the inter-group federations as implement-
ing agencies. In Zambia several PPP
groups (pictured below) were recently
affiliated to the Zambian Cooperative
Federation (ZCF), a nationwide organiza-
tion of agricultural producers. Although
the ZCF usually
accepts only indi-
t. vidual member-
e-""~"- ship, the PPP par-
ticipants were al-
lowed to join the
groups. They now
have easier ac-
cess to farm in-
puts and credit,
and serve as focal
ing the interests
of the poor.
-- -LI ~_ ~ '-- --- --7 ~_-Ip~T-9?r.~ ~
I .'1 ~ ~ 4,., '~r rrQao m_~~
El ~tmU M.t
,/:* ;^; ^:i:f:::^l^ at p'^gt^ ^ ;'
Replication in Thailand
Thailand's Department of Agricultural
Extension is implementing a nationwide
rural development.programme based on
participatory concepts pioneered by PPP.
The Planning and Farmers Participa-
tion Development Project seeks to mini-
mize income disparities among the coun-
try's rural population and contribute to
the success of national rural develop-
ment schemes. Its strategy is to achieve
a fair distribution of agricultural exten-
sion services by restructuring the deliv-
ery system in line with problems and
needs of farmers in 74 provinces.
In the initial phase, 5,600 extension
agents and 1,600 agricultural officers will
be trained to help farmers in 2,500 vil-
lages to establish participatory groups.
Some 11,000 farmers' representatives will
be selected for intensive training.
It is hoped that by 1991 the programme
will be operational in 5,600 villages and
benefit some 10 million farmers.
In preparing for expansion or multiplication of participatory
projects, planners should consider several basic points. First,
expansion carries with it the risk of diluting key features of the
ongoing participatory project. Planners should seek, therefore,
to consolidate progress made in establishing groups and inter-
group federations and in redirecting the services of delivery
agencies. Without this consolidation, the expansion phase of
the project could entail a decline in group activities.
New areas to be covered by the project during its expansion
or multiplication phase should be adjacent to the original
project area. This facilitates project management and supervi-
sion, as well as cooperation among existing and potential
project participants and service agencies. Expansion and
multiplication also implies a need for more field staff, particu-
larly group promoters. GPs should be carefully selected and
trained, preferably by senior group promoters who performed
well during the project's first phase. Inter-group associations
can play an important role in project expansion by assisting in
recruitment of internal cadres, training new groups and federa-
tions, and disseminating improved technology.
To establish fruitful linkages in the expansion phase, it is
indispensable to obtain information on existing groups, people's
organizations and public and NGO development agencies in
the new project areas, and ongoing projects and programmes
with which the expanded project could cooperate.
Finally, in planning expansion and multiplication, various
operations involved in the identification and preparation of the
original project can be streamlined, thanks to the experience
accumulated. For example, data collection can be more selec-
tive as considerable information will already be available.
Incorporating participatory elements in large scale
rural development programmes
PPP projects are not pursued as ends in themselves, but rather
to demonstrate to donor, government and NGO decision mak-
ers the cost-effectiveness of using group-based participatory
approaches. These decision makers are best convinced by
concrete results achieved in the field. Therefore, results must
be communicated to them effectively.
The local and national level coordinating committees de-
scribed in Chapter 6 play a key role as forums for discussion and
exchange of views. However, other strategies may also be
needed. They include:
*Influencing policy makers. Policy makers of national and
NGO development agencies should be encouraged to partici-
pate in dialogues on the need for the adoption of policies
favourable to participatory development. These policies in-
clude appropriate legislation to promote rural people's organi-
zations, including freedom of association as well as reorienta-
tion of delivery systems towards the needs of the rural poor.
Other policies should promote full integration of women in
development, decentralization of decision making, planning
and resource allocation, and expansion of non-agricultural
SInfluencingdevelopmentplanners and administrators. Many
of the development agencies involved in implementation of
large-scale programmes and projects may have little or no
experience in participatory development. Development plan-
ners and implementation agencies can be influenced through
meetings and field workshops, periodic informal exchanges of
views, briefings on participatory projects, and incorporation of
participatory issues in project identification, preparation,
appraisal and evaluation missions.
*Influencing local leaders. The support of village leaders is
often crucial to a participatory project. This support should be
obtained through meetings and project initiation workshops
aimed at convincing local traditional and administrative lead-
ers that the project is in their own short- and long-term interest.
Influencing donors and international development agen-
cies. The support of donors, development agencies and inter-
national financial institutions is essential for widespread adop-
tion of the participatory approach. Efforts to obtain this support
should aim, first, at convincing those donors and agencies that
support participatory projects to continue their assistance.
Other donors, development banks and agencies should be
influenced through policy dialogues and field workshops to
support the participatory approach. It will be crucial to demon-
strate the achievements of participatory projects, through ef-
fective monitoring and evaluation systems and case studies on
their benefits and cost-effectiveness.
Recognizing the right
A primary condition for
S the promotion of rural
S people's participation is
lthe removal of barriers
to their association in or-
ganizations of their
choice. This calls for the ratification and
enforcement by governments of Interna-
tional Labour Organisation (ILO) conven-
tions and recommendations on the role of
rural workers organizations in social and
ILO Convention No. 141 calls on govern-
ments to give rural workers "every en-
couragement" to develop, on a voluntary
basis, "free and viable organizations".
ILO Recommendation No. 127 defines a
cooperative as voluntary, democratically
controlled and independent organization
that is expected to become an instrument
through which members are able to
participate in decisions at higher levels.
ILO Recommendation No. 149 calls for
"active encouragement" of rural workers
organizations and recommends that they
"be independent and voluntary in char-
acter" and "free from all interference,
coercion or repression".
By 1987, only 25 countries had endorsed
Convention No. 141.
*. ^: -;^ ^.
_-< :. -.* ^ ^ .- -
Involving the rural poor
in the project cycle
The process of identifying, formulating,
appraising, implementing and evaluat-
ing rural development projects (the
"project cycle") is usually left to develop-
ment professionals, such as economists,
sociologists, subject matter specialists
and planners. Among their first tasks is to
formulate a project design setting out
clearly defined objectives, proposed ac-
tivities, needed inputs and expected
The "top-down" way in which such
projects are conceived and managed
leaves little scope for the involvement of
intended or actual participants in the defi-
nition of objectives or the monitoring and
evaluation of results, Small wonder, then,
that many coventionally formulated and
executed projects fail to meet the poor's
Participatory rural de-
velopment projects seek
to remedy this deficiency
by involving participants
in all stages of the project
cycle, thus ensuring that
the project grows in har-
mony with their evolving
capacities and production
The timing of these par-
during the project cycle -
(see chart at right) is ex- .,.:.
* Loan negotiation
* Agreement signed by
government and external
Start of project in action areas
'Appoint national project
*First disbursement of funds
SAgreement with financial
i i .
& evaluation committees
-00- denotes continuing activity
nnzd(,gaR ", *d MT'.
For a complete set of information materi-
als on the FAO People's Participation Pro-
gramme, write to: John Rouse, Small
Farmers and Rural Organizations Officer,
FAO/ESH, Via delle Terme di Caracalla,
00100 Rome, Italy.
,. ... ,, .. 7 ..
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rural development. Oxford University Press, 1985.
Cornia, G., Jolly, R., Stewart, F. Adjustment with a human face.
Oxford. Clarendon Press, 1987.
El Ghonemy, M.R. People's participation in agricultural and
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FAO. Participatory monitoring and evaluation: handbook for
training field workers. Bangkok. FAO/RAPA, 1988.
FAO. "People's participation in agricultural and rural develop-
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FAO. Small farmers development manual, Vols. I & II. Bangkok.
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Huizer, G. Guiding principles for people's participation proj-
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McKone, C.E. FAO People's Participation Programme: the first
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Oakley, P. and Marsden, B. Approaches to participation in rural
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Perera, K.P.G.M. "Participatory rural development beyond
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