RRA notes

Material Information

RRA notes
Series Title:
RRA notes.
Alternate title:
Rapid rural appraisal notes
Distinctive title:
Proceedings of RRA Review Workshop, Sussex
Distinctive title:
Proceedings of the Local Level Adaptive Planning Workshop, London
Distinctive title:
Participatory methods for learning and analysis
International Institute for Environment and Development -- Sustainable Agriculture Programme
Place of Publication:
IIED, Sustainable Agriculture Programme
Publication Date:
completely irregular
Physical Description:
v. : ill. ; 30 cm.


Subjects / Keywords:
Sustainable agriculture -- Periodicals -- Developing countries ( lcsh )
Sustainable agriculture -- Methodology -- Periodicals ( lcsh )
serial ( sobekcm )
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.

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida
Holding Location:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
The University of Florida George A. Smathers Libraries respect the intellectual property rights of others and do not claim any copyright interest in this item. This item may be protected by copyright but is made available here under a claim of fair use (17 U.S.C. §107) for non-profit research and educational purposes. Users of this work have responsibility for determining copyright status prior to reusing, publishing or reproducing this item for purposes other than what is allowed by fair use or other copyright exemptions. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions requires permission of the copyright holder. The Smathers Libraries would like to learn more about this item and invite individuals or organizations to contact Digital Services ( with any additional information they can provide.
Resource Identifier:
24385692 ( OCLC )
sn 92015492 ( LCCN )

Related Items

Succeeded by:
PLA notes

Full Text

RRA Notes

Number 2



This is the second 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.

Gordon Conway
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




Using RRA to Formulate a Village Resources
Management Plan, Mbusanyi, Kenya

Learning Abut Wealth: An Example from Zimbabwe

Investigating Poverty: An Example from Tanzania

Sheila Smith

Charity Kabutha
and Richard Ford

Ian Scoones

Sheila Smith
and John Sender

Stop Press


This second issue of RRA Notes includes three short items, all
concerned with research methodology in Africa: from Kenya,
Zimbabwe and Tanzania. As with most experience of RRA it is
rarely rapid, but these are at least all rural. The focus varies
from research into poverty and wealth, to the use of RRA to
formulate a village resources management plan, but all three
involve departures from conventional methodologies and lessons
for other fieldworkers. In particular they involve learning from
local inhabitants, although the Tanzania work emphasises the
importance of recognizing the socio-economic status of particular
local inhabitants who may provide information which
(unintentionally) misleads the researchers. Some degree of
deviousness, or at least ingenuity, is always required.

Sheila Smith
School of African and Asian Studies
University of Sussex



Notes on RRA and a Meeting (4 August 88) of National Environment
Secretariat, Mbusyani Women's Groups,
and Division Technical Officers


Over a period of two weeks (total of 6 working days), a field
team of 6 officers from the National Environment Secretariat
(NES) and Clark University as well as 7 technical officers from
the division/location level joined with formal and informal
leaders from Mbusyani Sublocation, Kakyuni Location, Kangundo
Division, Machakos District. The goal of the exercise was to use
Rapid Rural Appraisal (RRA) to formulate a sublocation Village
Resource Management Plan (VRMP). While the process is still
incomplete, there has been sufficient learning and insights
gained to circulate an interim report. A more detailed final
paper will be prepared in a few months time when the process is
more fully developed.
Mbusyani Sublocation is a large area, approximately 30 km in
Machakos District. The population in 1979 was 5,000; estimates
for 1988 are about 7,000. People derive their livelihoods mostly
from subsistence agriculture and remittances though there are
about 20 prosperous farmers who sell coffee as their primary
source of income. Rainfall is sparse, averaging between 400 and
600 mm per year; soils are generally rocky; vegetation is scrub
grasses, acacia trees, and succulents for much of the
sublocation. The area is classified mostly in Kenya's
agroecological zones 3 (marginal coffee) and 4 (oil seeds and
sorghums) though a small part is zone 2 (coffee). Elevation is
1360 to 1520 metres.

The NES team first visited Mbusyani in May, 1988 as the result of
a NES training course sponsored in the nearby sublocation of
Katheka. NES has conducted three short visitation seminars at
Katheka in the last few months to inform village leaders and
extension officers about technologies and management systems to
improve productivity of the natural resource base. Mbusyani sent
10 women's group leaders, a senior chief, an assistant chief, and
the chair of the Farmer's Cooperative Union to one of these
courses to see what aspects of Katheka's natural resources
management achievement might be applicable to Mbusyani.

NES followed up with a site visit to Mbusyani and after extended
discussions, recommended that an RRA be carried out, the result
of which would be a Village Resource Management Plan (VRMP).
Mbusyani leaders agreed.

NES modified RRA systems, as described in notes and papers by
Conway, Pretty and McCracken. The NES version of RRA, as used in
Mbusyani, included:

1. Sketch map of entire sublocation derived from 1:50:000
topographical map and a tour of the area with the Chief;

2. Time Line derived from interviews with 14 elders, meeting
in two groups;

3. Trend Lines in Food Production, Soil Erosion, Population, and
Water Availability derived from interviews with 18 randomly
selected residents, meeting in two groups;

4. Village Transect derived from three teams of two people
each, one technical officer and one NES officer. Each walked
through one of the three micro ecological zones in the
sublocation noting vegetation, soils, water, etc.

5. Seasonal Calendar, including rainfall/water availability,
crop activity and labor demand, migration, diseases, resource
management practices, and food shortages derived from group
interviews with four separate groups;

6. Institutional Relationships derived from interviews with
four discussion groups, totaling about 60 people;

7. Nine Farm Sketches derived from individual team members
visiting specific farms -- 3 each per micro zone;

8. Sixteen Household Interviews derived from individual team
members meeting heads of households; 5 to 6 interviews per
micro zone.

While the NES RRA is under continuing revision, officers are
generally satisfied that the above eight exercises provided
sufficient data upon which to base discussions to create a VRMP.


Of particular interest is conversion of RRA data into a VRMP. A
number of steps are involved and warrant careful consideration as
this sequence may be the single greatest contribution of RRA to
stimulating improved village resources management.

The NES/Clark team met for a full day following the six days of
field data collection. The purpose of the meeting was to prepare
for a village discussion (baraza). The team organized the
following items on large poster boards:

1. a sketch map of the entire sublocation, for display on a
wall. The map identified sites of different natural
resources in the sublocation (i.e. water) and also noted the
boundary lines of micro ecological zones;

2. a list of resource management problems, as identified through
the RRA and, on the same poster board, a list of possible
opportunities (options) to resolve the problems;

3. a sketch graph of trends in population, soil, water, and food
production, all superimposed on a common axis;

4. a seasonal calendar, presented on one chart, with multiple
colors representing different agricultural, employment, and
land use activities;

5. a blank matrix noting options (best bets) in the left hand
column as well as horizontal column headings of productivity,
equity, stability, sustainability, time to benefit, social
feasibility, technical feasibility, priority ranking (see
Annex A).

The following day, the team convened a meeting in the sublocation
which included:

1. the six team members from NES

2. nine technical officers (some had been only one day with the
RRA team)

a. Mrs. Rachael Moya, Location Community Development Officer
b. Mr. Mageto, Division Water Engineer
c. Mr. Kinyua, Division Forest Officer
d. Mr. Kioko, Division Forest Assistant
e. Mr. Njoroge, Location Livestock
f. Animal Production Officer
g. Mr. Ondari, Agriculture Officer
h. Mrs. Ndonye, Nurse and Public Health Researcher
i. second public health'researcher

3. Assistant Chief Kaku, Mbusyani Sublocation

4. Mbusyani Women's Group Committee, consisting of officers of
Mwethya Groups (total of eight)

The meeting enabled the varied constituencies to discuss and
eventually to formulate a VRMP including: (1) priority
activities; (2) institutional responsibilities to do the work;
(3) a schedule; (4) needed training for villagers; (5) external
inputs, if needed; (6) duties of technical extension officers.

Although the discussions foundered a number of times and the
group dealt with only one problem -- water -- the feeling by the
end of the day was indeed positive. The commitment to join
together to solve the village's problems was as strong as anyone
in Mbusyani could remember; the exchange among technical officers
from different ministries had never happened before. Discussions
among the Assistant Chief, women's group leaders, and technical
officers opened a vista of institutional perspectives and needs

not previously considered; all endorsed a series of steps to
increase water harvesting and storage that would double the
village's water supply. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of
the discussions was that the recommended activities could be
accomplished for very little external cash.

The steps that opened up the discussion emerged from the RRA
matrix (Annex A). It enabled the entire group to rank each
possible intervention on the basis of eight criteria. Though the
definitions were loose and the weighting arbitrary, the matrix
worked extremely well to focus discussion, rank options, and
enable consensus to emerge. The group narrowed choices to three
and appointed a technical advisory group to come up with
feasibility studies for each option. A date is set in two weeks
time for the technical group to review sites and make
recommendations; a second date is set for the full committee to
reconvene and make decisions.

As people were leaving the meeting, the Division Water Engineer
commented, "Now Mbusyani will have water. Before we knew what
technical steps were needed but had no money to hire outsiders
and no means to mobilize the village groups. Now the village is
ready to help itself and little outside money is needed."

While many problems continue for Mbusyani and much hard work lies
ahead, it is clear that RRA has helped the sublocation to
identify its problems and reach consensus on what to do about at
least some of them.

Discussions are still needed on problems of income generation,
lack of tools, marketing, bilharzia, tree planting, and crop
diversity. Yet the progress achieved in dealing with the
sublocation's number one need has created a climate of trust and
cooperation, has instilled an attitude of ownership among the
villagers who will do the actual work, and has exacted a public
pledge of commitment from the technical officers and Assistant
Chief who will be responsible for managing the implementation.


A number of lessons about RRA emerged from the meeting:

1. Gender. Women in Mbusyani are not accustomed to speaking out
in the presence of men. On several occasions the women were
clearly holding back, even though they felt strongly about
the issue of water. At one point the Assistant Chief said he
was embarrassed that the women's leaders were not speaking
more directly about their needs. Just before the lunch
break, the NES team leader encouraged the women to express
their feelings noting that the meeting would be a failure if
their views were not heard.

Lunch provided an informal opportunity for the different
elements of the group to talk on relaxed and casual terms.
After lunch, discussion picked up considerably -- the women

had held a short caucus -- and some intense exchanges
erupted. Women did speak; their priorities were heard; their
recommendations accepted. While one meeting will not reform
the role of women in village decision making, it has set a
precedent in Mbusyani that provides confidence for the
women's group leaders and an example for other meetings to

2. Language. The discussions moved quickly from Kikamba (local
language) to Kiswahili (one of two national languages) to
English (other national language). Several were fluent in all
three; all were comfortable in at least two. Yet Kiswahili
and Kikamba do not lend themselves to abstractions such as
"social feasibility" or "sustainability" and they are
deficient in technical terminology such as distinguishing
among five different types of dams or measuring productivity
of different soil management systems.

The NES team needs to develop more visually graphic means to
represent the technical and conceptual terms of natural
resources management. Villagers, even those with little
formal education and limited language skills, have no trouble
comprehending the idea of, for example, sustainability. But
it must be presented in symbolic form other than or at least
in addition to language.

3. Data Presentation. RRA data collected during the previous two
weeks were indispensable for stimulating discussion.
Information about trends in food production and water
availability set the stage for discussing water problems.
The data, even though only approximations, helped technical
officers and village leaders rank their problems from most
severe to least severe. Having a large map which designated
different agroecological zones for the sublocation also
helped, especially when considering specific sites as well as
issues of equity. Finally, the emphasis on visual
presentations such as charts, diagrams, and maps made a big
difference in stimulating exchange as the diagrams provided
common ground that all Could understand, regardless of
language. NES plans even more emphasis on visual materials in
future RRAs.

4. Involvement of Extension Officers. Using extension officers
in the RRA and VRMP process turned out to be very important.
There are several reasons why. First, the extension officers
are frequently office-bound because they lack petrol. The
RRA data exercise provided opportunity to meet leaders and
examine the resource base in areas where they are assigned to
work anyway.

Second, RRA created an arena in which officers from several
sectors were able to analyze and discuss common problems.
For example, while the sublocation identified water as the
greatest problem, the discussions indicted that combined soil
control, tree planting, water management, and access control

would be needed to resolve it. Such cross-sectoral plans are
not normally devised through the traditional operations of
extension services.

Third, participation of technical officers in the RRA brought
them into the VRMP conversations. During the initial VRMP
meeting, the forestry, water, and community development
officers were particularly active; livestock and agriculture
moderately active. Given interest and backing in the
planning stage creates high probabilities that extension
officers will be present and supportive during
implementation. Further, as in the case of the water
engineer, the officers will bring resources from individual
ministries such as cement, tools, seedlings, wire, pipe, or
handpumps -- all vital ingredients in the sublocation's quest
for support.

5. Role of NES or other External Agents as Catalyst. No matter
how much self-help is present in a rural community, villages
cannot make major improvements in resources management simply
on their own initiatives. On the other hand, substantial
infusions of capital or technology will almost certainly
bring adverse impacts. What seems to work best is a slight
external nudge or stimulus to make the existing systems work
better. The role of RRAs and external agents such as NES,
NGOs, or other outside forces is significant to the extent
that it can stimulate existing leaders or institutions to
perform more effectively.

The extension officers are a case in point. By and large,
Kenya's extension staff are well trained in their respective
technical specialities. But they lack transport to visit
their villages and have little experience or training in
mobilizing communities'. As a result, much of their technical
expertise falls on deaf ears, not because people are
indifferent, but because the institutional setting is not
prepared to act on advice given.

Through the motivating influences of external agents, village
visitations, RRA analyses, and VRMP planning, the technical
officers gain a stronger position and create a stronger
community with which to work. Because the extension staff
are the single greatest contact between rural communities and
outside resources, the RRA increases their effectiveness.


1. Visits to exemplar village such as Katheka turn out to be an
all important part of getting an RRA started. They should be
included in subsequent RRA exercises.

2. The participation of technical officers in RRA data
collection and village-wide discussions is critical. It
assures follow-up and backing from those who are in the best
position to do it.

3. The participation of both formal (e.g. chief) and informal
(e.g. women's group) leaders is equally important. One of
the most significant aspects of RRA is the way in which it
encourages local leaders, many of whom lack formal education,
to express their views.

4. The greatest virtue of RRA is use of visually comprehensible
charts and diagrams to stimulate participation and exchange
among local leaders, technical officers, and outside
elements. The villagers relate to visuals more readily than
to written reports.

5. RRA is fast and inexpensive and can be carried out almost
totally by individuals in the rural community or assigned to
work in that area. Only small (but important) outside help
is required from NGOs, donors, central ministries, etc.

6. The process also permits formulation of a VRMP in a
relatively short period of time The plan serves several
purposes: (1) plan for village; (2) clear list of priorities
for extension officers to use; (3) systematic and orderly
list of needs to be communicated to the District Development
Committee and donor/NGO agencies; (4) schedule for village
leaders to measure their own progress; (5) assignment of work
tasks to specific village institutions.

7. RRA is a splendid vehicle to use natural resources management
as a means to integrate soil, water, health, education,
population, trees, pasture, etc. at the village level.

8. In order to make RRA happen, a small budget for transport for
the team including local residents, extension officers, and
outside elements is required. This is one area where donor
support is extremely important and helpful.

9. In order to implement a VRMP, a community needs:

a. commitment of labor from village groups (no budget needed)

b. commitment of technical advice from extension officers (no
budget needed)

c. small transportation support for technical officers to carry
out their work (small fund of perhaps $200 to $400 needed)

d. approval and backing from DO or other local administrative
officer (no budget needed)

e. small budget for inputs such as tools, equipment, or farm
supplies, not to exceed $1.00 per person in village per

year -- in the case of Mbusyani, this would be no more than
$7,000 per year

f. small budget for training of village leaders which would
include short visitation or exchanges to nearby villages
where institutional or technical elements are already
functioning effectively. Training costs are limited almost
entirely to local transport to move village trainers,
villagers, and a few extension officers. Probably no more
than $1,000 per village per year

g. commitment from the Assistant Chief, leader of village
groups, and other village/community leaders to make the VRMP
happen (no budget needed).

The sum total of needs is high on leadership and community
support as well as help from extension officers. Almost every
village in Kenya is well endowed with these resources. They
simply need to be mobilized and trained. While external funds
and inputs are required, the need for this help is modest. NES
is convinced that the link of village visitation, RRA, and VRMP
can significantly improve the way natural resources are managed
in Kenyan villages as well as achieve increases in sustainable

Charity Kabutha and Richard Ford
National Environment Secretariat
Interim Report


KkY : ERo, : p^>bUcTlVlTf
sroT. s-- rul-iiir
4;t)T. S5r4IAJF8JlL'/y

- Ke9,jkve *'~pa~e
0 = cro : iepr(k
S- Pos4t 'Itpa&d
*tr -s 'Vo1 epoakse ,'Aflt(AC

(oCI FiAfc- fswh:
ll JJsk ko< LUw
3 eA. keo. MI.
Sko4 Sto6 H4k

Nofe.: Ro4i I i ff, \A i&Akk^fri" A /Aa "oLNA

TriM TfCnMicri SociSL
I NNO+/ATi Er i e g __

__ + + +* o n I a




Discovering the patterns of wealth distribution and investigating
the dynamics of rural differentiation are notoriously difficult.
Many social surveys have attempted this involving laborious
longitudinal studies of household income and expenditure
patterns. Rarely do such studies investigate rural inequality
from the farmers' perspective. It is increasingly realized that,
in order to gain insight relevant for development, a study must
be geared towards understanding local patterns using the
frameworks of understanding used by farmers themselves. The
methods used by the extended social survey are expensive in time
and person power for both data collection and analysis. Their
highly structured format rarely enables the research to enter
into the farmer's world.

The recognition of this has led to the current debate on
appropriate methodologies for participatory farmer-based
research. Rapid Rural Appraisal has become an umbrella heading
for such approaches. RRA attempts to assist rapid learning about
rural situations through the application of a range of semi-
structured research techniques. One of the current limitations
of RRA approaches is that it fails to deal effectively with the
stratified nature of rural societies. Although RRA ensures many
biases are avoided it is often unclear whether a representative
range of socio-economic circumstances have been appraised.

Wealth Ranking

Wealth ranking is a technique that can be used for gaining rapid
insight from a local perspective into factors affecting
differentiation. It combines in-depth discussion of wealth with
a ranking exercise that allows the participating group of local
people to assess the relative wealth of households in a
preselected list. The technique has a number of potential

* The stratification of a sample according to wealth criteria
for further focused appraisals on particular sub-sectors of
the population.

* The generation of questions for further research into rural

* An examination of survey data from a farmer's perspective.

The technique has been developed by Polly Hill in Nigeria and
Barbara Grandin in Kenya. A handbook for use by project
fieldworkers is soon to be produced by ITDG. This short note
reports on the experience of using wealth ranking in the context
of a study of household economics and livestock production in
southern Zimbabwe.


In this instance the aims were firstly to generate insight into
the local conception of wealth and secondly, to provide a
separate, farmer-based classification of the sample of households
that the study was researching with.

A sample of 70 households had been set up a year before on the
basis of two criteria that the research intended to investigate.
One was an ecological stratification based on whether the
household was positioned in one of two ecological zones: the
sandy soil savanna in the hilly area or the clay soil savanna in
the plains area. The other criterion was based on the ownership
of cattle and the sharing relationships involved. Local farmers
assisted in the selection of the original sample and, with the
help of their local knowledge, a range of wealth categories was

In order to investigate the implications of the research data
collected and to generate further directed questions it was
necessary to have a classification according to wealth. But what
is wealth? What criteria should be chosen? These are questions
that the research data could not answer. Most researchers
arbitrarily choose some factors) and use them as the basis for
analysing the data. In this case it was decided that the sample
itself would make that choice.

Methods Used

The discussion of wealth was held at three separate meetings. It
was decided that views of different sectors of the local
population would be sought. In particular it was decided to
investigate the contrasting attitudes of men and women. The
meetings consisted of 2-3 hours of discussion followed by the
ranking exercise. The discussion sessions were attended by about
10 people and the ranking exercise conducted jointly by 4 or 5.
Between the group attending each workshop they knew all the
households in the sample. One meeting was attended by men from
the sample another by women. Participants were involved so as to
give a range of ages, residence areas with respect to the
ecological zones, apparent wealth and income sources (eg.
remittance income vs. farming) from knowledge of the homes
concerned. The third meeting was conducted with the resident
research and development team; all local people who had been
working with the research in the area.

The discussion of wealth was essentially unstructured. It opened
with us posing the simple question: "what is wealth?" A few key
themes had been decided upon in advance and the discussion was
guided through each of these. These included comparison of the
past with the contemporary situation and contrasting the clay and
sandy soil savanna zones. Basically it was left to the group to
explore and debate each of the topics as they arose. This they
did with great enthusiasm and excitement. It was often very

heated discussion and always highly animated. Notes were taken
on the content of the discussion, on general reactions and on
quiet asides. Each meeting generated fascinating insight into
the local attitudes to and interpretation of differentiation and
inequality. Before the close of the discussion each group was
asked to highlight particular factors that they viewed as
important indicators of wealth in the light of the preceding

The Discussion: A Summary of Conclusions

A summary of the historical, ecological and gender comparisons
that emerged from the three workshops are presented in outline
form below in order to give an impression of the type of issues
discussed. The substantive results and detailed discussion of
these will be reported elsewhere.

i) Historical Contrasts

Wealth in the past

* Many cattle, loaning sites, wives and children

* Wealth dependant on inheritance; the older people were the

* The poor survived through begging, pledging daughters or
selling stock to the hurudza (rural agricultural

Wealth Now

* Good farming; access to money; education; building a fine

* Wealth often through work in town possible for the young
to be wealthy

* The poor are not helped by others. The poor are now
visible. They survive in drought because of help from
Mugabe and Food for Work

ii) Ecological Contrasts

Sandy Soil Savanna

* Wealth is due to the dambos (valley "wetlands"). There is
food self-sufficiency in drought; even the chance of
sales/exchanges of grain

* Accumulate (eg cattle) in drought through grain sales;
especially to the clay plains area

* Labour needed for agriculture high manuringg, guarding
against baboons), so less work in town and less education

Clay Soil Savanna

* Wealth is from town; in the past cattle were important, but
they now have died from drought

* Modern houses and educated children are common.

The criteria each group decided upon to define wealth were
essentially the same. However, the men and the women emphasised
different indicators to different degrees:

iii) Gender Contrasts


* Good farmer with cattle

* A well built home and educated children


* Money through working in town

* A fine home, educated children and regular purchases of

The tenor of their respective discussions was different. Men
chose to emphasise productive labour on the land through cropping
or livestock rearing, while the women stressed the importance of
having access to money for groceries, school fees and all matters
associated with childhood welfare. The women thus regarded urban
employment as an important route to wealth. The men disagreed,
stressing the need to be locally self-sufficient and not reliant
on wages and the purchase of food.


Following this discussion we were then prepared for the wealth
ranking exercise. A set of cards had been produced beforehand,
each with the name of a household in the research sample. It is
important that no confusion arises over the definition of a
particular household and each must be accepted as a unit by those
involved in the ranking. In this case there was minimal debate
as the research had established a reasonably stable definition of
"household" over the period of research. However, this took some
time and there remained disputes over definition. It is
important to remember that the household is a variable concept
and drawing up a list from official records/censuses may cause
problems, especially with the identification of the "hidden
poor". Official lists therefore need to be complemented by local
investigations and the wealth discussion can be a good forum for
cross-checking any listings prepared for the ranking exercise.

A subgroup of the main discussion group was then asked to place
each of the cards as they were read out in one of four piles (in
fact, in four hats on the ground). These represented different
wealth groups: 1 to 4. All cards were placed, after consensus
had been reached, in one of the four hats. Cards that proved
difficult to allocate were left until later. When all the cards
had been allocated each pile was reviewed in order to see that
the classification had been consistent. The ranking exercise was
repeated with each of the discussion groups and an overall
ranking based on the sum of each of the groups' scores has been

As in the main discussion the debate was often intense. It again
revealed much about the criteria actually used in viewing
patterns of wealth. When a decision had to be made about the
allocation of a particular card the participants would argue
strongly about the various attributes of that home. In some
cases livestock were emphasised; in others children' education;
in other the access to remittance income. Always a complex
interaction of factors were used to come to the final decision.
It will be the next stage of this research to relate the local
ranking using a composite set of factors of variable weightings
to specific criteria using data from the household survey work.

In addition, the ranking has pointed to other areas for further
investigation. Disagreements between members of a ranking group
highlighted questions about particular households while different
rankings between groups suggested the use of different criteria
for particular cases. Of particular interest were the gender
differences. For instance, women tended to rank higher those
households with a migrant worker who was known to provide
generous remittances for the rural home.

Wealth Ranking as an RRA Tool

Although this wealth ranking exercise was not carried out in an
RRA context, it did serve to give rapid and detailed insight into
particular facets of rural wealth differences and local
perceptions. What about the applicability of this method in
other contexts?

In this case it worked very effectively and fulfilled the
objectives set for the exercise. However, the context in which
these workshops were carried out must be recalled before drawing
too many lessons for replication form this example. The people
contributing to the debates and the ranking procedures had been
involved in a participatory research process for nearly two
years. They were not new to the idea of entering into a research
dialogue and vigorously discussing issues in groups or as
individuals. The level of involvement of the Mototi community in
Mazvihwa has only been achieved through a long process of
research and involvement in the setting-up of small community
development projects.

At the beginning of a research or development project, when a
wealth ranking may be a good tool for framing further
investigations, there is unlikely to be such a level of
participation. Although RRA techniques can act as effective
tools for encouraging local participation and control over a
research project this has to be worked on. Wealth is a sensitive
issue and the subject should be approached with caution if wealth
ranking is to be used as an initial element of an RRA process.
It is perhaps advisable to stick to private discussions and leave
group debate for later explorations once the community fully
understands the nature of the research and feels involved.


Hill, P. 1972. Rural Hausa: a village and a setting. CUP,

Grandin, B. 1983. The importance of wealth in pastoral
production: a rapid method of wealth ranking. In Pastoral
Systems Research. ILCA, Addis Ababa

Grandin, B. (in press). Wealth ranking handbook. ITDG

The wealth ranking and discussion were carried out in Mazvihwa
Communal Area, Zimbabwe in April 1988 with the help of Billy
Mukamuri, Mathou Chakavanda, Abraham Mawere and Simbisai
Makumbirofa and the 36 people who attended the meetings.

Ian Scoones
Renewable Resources Assessment Group
Centre for Environmental Technology
Imperial College
8 Princes Gardens


Investigating the dynamics of rural differentiation and class
formation were at the forefront of our research in Lushoto
District, Tanga Region, Tanzania in 1986. But precisely because
of our focus on differentiation and class formation among
households, we were careful to devise techniques of reaching
households which might be omitted if we relied on local people's
answers to questions concerning poverty and wealth.

Initial contacts between outside researchers and local people
tend to be with the most articulate, educated, politically
influential, etc. but in addition, in Tanzania the prevailing
ideology has created a negative attitude towards practices such
as labour hiring, which are known to be widespread. So when a
wealthy farmer was asked to provide names of people who were
regularly employed on his farm, he was very likely to send us to
a house inhabited by a relative. The relative was invariably
poorer than him, but also invariably employed wage labourers
herself/himself, and certainly had never worked as a casual
manual agricultural wage worker. The degree of social, and to
some extent physical isolation of the poorest people became
obvious as soon as we devised a way of locating them: they had no
contact with agricultural extension services, they did not attend
meetings, etc.

In fact, one of our assistants, a nurse who was in charge of the
MCH Clinic in the area, and had lived and worked in the area for
a number of years, was appalled at the level of material
deprivation experienced by many of the people we interviewed.
She herself had no contact with them, since they were precisely
the people who did not attend the clinic. Since the pattern of
habitation is very scattered along mountainous ridges, we
frequently walked long distances from the road to arrive at the
houses of people to interview.

The most effective means of locating the poorest people turned
out to be via the primary schools. Since primary education is
compulsory from age seven to fourteen, the schools are supposed
to have a comprehensive list of school age children. Most
children do attend some part of Standard One, but there is a very
serious problem of absenteeism. Discussions with Headmasters
(sic) and with the District Education Officer indicated that the
problem became particularly severe during Standard Three, because
of the requirement that parents buy exercise books and pens.
Both the opportunity cost of children's labour time and the
direct cost of their attending school were considerable: not only
did parents have to buy exercise books and pens, but school
uniforms were compulsory. The cost of a school uniform was 300
Tanzanian Shillings, approximately 2 weeks' pay for a fulltime
estate tea plucker earning the minimum wage.

It was anticipated that the problem of absenteeism would be
directly related to the problem of poverty, and that absentee

school children and/or their parents were likely to be working as
agricultural wage labourers. We chose four primary schools in
the area which were regarded as having the worst attendance
records, and we examined the attendance registers for Standards
Three and Six. Children who were absent from either of these two
standards on a total of more than 50 percent of the school days
since January 1986 were selected, and a sample of these
children's parents were interviewed. As anticipated, a very high
proportion (80 per cent) of these children's parents, their
siblings or co-residents were employed as casual agricultural
wage labourers. (It must be noted that some Headmasters tried to
subvert this methodology, by sending us to houses of children who
were clearly not habitual absentees!).

Other methods of finding the poorest people turned out to be less
successful, in particular the attempt to contact the mothers of
malnourished children as recorded at the MCH. As noted above,
the women who attended the MCH were clearly in receipt of incomes
far above the level received by the poorest. Furthermore, those
who were working for a daily wage to provide the evening meal
could not afford to spend the time walking to the clinic and
back, since it would mean not eating that day.

Having located the poorest by following up the parents of
absentee schoolchildren, it became clear very quickly what types
of possessions people strove to acquire as soon as they could
possibly afford them. The poorest people were materially
destitute, mobilising all their resources to provide an evening
meal. The types of personal possessions and types of houses
which distinguished the not-so-poor from the destitute were
arrived at by a process of successive approximation, and our
questionnaire went through five or six revisions from a checklist
to a fully developed questionnaire.

Altogether we interviewed 100 households, and each interview
involved detailed information on every resident, and every child
and spouse of every resident. As well as interviewing the
poorest households, we attempted to interview the richest, but
locating the richest and largest landowners is a much easier task
than locating the poorest. The analysis of poverty was
undertaken on the basis of a Possessions Score, involving
information on the following items:

Metal roof Number of rooms
Non-mud walls Number of beds
Watch Number of mattresses
Light Number of chairs
Radio Number of stools
Bicycle Number of coats
Number of pairs of shoes Number of sweaters

The selection was also guided by previous work in the area,
particularly by Fleuret 1978. The items clearly constituted
major improvements in people's well-being: the climate is
frequently cold and wet, so the possession of a roof that does

not leak or the ownership of a sweater or a coat or a pair of
shoes was regarded as essential, by those who possessed them as
well as those who did not.

The Possessions Score was used instead of any measure of income
as an indicator of socio-economic status, and it turned out to be
very closely correlated with a wide range of other factors:
ownership of land, animals; use of purchased inputs; contact with
extension services; access to education, health facilities and
high-status nonagricultural employment; and political status, as
indicated by political positions held by household members.

This has been a very brief glimpse of a much larger piece of
work. The research has been written up as a book, and will be
published by Routledge in mid-1989 as Economic Development in
Rural Tanzania: Poverty, Class and Gender in the Usambaras. In
addition three papers have been submitted to journals, details
forthcoming in later editions of RRA Notes when publication dates
etc. are known.


Fleuret, P. 1978. Farm and Market: A Study of Society and
Agriculture in Tanzania. PhD Thesis, University of California,
Santa Barbara

Shelia Smith
School of African and Asian Studies
University of Sussex


John Sender
African Studies Centre
University of Cambridge


Readers of RRA Notes No 1 will recall the article by Jules Pretty
describing the RRA Methodologies Workshop in Thailand earlier
this year. The first of the handbooks produced as a result of
this workshop have now been published by the NERAD Project at
NEROA, Tha Phra, Khon Kaen 40260. lain Craig of NERAD will be
sending copies of those published in English directly to all
people on the RRA Notes circulation list.