Front Cover
 Contents of RRA notes backcopi...
 Table of Contents
 Wealth ranking in a caste area...
 Popular theatre through video in...
 Participatory RRA in Gujarat
 Successful networking!

Title: RRA notes
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00089570/00004
 Material Information
Title: RRA notes
Series Title: RRA notes.
Alternate Title: Rapid rural appraisal notes
Proceedings of RRA Review Workshop, Sussex
Proceedings of the Local Level Adaptive Planning Workshop, London
Participatory methods for learning and analysis
Physical Description: v. : ill. ; 30 cm.
Language: English
Creator: International Institute for Environment and Development -- Sustainable Agriculture Programme
Publisher: IIED, Sustainable Agriculture Programme
Place of Publication: London
Publication Date: February 1989
Frequency: irregular
completely irregular
Subject: Sustainable agriculture -- Periodicals -- Developing countries   ( lcsh )
Sustainable agriculture -- Methodology -- Periodicals   ( lcsh )
Genre: periodical   ( marcgt )
Dates or Sequential Designation: No. 1-
General Note: Title from cover.
General Note: Some issues have individual titles.
General Note: Latest issue consulted: No. 19, published in 1994.
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Bibliographic ID: UF00089570
Volume ID: VID00004
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 Related Items
Succeeded by: PLA notes

Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front Cover 1
        Front Cover 2
        Page 1
    Contents of RRA notes backcopies
        Page 2
    Table of Contents
        Page 3
        Page 4
    Wealth ranking in a caste area of India
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
    Popular theatre through video in Costa Rica: An idea for non-formal appraisal
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
    Participatory RRA in Gujarat
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
    Successful networking!
        Page 22
Full Text
21W, 3
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RRA Notes

Number 4




This is the fourth of a series of informal notes on Rapid Rural
Appraisal (RRA). The aim is to share experiences and methods
among practitioners of RRA throughout the world.

We plan to publish brief informal pieces on any topic related to
RRA. We would like to hear news of meetings, workshops and
projects, both past and planned. In particular we are seeking
short accounts of experiences with RRA techniques in the field -
failures as well as successes. Please also send titles of
articles, papers and reports for listing under the new
publications section.

We will publish fairly regularly, depending on the availability
of material. As far as possible each issue will be put together
by a different editor and we would like to hear from volunteers
for this task.

The notes are being produced under the Sustainable Agriculture
Programme of IIED, which is financed by USAID and SIDA.

Robert Chambers
Jennifer McCracken
Jules Pretty

Material for inclusion in the notes should be sent to:

Jennifer McCracken
International Institute for Environment and Development
3 Endsleigh Street

Telephone: 01-388-2117
Telex: 261681 EASCAN G
Telefax: 01-388-2826



RRA Notes 1: June 1988

RRA Methods Workshop in Thailand
Notes of an RRA Meeting held in Sussex
Pairwise Ranking in Ethiopia
Direct Matrix Ranking in Kenya and West Bengal
Recent Publications
Peasant Lore

Jules Pretty
Robert Chambers
Gordon Conway
Robert Chambers
Jennifer McCracken

RRA Notes 2: October 1988

Using RRA to Formulate a Village Resources
Management Plan, Mbusanyi, Kenya
Learning About Wealth: An example from Zimbabwe
Investigating Poverty: An example from Tanzania

Charity Kabutha
and Richard Ford
Ian Scoones
Sheila Smith
and John Sender

RRA Notes 3: December 1988

Ranking of Browse Species by Cattlekeepers
in Nigeria
Direct Matrix Ranking in Papua New Guinea
Sustainability Analysis
Oral Histories and Local Calendars
Portraits and Stories
Bibliographic Notes

Wolfgang Bayer

Robin Mearns
Iain Craig
Robin Mearns
Jules Pretty




Wealth Ranking in a Caste Area of India

Popular Theatre through Video in Costa Rica

Participatory RRA in Gujarat

Successful Networking!

Ruth Grosvenor-Alsop

Keith Anderson

Jennifer McCracken


Distribution List


This fourth issue of RRA Notes begins with a further exposition
of measures and meanings of wealth. The author has used the
quick technique of Wealth Ranking in a strongly caste village of
Northern India, and then compared results with measures obtained
over a much longer period. The study demonstrates that the
technique is valid in caste society. This very simple technique
helps in the stratification of households within a community, and
also furthers understanding of local people's own criteria for
wealth and economic status. In the second piece the use of
popular theatre through video is explored. The author and team
used role playing to tackle difficult issues of tenure, and
demonstrate that such participation helped both the people
involved, the audience and the outside development workers.
There must be many other examples of such participatory and
gaming approaches: we would be delighted to hear of them. The
final piece describes a recent participatory exercise, also in
India. This is most interesting in the participation of
villagers in the exploration, the analysis and the presentation

We have also included with this issue the Distribution List of
people who at present receive RRA Notes. This is as at 1
February 1989. Although this list is continuously updated we
will only send out updates periodically. Many will not have
received copies of issues 1-3: please write if you would like to
receive particular issues. One reason for the publication of
this list is that we hope to encourage those working with or
interested in RRA-type approaches to send material directly to
others on the list. However we do still look forward to
receiving contributions to future issues of RRA Notes.

Jules N Pretty


Collecting and analysing information in order to understand
social behaviour requires a variety of methods and techniques.
These techniques are developed from conceptual frameworks of
social organisation. As the need for culturally appropriate
frameworks becomes recognized it follows that the tools of the
social analyst should also be culturally appropriate. Using a
technique of data collection that has proved effective in one
location could give inaccurate results in another, especially
when it is based on a cultural definition by the society
undergoing analysis. The testing of the technique discussed in
this paper emerged from these considerations.


The following discussion concerns a technique of ranking
communities by wealth. While it has been successfully tried and
tested in parts of Africa and Mexico (de Walt, 1979; Grandin,
1980, 1983; Herren, 1988; Plattner, 1974; Young, 1987) its
applicability to other societies remained unclear. Here I
examine the use of the technique in one part of India.

For a variety of reasons, development projects and research work
often require some knowledge of differences in wealth within a
community. Such reasons include sample selection, identifying
groups, finding out which project activities are relevant to
particular groups, and understanding the dynamics of resource use
and control within the community. Wealth Ranking is a technique
which enables ranking of a community in a relatively short period
of time compared to many other means of stratification. By using
locally defined indicators of wealth it also avoids elements of
ethnocentricity on the part of those seeking the information
influencing the outcome of the ranking exercise.

The type of Wealth Ranking carried out in the present study is
that outlined by B E Grandin in her publication Wealth Ranking in
Smallholder Communities: A Field Manual (Grandin, 1988). It is
not the purpose of this paper to reiterate the details of how to
carry out this type of wealth ranking, but to describe the
results of the technique in a society spatially and culturally
distant from the ones where it has been applied before. A brief
description of the technique is, however, needed if the rationale
for and findings of the testing are to be fully understood.

Before Wealth Ranking can be carried out it is necessary to
select the community in which the information gathering is to be
done. Selection of communities depends on the purpose of the
data collection. The community to be ranked then has to be
defined as does the local concept of household. A representative
cross section of the defined community is then selected from a
listing. As Grandin notes '100 households or less is desirable'.
Once the households to be ranked have been selected, the name of

each household head is written on a separate card. Informants
are then chosen, reflecting any different fractions or groups
that may exist in the community. It is recommended that 3-5
informants are selected who are then approached individually.
After a discussion with each informant of the local definition of
wealth the informant is asked to sort the cards into piles
representing the wealth of each household. Informants are
advised that households they consider to be of roughly equal
wealth should be grouped together in one pile. The piles are
reviewed and verified at the end of this stage and notes made of
the position of each household. From the responses of the
various informants an average score is computed. The scores are
then grouped and ranked.

This means of information gathering is dependent on respondents'
perceptions of members of their communities ability to have
'access to and control over important economic resources'
(Grandin, 1988). Although the correlation between responses and
the final average scores was high in Kenya and Nigeria (Grandin,
1980, 1983), it was unclear whether the same high degree of
uniformity between the responses of informants would be found in
a highly stratified society.

In the village in which this wealth ranking technique was tested,
situated in North Bihar in India, caste plays a major role in the
relative resource wealth of households. Caste is not simply an
economic phenomenon. Bound up with the ascribed status and
occupational position of the household is a strong ideology of
social order which is shared by the majority of community
members. It seemed reasonable to assume this ideology concerning
the hierarchical nature of social organisation could influence
the responses obtained from informants of different castes. For
example, a house might be ranked as poor or wealthy according to
its relative (low or high) caste position vis-a-vis the
informant. It was this possibility that the testing of the
technique in Bihar sought to address. In addition, the
interesting possibility of comparing the 'Wealth Rank' of
households with more conventional indicators of wealth was
offered through previous and detailed research carried out in the
village (Grosvenor-Alsop, 1988).

The first question this paper sought to answer was the degree of
correlation between the responses of different social groups.
The second was how well the wealth ranks corresponded to a
previously drawn up stratification based on income. The final
question concerned the relationship between wealth rank and other
aspects of a household's resource position. The particular
aspects, or assets, used for analysis were access to livestock
(type, number and tenure), access to land (type, amount and
tenure), and the number of household members in employment.
These were recurrent and common to all respondents' definitions
of wealth. A further aspect considered by all informants was the
source of income. Unfortunately data were not available in a
suitable form to test the relationship of this with wealth rank.

The Setting

The village in which the field testing took place is situated
about one and a half hours drive north of the State capital of
Patna. Of the eighty seven households in the village, seventy
are involved in some way in agricultural production. The village
is divided into ten social groups. Three are scheduled caste,
four are backward caste, two are caste hindu and one group is
muslim. These social groups have a tendency to live in separate

The community is dominated economically, socially and politically
by one of the caste hindu groups. Strong patron-client
relationships are found between this dominant group and other
hindu households. These relationships are important in
determining poorer and lower caste households' access to factors
of agricultural production. A strong degree of correlation was
found between the per capital income of a household and its social

Wealth ranking by Different Social Groups

Five respondents were selected to wealth rank the 87 households
resident in the village. Of these, 2 were from high caste
households (one of which was the richest and most powerful in the
village), 1 was from a lower caste household, 1 from a very low
caste household and, 1 from a muslim household. The correlations
between the responses of the five different informants were found
to be high with coefficients ranging between 0.86 and 0.94 where
the critical values were 0.19 and 0.22 at a 5% significance level
for 1 tail and 2 tail tests respectively.

The greatest difference in scores was noted between the two high
caste households and the muslim informant. Higher levels of
correlation were evident between the lower caste groups and the
informant. The powerful high caste respondent's scores showed
the least degree of correlation with the averaged scores.
However, none of the differences in scores are statistically
significant. Apparently intra household differences in social
status did not affect the responses of different informants.
Therefore Wealth Ranking is an appropriate tool to use for social
analysis in a stratified society such as found in this village in

Income and Wealth Rank

Income data for a sample of 38 households in this village had
been collected for the cropping year June 1985 to May 1986.
Income was divided into four categories' (i) Agricultural
Production, (ii) Wages, Salaries and Remittances, (iii)
Manufactured Goods and Processed Foods, and (iv) Capital Assets.
Income was assessed using a value added technique, taking into
account all possible costs of production, including equipment
wear, maintenance and replacement. Family and unremunerated
labour were not accounted for. Agricultural production covered

income and costs of both crops and livestock. Surveys were
applied to all sample households at appropriate times during the
year, for example post sowing for seed input information, post
harvest for yield information etc.

Five income strata were drawn up based on the per capital annual
income of households. Using Spearmans Rho test to ascertain the
correlation between income groups (based on per capital income)
and wealth ranks a coefficient of 0.49 was obtained where the
critical values were 0.28 and 0.33 at a 5% significance level for
one tailed and two tailed tests respectively. There was thus a
relationship between the two methods of stratifying the village,
if not a particularly strong one.

To examine this further, income data was aggregated and the
community stratified according to households' annual income. A
Spearmans Rho test carried out on this new income stratification
and the ranked responses of informants gave different results
from those obtained using a per capital based income
stratification. A coefficient of 0.80 was obtained at the same
significance levels and critical values as the above.

The closer correlation between how informants ranked households
and a households' aggregate income, as opposed to a households
per capital income, indicates that informants do not take the
number of residents in a household into account when considering
its relative wealth. Household wealth is perceived as a function
of the unit, not of its contributory members.

Assets and Wealth Rank

The assets for which wealth rank were tested for correlation
included land (type, amount and tenure), animals (type, amount
and tenure), and number of people engaged in paid employment.


The two types of tenure were considered owned and sharecropped.
In this village sharecropping terms were such that half the gross
value of produce accrued to those owning the land. Five
different land types were broadly recognized by cultivators. For
the purposes of this paper it is not necessary to discuss the
relative value of each land type, and I have examined those
factors informants take into account when they rank households
according to wealth. It is therefore enough to ascertain whether
a relationship exists between the assets mentioned above, and
whether the relationship is significant at an aggregated or
disaggregated level. Table 1 records the correlation

Table 1 The Relationship Between Wealth Rank and Land

Land Type

Wealth Rank


- .38
- .45
- .58
- .52
- .50

- .77



no type 5


critical values

(1 tail, 0.05) = .26
(2 tail, 0.05) = .31


Because of the way in which ranking is carried out by the
particular computer package used in this instance a high Wealth
Rank was accorded a low numerical value. A minus sign preceding
the coefficient indicates that high values of one variable tested
are associated with low values of another. A minus sign thus
actually means a positive relationship between the two variables.
For example when testing the correlation between Wealth Rank and
Land Owned, a coefficient of -0.38 actually indicates that the
wealthier a household (ie. it has been given a low wealth rank
score) the larger will be the area of land it owns.

The initial observation to be made is that there exists a
positive relationship between the wealth rank attributed to
households and the total amount of land that a household owned.
The apparent negative relationship between total amount of
sharecropped land and wealth rank cannot be considered
significant. Neither is it possible to draw any significant
conclusion from the positive relationship observed between wealth
rank and ownership of type 1 sharecropped land. The fifth
landtype was one on which fruit tree crops (mainly for domestic
consumption) and rough grass for grazing or building purposes
grew. Few households in the village owned such land. This
factor would affect the figures shown above.

It is reasonable to suggest that informants took the total amount
of land that a household owned into account when ranking
households. Ownership of all land types is significantly, if not
strongly, related to the wealth rank ascribed to households. The
results above are not conclusive enough to state that individual
landtype was considered by informants in their assessment of a
households' wealth rank, although given the relatively equal
figures for four of the landtypes a consideration of this factor
is implied. The amount and type of land sharecropped did not
appear to be a consideration for informants.


Similar to the above, livestock was divided into that owned and
that which was held on a share basis. With livestock the share
is in the final revenue obtained from the sale of the animal.
The terms are 50:50 to the owner and person caring for the

The correlation coefficients for animals owned taken on share
(shown in Table 2) indicate that the higher the wealth rank the
more animals they are likely to own, and the fewer they are
likely to have on a revenue sharing basis. The coefficients for
shared animals are, however, too low to be considered significant
in this analysis. The relationship expressed in the table
between animals owned and wealth rank suggests that informants
did take into account the number of animals owned by a household.
The figures indicate that ownership of buffalo and oxen were
related to the wealth rank of a household, but the association is
not strong enough to imply a causal relationship in wealth

Persons Employed and Wealth rank

The results of carrying out a test of correlation between the
wealth rank ascribed to households and the number of people in
waged employment was not significant. However, when the value of
income accruing to households from those persons in employment
was tested a figure of -0.36 was calculated. Although not a
particularly strong relationship this was above the critical
value for both one and two tailed tests at a 5% level of
significance. Assuming that the value of income was related to
the source of earned income this figure would indicate that
informants took into account the type of employment household
members were engaged in rather than the number of persons

Table 2 The Relationship Between Wealth Rank and Livestock


Cow .26
Buffalo .55
Goat .02
Ox .41

TOTAL .42 critical value

(1 tail, 0.05) = .26
Share (2 tail, 0.05) = .31
Cow .31
Buffalo .07
Goat .06
Ox .02


Summary and Conclusions

A concern over the cultural appropriateness of the technique of
Wealth Ranking gave rise to the need to test it in a setting both
spatially and socially distant from that in which it had been
applied before. The results were conclusive in that Wealth
Ranking is a useful technique of stratification for the area of
India in which it was tested. It is reasonable to assume from
this that the technique could be used in other parts of India.

Statistical tests were carried out comparing the results of the
Wealth Ranking exercise with household attributes identified by
informants as relevant to their assessment of a households'
wealth. Only one aspect of the household used as a wealth
'indicator' by respondents, namely the number of household
members in paid employment, initially did not appear to bear any
relationship to their ranking of households. However it became
clear through further testing that respondents were implicitly
applying additional criteria to the one that they explicitly

It also became apparent that local definitions of wealth were
dependent on many more aspects of a households' resource position
than were discussed during the definition of wealth sessions.
The consistency of informants responses suggests that these
'other' variables were concepts and perceptions common to all
informants. These elements are ones that field workers, as

outsiders, cannot appreciate in the short period of time usually
available for an exercise in community ranking.

Wealth Ranking is a technique that can be used with confidence in
India. It provides a quick, accurate and non-intrusive means of
ranking a community. If a cautionary note is to be sounded it is
not to use those household attributes identified by informants,
in their definitions of wealth, as discrete indicators of wealth.
In this instance perceptions of wealth took into account
variables other than those discussed by informants in their
definition of wealth.


de Walt, B. 1979. Modernisation in Mexican Ejido. Cambridge
University Press

Grandin, B.E. 1980. 'Small Cows, Big Money: Wealth and Dwarf
Cattle Production in South East Nigeria'. PhD Thesis, Standford

Grandin, B.E. 1983. 'The importance of wealth in pastoral
production. A rapid method for wealth ranking'. Proceedings of
workshop on Pastoral Systems Research, ILCA, Addis Ababa,

Grandin, B.E. 1988. Wealth Ranking in Smallholder Communities.
IT Publications, London

Grosvenor-Alsop, R. 1988. 'Inter and Intra Household Analysis
in a Village in North East India: Implications for Farming
Systems Research'. PhD Thesis, University of East Anglia

Herren, U. 1988. 'Pastoral Peasants: household strategies in
Mukogodo Division, Lakipia District'. IDS Working Paper, No 458,
University of Nairobi, Kenya

Platner, S. 1974. 'Wealth and Growth Among Mayan Indian
Peasants'. Human Ecology, 2, pp 75-87

Young, J. 1987. Livestock Production in Lower Meru:
Implications for a Livestock Programme at Kemujine
Farmers'Centre. ITDG, Rubgy

Ruth Grosvenor-Alsop
Intermediate Technology Development Group
Rugby, UK


Development practitioners arriving in a new locality may use a
variety of information gathering techniques that could be called
RRAs. Most appraisal techniques, combined with the fact that
they are employed by a new arrival, encounter barriers to
learning how local people feel about sensitive cultural and
social issues. An appraisal I did last year in Costa Rica
suggests that by promoting or organising local theatre
development workers foreign to an area can learn much about local
attitudes that may be essential to the future of a project.

First, it should be clarified that theatre is not a particularly
rapid technique. In this article I suggest that outsiders can
either work through local contacts or slowly build up confidence
with locals to organise popular theatre. I loosely define
popular or folk theatre as informal public entertainment in which
the performers have no script, very little rehearsal or costumes,
but act roles which are familiar to them.

I stayed for three months in the small town of La Suiza, in the
Cartago central region of Costa Rica. My project was to
experiment with video as a means for farmers to share their
knowledge and strategies of natural resources conservation with
others farmers living in the area. Including theatre in the
video occurred to me because video and television are for most
people primarily an entertainment medium, and people tend to turn
off very quickly from uninteresting programmes. In fact, in La
Suiza many locals had previous exposure to "boring" technical
videos and "manipulative" commercial videos. I also know that
popular theatre campaigns and workshops such as the 1983 African
Workshop for Theatre for Development in Murewa, Zimbabwe, or
Caesar Chavez's "El Teatro Campesino" organising migrant
labourers in California, have been engaged in creative and
successful ways of addressing development issues.

My contact with local people was greatly facilitated and
accelerated by the extension personnel of the Center for Tropical
Agricultural Research and Training (CATIE) in Turrialba. The
area's extension agent introduced me to many families and
patiently explained what he saw as the area's problems and
opportunities. He thought it was not a good idea to use theatre
in the video, as there was no theatre tradition in the area.
Through CATIE I was also able to arrange lodging in La Suiza.
Living in the community was the key to meeting and interacting
with people daily, and in so doing establishing a working
relationship which led to organisation of the theatre.

Bolivar, Mario and Edwin were landless workers who worked on
CATIE's land behind my house. I would often invite them in for a
beer after work. Several times we discussed their future

financial security and chances to acquire land. This was not a
favourite subject, partly because it is depressing, and partly
because they did not know what God had planned for them; so I
usually ended up doing most of the talking.

One afternoon after work when the workers visited I suggested we
videotape a drama on a theme which they could choose, though I
wanted it to be related to their daily lives. Since all their
lives they had worked for different landlords, they decided to
act out a situation in which a worker approached the landlord to
suggest ways in which the farm could be better managed. They
said they wanted the drama to illustrate that many farm workers
know farming better than the landlord, who often lives off the
farm for most of the year. Spontaneously, the worker who acted
the role of landlord was polite but uncooperative, arguing that
for economic reasons the existing farming system could not be
much altered. After we watched the drama later on the television
we discussed what feelings underlay the formal relationship
between landlord and workers. They said that usually they were
not treated badly, but that landlords for whom they had worked
were not generally personable, required too much work and most
paid only enough for them to live very simply and save very

The workers acted out a second drama in which one of them went to
the bank to ask for a loan to buy land. Mario, who played the
banker, was not certain, but thought that a worker must have land
as collateral for the loan. The worker was emotionally involved
in his role, and pleaded for the future security of his family.
He spontaneously suggested a new idea: that the bank consider his
work history and consult his present employer as witness to his
industriousness. The banker shuffled papers and gave him a very
definite "maybe".

The effect of the video theatre when shown to community groups
was interesting when contrasted with the farmer interviews I
showed first. Whereas people quietly watched the interviews,
occasionally verbally agreeing or disagreeing, during the drama
people talked, shouted jokes, and children laughed. The workers
had said that perhaps people would not take their drama
seriously. But the fact was that it stimulated people's interest
and comments both during and after the showing.

This is a simple example of theatre, and was easy to carry out
because it was for video and not directly in front of an
audience. But whether one uses this particular video theatre
method or organises public performances, the feasibility and
lessons learned from theatre indicate a great potential for non-
formal appraisal techniques. The main benefit I see in this
technique is that the appraisal is participatory and benefits all
involved, because all involved are appraisers and learners. I
found that the acting itself allowed people a much more graphic
and creative exploration of issues and possible action than
interviews and conversation. The process of selecting themes,
acting, and later connecting what is acted to the real situation
requires and generates group cooperation.

Popular theatre is "people's theatre", by and for the community.
By involving themselves in theatre, appraisers can begin to
understand local culture and at the same time give people a forum
in which to learn more about themselves.

Keith Anderson


Are not all RRAs participatory? Well, they are to the extent
that it is the local people who are interviewed and it is their
needs which the RRAers seek to investigate/address. But just how
much can these local people be involved in actually conducting
the appraisal work? This was one of the questions which we set
out to answer last September/October in Gujarat.

The principal objective of the RRA exercise was to develop a
framework for participatory village-level planning for use by the
Aga Khan Rural Support Programme (India). I joined staff from
AKRSP(I) and together we designed and conducted a participatory
type of RRA in two villages in the coastal district of Gujarat -
Lathodra and Kambalia. We did not follow exactly the same
procedure in each village, but the general schedule was along the
lines of that shown in Table 1. Each of the two six-person teams
which conducted each week-long RRA was made up of AKRSP(I) staff
and myself, and included specialists in agriculture, forestry,
watershed management, monitoring and community and cooperation









Table 1 General schedule of the RRA model

Lathodra and Kambalia were both relatively 'new' villages for
AKRSP(I). Each had been visited by some members of their field
staff to assess the potential for a specific project (in one case
the construction of a checkdam, in the other the introduction of
biogas plants) but little contact had been made yet with the
villagers. The AKRSP(I) team therefore knew very little about
the villages and the villagers knew relatively little about the
work of AKRSP(I).

Before starting either of the RRAs we (the RRA team) paid an
informal visit to each village. We consulted the Sarpanch
(village headman) and asked his permission to conduct the RRA.
We also met with leaders of each of the main communities in the
village to explain the purpose of the RRA and to gauge the level
of receptiveness towards our involvement in the village and
towards the subsequent possibility of AKRSP(I) working there.
While in each of the two villages we met with a favourable
response to justify going ahead with the RRA, we were prepared to
withdraw from a village if this was not the case.

We then discussed among ourselves the issues to be investigated,
and drew up a preliminary checklist of ten issues:

1. Availability of water
2. Land use and ownership
3. Status of animal husbandry
4. Social group dynamics
5. Formal village institutions
6. Informal credit systems
7. Marketing
8. Role of women in household economy
9. Impact of the drought
10. Past development projects.

Each of these issues was further broken down into sub-topics.

On the first day of the actual RRA, we stayed together as a team
and spent some time visiting each of the different communities,
to make it clear that we wanted to work with all social groups in
the village, and were not biased towards any one group in
particular. Indeed we spent a considerable proportion of our
time during the first visits to the village simply wandering
around and introducing ourselves to the villagers, to make our
presence known and to try and avoid any misunderstandings or
suspicions about our intentions in the village.

Also on day 1 we tried to study the secondary data (village
census records, map etc.) with some villagers, to verify the
figures and check for any changes which had occurred since the
data were produced (encroachment of village grazing land,
expansion of the housing area etc). We used the map for
discussions to find out more information such as the ownership,
productivity and problems of the different areas within the

We also used the map to help choose a representative transect
line through the village that is, a route along which we would
pass through all the main zones within the village. We then
walked this general route during the next several days, and noted
down the characteristics and conditions of each zone. Again, the
villagers were actively involved at this stage of information
gathering. A group of two or three villagers joined us as we
walked the transect. Their knowledge of the different zones was
an essential supplement to our own observations, and during
interviews with other villagers encountered along the transect
this group could also join in the discussions. Where possible we
tried to work with this same small core group of villagers for
several days; as they became familiar with the kinds of issues we
were interested in we benefitted more and more from their
contributions and they were able to learn more about our
approach. Indeed as the mystique of our work was removed this
group of farmers in turn could tell other villagers of what was
going on. As well as these benefits of participation by some of
the villagers, we obtained an extra bonus in one of the villages,
where one of the villagers accompanying us, a member of an
untouchable caste, turned out to have a postgraduate training in
sociology a discipline which our team had been lacking!

Day 2 of the RRA focused on the temporal information. We began
to look for seasonal patterns, year-to-year trends and major
changes, and consulted older members of the village for
historical information. At this stage we split up into groups of
two or three for the interviews, to cover a wider spread of
topics, in a shorter time, and to allow for more triangulation.
In addition to the time-related questions, we tried to collect
other types of information, depending on who we were
interviewing, and we also left some time for continuing the work
on the transect.

By this time, we had accumulated a considerable amount of
information so the morning of day 3 was spent sharing this
information within the team and identifying the topics which
still needed to be investigated and the groups of people who
still needed to be met. We then drew up a more focused
checklist of these topics to be worked on during the next two
days as our interviews became more focused.

By day 4 or 5 we withdrew from the village as we reached our
'optimal ignorance' level. In doing a participatory RRA, we
found that this level was determined not only by the amount of
time we felt should be reserved for our own discussions on the
information being gathered and the amount of detail and accuracy
which we felt necessary, but also by the general feeling among
the villagers. For instance, towards the end of this information
gathering stage in Kambalia, we became aware of a degree of
uneasiness during our interviews, when respondents were asked the
same questions as they knew had already been asked to others, or
when they were asked to provide more detail on questions they
themselves had already answered. In this case, in order to avoid

further antagonism, we decided to withdraw from the village
rather earlier than we might otherwise have done i.e. we
revised our idea of our 'optimal' level of ignorance. This
cutting short of the village visit (by about half a day) did
leave more gaps in our information, compared to the Lathodra RRA,
but we felt this a worthwhile trade-off, weighed against the
importance of maintaining a good rapport with the villagers.

An important next stage in the procedure was for the whole team
to pool all the information to allow a comprehensive village
report to be written, for the staff of AKRSP(I) to use in their
future work with the village. It was also at this stage that we
began to firm up our ideas as to the key problems and
opportunities of the village and possible projects to help
alleviate the problems and/or make use of the opportunities.

We then drew a set of diagrams to illustrate our findings. In
each of the RRAs, in addition to the map and transect these
diagrams were mainly seasonal calendars showing the availability
of the village's main resources. Problem periods were
highlighted and opportunities were also marked. We then drew
these diagrams on large sheets of card and tried to make them as
understandable as possible, for the presentations, by minimising
the amount of text and using colour-coding wherever possible.
After trying out the diagrams in the first village we realized
that the seasonal calendars could be simplified, by replacing the
axis of individual months with 3 blocks of different colours,
each representing a season. We were still not sure of how easy
it would be to communicate our findings and ideas with these
diagrams to the villagers, so as a first step we invited the
leaders of each of the main communities to a small group meeting,
outside the village. The actual identification of these people
was quite straight-forward. We simply asked members of each
community for the name of their respected leader, and then
visited that person, to invite him to the meeting. We also made
it clear that it was very important for some women to attend, and
tried to find those women who would be most comfortable in
speaking out at such a meeting. It proved difficult to convince
the men of the value of this, and to convince the women that they
had something to contribute, but in each of the two RRAs, the
women who attended did speak up, especially when issues such as
fuelwood were being discussed. As we presented each of the
diagrams to the group, they helped us to amend any incorrect
diagrams (for example, by showing on the map where areas marked
as village grazing land were in fact government revenue land) and
to fill in information on incomplete diagrams (for example,
adding an extra crop to the cropping calendar, or adding another
problem to one part of the transect). The group could also tell
us which diagrams they felt would be understood by most of the
villagers. We also began at this stage to discuss with the group
the issues represented in the diagrams and to get their ideas of
the key problems in the village and any opportunities which they

After this meeting with the leaders, we felt ready to go to the
rest of the villagers with our findings. But in each case the
leaders suggested it would be better if they themselves showed
the diagrams to the other villagers. We welcomed these
suggestions wholeheartedly, as they added greatly to the
participatory nature of the RRA. So we accompanied the leaders
to a general meeting in the village, to watch them present our
findings. In Lathodra, the first village in which we tried this
approach, we expected about 60 or 70 villagers to attend, but in
the event 500 or 600 turned up! We had to abandon the idea of
holding the meeting in the schoolroom, and convened instead on
the open ground outside. The leaders stood up on a platform and
held up and described each diagram in turn, and the issues being
represented. The first diagram shown was the sketch map and the
team watched as the elderly Brahmin who was presenting it
hesitated each time he was showing a feature on the map. Then,
realising the problem, he turned the map, upside down and
continued more confidently with the presentation. Obviously the
team's north-oriented map was not how he envisaged his village!

The village meeting went on for some two hours. After sorting
out the map, the Brahmin leader held up a transect diagram a
pictorial cross-section through the different areas of village
land with notes on the conditions found there and special
emphasis on the specific problems in each area. As he read out
the notes, the other villagers began to shout out mistakes in the
diagram: "You have left out an important problem in the grazing
land; many people are mining the soil and that is why there is so
little grass left." "And in the housing area; none of those
handpumps are working now." Other leaders held up calendars
showing when the water scarcity limits crop production, when it
is that many of the villagers must buy fuel and fodder from
outside the village, and when the landless labourers have to
borrow money to see them through the slack period.

As well as enabling the team to correct their findings, each of
the diagrams also provided a focus for discussion of the
particular issue which it represented. Indeed they turned out to
be a valuable means of ensuring that each key issue was
discussed. At one point the leader in charge of the
presentations tried to show the fuel calendar very fleetingly and
without commenting on it and was ready to move on to the next
diagram which he obviously considered more interesting or
important. But one of the villagers shouted out "Just a moment,
Chief! Its clear that getting enough fuel is not a problem for
you. In fact neither is it a problem for me. But it is a
problem for many of the people in our village. So put up that
diagram again, and let's talk about it!"

The fuel calendar was one of the diagrams which gave the women a
chance to join in the discussions, as it dealt with a topic very
relevant to their daily work. They were quick to point out
mistakes. "That calendar shows that we collect wood from around
the village; that's not true. There are virtually no trees left
here to cut and we have to buy all our fuel from outside at that

After all the diagrams had been presented the discussion turned
to ideas for dealing with some of the problems. A checkdam was
the most popular option for many of the wealthier farmers with
large landholdings near the river. But their wives argued that a
bridge was more important. At present they have to wade across
the river or make a long detour to the nearest crossing point, to
bring food from their homes to their families working in the
fields. We began to respond to the ideas which were being
shouted out, sometimes throwing back questions for the villagers
to consider: "That checkdam site will bring most benefit to
farmers on an area of disputed land; that will cause problems for
getting government approval for funding". We also began to tell
the villagers about some of our own ideas such as biogas plants
to help the fuel problem and an animal husbandry program to
provide income for both the land-owning and landless members of
the village. The discussions continued and the meeting finally
ended with the villagers deciding to form a Village Organisation
to look into these various ideas with AKRSP(I).

A similar meeting was held in the second village, Kambalia,
although as the Sarpanch insisted it was held during the day,
fewer villagers attended. The smaller attendance made it easier
to discuss each suggestion in detail and four specific projects
were identified as priority ones for AKRSP(I) to start work on.
The disadvantage of the small attendance was that relatively few
of the villagers heard or contributed to these decisions, and so
the priority projects identified may not represent the priorities
of the many absent villagers.

Overall from the experience of these two RRAs, I feel that there
is much to be gained from a more participatory approach, but that
it does require extra time and sensitivity. Time does need to be
set aside at the beginning of the RRA to explain the work and
seek the involvement of an interested group of villagers in
helping the team during the early stages of information
gathering. And sensitivity is essential if the expectations of
the villagers are not to be raised inappropriately. I feel there
is more danger of this in the case where villagers themselves are
involved in the RRA, as they have invested their own time in the
work, yet such a participatory approach does entail the team
talking frankly with the villagers about the possible follow-up
(and possible non follow-up) of the RRA. This openness should
hopefully eliminate many of the misconceptions and suspicions and
allow for a genuine two-way flow of information and ideas.

Jennifer McCracken


(or: The Real Impact of a Consultant)

The success of communication in rural development undoubtedly
depends on the type of information to be communicated. If it is
interesting/relevant/worthwhile, it will be passed on more
readily. Or if it is amusing!...

On the last evening of an RRA consultancy trip to Java back in
1987, I was sitting with a group of local FSR researchers in a
lakeside restaurant, enjoying the food and drink. The
accompanying stories and jokes became sillier and sillier and a
joke I told went down well:

There were three rural development experts, each of whom was
given an assignment which entailed them trudging for many days
across the Sahara. They were allowed to take with them one thing
to help them in the heat.

"Well", said the first expert, "I would like a solar powered fan
to cool me as I walk."

The second expert thought for a moment and said, "I would like a
portable sprinkler system to spray cool water over me."

"What stupid ideas!" exclaimed the third expert. "All I want to
take is a car door."

The others looked at him strangely, "A car door?" they asked,
"Whatever for?"

"Well," he replied, "when I get too hot, I can always wind down
the window".

Eight months later, I was back on another RRA trip, to a
different district of Java, and working with a different group of
local FSR researchers. One evening in the field, one of the
researchers asked me "Have you heard the joke about the man who
is sent to the desert and he wants to carry a car door?"

Amazing but true. If you have any silly stories or jokes which
you feel deserve to be sent worldwide, please send them to me for
inclusion in this space.

Jennifer McCracken

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