SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE PROGRAMME
This is the sixth 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.
The notes are being produced under the Sustainable Agriculture
Programme of IIED, which is financed by SIDA and USAID.
Material for inclusion in the notes should be sent to:
International Institute for Environment and Development
3 Endsleigh Street
Telex: 261681 EASCAN G
PLEASE PHOTOCOPY THESE NOTES AND PASS THEM ON TO OTHERS
WHO MAY BE INTERESTED
CONTENTS OF RRA NOTES BACKCOPIES
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
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
and Richard Ford
and John Sender
RRA Notes 3: December 1988
Ranking of Browse Species by Cattlekeepers
Direct Matrix Ranking in Papua New Guinea
Oral Histories and Local Calendars
Portraits and Stories
RRA Notes 4: February 1989
Wealth Ranking in a Caste Area of India
Popular Theatre through Video in Costa Rica
Participatory RRA in Gujarat
RRA Notes 5: May 1989
Letter to the Editor
The "Fertiliser Bush" Game:
A Participatory Means of Communication
Rapid Appraisal for Fuelwood Planning in Nepal
Rapid Food Security Assessment:
A pilot exercise in Sudan
RRA Has a Role to Play in Developed Countries
John Soussan &
Peter Ampt &
Rapid Assessment of Artisanal Systems:
A Case Study of Rural Carpentry Enterprises
The Rural Rides of William Cobbett:
RRA and Sustainable Agriculture in the 1820s
A Note on the Use of Aerial Photographs
for Land Use Planning on a Settlement Site
Using Rapid Rural Appraisal for Project Michael Hubbard,
Identification Robert Leurs &
Report on a training exercise in Jama'are Andrew Nickson
local government area, Bauchi State, Northern Nigeria
Visualising Group Discussions with Impromptu
The Use of Community Theatre in Project
Evaluation: An Experiment Example from
Guilter Shumba &
RAPID ASSESSMENT OF ARTISANAL SYSTEMS:
A CASE STUDY OF RURAL CARPENTRY ENTERPRISES IN ZIMBABWE
Although rapid and participatory information gathering techniques
such as RRA and Farmer Participatory Research often espouse
"holistic" or "systems" approaches, the actual terms of reference
tend to be strongly biased towards agricultural activities and to
marginalise study of other rural income sources. To some extent
this is a result of agriculture's domination of the labour
calendars, physical environment and income-generation of many
rural populations in developing countries. However, it also
reflects the professional biases of many so-called
"multidisciplinary" study teams. Failure to consider rural off-
farm activities adequately is not only to ignore their
contribution, role and potential within the rural sector, micro-
economic systems and service infrastructure but also to adopt the
very tendencies of ill-informed prescriptiveness that Rapid Rural
Appraisal et al seek to overcome.
Involvement in socio-economic analysis of rural production and
processing activities other than, or in addition to, agriculture
has, for me, sharply highlighted the agrocentric nature of many
current methodologies. A case study of one such non-agricultural
field-study is outlined below. Originally the material
contributed to an internal project feasibility report for ITDG.
By presenting the study in the RRA Notes, I want to:
(a) draw attention to the need and potential for a less
agrocentric approach to rural appraisal;
(b) share the lessons of an attempt to apply rapid and
participatory appraisal methods to data collection in one
non-agricultural sector of rural production;
(c) encourage the development of survey techniques that enable
an understanding of rural circumstances above and beyond the
I make no excuse for the lack of a methodological acronym -
Technical Overview Using Rapid Information Search Techniques
(TOURIST), Consideration Of Farm Family External Earnings
(COFFEE), Technological Ecosystem Analysis (TEA) or even
Multidisciplinary Investigation of Local Kraftwerk (MILK) are all
possibilities... Other and better terms will no doubt be
developed if this area of study attracts attention!
Rapid Assessment of Rural Carpentry Enterprises in Zimbabwe
Since mid-1986 ITDG has been involved in a programme of
technology transfer involving the training of rural carpenters in
Malawi and Zimbabwe to self-capitalise by making wooden carpentry
tools. The tools are low-cost, locally produced and locally
reparable in contrast to the imported metal tools currently
available (approximate financial cost ratios are 7:1 in Malawi
and 2:1 in Zimbabwe). Following a positive evaluation of the
pilot phase in Malawi, a study was commissioned in early 1988 to
investigate the operating environments of rural carpenters in
Zimbabwe and the potential for a similar project there.
The study was undertaken by a three-member rapid assessment team
consisting of an ITDG Project Economist (the author), an ITDG
Project Engineer (the designer of the tools and trainer of
carpenters in Malawi) and a Zimbabwean trainee carpenter
recruited in-country and familiar with ITDG's wooden tools.
The study was conducted during April and May 1988 during a season
of relative prosperity in the rural areas (harvest-time following
good rains in 1987), active transport networks and dry roads.
However, with this in mind, it was possible to obtain
representative information about other seasons and years.
Following a week of preparation, including meetings with
appropriate local organizations and consultation of secondary
sources of information, two weeks were spent interviewing thirty
rural carpenters at their workplaces. Visits were also made to
urban and peri-urban carpentry workshops and product sales points
as well as to timber merchants and tool retailers in both rural
and urban areas. A final week was spent in-country drafting the
study report and discussing its contents with local development
Three survey areas were selected using secondary sources and in
consultation with local organizations. Selection was stratified
to optimise diversity between population densities, economic
bases, ecological regions, market access and geographical
It was originally intended to draw a sample from the records of
institutions involved in the training of carpenters in Zimbabwe's
rural areas. However, in view of the time required to draw the
sample, establish contact and make all the subsequent
arrangements required, it was decided instead to make enquiries
at small rural settlements and thus to locate carpenters
operating in the surrounding areas by word of mouth. This method
was generally found to be satisfactory (despite the absence of
some carpenters) and, considering the high number of carpenters
encountered who had no formal training, probably more
representative than the sampling methods first envisaged.
Carpenters were interviewed at their workplaces, which ranged
from a plank under a tree to purpose-built brick premises with
both working and display areas. Each interview generally
required one to one-and-a-half hours. Although questions and
approaches were adapted in the light of information collected the
following broad stages were followed throughout:
(1) Guided Interview: covering socio-economic and financial
issues including : occupation(s), raw materials, output,
demand, credit and payment systems, logistics, employees and
training as well as interiewees' own assessment of problems
(2) Technical Appraisal: covering selection, seasoning, storing
and preparation of timber; marking, cutting and fixing
joints; finishing of products; recording and scoring of
tools; recording and scoring of products.
(3) Tool Demonstration: the team carried prototype samples of
some ITDG-designed, wooden-bodied tools made at a workshop
in the capital (jack plane, rebate plane, grooving plane,
mortise gauge and try square). These were taken to each
interview site but only mention on completion of stages (1)
Following a brief demonstration and explanation by the Zimbabwean
team member, carpenters tried out the prototypes on scrap timber
and were encouraged to evaluate the tools. This, combined with a
review of material covered in the preceding sections, generated
immediate technical and economic feedback.
During the three stages outlined above we experimented with a
range of techniques for rapid information gathering. Well-known
appraisal techniques such as cash-flow analysis were also used
but are not described below.
Tools owned by each carpenter were scored out of ten by the
Project Engineer on the basis of quality, condition and
maintenance. Scores were then summed and divided by the number
of tools to produce an average score for each carpenter.
Comment: While the results of the scoring system were not in
themselves illuminating beyond giving a general indication of the
spread of tool qualities, the processes involved forced
consideration and discussion of local levels of knowledge,
maintenance practices, availability of tools, materials etc.
Attempts to attach a weighting system to reflect the relative
importance of each item were felt to be inappropriate in view of
the spurious accuracy of the results likely to be generated.
Instead a matrix of tools and interiewees was drawn up. The
tools required in a basic carpenter tool kit were. ranked in
descending order of importance and additional tools found were
also shown (see Table 1). This illustrated clearly the areas of
Table l(a). Tools owned by interviewees.
":-ravz1W9 I I 1 4 1 6 1 3 1 10 '1 12 143 L 1 1 :La :i 5 A 1 13 U 4 .4 1 i Z6 IT A 3 : 0 t2.
I.I ma-e A X X 1 I I X I I t 1 I A I I ( X X X X I .1 X 10
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ID0 CL. X X I X I I( XI X ( I 1 x t I X X I t X 10
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II) C. X X X I XI I A X X X X X X 1
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IB1 raJtg X I X I X X X II I X X :)
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Ita-r e i t I t I (It Xta c t x t
(4) Groowan ~Lae X X I X t X ( IX
ILI I.. O PLL X X t I I
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11 'ice X C X A X C ( A X t C A 1
(aI inl *SkC ..c 3 ctloo requAr,4 (4TnI
Table 1 (b). AQgregated Tool Data
All interviewees had at least 50; of basic
tool set. Items lacking uere:
(a) (b) (0) (d) (e) (f) (g) (h) (1) (1) (k) (1) (m) (n)
MA iidsi. C3& I S1 =t hcj!011-es
Two systems were used :
(a) Products on view at the workshop were scored on the basis of
the quality of their construction and finish and average
scores were calculated as per the tools.
(b) Carpenters were asked to describe or demonstrate briefly
how they undertook the following operations:
1) Tool sharpening;
2) Timber seasoning;
3) Preparation of wood for work (use of face marks,
gauging to thickness etc);
4) Marking of joints for cutting;
5) Cutting of joints;
6) Types of joints used in their work;
7) Method of holding timber steady while working on it;
8) Glueing up.
In this way detailed impressions were gathered concerning
differing levels of local technical resources and knowledge.
As with the tool scoring, the numerical results were of secondary
importance to the in-depth discussions that this approach
provoked on a range of economic, technical and other issues. In
addition, the combination of hands-on activity and discussion was
found to be a very effective means of encouraging and sustaining
debate and confidence.
The different occupations of each interviewee were listed and
approximate labour and income calendars drawn for each on the
basis of identifying peak months and then ranking the remainder
on the basis of pairwise comparison or at least grouping into
"very busy", "medium" and "quiet" months.
Since most interviewees' labour use was closely tied to the
agricultural cycle this tended to dominate their involvement in
other activities. Similarly, since severe lack of working
capital meant that carpenters tended to make to order rather than
keep stocks, production of carpentry items tended to mirror
periods of rural prosperity (harvest) and hardship (payment of
school fees.) These relationships can be seen in the example of
agricultural labour, cash-flow difficulties and carpentry product
sales calendars shown in Table 2.
TABLE 2. CALENDARS
(SOURCE: FIELD NOTES)
ON ND DJ JF FM MA AM MJ JJ JA AS SO
=M C.F difficulties
F school fees
M Carp. product zales
LE Ag. labour
Much of the questioning centred around the ranking of items or
issues by the interviewees. These included the following :
- constraints on their activities (esp. carpentry)
- own perception of needs
- own perception of training requirements
- own perception of tools lacking
- preference among ITDG tools demonstrated (and reasons)
The results were listed in matrices in descending order, showing
the number or percentage of interviewees identifying each
problem. This enabled both individual perceptions and shared or
recurrent topics to emerge. Table 3 is an example of one ranking
exercise conducted with interviewees.
Interviewees' perception of major constraints on their
carpentry activities (percentage responses)
Products were also ranked on the basis of frequency of
manufacture. This led to discussion of the timing of sales and
saleability of different items in relation to local sources of
income. It would be interesting to compare the relative
prosperity of agricultural cycles over time with the number of
wardrobes (a relatively large and, therefore, expensive item)
ordered from local carpenters within a given region.
Information was collected on a range of topics, including:
sources of present training
means of tool acquisition
motives for choosing carpentry
number and type of home-made tools
types and sources of timber used
employment of trainees
product and raw material price ranges.
These were ranked by the team on number or percentage bases to
bring out trends within the responses.
Tools which had been innovated locally (for example home-made
brace and bit, home-made sash cramp and home-made lathe) or
products of interesting design were sketched for reference. Here
Sketches of locally innovated tools (AT Moore (ITDG))
Truck Bearings -' LATHE MADE BYMR.J.DUBE, BIKITA
SASH CRAMP MADE BY
MR- GARKAY MAHUSEKW\
1. The techniques described above owe much to other work in the
field of rapid assessment and are an attempt to adapt these
methods for use in the appraisal of artisanal activities In
retrospect, greater use could have been made of calendar
presentations and the exciting results obtained on occasions
when groups of carpenters were interviewed (using a similar
methodology to that described above) suggest that
panel/group interviews or reviews would also have been
Nevertheless, the study was able to reach conclusions
socio-economic conditions facing rural carpenters
the status, problems and workings of the rural
details of local training and other needs in this
viability of the proposed project and conditions for
2. Many survey methods currently available are effective only
in determining local perceptions and priorities relating to
the known status quo and are generally unable to include new
options in their terms of reference. One feature of the
study described here that is denied to many others was the
availability of prototypes of the technology being appraised
for transfer. Immediate feedback on these enabled us to
learn very rapidly about carpenters' perceptions of the
prototypes, their requirements and reasons for modifications
(even including suggestions for a catchy Shona brandname)
and their attitudes about confidence concerning the various
project options discussed with them. This ability to
conduct instant field trials at the project/product design
stage has been very useful both in subsequent project
planning and in technical modification of the prototypes.
It should be stressed that the techniques and methodology
described above are only selected aspects of the study.
Questions and discussion around the data collected by these
methods was at least as important as the information itself
in providing understanding. Consequently the final report
was based on considerably more material than is presented
here. The specialised but multidisciplinary nature of the
team and the inclusion of a Zimbabwean team member were also
major assets in probing for and discussion of information.
Finally, humour, generally omitted in manuals of social
science techniques, was vital in obtaining time and
information. In particular, lighthearted role-playing,
good-humoured mutual mockery and willingness to discuss
topics apparently irrelevant to the matter in hand are the
unsung keys to many explanations (as opposed to superficial
statistics). Uptight or self-important researchers, however
well-equipped with matrices, maps and interview guidelines
etc, are likely to miss important pieces of information.
3. As many rural populations encounter problems of rising
unemployment and agricultural marginalisation the need for
alternative sources of income becomes ever more acute.
Consequently (and at the risk of provoking an explosion of
jargon) methods adapted for analysis of rural productive
activities other than agriculture are required.
Furthermore, truly rural appraisal must take great account
of the multiplicity of complex, interrelated and changing
activities undertaken by rural communities. Not only do
such activities often provide essential sources of income on
which household security or the pursuance of other
activities (education, access to agricultural inputs etc)
may depend, but they are also likely to be of increasing
importance for rural development.
Intermediate Technology Development Group, Rugby
THE RURAL RIDES OF WILLIAM COBBETT:
RRA AND SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE IN THE 1820s
We talk of RRA and the underlying principles and rationale as
being relatively new to the analysis of rural systems. Yet let
me take you back 160 years or so to England in the 1820s, the
time of William Cobbett, journalist, politician and farmer.
Later to become a Member of Parliament, Cobbett was at this time
producing the popular 'Political Register'. To gather material
for this journal, Cobbett set out on his 'Rural Rides', a series
of rides across the countryside of southern England, with the
express purpose of
"Finding out the real state of the countryside".
These rural rides, conducted between 1822 and 1826 and first
published in 1830, are the first example I have come across of
Rapid Rural Appraisal.
His objectives were quite clear: he would write articles based
upon his findings to further the causes of political and
financial reform. He was determined to find evidence that would
support his theories. Yet his approach makes fascinating
reading, and there are many parallels with current research and
development activities. Writing on the evening of his first days
travel from London he very quickly makes clear his intentions
regarding spatial, and in particular road, biases: despite
setting off in rather a drizzling rain he said:
"It is very true that I could have gone to Uphusband by
travelling only about 66 miles, and in the space of about 8
hours. But, my object was, not to see inns at turnpike-
roads, but to see the country; to see the farmers at home,
and to see the labourers in the fields; and to do this you
must go either on foot or on horseback" (his emphases).
His whole approach was to travel on horseback through lanes and
paths to talk to people, stop at cottages and to understand
intimately what was going on in the countryside. Later that year
he stated proudly:
"I have crossed nearly the whole of this country from the NW
to the SE, without going 500 yards on a turnpike road, and,
as nearly as I could do it, in a straight line".
He was well aware that his behaviour was rather unconventional:
"They think you are mad if you express your wish to avoid
And the following year in Kent, on a wet August afternoon:
"I made not the least haste to get out of this rain. I
stopped, here and there, as usual, and asked questions about
the corn, the hops, and other things".
Discovering the unusual requires a degree of stubborness, often
to overcome a tendency to take the path of least resistance,
whether it is a line of questioning, or a route of travel. And
Cobbett was frequently stubborn: he will not be put off from a
desire to see certain features, trying to put himself in
situations that may throw up some unexpected discovery:
"I asked a man the way to Thursley. 'You must go to
Liphook, Sir', said he. 'But,' I said, 'I will not go to
He had resolved to see and understand the 'low countries', and
wished to avoid the hill over Hindhead. On another occasion he
wishes to pass over and down the precipitous wooded hillside of
Hawkley Hanger in Hampshire. On asking the route he receives
strong advice and warnings of the dangers of that route, but he
simply asks whether people were in the habit of going along that
route. On learning that they did, he immediately sets off through
lanes with high banks and steep turns, and then:
"Out we came, all in a moment, at the very edge of the
hanger! And, never, in all my life, was I so surprised and
so delighted! I pulled up my horse, and sat and looked; and
it was like looking from the top of a castle down into the
sea, except that the valley was land and not water".
He admonishes his warning informants thus:
"Those who had so strenuously dwelt on the dirt and the
dangers of this route, had not said a word about the
beauties, the matchless beauties of the scenery".
But beauty was not enough it was the combination of people and
the environment that was critical to Cobbett. As a later editor,
George Woodcock, put it:
"There was nothing that made him (Cobbett) more uneasy than
a landscape without people".
One consequence, though, of this admirable approach of only
accepting those facts he saw with his own eyes was that he was
perhaps subject to another set of biases. 'Official' census
figures put the population growth at 40% between 1801 and 1831,
yet Cobbett was determined to disprove this trend. In the
Committee Rooms of the Houses of Parliament the:
"mad wretches...are bothering this half-distracted nation to
death about a surplus population".
Cobbett was quite against the proposed policy of enforced
transportation of people away from England, and all because of
the principles of one Thomas Mathus:
"a monster who furnished the unfeeling oligarchs...with the
pretence that man has a natural propensity to breed faster
than food can be raised for the increase".
There was an 'Emigration Committee':
"sitting to devise the means of getting rid, not of the
idlers, not of the pensioners, not of the dead-weight...not
of the soldiers; but to devise means of getting rid of these
working people, who are grudged even the miserable morsel
To support his argument Cobbett used the size of churches and the
number of people they could comfortably hold as a proxy indicator
for past local population size. In southern Kent:
"The church at Appledore is very large. Big enough to hold
3000 people; and the place does not seem to contain half a
thousand old enough to go to church...At 3 miles from
Appledore I came through Snagate, a village with five
houses, and with a church capable of holding 2000 people!
At Brenzett (a mile further on)...a church here...and nobody
to go to it...At Old Romney there is a church (two miles
only from the last, mind) fit to contain 1500 people, and
there are, for the people of the parish to live in 22 or 23
houses! And yet the vagabonds have the impudence to tell
us, that the population of England has vastly increased!"
Later he rides up the valley of the Avon in Wiltshire, where
there are 29 agricultural parishes containing churches within the
distance of 30 miles. According to population returns these
contained some 9000 people; according to him it was manifest that
the population of the valley was once many times this value.
"What, then, should all these churches be built for?"
In three instances the church porches alone could have held all
the inhabitants, even down to the bed-ridden and the babies. In
the Wiltshire Vale there were 120 churches built for the apparent
purpose of holding 2080 people.
"In short, everything shows, that here was once a great and
opulent population; that there was an abundance to eat, to
wear, and to spare; that all the land that is now under
cultivation, and a great deal that is not now under
cultivation, was under cultivation in former times".
Another major element of rural systems that fascinated Cobbett on
his Rides was mixed and integrated farming. He ranted about the
monoculture cereal lands, saying that there were:
"no hedges, no ditches, no commons, no grassy lanes...All
the rest is bare of trees and the wretched labourer has not
a stick of wood, and has not place for a pig or cow to
graze, or even to lie down upon...the poor day-labourers
suffer from the want of fuel for this reason they are
greatly worse off than those of woodland counties. What a
difference there is between the faces you see here, and the
round, red faces that you see in the wealds and forests"
But elsewhere, things could look quite different:
"the labouring people look pretty well. They have pigs.
They invariably do best in woodland and forest and wild
counties...But as man is not to live on bread alone, so corn
is not the only thing that the owners and occupiers of the
land have to look to. There are timber, bark, underwood,
wool, hides, pigs, sheep and cattle".
Rural peoples ability to carry a number of options in their
livelihood basket is often seen as a strategy guarding against
risk. If the door to one option is closed then it remains
possible to substitute energy and attention to one of the other
options. Evidence suggests that the poor and ultra-poor actively
maximise the number of options open to them: they prefer and
survive through multi-faceted livelihoods.
He also disapproves of the enclosures movement, not at this time
in its height, but with a long history stretching back some 500
years. Common fields, woodlands and downs were enclosed to
encourage increased food production, even at the possible loss to
equity and sustainability. Of the Longwood Warren he says:
"These hills are amongst the most barren of the Downs; yet a
part of them was broken up during the rage for improvements;
during the rage for what empty men think was augmenting of
the capital of the country...The herbage was not good, but
it was something. Instead of grass it will now, for 20
years to come, bear nothing but species of weeds".
These concerns of Cobbett identify him quite clearly with a long
tradition of writers on rural and agricultural matters dating to
the 13th century and Walter of Henley and the anonymous author of
Husbandry. Both were familiar with these issues of diversity and
sustainability. I have recently analysed the manorial
agroecosystem of the 13th and 14th centuries. These manorial
estates survived many centuries of change and appear to have been
highly sustainable systems. Yet this sustainability was not
achieved because of high agricultural productivity. Productivity
was remarkably low and it appears that farmers were trading off
low productivity against the more highly valued goals of
sustainability and equity. These were promoted by the integrated
nature of farming and use of natural resources; the great
diversity of produce, including wild resources; the diversity of
available livelihood strategies; and the high degree of
cooperation, particularly on the local management of natural
How history repeated itself. Cobbett was concerned with issues
of rural depopulation and integrated land use. And in the 14th
century, when some 1300 villages in rural England were deserted
as the population crashed, those most likely to be deserted were
solely agricultural. People tended to migrate from the
agricultural village to villages situated by woodlands and
forests, for they offered a greater diversity of livelihood
Cobbett, W. 1830. Rural Rides in the Counties of Surrey, Kent,
Sussex, Hampshire, Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire,
Worcestershire, Somersetshire, Oxfordshire, Berkshire, Essex,
Suffolk, Norfolk and Hertfordshire. Republished by Penguin Books
as Rural Rides in 1967.
Pretty, J.N. Sustainable Agriculture in the Middle Ages: The
English Manor. Agricultural History Review (in press)
Jules N Pretty
A NOTE ON THE USE OF AERIAL PHOTOGRAPHS FOR LAND USE PLANNING ON
A SETTLEMENT SITE IN ETHIOPIA
Two NGOs, Concern and BandAid have been assisting settlers at two
resettlement sites in Western Ethiopia since 1985. Their
assistance has been directed towards a better appreciation of
environmental factors and greater participation by the settlers
in planning the use of their land.
The two sites were photographed from the air at a scale of
1:20,000 and local consultants were employed to carry out a land
capability study. Their report was submitted in June 1988. This
report was in the usual form, of more or less use to professional
land use planners but with minimal value as a communication tool
for discussing land use with the settlers.
To overcome this the prints were enlarged to a scale of 1:5,000
and mosaics were made up at these scales for each of the village
A preliminary test run with a few farmers using one of these
mosaics showed that:
1. the settlers immediately recognized that this was a
photograph of their land;
2. they could without difficulty indicate the boundaries of
their land on the mosaic (correcting in the process some
errors made by the consultants);
3. they had no difficulty in recognizing features such as
ponds, swamps, woods, their own huts, thrashing floors,
tracks, areas under crop etc.
4. they could take one to any spot on their land shown to them
on the mosaic;
5. they could identify on the mosaic their position at any
point of a walk round the land.
Although none of them had seen an aerial photograph before, it
was as if they had the stereoscopic vision facility acquired by
experienced photo-interpreters in so far as they could show us on
the mosaic steep and gentle slopes. This may be a question of
transferring actual knowledge of the land onto the photograph
rather than seeing slope on the print (as one can test by looking
at a picture of an area intimately known to one). But I cannot
Subsequently a one-week workshop was organised by the NGOs at
which representatives of all the villages concerned, including
those of the indigenous population and of the Ministry of
Agriculture, discussed land use planning with especial reference
to the next cropping season. After one or two full sessions,
each village took its photo-mosaic and, with its development
agent and the local farmers, discussed and agreed on a pro-forma
land use allocation. These allocations were then marked and
labelled on transparent acetate sheets overlaid on the mosaic.
Each village in turn presented their proposals to the full
session using the mosaics and overlays.
Aerial photography helps technical staff who do not know an area
well to identify its superficial characteristics and to visualise
development options. It does not help a farmer who does know his
land well, including details that cannot be shown on an aerial
photograph, to make better plans for its use. It was, however,
shown to be a valuable tool whereby farmers could illustrate
their knowledge and ideas to others, i.e. developers, and enable
developers to extract information of useful accuracy, for
example this side or that of a path, without having to walk every
part of the land. It provided a visual medium of mutual
recognition, the farmers transferring their knowledge of the land
onto a representation of it that they could recognize and explain
to developers who could visualise what was being told to them
through their greater or less ability to interpret photography.
A practical outcome of the workshop has been the start of a
longer term programme of land use planning, already under way in
which staff of the Land Use Planning Department of the Ministry
of Agriculture are discussing land use plans in much more detail
with settlers at each village site using the photo-mosaics.
The area in this case was specifically flown and the photo-prints
were therefore up to date. A possible snag might be the use of
the more commonly available prints which may be 10-20 years old.
Especially in recently settled areas, or areas where there has
been a dramatic change in the vegetation, for instance through
expanded cropping, farmers might find it more difficult to
recognize the photo imagery.
USING RAPID RURAL APPRAISAL FOR PROJECT IDENTIFICATION
Report on a training exercise in Jama'are local government area,
Bauchi State, Northern Nigeria
In April this year we cooperated with Ahmadu Bello University in
running a pilot course on rural project identification for heads
of local government departments of Agriculture and of Community
Development of several states in Northern Nigeria. The course
was based on fieldwork in five villages in the Jama'are local
government area, Bauchi state. We focused the fieldwork on
applying Rapid Rural Appraisal (RRA) techniques, namely wealth
ranking, community, group and household interviews, and various
diagrammatic instruments transectss, seasonal calendars,
historical profiles and village maps). The purpose was to
provide the course participants with improved tools for assessing
rural needs in relation to local government services.
Here are some of the high and low lights of the work and what we
learned about trying out these RRA techniques in a training
Wealth ranking: selection of key informants in the small
Done in consultation with the head of the village, to get a
variety of occupations and degrees of wealth and any different
cultural groups. But there was reluctance among the elders of
these Fulani villages to name a woman as a key informant. In two
cases the assessment by the woman key informant produced the most
radically different wealth ranking classification producing
larger wealthy groups than the other key informants. Not clear
Ideally we should have consulted others than the village head in
making the selection of key informants. But this is very
difficult, especially if the wealth ranking is done at the
beginning of the work. Advance literature on the village or the
area would be useful, particularly if there are any indications
from this of any particular group (occupation, status, culture)
which is thought to be particularly deprived. In our case we did
not have such advance information. Our own findings suggested
that among deprived groups are old couples whose children have
grown up and left home and new immigrants who live on the edge of
the villages. Others who may have been more specifically
selected as key informants were: small scale traders, craftsmen
and mat weavers (often people without resources for farming or
The appearance of poverty and apparent wealth
While the poverty identification exercise using the wealth
ranking method proved successful on the whole, a number of
practical problems were encountered, as follows:
i) in some villages several households share the same
surname. Hence it was necessary to distinguish clearly
between them before asking the informants to rank
ii) some informants, while most willing to help in the
exercise, were not prepared to categorise some households
as poor because they believed the families would not like
to be so classified if they found out. Hence
confidentiality was essential, strengthened by
interviewing in the privacy of informants' own houses.
iii) conceptual problems arose concerning the definition of
poverty itself. In these villages whether a person is
thought to be wealthy or not depends on their ownership of
land. Hence several informants stated that 'X is poor but
may not be poor'. What they meant was that X owned little
land and therefore had to buy food from the market a
sure sign of poverty. However since X in fact owns a
cattle truck which is used to take produce to the market
for other farmers he earns a reasonable income from this.
According to an outsider's perception he is not poor. Yet
since the social value placed on land is so high he is
still regarded as poor within the village.
iv) A separate but related problem concerns sons who have not
yet inherited wealth (land) from their father. According
to the prevailing social structure young married sons
mainly till the household farmlands (gandu arrangement)
but later on they are also assigned separate plots by
their father in order to feed their growing family. Until
they obtain such land, they are nominally landless and
hence classed by some informants as poor. Yet these same
informants know full well that eventually they will
inherit lands from the father. Hence the youngest son of
one of the richest families in one village was classed
among the poorest.
v) The list of village households we worked from had been
compiled by the head of the district. But there was some
question (never really answered) as to whether this was
the list used for tax collection purposes which might
therefore not include names of evaders, and also as to how
up to date the list was.
The problems with probing, using government officials easily
suspected of tax interests
Our course participants were local government officials. It was
clear from comments made once we had established better
communication that some suspicions existed at first, even though
we had emphasised the confidentiality of the information.
The questionnaire problem checklists far better
We made the mistake in preparing for the fieldwork of letting the
participants prepare interview schedules in the form of
questionnaires. This resulted from our wish to involve them as
much as possible but their experience was with closed type of
questionnaires worked mechanically through, and it was difficult
to free them from this once they had started, and to discourage
them from analysing and generalising (even to decimal places)
the results of the untested, non-randomly applied questionnaires.
In future we will construct checklist (trying to build in easy-
retention lists, in mnempnic form perhaps, or like the 'five I's'
and the 'six helpers' to provide a basic reference for
interviews, and encourage a flexible, probing approach. A few
specific, unambiguous questions on which comparable, quantifiable
(or at least rankable) information is needed can be added.
A better introduction to RRA as a method needed
With little time to prepare the participants for the fieldwork we
concentrated on teaching the RRA techniques to be used and on
preparing the interview schedules. With hindsight, a more
thorough grounding in RRA as a method was needed (built around
'optimal ignorance' and 'triangulation') distinguishing it from
traditional survey methods.
Using rapid nutrition assessment
Upper arm measure seems designed for measuring more extreme
malnutrition than the weight for age; weight for height results
generally indicated stunting: children who were well below the
'path of health' on weight for age were OK on weight for height.
Also there was a practical problem that most parents had only a
vague idea of the birth date of infants usually only to the
nearest six months. This reduced the usefulness of the weight
for age measure in particular.
Firstly, in the community interview it was difficult to get much
participation of ordinary people, rather than just the village
elders. We felt that although reasons of suspicion and hierarchy
were partly responsible here the sitting arrangements did not
help with the questioners sitting near the headman and elders.
We hope to change this in future.
Secondly, some of the household interviews were conducted away
from the informant's home, in the centre of village. Although
Six helpers: who, what, where, when, how, why
Five I's (for farming): incentives, inputs, innovations,
obtaining privacy was not the problem (no shortage of isolated
shade trees) these interviews were generally less successful than
those conducted in homes.
Lack of an analytic tradition in the bureaucracy
Many of the government officers still believe that their role is
to 'enlighten' the village people about the 'importance' of
education, health, water and community associations. They are
also more used to descriptive reporting. Probing is essential to
RRA, but many tended to accept what was said at face value, not
look for linking points, and to be satisfied with poor
information. Among some there was reluctance to remain long in
the village and look for detail by consulting different
It could be argued that RRA presupposes that its practitioners
already possess a grasp of social processes. For this reason RRA
may be easier with NGO's whose approach to rural development is
often more oriented to poorer people's needs. But such a grasp
cannot be assumed with local government officers. This was well
summed up by one participant, genuinely perplexed, who asked:
'This wealth ranking exercise is very interesting but why are we
trying to identify the poorest?'
Our response to this question was that besides the priority that
the poor should receive in government social planning the access
by the poor to government services is the best measure of the
adequacy of those services since the poor are invariably last
in the queue.
Perhaps at the back of some of these problems was a low level of
formal education among the participants combined with lack of a
consultative tradition in the bureaucracy. Supplying them with
techniques to enable them to go into the villages to find out
information with more confidence than before was a major benefit
of the course, as cited by the participants in the course
Poor performance on diagrammatic techniques
Partly a training fault. Although the techniques were taught
their relevance to project planning was not specified
sufficiently. The result was that many were skimpily done in the
field and hardly related to the analysis contained in the written
report. Trainers should have taken more lead in carrying out
themselves high quality transects. Seasonal calendars were
generally better done but historical profiles were disappointing,
perhaps because participants saw no relation to current policy.
A useful means in compiling the historical profile, tried
successfully in one village, is to find out if there are village
songs which tell its story, to listen to them and go over the
events described in a community interview. This proved an
excellent ice breaker and source of information.
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Limitations of an open ended RRA for training RD officers
The focus was on teaching a variety of RRA techniques. No
particular investment projects were in mind and the object of all
the techniques was to produce a picture of how people of
different wealth levels make their living in the villages, the
access they have to local government's services and the use they
make of them.
As such, the work was of the 'Exploratory RRA' type. The outcome
was also general in nature, covering all the different sectors in
which local government is involved (agriculture and livestock,
education, health, water and community development). The
strength of this approach from the training point of view was
that many different RRA techniques were introduced, tried out and
the many resulting issues discussed with local government and, at
a still more general level, in the workshop at Ahmadu Bello
university which ended the course. The disadvantage was that
covering so many techniques and sectors limited the depth of
enquiry and contributed to the superficial preparation and use of
some of the RRA techniques. Further, the RRA techniques used
were of a widely differing nature: the sketch map, the transect
through the village and the seasonal calendar are aimed at
resource potential and use. The historical profile and the
different interviews (community, group, household) are aimed more
at household and community problems.
The interviews require more skill to be done well but were more
readily embarked upon in our work by the course participants than
were the transect, map and seasonal calendar.
The alternative would be to have specific projects or services in
focus, and to select the RRA techniques accordingly.
Linking RRA to local government's project identification
Our reason for focussing on RRA techniques was to improve the
participants' project identification skills. Since the project
executing body was in their case local government, we needed to
develop an institutional rapid appraisal to link RRA in the
villages to local government planning. For this purpose we
constructed a 'Use of Local Government Services' pro forma
listing the services currently provided, with spaces next to them
to fill in the use made of these services by village informants,
and how they would like them to be changed. It provided us with a
summary statement of issues by sector and department to take to
This needs to be developed further. In future work we would like
to add the following:
1. During the fieldwork preparation: to work with councillors
in the local government area where the fieldwork is to be
done to get a good idea of the present project ID and
management problems as they see them. This would be in
addition to working with local government officers as we
did. The excellent cooperation we received would have made
this possible; there is a genuine interest in improving
2. To trace through with councillors and officers the decision
trees of particular projects as part of the work done by
a) When and where the major decision on the inception and
continuation of the activity are taken; what decisions
are and are not in the hands of the council;
b) How the allocations of funds for recurrent costs are
made, for each area of activity.
Together these two little investigations, when combined with
the investigations in the villages regarding the use of
services, services wanted and resource potential, provide a
basis for a rapid appraisal of local government project ID.
Too many participants
Carrying out the work with 30 course participants proved
logistically horrendous, for transport, accommodation and
communications (especially since phoning was virtually impossible
and petrol was scarce). In future we would want no more than
could travel in two large estate cars (12 or so). This would
also make local accommodation easier even increasing the
possibility that we could stay in the villages, with all its
attendant learning advantages.
This was the pilot course of a five year programme. Much was
learnt not only regarding the advantages of smaller numbers but
also of the ways of linking RRA to project planning and
management. Future courses will develop these ideas further.
Michael Hubbard, Robert Leurs, and Andrew Nickson
Development Administration Group
University of Birmingham
VISUALISING GROUP-DISCUSSIONS WITH IMPROMPTU CARTOONS
The Banque de Development de l'Afrique Centrale is assisting the
government of Tchad in a project for the production of milk-
products and poultry in the surroundings of the capital
N'Djamena. The whole project is running into major financial and
conceptual problems. Small farmers and small-time enterprisers
were organised by the project into groups and financed with a
credit scheme. However, results were far below expectations. As
a consultant I was asked to find means of improving the programs
in the poultry-sector. This obviously also implied improving the
relationship between farmers engaged in poultry and the project
One major problem was that the farmers' perception of the
situation was unknown (as "farmers" one would have to imagine
people living in suburbs, with small enterprises not actual
farmers). The aim was therefore to identify the problems as
perceived by them, and to rank them.
However, the challenge was language The language-capacities of
the people involved in the discussions (farmers, field-personnel
of the project, myself) was as follows:
"Southerners": Mothertongues: various local languages
Lingua Franca amongst themselves: Sarrha
Working knowledge of French
Working knowledge of Arabic
"Northerners": Mothertongue: local Arabic dialect
French very insecure
Myself: Mothertongue: a Swiss-german dialect
Working knowledge of French
No Sarrha, No Arabic
There was therefore the acute danger that the Southerners would
resort to talking French with me, that the translations into
Arabic would not happen in the heat of the discussion, and that
therefore the Arabic speakers would be marginalised in the
discussion a potentially dangerous development in the context
of the Tchad.
The groups already knew what the sessions would be all about,
because of an introductory tour to all contacts two days prior to
Structure of the discussion:
1. Drawing of cartoons: As soon as a particular problem
started to become recognized as such by most of the
participants, I set out to make a rough-handed sketch of it
(paper and felt-pens of various colours). Each sketch took
no more than 30 seconds to make, and was a pictorial as
2. Once finished, this "cartoon" was shown around and the
problem-definition was established. At this stage Arabic
speakers would get the cartoons explained to them by Sarrha
speakers (in Arabic). Often the cartoon had to be changed
or amended. Before going on, it was made sure that each
participant related the same problem-definition, agreed upon
by everybody present, to that particular cartoon.
3. Further problems were listed in the same way until
exhaustion, i.e. until further problem-suggestions were
being laughed at by all other farmers, indicating that they
were personal problems not directly relevant to everybody.
The final problem-list consisted of up to seven pieces of
paper, each with a cartoon, spread out on the mat everybody
was sitting on, and weighted down by twigs, stones, fingers,
and elbows due to the blustering dust storm around us.
4. Ranking: The cartoons were ranked on the mat into a
sequence. Usually the least important were quickly
established. Where ambiguities, insecurities, or even
quarrels broke out, strict pairwise ranking was carried out
to establish the particular place of a cartoon in the
sequence. Often this pairwise ranking resulted in a new
problem being recognized, drawn and defined. The new
cartoon would then be added, usually resulting in the
resolution of the conflict.
5. The three top problems were individually discussed for
solutions. Whatever notes I wanted to make, I made them
directly on the paper of the cartoon being discussed, in
view of everybody, in French, and explaining what I was
Each discussion took about 2 hours. The cartoons were taken
along and processed into discussion-protocols (Figure 1).
a) Everybody seemed to enjoy the exercise. Interaction was
vivid, not only between myself and farmers, but also among
themselves. Often I was left completely out of the
discussion, and the cartoons would be shuffled and
reshuffled. Cartoons would change hands, fingers would
point at cartoons while making a point, somebody would
angrily throw away a cartoon and then hold another with both
Ti~ure. : Prot-oo#l of Ca Vwual/ed 3grtp- dsc4ussiop. c wi/,i carf-oots.
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hands, etc. During such phases I consciously concentrated
on the body language, which helped me to gain an intuitive
feeling (not an understanding) of where the pressing points
were. After things settled down and were explained to me, I
usually already knew the gist of the discussion and only had
to make sure I wrote the right interpretations as notes on
b) The act of drawing the cartoon had a strong fun-component
for everybody. This was instrumental for acquiring a
personal rapport with the farmers. Sometimes things were
suggested which I did not know, and therefore could not
draw, as in the case of a "pousse-pousse". I handed over
paper and pen to the farmer suggesting it, and he drew it to
the hilarious comment of everybody. Seeing the drawing I
immediately knew he was referring to a two-wheeled cart
which you push (French: pousse).
c) The project field-personnel were in the beginning rather
lost in their white veterinary coats, notepads and
ballpoints. Most of them finally managed to get themselves
involved in the discussions and enjoy them. They were often
very important for nailing down a clear-cut definition of a
problem. However, this was a completely new experience for
d) Possible draw-back: The knack of visualising and drawing a
problem as a picture on-the-spot is not given to everybody.
However, the capacity for drawing is not a problem. It
should be clear that the quality of the drawing has nothing
to do with its value as a communication-facilitator. The
point simply is to make sure that everybody relates a
particular problem to a particular cartoon. In the extreme
case this cartoon can just be a black dot but that is no
funl Cartoons are fun, even if they only resemble
THE USE OF COMMUNITY THEATRE IN PROJECT EVALUATION:
AN EXPERIMENTAL EXAMPLE FROM ZIMBABWE
Introduction and Background
ENDA-Zimbabwe (Environment and Development Activities), an
indigenous Zimbabwean NGO, has been running a community woodland
resource management project in Southern Zimbabwe since 1987. The
project places an emphasis on community research and aims at a
participatory framework in implementation. The following account
relates to a workshop that was held at Mototi Township, the area
where the project originated. Locally based project staff, a
community worker and village researchers, facilitated the
workshop, which had as its broad aim the creation of a piece of
community theatre reflecting perceptions and concerns about the
project and trees in general.
Our objectives in holding this workshop were the following:
S to highlight key concerns of the community regarding the
current tree population of the area.
S to look for solutions from the community and evaluate the
role of ENDA in facilitation of this.
to expose obstructive factors to the attainment of these
to work these issues into a short piece of theatre which
exposes conflicts over trees and could be used to stimulate
discussion in community workshops, as representative of
through drama, to involve people more closely in the issues
which emerged and strengthen motivation.
1. The group were selected by the community workers from the
main household clusters, over a wide age-range and with
roughly equal numbers of men and women, so as to represent
the community as fully as possible.
2. In order to bring about fuller participation in discussion,
the groups were divided into single-sex sub-groups of 5 or 6
people. This was also intended to allow women freer
expression and to expose the different concerns of women and
men where they existed.
3. The sub-groups selected a representative to present their
points of discussion to the group as a whole. General
discussion followed presentations, centring on the issues
4. Four animators were involved in going to the groups to
stimulate and channel discussion, where necessary. Their
role was to be active only where the group remained hesitant
about discussing (in the context, this was superfluous).
General discussion was facilitated by the community worker
and there were four observers, who took individual notes on
the proceedings which were compared and discussed in the
evaluation session after the workshop.
Structure of the Discussions
1. The groups were given five questions to debate, these having
been formulated by the community worker and team of
animators prior to the workshop. Once they felt that they
had pooled their views and ideas they were asked to return
to the group to present them, upon which a general
discussion was held.
2. Moving to the specific issues of the value of and threats to
trees, the sub-groups each chose 6 important trees by
calling out a name in rotation. Discussions in the sub-
groups focused on these themes and presentation and general
3. To the group as a whole the question was asked: When did
these trees start to disappear? People shouted out dates
and were asked the reasons for their choices.
4. General discussion centred around ENDA's role in improving
the situation and how the community perceived this.
5. The group decided to focus on three areas in which trees are
found and threatened, to emphasise their value. These were:
around the home
in the field
in the forest
For each of these areas a short sketch was created, with
people personifying the most important trees selected by the
group as a whole and others posing threats to the trees.
6. Throughout the emphasis was on what the group felt was the
best approach; they made decisions about using the small-
group format again after it was tried out in the first
discussion and on the structure and content of the play.
The facilitators were very much on the side-lines; the
structure of the workshop seemed to allow people to
participate fully without needing any encouragement.
Content of the Discussions
DISCUSSION ONE: Evaluating current status of trees and stating
1. The 5 questions posed were:
what is the present situation with trees in this area?
how did this situation come about?
what is the situation we would like to bring about in the
what are the obstacles to achieving this?
how do we overcome these obstacles?
2. The present situation was seen as being that there were few
trees and that they were decreasing in number.
3. The causes of this situation fell into three broad
a) drought and its consequences: infertile seeds, less
potential for growth
b) over-population and increased demand for wood;
fuelwood, fencing, building etc.
c) mismanagement of resources: destumping from fields,
burning to cut down trees, carelessness.
4. The goal was seen as increasing the number of trees and, at
the same time, awareness of conservation of resources; to
plant trees to replace one cut by three planted, for
example; to replace dead trees; to leave stumps and cut
rather than burn, so that the stumps can sprout; not to cut
large trees which can yield seeds; not to be careless and
cut trees without a good reason.
5. Obstacles to these goals were seen as identical with points
3 a and c.
6. Overcoming these obstacles requires heightened awareness
and, to counter the effects of drought and encourage
community management of resources, the setting up of village
nurseries run by the community.
7. These two aims were seen as being tackled by ENDA. Firstly,
by Mathou Chakavanda, the community worker, in encouraging
people to take more care, and in giving people ideas and
assistance on where and how to plant trees. Secondly, the
nurseries will allow people to overcome the problem of
infertile seeds and enable them to replant areas which they
observe have become deforested.
8. There were no distinguishable differences between the
concerns and solutions articulated by groups of men and
DISCUSSION TWO: Important Trees and their Uses.
1. The trees were chosen in rotation, a) being first choice,
not necessarily first preference.
GROUP ONE (of women):
GROUP TWO (of men):
GROUP THREE (of women):
- gives shade, good for crops
- gives shade, good for crops, cure for
toothache (as a gargle)
- fruits for birds, animals and people
- browse for cattle and donkeys
- fruits for birds and people, good for
- fruits, leaves used for wounds, root
used for diarrhoea, 'good for oxygen'
- fruits, bird's food, yokes, good for
craft-making, bark used for dying
baskets, cure for diarrhoea
- fruits, bark for making string for
mats, roots used for washing children
- firewood, browse
- browse, making doors, washing infants
- twiglets used to chase away ngozi
(avenging spirits), rootes used if the
placenta fails to be expelled after
delivery and as an abortificaent,
gargles to preserve teeth
- browse for goats, fencing for fields
- fruits keep healthy, for dovi, a
source of protein, fruits pounded and
eaten as dovore (especially good for
- fruits, to make sticks for porridge,
it doesn't affect crops when in fields
- for building, ashes used for
decoration of walls
- food for birds, good for shade
- fruits, cure for sore eyes
- yokes, pestles, cure for sore eyes
GROUP FOUR (of men):
- for poles, roofing,
caterpillars found on it
- fruits, porridge
c) musvimwa fruits, birds depend on it
d) munyera can chew the roots, browse for goats
e) mukwakwa fruits, food for baboons
f) mukosvo fruits, poles for building
2. It was interesting to note that there was little in the way
of differences between the uses suggested by the groups of
men and of women. Men's knowledge about issues which could
be labelled 'women's affairs' by an outsider, observing the
sexual division of labour in the cultural context, is often
as extensive as women's knowledge.
DISCUSSION THREE: The Disappearance of Trees over Time:
1. Three questions were asked:
when did you notice that trees were
starting to disappear?
what caused it, how did it come about?
what made you notice it at that time?
2. The group called out the years in which they noticed that
trees were disappearing.
3. The years mentioned and reasons given were:
in 1961 with the introduction of lines, many new homes
were built; increased population meant an
increased consumption of fuelwood.
in 1969 the winters very cold and there were severe
in 1970 trees were being used for fencing in the lines;
one participant remarked that he had walked 10km
before find poles adequate for roofing.
in 1975 people were cutting down trees in the waterways
in 1981 new homes were being built, trees were cut down as
fodder during drought; it was observed that before
this time the business was dense.
in 1982 drought again, donkeys depended on trees for their
in 1987 trees were being cut for fencing and firewood; it
was remarked that is was impossible as cover was
4. The group discussed places where trees were still plentiful,
places far away such as Gokwe (in the far north-west) were
mentioned, in stark contrast to this area.
5. People felt that 'with people's desire' and the help of ENDA
the situation could improve.
Preparation of the Play:
1. Three scenes were decided upon to show the conflicts over
For each scene people chose to either act (as trees or those
threatening trees) or observe and direct.
2. After discussions on which trees should be included, people
got up and started to improvise scenes, prompted by the
occasional comments from onlookers. At first, five or so
trees were suggested for each scene, but after trying this
out it was felt that it made the play too long and the point
had already been made. Some of the threats people suggested
were also laughed out as being irrelevant. Three trees were
decided on for the first two scenes and four for the third,
the issue of firewood cutting in the forest being seen as
the most important one.
3. As people began to improvise the scenes, a director stepped
forward and acted to channel the comments which were being
thrown in and to suggest where people stood and so on.
4. In an hour or so the play was completed to everyone's
satisfaction and the performance received lively applause
and laughter. From the comments made after the workshop, it
seemed that people felt they had created something that they
felt good about and really enjoyed themselves in the
5. In the first scene, a man is sitting at home when he is
approached by his two wives who moan about the trees in the
homestead for example, that people are always coming to
eat the fruit and then hang around to be fed a meal (it is
customary to feed visitors, unavoidable if they appear at
mealtimesl) He protests and refuses to give them
permission, but they carry on complaining and eventually
ignore him and go off to do it anyway. This is repeated for
each tree, with a different reason (happening over a period
of time), the man getting more and more despondent at their
lack of respect for his authority. When they try to cut
down the tree, it protests, saying 'Don't cut me down! I am
tree X and I give you ...' This has a lot of humour value -
firstly because if a man refuses, a women is supposed to
obey him (but if he is an old man, they don't) and also
because men are always complaining about the perserverance
of women in complaining about something so that they can get
their own way.
In the second scene, a man is sitting at home, quite drunk,
when his two wives come to tell him about the hassles of the
trees in the field for example, children come to take
fruit and trample all over the crops. He is totally
disinterested and say they should do what they want. The
same pattern is repeated as in the first scene. By the time
the women ask permission to cut the third tree down, he's
asleep and wakes up complaining about his hangover, saying
go on, run and cut it down, I don't care, I have a terrible
hangover. This again has a lot of humour value, especially
for the women.
In the third scene, two women go out to look for firewood
and in two of the instances, do what has been discussed
previously as being wrong. They attempt to cut down a huge
tree, needing a man to help them and they try to set fire to
another tree at its base. As they go through the forest,
the women make jokes which keeps the audience amused. The
last speech from a tree is long and impassioned, appealing
to people to realise the effects of what they are doing.
6. (In subsequent performances, people changed roles, others
came in, different trees were suggested the play was
essentially quite fluid and was adapted by the actors who
improvised as they went on.
Whenever I had used drama before I found that people quickly
created the play and could improvise freely. This is bound
up in the way people interact in that cultural context and
therefore may not be so readily repeatable elsewhere.)
1. Two features of the method used for the workshop merit
a) The division of the larger group into sub-groups of men
and women allowed fuller participation. This was
especially relevant to the participation of women, who
had a chance to air their views more freely for
example, in joking competitiveness, group one, of
women, was applauded for raising the best points.
b) The structures given to discussions seemed to enable
them to move more rapidly and remain centred on the key
issues. Together with general discussion, in which
comments sparked off further unstructured exploration
of the issues, this seemed an effective approach.
2. We feel that the play could be a useful tool to generate
discussion and concern at a more personal level if used in
larger community workshops, as well as having use in
The outcome of the workshops was a piece of community theatre
portraying conflicts over communal resources in a form that the
representatives of the community taking part felt could help
promote awareness and concern. Through dramatisation of their
own concern, the participants may have identified more closely
with the issues raised and experienced enhanced motivation to
tackle and resolve these problems.
It is through identifying with and taking responsibility for such
issues that a community can be self-motivating and that a project
such as this one can be sustained in the absence of outsider
intervention. Drama is a powerful tool in facilitating
reflection and stimulating personal involvement in such areas of
concern, often enabling people to see things from a new
Participating in the drama as an onlooker, by internalising the
issues, or as an actor, by expressing them in role-play, can lend
this new perspective and engender greater personal commitment to
a cause or project. The involvement of local community members
can act to legitimate the message and to articulate it more
clearly to the target audience. As an exercise in itself, the
creation of a piece of theatre of this nature can be valuable.
Each area has its own problems, and perceptions may differ as to
where priorities lie: locally based theatre allows people to
develop ideas and solutions themselves, rather than see outsiders
to the community articulating their perceptions.
Using a structured format, with small groups, this type of
workshop virtually runs itself. The group of animators can be
appointed from local people and facilitate the proceedings, as
minimal direction is required. Participation in this form of
workshop can lead, as it did in Mototi, to the group taking
control of the proceedings, creating the drama for themselves.
It does not require a skilled facilitator, but does require for
participants to be chosen from the livelier people in the
community in every group some people will attempt to lead,
directors can present themselves to the group rather than a
director being imposed on them. A possible approach is to ask
for volunteers from the group as a whole to act as facilitators
and for this sub-group to take part in discussions on the way in
which the workshop will be run and briefed on their role as
facilitators. In this way people will come forward rather than
be chosen by the people responsible for running the workshop,
which could potentially work better.
ENDA-Zimbabwe, Zvishavane, Zimbabwe