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.

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Related Items

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PLA notes

Full Text
22- e27L

RRA Notes

Number 9




This is the ninth 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 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 principally by SIDA and

Daag Skoog
Jules Pretty
Jennifer McCracken
Ian Scoones
Irene Guijt

Material for inclusion in the notes should be sent to:

Jennifer McCracken
The Editor
RRA Notes
International Institute for Environment and Development
3 Endsleigh Street

Telephone: 071-388-2117
Telex: 261681 EASCAN G
Telefax: 071-388-2826



RRA Notes 1: June 1988

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

Jules Pretty
Robert Chambers
Gordon Conway
Robert Chambers
Jennifer McCracken

RRA Notes 2: October 1988

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

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

RRA Notes 3: December 1988

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

Wolfgang Bayer

Robin Mearns
Iain Craig
Robin Mearns
Jules Pretty

RRA Notes 4: February 1989

Wealth Ranking in a Caste Area of India
Popular Theatre through Video in Costa Rica
Participatory RRA in Gujarat
Successful Networking!
Distribution List

Ruth Grosvenor-Alsop
Keith Anderson
Jennifer McCracken

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

Barbara Grandin

Kristin Cashman
John Soussan &
Els Gevers

Simon Maxwell
Peter Ampt &
Raymond Ison

RRA Notes 6: June 1989

Rapid Assessment of Artisanal Systems:
A Case Study of Rural Carpentry Enterprises
in Zimbabwe
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
in Ethiopia
Using Rapid Rural Appraisal for Project
Identification: Report on a training
exercise in Jama'are
local government area, Bauchi State, Northern
Visualising Group Discussions with Impromptu
The Use of Community Theatre in Project
Evaluation: An Experiment Example from
Zimbabwe S:

Godfrey Cromwell

Jules Pretty

Dick Sandford

Michael Hubbard,
Robert Leurs &
Andrew Nickson

Ueli Scheuermeier

Andrea Cornwall,
Mathou Chakavanda,
imbisai Makumbirofa,
Guilter Shumba &
Abraham Mawere

RRA Notes 7: September 1989

Special issue of proceedings of 2nd joint IDS/IIED RRA Review
Workshop, Sussex, England. Includes summaries of presented
papers on topics of diagrams, aerial photographs, interviews and
groups, ranking, health, participatory approaches, and monitoring
and evaluation. Also includes notes on discussions of these
topics, plus the ideology of RRA, the dangers of RRA, training in
RRA and the future of RRA.

RRA Notes 8: January 1990

Nutrition and RRA
The Use of Wealth Ranking in Nutrition
Surveys in Sudan
The Role of Community Participants in
RRA Methods in Ethiopia
Attitudes to Income-Earning Opportunities:
Report of a Ranking Exercise in Ethiopia
Economic Classification of a Community
Using Locally Generated Criteria
Publications: Manuals and Guidelines

Judith Appleton
Helen Young

Dessalegn Debebe

Simon Maxwell

Parmesh Shah

Jennifer McCracken



Wealth Ranking: A Method to Identify the

Rapid Rural Appraisal: Lessons Learnt
from Experiences in the Philippines

Some Techniques for Rapid Rural Appraisal
of Artisanal Infrastructures

Hearing Aids for Interviewing

Participatory Rural Appraisal: Is it
Culturally Neutral?
Thoughts from a PRA in Guinea-Bissau


Verona Groverman

Victoria Ortega-Espaldon
and Leonardo Florece

Godfrey Cromwell

John Mitchell and
Hugo Slim

Weyman Fussell


This issue of RRA Notes includes three accounts of applications
of RRA approaches in the fields of agroforestry in the
Philippines, rural artisans in Zimbabwe and poverty investigation
in Swaziland. The authors outline the techniques and context for
the studies, and particularly emphasise any limitations
encountered. In addition, there are two short discussion
articles, one on the dangers of poor listening skills among
interviewers, based on the authors' experiences in Somalia,
Ethiopia and Sudan and one on the question of the cultural
appropriateness of RRA, based on the author's experience with a
RRA activity in Guinea-Bissau.

While the majority of RRA publications are still in the form of
informal reports and documents for limited circulation, there
have been a number of recent publications of wider availability.
We will be trying to keep up with these publications and pass on
the information as and when available. The announcements at the
end of this issue include three recent publications and notice of
a forthcoming conference. Please let us know of any other events
or publications which would be of interest to RRA Notes readers.

Jennifer McCracken


Many development projects aim to improve the living situation of
the poorer people. In so-called participatory projects the
target group itself is highly involved in the implementation and
at times identification and evaluation phases of the project. In
less stratified societies it is difficult to identify the poorer
men and women in order to approach them about the project and
their possible involvement. Wealth ranking might be a method to
select the poorer in a community.

The setting

In the eighties the Food and Agriculture Organization of the
United Nations launched a special programme to reach the rural
poor in Africa: the People's Participation Programme (PPP) and
set up projects in eight countries. Part of the project staff,
so-called 'group promoters', assist the men and women in group
organisation, income-generation and in self-monitoring and
evaluation, while living together with the people. Essential to
the approach is that the people themselves decide about group
membership and leadership and about the activities, while the
project plays a guiding role.

I will not go into details of the project approach, the individual
projects or the data collected as discussions at international,
national and project levels have already taken place. Especially
the definition of 'the rural poor' and the selection of
beneficiaries were subjects of debates. The success in reaching
the rural poor as the main beneficiaries varied between the
different projects. In one of the projects, in Swaziland, the
method of wealth ranking was tested for its suitability to
identify the poorer community members.

I will describe our experience with wealth ranking in Swaziland,
where I worked as a rural sociologist. My views do not
necessarily represent those of FAO.

Experiences in Swaziland

The PPP in Swaziland started in 1985. Five action areas for
group formation were selected. The criteria used were not
recorded clearly which made repetition of this selection
procedure impossible. In 1988 the project staff decided to
expand the project into two new areas. Discussions took place
about which criteria to use for selecting suitable areas and
potential beneficiaries and which methods could be applied for
identification of both. The keyword was 'poor' but what is poor
and how can one look for poverty and poor people? I will
concentrate on the identification of potential beneficiaries in
the selected areas.

To identify the poorer people, we were looking for a method
a. could be carried out fast,
b. did not involve a lot of 'researchers',
c. was easy to learn and apply by the project staff, and
d. was not threatening since the main issue was the sensitive

We decided to try a wealth ranking method and assess its
usefulness afterwards. We used B. Grandins' "Wealth ranking in
smallholder communities: a field manual" (ITP, 1988) (See RRA
Notes 5). I prepared the training for the project staff and the
planning of the different steps.

The planning: rapid or not rapid?

In July 1989 a first meeting took place with all staff involved.
There were nine women and two men, of which six female group
promoters would do the fieldwork. A plan was made from the first
steps of introduction to relevant authorities and extension staff
of other projects in July to the follow-up of processing the
collected data by wealth ranking in September. The first steps
were essential since permission from the chiefs was required for
any activity in their chiefdoms and we needed the assistance of
other local staff to get relevant information.

Due to several reasons beyond our control this schedule proved
impossible: the extension staff were too busy in July, the
authorities were engaged in traditional (Royal) duties, and at
times some of our own staff were not available. Finally, the
data processing took place in December, and the follow-up was
planned for February 1990.

Thus, the 'rapid' method was spread over a period of five months.
The objective of the exercise changed: from "identification of
potential project beneficiaries and collection of relevant socio-
economic data about the area to be followed by group formation
based upon the information collected" to acquirementt of the
staff of understanding and practical skills for identification of
potential beneficiaries' purposes". In other words, instead of
research it became a training in research.

Despite the long time period, when looking at the actual days of
the exercise, the method can be called 'rapid' indeed:

training of project staff: 3 days
introduction to authorities and extension staff in
the two areas: 4 days
preparations for the ranking: 8 days
the ranking itself in 2 areas: 4 days
the processing of the data: 1 day

The training and first steps towards the ranking

The training of the project staff, not familiar with any theory
or practice of research, seemed crucial. The method was
discussed thoroughly and first steps taken. With a detailed map
of the two new action areas we identified agro-ecological zones
and decided to work in maize-production zones only. Then we
defined what the appropriate type of community would be for the
ranking exercise. This is quite a complicated discussion in a
country where most of the people live scattered in isolated or
somewhat clustered homesteads. We concluded that the
neighbourhood is the smallest traditional administrative unit in
a chiefdom in which the people have close social relations. The
agricultural extension workers in the chosen areas were needed to
identify all the neighborhoods and choose representative ones
for the ranking.

We talked about the concepts of wealth and household as the unit
of research. We found a suitable word for wealth in the local
language. But the household as being "a group of people eating
from the same pot", led to a long discussion: could we refer to
the male heads of household when they were absent due to labour
migration? Could we refer to the wife, but what to do in case of
polygamy? We were aware that the men often sent little money
home and that the women did not earn much money. Also the
distribution of a man's income among his wives and of any other
remittances were complex and secret matters. We decided to
collect the names of the de jure heads of household and to
inquire about the situation of different wives if applicable.

Another topic of discussion was the choice of informants. Who
could give the best information about the community in view of
the patrilocal tradition: male or female informants? Since we
were looking for people who know the place well, women or men who
had been married longer were best. We decided to select two
women and one man and to check if there were differences in the
ranking. Here we also had to ask local people to help us with
the choice.

During the training, a lot of time was spent on role plays about
the introduction of the purpose of the visit and the explanation
of the ranking to informants. I also held a few individual
sessions with the group promoters doing the ranking to discuss
problems that had arisen, for example with the representativity
of communities.

The preparations for the ranking exercise

The preparations for the actual ranking were the most time-
consuming part. The six group promoters who were going to carry
out the ranking consulted the runners (traditional officers, in
charge of a community, who know all the people by name and in
person) and the agricultural extension workers. In this way they
got proper information about the communities and all the names of
the heads of households in the representative communities. The

extension workers chose the informants and made appointments for
the group promoters

During the introduction visit to one of the areas we had an
interesting discussion with the local authorities and extension
staff. While asking about what defines a community we already
got to know some of the problems. When talking about close
social relations it was stated that "there was no cooperation any
longer" and "people do not assist each other on the fields any
longer" and "some do not go to their neighbour to borrow sugar".
When we added that the relations also involved attendance of
weddings and funerals they mentioned the neighbourhood as the
appropriate smallest unit of close interaction.

The ranking

The ranking was carried out in four communities in the two action
areas using three informants each. Two group promoters and a
supervising staff member, Aaron or myself, collected the data in
each community. Only three informants could be visited per day
because the homesteads are scattered in hilly areas without
public transport and many inaccessible roads.

Contrary to the first day, the extension workers were absent on
the second day either due to a communication breakdown or lack of
interest. On-the-spot solutions had to be found to find the
addresses and to make the introduction possible. The main
criteria used to select informants by the extension workers had
apparently been 'age' a drunkard was included, a blind man and
a women who had forgotten a lot. Also a few of the informants
were not at home, maybe because no specific time for the visit
had been given. We went around to find people at home who were
willing to cooperate. Finally eight women and four men ranked
the people in their communities. Some of the group promoters
were more skilful than others to make the informants feel at ease
while others got more information about the area and the people
during the exercise although they were not aware of it. They
complained that the people talked around a question before giving
an answer. Especially with older informants it took some time
before they understood our intentions.

When the informants more or less understood the purpose of the
visit, the ranking was done in a pleasant atmosphere. They
ranked the community members easily, at the same moment
explaining why and giving additional information. We noticed
that the women talked more openly than the men.

"We arrived at a homestead with a few houses of stick and mud
(some plastered) and of bricks, next to the dirt path.
Goats and chickens walked around. Two young women were
busy. An elderly woman with a child on her back came to
greet us, followed by eight other children of different
ages. She knew about our visit. We all sat down on mats
under a tree. Lindiwe introduced us and explained the
purpose of the interview. Nomsa added some details. The

woman did cooperate, although she had "problems with her
memory". Lindiwe explained the cards with the names and
gave an example of what she wanted to do. It became clear
to the woman. She pointed to places on the ground for the
piles when Lindiwe mentioned the names. At the same time
the woman said why she put somebody on that pile: "they have
money to hire a tractor"; "they do not have enough food and
live in stick and mud houses". She talked freely and
without hesitating. Sometimes the extension worker had to
explain the site of a homestead before she remembered the
people. Nomsa wrote down the information on a record sheet.
Afterwards Lindiwe inquired if the woman would have ranked
differently if the names of the wives were mentioned the
answer was no. Referring to the widows she said that the
children took care of them, only two women were worse off
after the death of their husband. Lindiwe re-checked the
piles but no changes were made. The ranking took about 25
minutes. Afterwards some additional questions were asked
about income-generation and organizations in the area,
prepared in advance by the group promoters. We thanked the
woman very much for her assistance and left the place to
visit another informant at the other side of the valley."

The results of the ranking

Finally, in December, the project staff gathered to process the
data and to discuss the method.

The processing of the data collected was carried out as described
by Grandin: from the records about the ranked heads of households
of a community, an average score of the three informants per pile
was calculated. Then the heads of household were rearranged on
another sheet according to their score number from richest to
poorest. Next we tried to group the households into a number of
wealth strata not exceeding the total number of piles used by the
informants. Here the problems started. There were no natural
breaks between the scores to indicate clear strata. The result
looked more like a continuum from rich to poor with clear
criteria for wealthy and for non-wealthy people. All the
informants had mentioned the same type of criteria during the
ranking, referring to property and possibilities based upon the
properties. Ownership of cattle, tractor, farm implements
resulted in higher output of farming, more food and better
houses. Those who did not own anything did not have the money
to buy/rent farm implements and inputs, did not have enough to
eat and lived in stick and mud houses.

The staff were quite disillusioned because during the ranking
itself it had seemed that clear strata were given by the
informants. However caution is needed when drawing conclusions
because the data collection was a training exercise. The data
from the first ranking looked less reliable than those from the
second ranking. For example, the first time two group promoters
collected data they had not been aware that two of the informants
had ranked almost half of the people in one pile.

Originally we had planned to analyse differences in ranking
between men and women but due to on-the-spot choice of informants
we were not able to look at these differences. However, at least
the names of the poorer people, or not-very-wealthy people were
known. We decided that the staff would use this data to start
their group formation work in the field. Depending on the
situation in the communities they would include other people and
collect additional information.


It can be concluded that wealth ranking is a method to get
information about the way people in a community view wealth and
how wealth is distributed in that community. In this sense it
can be used to find the poorer people in a community as a
starting point for the people's participation approach. Due to
cultural and situational constraints the method might not be
rapid over time but in total few days are needed.

In the beginning the group promoters found the ranking
complicated, but when they carried it out it appeared simple.
They felt four constraints: the long-winded stories of the
informants, the informants' slow understanding of the purpose of
the visit, the poor relations with the extension workers and the
small number of visits per day due to the long distances between
the homesteads.

Our experience in Swaziland has signalled two prerequisites for
successful use of wealth ranking. Firstly, a thorough training
in research methodology for the project staff, preferably
including outside assistants like extension workers, is needed.
It should be spread over time to discuss the experiences with the
different steps in the field. Secondly, a proper, but maybe
more time-consuming organisation of the ranking will give better
results. Although it is stating the obvious, time constraints
often prevent good arrangements.

Verona Groverman
Rural Sociologist
Burgemeester Tellegenstr 212
1073 KG Amsterdam
The Netherlands

Members of the wealth-ranking team: Cebsile Ginindza, Sibongile
Mkhwanazi, Thembie Mhlanga, Lindiwe Ngcamphalala, Nomsa Mamba and
Thelma Dlamini.


Rapid Rural Appraisal (RRA) has become highly acceptable in
government bureaucracies amid their humble recognition of the
gross failure of traditional or top-down planning. The
appreciation of such methods springs from the realisation of the
importance of a quick method to gather information for planning
and formulating community projects (Lamug 1985) and a method to
elicit local community participation at the onset of any
development programme. As a methodology it is claimed to
generate accurate and useful information on rural conditions in a
more timely and cost effective manner (Chambers 1980 as cited by
Sajise 1989).

The Institute of Environmental Science and Management (IESAM) is
one of the numerous groups practising RRA in the Philippines.
One recent experience is the RRA conducted in Northern Palawan.
This was done on request of a non-governmental organisation
(NGO), the Palawan Center for Appropriate Rural Technology
(PCART) as part of a proposed agroforestry project funded by a
Swiss NGO, Helvetas. The five member IESAM team was assisted by
several staff members from PCART who knew the sites well.

The three upland communities chosen for the RRA are located in
Northeast Palawan, an island province now being referred to as
the "last ecological frontier" (Figure 1). Each site is located
in a valley interspersed with large river systems and tributaries
draining towards the east coast of Palawan. The total land area
of the barangay (settlement area) ranges from 400 to 600 ha.
Sixty percent of the farms in the three sites have 10-30 percent
slopes and are found within the settlement areas while 40% of the
farms have 30% slopes and lie below the forest zones.


The specific objectives of the RRA were:

1. to assess the biophysical and socioeconomic conditions in
the three sites;

2. to identify upland development issues and constraints and
opportunities confronting the people; and

3. to determine appropriate implementation strategies for a
community-based agroforestry project.

The RRA team included a soil scientist, a forester, an economist,
a horticulturalist and an ecologist. The RRA was carried out
from May 8 to 15, 1988 with five days of fieldwork. Three days
were spent travelling since the communities are far apart.

A week before the field interviews, PCART staff notified the
farmers and community leaders on the purpose and the dates of the
interviews. On arrival the PCART community organiser briefed the
team on the location using a rough sketch of the areas to be
appraised. PCART staff who joined the team are known in the
communities, so interviewers did not have the problem of
establishing rapport, which facilitated the interviews. Just
before the team set out for the field, the members of the farmers
organisation Samahan ng mga Magsasaka ng Palawan (SAMAPA) -
were listed with the help of the host farmer. These farmers are
the target clientele of the project. The people interviewed made
up almost 85% of the total membership of SAMAPA.

Besides formal interviews, two members of the team conducted
biophysical characterisation and mapping of the existing land use
and settlement pattern in every barangay. Another team, which
was led by the soil scientist conducted soil sampling in the
major land use areas. Soil analysis was done using a portable
soil test kit.

After the data had been analysed, a draft report was presented in
community meetings.

The IESAM RRA made use of the following patterns, most of these
are from Agroecosystem Analysis (Conway and Sajise 1986): space
patterns (Figures 2 and 3), time patterns (Figure 4), flow
patterns and decision patterns (Figure 5).

Besides these data, gathered from the interviews and direct
observations, other information was also collected:

1. Family portraits: derived from interviews.

2. Map of the Palawan Province with a scale of 1:50,000,
showing land use and topography.

3. Socioeconomic and demographic data of nearest towns, since
records specific to the sites were not readily available.

4. Land tenure this information was obtained during
discussions with other institutions.

5. Information on previous programmes of the government and
NGOs in the area.

6. Historical information derived solely from the PCART staff.

Presentation of Observations and Findings to the Community

After the data analysis, the first draft of the report was
written and checked with the communities. Presentation was made
using visual aids such as:

1. Sketch map of the community showing the various structures,
such as: houses, secondary forest, river systems, farms and
fallow fields;

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farms "baakan" w/home forms
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farms farms

Problems :
of forests
drying up of
during summer

1. Regulated entry
of migrants in
the community
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2. Transects of the agroecosystems in the community to show the
relationships of the agroecosystem components;

3. Cropping calendars and diagrams showing species of crops
raised and their yield, and animals raised;

4. List of management problems encountered by the farmers.

Slide presentation of the general features of the area and
existing land-use/cropping systems in Palawan were shown in
contrast to other marginal uplands in different parts of the
country. The objective was to give the farmers a clear view of
environmental situations in the country and develop their
perspective regarding sound environmental management.

After the presentation of RRA results and slides, the farmers'
comments on the RRA findings were solicited, refocussing
attention on the problems in their own community. Discussion
about alternative solutions to their problems did not happen
immediately after the evaluation because the checking of the
findings was really meant to stir their awareness.

One month after the evaluation "echo training" to farmer
beneficiaries by PCART agroforestry staff took place to broaden
farmers' knowledge and explain the various activities in pursuing
an agroforestry project. Detailed activities were lined-up
starting with nursery development activities and individual farm
development activities. Priority crops to be planted on each
farm were listed during the workshop including the desired number
that the family could plant in the coming planting season.

Farmers identified two priorities:

1. Strengthening of the farmers organisation, SAMAPA. Bylaws
of the organisation will be prepared by them, including
rules and guidelines that will be enforced to make
development activities effective and efficient, eg in
distributing benefits to individual farmers and their
responsibilities to the project. Training will be given to
enhance their capacity in handling organisational matters.

2. Intervening support. Water buffalo distribution scheme was
discussed by the farmers and PCART staff. Other services
like a water system, a marketing cooperative and land tenure
security were also discussed.

After the detailed plan of activities was laid down the
organisation was divided into 4 sectors or groups. Selection of
sector members was based on geographical considerations for
effective mobilisation and channelling of information. Leaders
responsible for assigning tasks were chosen and groups were given
their respective assignments and specific schedule as stipulated
in the action plan.

When enough seedlings and other planting materials are ready, the
farmers will be trained in land-use planning in preparation for
the coming planting season. Each farmer is expected to have
his/her own farm plot and specific plan of activities.

Lessons Learnt from the RRA

The RRA experience has taught us specific lessons concerning
interviewing and the project, village and institutional contexts
in which it took place.

The structured interview used was too rigid so the team had to
keep separate notes to record the information missed on the
questionnaire. It would be better to identify key respondents in
advance with the help of the local agency prior to field visits.
Then guiding questions can be formulated depending on the
objectives of the RRA, instead of preparing a survey
questionnaire which is the "get-all-the-information-that-we-can"
type of 15-20 pages. Interview schedules would need to be
modest, to neither frighten nor bore the respondents by their

The RRA experience has helped to streamline the agroforestry
project. This has finalised the overall thrust of the project -
giving details such as the desired species vs the suitable
species in the area. For example, cashew has been found to be
the most preferred cash crop. There is, however, a tendency
towards monoculture which is unstable for a site as tropical as
Palawan. As an island, it is also more vulnerable to pests and
diseases. The risks and possibilities in farm development were
discussed openly in the community dialogue.

At the village level however, Antonino, which is the most
accessible of the three sites, has developed a kind of 'dole-out'
mentality, perhaps because of past development efforts in the
area. Social rifts are appearing between the different social
groups originating from different parts of Palawan and between
these groups and migrants from other provinces. On the other
hand, San Jose and Sta Maria which are the more inaccessible
sites appear to be more cohesive communities. The development
activities implemented by PCART and the government-sponsored
Palawan National Agricultural College are knots that have
strengthened their ties instead of knocking the 'community into

RRA is an effective rural assessment method which will identify
appropriate strategies for rural development projects (Sajise
1989) when handled skilfully. But this is not going to stand on
its own without additional institutional support. This means
that RRA must be fully reflected and incorporated into the
development project plan. This has been the best advantage of
working with an NGO like PCART. RRA results can be conveniently
integrated into the plan unlike in government-initiated
programmes that leave little room for adjustments and a large
number of people to convince.

Assistance by an NGO is a vital aspect of local community
development. The technical staff from the community-based NGO
are important in facilitating an effective RRA. They know the
language and the people. However, one shortcoming of our RRA was
that the technical staff were relegated to the background and
functioned only as guides. They were rarely involved in data
collection and analysis. The potential of the community-based
technical staff can be fully harnessed in the RRA process by
letting them help in administering field data collection.
Perhaps a background in RRA can be given to them prior to its
application so that the process is known to them in advance, and
its difference from other known methods of gathering data is

The strongest feature of the RRA findings was that they were
incorporated into the plan of the NGO. To ensure the smooth
implementation of the development programme, a forester and a
technical staff member were committed by IESAM to follow-up and
monitor the development of the project.

Staff development for the implementing NGO was also conducted by
IESAM with the sole purpose of building the institutional
capability of the organisation. This must be followed up by more
intensive and integrative training and synthesis of field
experiences. Furthermore, IESAM has helped in establishing
institutional linkages with government agencies involved.

One major limitation of this RRA was its operating cost which
runs to thousands of pesos. However, we cannot do away with this
initial amount. One possible improvement is to develop the
capacity of local technical staff to conduct any type of RRA. In
the long run, the community-based development office can be self-
reliant and expenses can be minimal. In this context, both
formal and informal RRA training for many private and government
development agencies must now be given priority. This will
finally liberate RRA from the domain of consultancy firms and
educational and research institutions.

Victoria Ortega-Espaldon and Leonardo M Florece
Institute of Environmental Science and Management
University of the Philippines at Los Banos College

Other members of the RRA team:
Antonio J Alcantara
Efren Operio
Plato Tirol


Conway, G. and Sajise, P.E., 1986. The Agroecosystems of Buhi:
Problems and Opportunities. Program on Environmental Science and
Management, University of the Philippines, Los Banos, Laguna

Lamug, C.B., 1985. Rapid Community Appraisal of Upland
Agroecosystems. Agroecosystem Research in Rural Resource
Management and Development. Program on Environmental Science and
Management. pp. 94-103.

Sajise, Percy E. Rapid Rural Appraisal (RRA):
Liability. Paper presented at the Second National
Nutrition Planning Workshop on "Rapid Appraisal The
and its Applications." CEC, UPLB, March 1-3, 1989.

Asset or
Food and

Sajise, P.E., 1989. Guidelines for Rapid Rural Systems Appraisal
(RRSA) for Upland Development Projects. DAI-OIDCI, RRDP, DENR,
Quezon City, Philippines.



In areas where agriculture is the predominant household activity,
rural artisans (blacksmiths, tinsmiths, carpenters, potters etc)
often constitute important productive infrastructures
complementary and/or essential to agricultural production.
However, the essential inputs both to agriculture and to other
aspects of rural life that these networks of demand and supply,
production, credit, income diversification etc provide, sometimes
become invisible when attention is focused too exclusively on
agriculture. Better understanding of artisanal systems is
required if their contribution and potential for development are
not to be ignored or attempts to assist them are not to be
counter-productive (as has sometimes been the case).

This paper includes some of the techniques/approaches found
useful in a recent three-person rapid appraisal of the
production, repair and use of metal goods in rural Zimbabwe.


1. Expanded Calendars

Most rural artisans in Zimbabwe are agriculturalists first and
artisans second. Household food security depends on subsistence
agriculture with, in some cases, marketing to surplus production
but the requirement for cash income has become increasingly
important with the growth of essential cash-only payments such as
school fees and the purchase of agricultural inputs. Artisanal
activities are generally prized by artisans' households because
they provide access to (additional) cash income.

It is important, therefore, to see artisanal activities within
the context of both the interviewees' and the communities'
farming systemss. One technique we used with artisans and in
community group interviews was the construction of an expanded
calendar covering both agricultural and non-agricultural

First, interviewees' agricultural labour calendars were sketched.
This was usually fairly straight-forward since agricultural
communities are generally accustomed to conceptualising
agriculture as a well-defined cycle of activities. Then
interviewees were invited to compare the patterns emerging with
those of their artisanal activities (Figure 1).

The most effective point of entry into such comparisons was found
to be peaks and troughs of demand for labour. These were widely
occurring in agriculture and, once these had been discussed, it
was generally easy to apply the same questions to metalworking.

The team was Godfrey Cromwell, David Harries (also ITDG) and
Philemon Sifo'ongware (Inst. Agric. Engineering, Harare)


i Weeding.-- I Harvest (Maize) Harvest (Cotton)-- |--Manure carting--- ---- Ploughing---

Early veg. Later veg. --Weeding
planting planting
Plant G/nuts. Build maize stores
ACTIVITIES Rapko, maize Fencing Yoke making

Cut wood
Fertiliser Spray (curing & building) Building Thatching


Crop sales Veg. sales
School Fees Input credit
CASHFLOW Veg. sales/eat Buy seed, fert,sprays


S Hoes Knives Axes Plough parts
DEMAND o harvest) Adzes Hoes

Credit given No credit given

Run down stocks Build stocks
Increase prices

Hoes Knives Buy materials Pay in advance
Hoes Plough parts/repair BLACKSMITHING
Build up stocks Run down stocks

Figure 1 : Expanded Calendar

This approach revealed patterns of work which differed between
the types of metalworkers interviewed. These differences were,
in turn, closely related to the types of market served. Thus,
while rural blacksmiths experience fairly predictable demand for
repair and production activities across the year, tinsmiths'
production and repair activities occur almost exclusively in the
post-harvest period and depend on variations in rural incomes.
Different patterns of production of this type were traced by
supplementary questions to the commodities produced (essential
agricultural implements in the case of blacksmiths; domestic
items in the case of tinsmiths).

Comparisons of labour calendars led naturally into demand
calendars for artisanal services as perceived by the producer.
The use of "expanded calendars" of this type proved very
effective in:

(1) obtaining information about existing agricultural systemss;

(2) understanding the dynamics of this system and its inter-
linkage with artisanal production for example the
production of axes at the period of compound construction
and land clearance, of plough-parts in the pre-rains period,
of hoes for the weeding period, of large knives in the
harvesting season etc;

(3) understanding patterns of credit availability and the use of
rural incomes. The frequency and terms of credit extended
by different metalworkers were also useful indicators of
their respective dependency/power in their markets;

(4) understanding rural labour patterns and the resolution of
conflicting labour demands. For example, discussion of
interviewees' stated reactions when customers asked for
products or repairs during periods of peak agricultural
labour provided insights into the perceived value of cash

2. Group Interviews

Since the study covered the production, repair and use of metal
goods the team also investigated the perceptions of non-
artisans. Group interviews were selected as the means to obtain
this information.

Group interviews with non-artisan community members allowed:

(1) cross-checking of information including agricultural

(2) comparison between consumers' and producers' perceptions of,
for example, demand for metalworkers;

(3) development of a wider demand map for, in this case, metal
goods purchased and/or repaired by/for rural communities.
For example, the roles and perceptions of goods and services
supplied by welders and hardware stores in rural service
centres were explored;

(4) identification of users' perceptions of the quality,
availability and affordability of different products.


In this study interviewees were asked either individually or as
groups to list all the items currently found in local
houses/compounds. This brainstorming was assisted by asking
interviewees to imagine that they were walking around their
compound/house describing the items seen. Finally, interviewees
were asked to describe the activities of a "typical" day in
different seasons and any metal items or substitutes involved
were noted. This procedure established a database of products
from which items which were or which could be made of metal (for
example wooden plates) were extracted for further discussion.

These techniques proved not only to be a rich source of
information but were also entertaining for those involved -
particularly when the group obliged the interviewer to undergo
the same process.

The list generated during these discussions was then
systematically worked through with interview groups and the
following characteristics of each item were recorded:

(1) Source(s) of new goods (store, local blacksmith, tinsmith,
home-made etc), with reasons;

(2) Source(s) of repair, with reasons;

(3) Issues of frequency of purchase and repair, availability,
durability, popularity, affordability, perceived
shortcomings and advantages.

By comparing the number of items recorded as purchased or
repaired by different types of metalworkers and discussing the
reasons for this situation it was possible to assess:

(1) The relative importance of each sector (blacksmith, rural
centre welders, tinsmith, industrial sector etc);

(2) The relative market security and product diversity of each

(3) Changing patterns of rural demand over time.

One method used to analyse (and subsequently present) the
appraisal findings was to display the list of products in pie
chart form and thereby obtain impressions of the relative
importance of different sectors. Presentation could be focused
as required to highlight the involvement of different sectors in
each case. For example, by inputting the number of items
produced or repaired by each sector (an example of this method
is shown in Figure 2), or by selecting only certain items, the
most commonly owned for example, or those used in agricultural
production etc, hypotheses were generated for discussion and
testing as the appraisal progressed.

Figure 2 : Charts for Agriculture
,(production and repair of metal items)














Focus on non-artisans

All the artisans encountered during the study were male and no
female metalworkers were known of, either by the artisans or by
the community groups interviewed. One benefit of the four group
interviews held in different parts of the country was that they
enabled the survey to gain access to women' perspectives. This
was essential given the central role played by women in both
agricultural and domestic activities. One group interviewed
consisted predominantly of men while the three others were
dominated, both numerically and in terms of contributions, by


Many programmes attempting to assist artisans are very
enthusiastic about product diversification. By exploring with
the group composition, dynamics and rationale of the whole
network of supply systems a useful database was compiled of:

items currently owned;

local perceptions and uses of these commodities;

means of access to metal products and repair services;

constraints and opportunities for product diversification.

In particular, we explored the extent to which, and the reasons
why, each item discussed was owned by all, some or just a few

3. Questioning Techniques

Many of the strictures applied to interview techniques in general
(no leading questions, clarity, no multiple questions and so on)
of course apply equally to non-agricultural surveys. However,
there are some detailed practical questions which this study
suggests are useful. These are now explored.


Arriving at the most useful sequence for questioning is to some
extent a matter of luck. Interviews are also likely to differ as
to the order in which topics arise. Nevertheless, careful
consideration of question sequencing can ease the progress of an
interview. Moving from the well-conceptualised agricultural
cycle to the possibly less familiar idea of artisanal cycles is
one example of this approach.

Needs assessment

When trying to assess artisans' needs it is very easy for
interviewers either to suggest "needs" or to shirk their
responsibility to ask further questions about the rationale
behind any perceived need. Posing the question "What do you
need?" often elicits a wish list which is a poor start for
exploring feasible options.

More specific and concrete questions, for example "What is your
greatest difficulty?" followed by "why?" questions, tend not only
to receive more considered answers but also to avoid the tendency
for the interviewer to be faced with a wish list which he/she
then often demolishes with supplementary questions. Such
questioning, or even apparent ridicule, of interviewees' answers
can seriously undermine both their confidence and the atmosphere
of the interview.

Questioners should thus remain aware of and sensitive to
informants perceptions and aspirations. Motives and rationale
need to be clearly understood. However, self-appointed
disabusingg" of interviewees of their perceptions by the
interviewer is generally as unhelpful as the suggesting of

Similarly, questions such as "Would you like to diversify your
product range?" can produce misleading or unrealistic answers
which are difficult to follow up. Questions such as "Do people
sometimes ask you to make things and you refuse them?, Why?" not
only enable discussion of actual local demand but also assist in
identifying constraints on diversification. These constraints
can be diverse: lack of materials, skill inadequacy,
insufficiently regular demand, excessive time requirement to
produce, availability of cheap alternatives etc. All of these
have different implications for any attempts to diversify
production and the importance of each must be clearly identified,
ranked and explained.

Perceptions about the future

A major difficulty with RRA, as with every survey methodology
other than projections based on market research, is that RRA
tends to provide useful insights into the status quo but reveals
little about the future. The assessment of the needs and
constraints perceived by artisans described above goes some way
to addressing this.

Another method found helpful as a basis for exploring artisans'
perception of their trade and its future was to ask artisans how
they would/had advised) their children as regards following in

their fathers' footsteps. This, without exception, produced
thoughtful assessments and useful summary appraisals by the
artisans interviewed.

Similar questions were usefully included in group interviews with
non-artisans. Groups were able to explain and explore the role,
markets and prospects of rural artisans at least as well as the
artisans themselves. This, in addition to any new data
generated, provided a means to re-evaluate information supplied
by artisans. Combination of perceptions those of artisans and
those of their clientelle/community proved to be an effective
means of obtaining local assessment of both the present status of
artisans and the future that they are believed to have.

Finally, asking different types of artisans for their perception
of other types was also interesting. For example, discussions
with welders in rural centres about the role of blacksmiths in
the surrounding rural areas was revealing about the perceived
market niches of both groups.


It is important not to become over-focussed when investigating a
particular topic. In the case of metal goods, an exclusive focus
on metal items would have been misleading in that items made of
clay, wood and plastic are currently also used in place of metal
equivalents. Again it is important to unravel the reasons for
these choices.

Similarly, neglect of a wide range of secondary sources detracts
from such appraisals. In particular an understanding of the
history and current status of competing sectors from the rural
artisan to the industrial manufacturing base is essential both
when analysing artisanal systems and when appraising their

Inclusion of family members

Many rural metalworkers depended on their wives for agricultural
subsistence production while the interviewees generated cash
income from their artisanal activities. Interviews where both
(or more) members attended were often more balanced and provided
a good means for verification of information, either as a result
of unprompted debate/interjections or by addressing
some/additional question to other family members. For example,
metalworkers who suggested that household food security (as
opposed to cash income) was based on their artisanal activities
were several times pulled up sharply by their wives.

Exploring technical ability

Simple, open-ended questions allow artisans to demonstrate their
knowledge of key skills. For example, technical questions put to
rural blacksmiths interviewed during the study included:

How do you select metal for making knives?

How do you make a knife?

What happens if you leave a piece of metal in the fire for a
long time?

These three questions alone enabled exploration of:

* artisans' knowledge of metals (including high and low carbon

* artisans' methods for identification of metals (for example
some judged by the sound made when the metal was struck,
others by the ease with which it was cut etc);

* artisans' access to and use of different metals and the
reasons for these choices;

* knowledge/use of hardening and tempering techniques;

* the efficiency of artisans' forges (could metal by melted)

Wherever possible a technical specialist should be included in
the team since, for example, assessment of the technical quality
of products and skill-use requires experience (although any such
assessment should be set in the context of local perceptions).
However, assessment of technical knowledge, seemingly a daunting
task for the non-specialist, can actually be greatly facilitated
by using this type of simple questioning. Even where a technical
specialist is included, simple, non-abstract questions should be
developed and tested before embarking on a survey.

In many cases a drawing or photograph, for example of technical
innovations encountered, was by far the most succinct method of
describing and recording items. During the survey a number of
drawings of this type were made and photographs were also taken
at the end of some interviews.

Assistants and Interpreters

Where surveys are conducted by expatriates, assistance from a
national of the country concerned will be essential. This team
member is likely to be the main conduit of communications with
interviewees. Consequently, responses obtained during a survey
will be only as good as the assistant asking the questions,
eliciting the answers and translating them to the other team

No matter how carefully questions are worded in the original, it
is the translation and exploration of these questions by the
assistant that really determines the degree to which replies are
unaffected by leading, distortion and so on. An appraisal is far
more likely to generate good information when the assistant fully
understands the purpose of the work and the desire to obtain
artisans' opinions rather than try to suggest or "sell" things or
ideas to them. While this type of understanding develops during
the course of any survey it is essential to brief the assistant
very fully in advance.

When selecting assistants (and any other team members) my
personal prejudice is to emphasise the need for someone with good
inter-personal skills: a sympathetic and interested listener who
is able to communicate these qualities repeatedly to each
interviewee. A further requirement is a familiarity with the
technical subject area (this need only be to trainee level).
Firmly at the bottom of the list are academic qualifications in
social science, since these are no substitute for empathetic


Artisanal activities are, for artisans and their households,
primarily a strategy for spreading risk and generating cash
income. More importantly, many artisans provide essential goods
and services to rural communities particularly in the provision
and repair of both hand and animal powered agricultural
technologies, but also in the supply of domestic items, non-
agricultural tools etc.

While the role of artisanal infrastructures is increasingly
recognized by organizations seeking to assist rural development,
the context of these activities is often incompletely understood.
This can lead to projects which are either unrealistic about or
even damaging to these infrastructures.

Broader awareness of these issues can be created by sharing both
the techniques employed and the results generated by artisanal
appraisals. I hope that the techniques described above will
contribute to the development of methods for including analysis
of artisanal activities in rural appraisals. If greater
awareness and effective techniques can be developed, projects may
be assisted both in promoting and making use of the important
resource base that artisans represent in many rural communities.

Godfrey Cromwell
Project Economist
Intermediate Technology Development Group
Myson House
Railway Terrace
Rugby CV21 3HT



Rapid Rural Appraisal is a way of piecing together the parts of a
jigsaw to try and give you a picture of a particular situation.
Listening to people in informal interviews is a means of
providing many pieces for this jigsaw. However, listening is
difficult and interviewers can often 'mis-hear' and so miss
important parts of the jigsaw. This mis-hearing happens often in
informal interviews but there are ways in which improved hearing
and wider sensitivity by interviewers can lead to better
understanding. Two main ways are:

always check and verify what you hear.

don't always take answers literally, interpret what you
hear with a bit of 'lateral listening'.

The following examples show some incidents of mis-hearing which
were corrected by further probing, verification and
interpretation (lateral listening). The first is an example of
'cultural mis-hearing'. The second is an example of the risk of
'half-hearing' when one only hears half of the answer one is
given. The third is an example of 'non-hearing' when one
receives an answer but treats it as a non-answer.

Example 1 Cultural mis-hearing, Somalia 1988

There are many occasions when questions are interpreted by the
interviewees within their own socio-cognitive frameworks which
clashes with our own. This can lead to cultural mis-hearing and
consequent mis-information. However, if the interviewers are
open to the possibility that they might have mis-heard, this mis-
information can be avoided.

One clear example of this came up in a recent socio-ethnographic
survey of the Upper Juba Valley in Somalia (1). Part of the
survey was aimed at understanding the land tenure system of
riverine farmers.

Initial questioning followed official informants in assuming that
ownership and rights to land were on an individual basis.
Interviewees seemed to confirm this by appearing to acknowledge
their individual rights to a particular piece of land. However,
the interviewers' personal observations of the ratio of people to
land made them question the possibility that so many people could

2This article will appear in the journal Disasters, volume 14,
Issue 4 in December 1990.

own so little land. To verify this they set about measuring
every field with claimants being interviewed. This revealed that
many people had varying claims on the same piece of land.

At this point, the interviewers questioned what they thought they
had heard and asked the question of ownership again. Further
probing showed that the claims were in proportion to the
genealogical distance from the claimant to the farmer. Several
people could therefore be said to "own" a particular piece of
land. This proved that contrary to official information received
and to what the interviewers thought they had first heard from
the farmers, land rights and tenure in the area were in fact
fluid and evolving and not fixed.

In this example, there was a problem in picking up important
information which was hidden and concealed by a clash of
different cultural understandings of the idea of "ownership".
the interviewers initially mis-heard the answer to their question
but by 'verification' and listening again they were able to
understand what was to be a vital piece of this particular

Example 2 Hearing through falsehood, Ethiopia 1989

Some rural communities inevitably see interviewing as an
opportunity. These are often people who have been interviewed
before and so have developed interview 'skills'. Other people
can see interviewing as a threat such as people who are living
in fear and do not trust outside interviewers. In either case
of opportunism or fear, people and communities can feed
interviewers false information about needs, priorities and
community activities. However, to hear only the false
information would be to half-hear the answers given by these
people. A better understanding of the community can be gained by
also trying to hear the motives behind the false information.

One clear example of this occurred in an evaluation of community
participation in a church development programme in southern
Ethiopia (2). Several communities exaggerated their needs and
their participation in community development projects and played
down their receipt of relief items in recent months in an attempt
to ask for more. Verification with project staff and relief
records proved this to be false information.

Having established that the information they had heard was false,
the interviewers tried to interpret what this false information
revealed and why it had been given. In other words, what motives
could they discern behind the false information. They began a
bit of lateral thinking and realized that the false information
they had heard signalled that these communities were becoming
relief-dependent, were unmotivated and often "deaf" to
development messages. By not taking their original testimony at
face value and by listening for deeper motives, the interviewers
therefore uncovered important information about these

Example 3 Getting no answer, Ethiopia 1985

Very often, people have no answer to questions posed by
interviewers. In these cases there is a tendency for
interviewers to view this lack of an answer as ignorance and so
to provide the answer themselves according to their own
preconceptions. This is a particular kind of mis-hearing which
again tends to view the answer as a non-answer and so dismisses
it and replaces it.

In discussion about imminent food shortage with rural people in
Ethiopia and Sudan (3), interviewers asked questions about the
build-up to, the severity of and the reasons for the expected
crisis. These were enormous questions which people obviously
could not answer in a nutshell. They often gave answers like
"God knows" or it was "the will of God" or simply shrugged their
shoulders. Interviewers initially considered this to be a non-
answer and were tempted to take it upon themselves to interpret
what had happened. This would have meant providing answers
according to their own preconceptions and so 'filling in' the
situation with their own analysis.

However, recent evidence from Darfur in Sudan has shown that
people's knowledge and understanding of famine is highly
developed and much better than our own. In the initial
questioning in Ethiopia, the interviewers had mis-heard the
answer. "God knows" was a statement of faith but it is also a
way of saying how complex the issues were and how the question
could not be answered so simply. Further probing and questioning
has begun to show that rural people's perceptions of and
understanding of famine is in fact a vast and complex area
needing further research and a lot more listening (4 and 5).

As this example shows, many short seemingly evasive answers are
not 'non-answers' but flags which signal enormous complexity in
the question and the impossibility of a quick answer. These
short deflecting answers are also often related to fear or
emotion which makes something too painful to talk about (6).
Openness to the improved hearing of these apparent non-answers
gives a better understanding of how people view the question and
should lead to renewed listening.


These are a few examples of the many ways in which outside
interviewers can mis-hear rural people. They show that an
informal interview may not always produce the kind of 'direct
information' which the interviewer aims to extract. It will
however, always offer hints of other kinds of 'hidden
information' which may be very revealing. For outsiders to
overcome the problems of mis-hearing and uncover this hidden

information, it is always necessary to check what one hears and
to enter into a bit of lateral listening to interpret what at
first may seem like 'non-answers'.

In our experience, there is no such thing as a bad answer or a
bad interview, but only bad listening or half-hearing. The most
awkward, silent and embarrassing of interviews (of which there
are many) always mean something the onus is on the interviewer
to look for this meaning and to verify it. The interview
examples above show that better hearing and more open-minded
listening can enable interviewers to interpret what they hear and
so understand the voice of rural people a little less

John Mitchell and Hugo Slim
Rural Evaluations
PO Box 3
Boscastle, Cornwall PL35 OHX


(1) Mitchell, J. and A. de Waal, 1988. 'Socio/Ethnographic
Survey Baardheere Dam Resettlement and Compensation Plan
for Inundated Reservoir Area'. Halcrow Fox Associates/World
(2) Mitchell, J. and H. Slim, 1989. "A Review of EECMY-SES
Community Development Programme in Sidamo and Gama Gofa
Regions of Ethiopia'. Rural Evaluations/Norwegian Church
(3) Mitchell, J. and H. Slim, 1985. Unpublished Reports, UN
Emergency Office, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
(4) De Waal, A. 1989. 'Famine that Kills Darfur Sudan
1984/85'. Clarendon Press, Oxford.
(5) Young, H. 1988. Unpublished Oxfam Reports, Darfur, Sudan.
(6) Mitchell, J. and H. Slim, 1990. 'Interviewing Amidst Fear'.
In Press.


Thoughts from a PRA in Guinea-Bissau

A pilot project was implemented in Guinea-Bissau to explore the
methodology of Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) as a tool for
village based community development workers. An in-service
training was given jointly to a group of expatriate and host
country development workers. Additionally, needs-assessments
were done in two villages to test the PRA process as a
programming instrument for village based workers. In its general
form, PRA is a variation of Rapid Rural Appraisal and emphasises
an especially broad scope of community participation in
identification and prioritizing of needs and solutions. Rapid
Rural Appraisal teams characteristically include individuals from
outside the host community. Consequently, there is a prominent
cross-cultural aspect to the team's activities, and cultural
predispositions are interwoven throughout the PRA process and
reflected in the resulting conclusions and recommendations. The
Guinea-Bissau activity sought to test a variation of PRA which
would address the somewhat unique circumstances of expatriate
development workers who are village based for extended periods of
time persons not faced with the constraints of time usually
associated with Rapid Rural Appraisal applications. During the
process of our work we became contemplative about the power of
the PRA to catalyse change and the role of outside change agents
in addressing the values and beliefs of a community. The
following rationalization resulted from our philosophical
ramblings, and is believed to hold thought-provoking implications
for all who are concerned with development issues.

We spent several days in each of the villages of Pelundo and
Bara. We were graciously invited into the homes of the
community, we joined the men and women at work in their fields,
we shared food at their tables, we drank their wine, we joked
with the children, and we talked of aspirations and exchanged
questions about the quality of life in our respective countries.
Throughout it all, we were struck by the sense of well-being and
absence of compelling felt needs among the village residents.
The village environment was idyllic in a pastoral sort of way.
But nevertheless, according to our standards the people worked
too hard, ate too little, infant mortality was high, and the
general conditions of health and sanitation left much to be

During the off hours we pondered this paradox. The apparent
inconsistency between our perceptions and those of the villagers
seemed to be a matter of cultural values and beliefs. This line
of thought led us to wonder to what extent it is indeed
appropriate for outsiders such as ourselves to tinker with a
society's cultural foundations. Likewise, in order to generate
an opportunity to make changes in the life of the village must we
inadvertently create in their consciousnesses a sense of ill-

being and discontent? What are the limits to the role of outside
development agents in catalysing community change?

If the answers do hinge on the issue of values and beliefs, what
exactly does this imply and what do we mean by "values and

It seemed to us that "beliefs" are ideas concerned with how the
world is put together. That is, concepts of reality... such as
"disease is caused by spiritual disorder" versus "disease is
caused by germs". We tended toward the conclusion that it is
consistent with human nature to want to understand more about how
the world is put together. So, we concluded that it is a proper
role of a change agent to engage in exchange of knowledge about
fundamental natural processes.

Values, we decided, may be a different matter Values, we
concluded, are ideas about the way things should be. For
example, "the wives in a polygamous family should pool their
agricultural produce for the benefit of the entire household"
versus "each wife is responsible for feeding only herself and her
own children within the household unit". The danger of many
development interventions is that judgements are sometimes made
by outsiders about what is needed in a village without due
respect for the proprietary nature of a community's values.
This may be complicated by confusion over distinctions between
values and beliefs in the minds of outsiders.

Both appropriate
and feasible
courses of action.


Development initiatives must be consistent with community values and
beliefs, as well as compatible with available resources. A shift in any of the
three factors will affect the set of appropriate courses of action. What is the
proper role of the change agent - do all changes result in an improvement
in the quality of life?

Our reasoning brought us full circle in our effort to identify
the felt needs of our host community. The process that we were
using was founded upon the ideal that any development initiative
would be doomed to fail if it is not consistent with a
community's values and beliefs. How far should we go in
attempting to influence these values and beliefs in order to
promote our "enlightened" ideas about what their future should
be? That is, should we seek to overlay our values on those of
the host community? We decided that the answer is no.

We grew comfortable with the process that we were employing.
When properly applied, PRA seems to be well suited for maximising
possibilities and placing intervention activities in step with
the community value system. Beliefs are perceptions about what
is possible; the PRA process works to help the community generate
ideas about what is possible. Values are perceptions about what
is appropriate from among the possibilities.

We became increasingly confident that the PRA methodology can be
especially effective in addressing the goals of cross-cultural
understanding and catalysing development initiatives that are
consistent with the felt needs and values of a community.

Weyman Fussell
Agriculture Program Specialist
Office of Training and Program Support
Peace Corps, 1990 K Street NW
Washington DC 20526


Conference on Rapid Assessment Procedures for Health

An international conference on rapid assessment methodologies for
planning and evaluation of health related programmes is scheduled
for November 12-15 1990 in Washington DC. Hosted by the Pan
American Health Organisation and also supported by UNICEF, the
United Nations University and WHO, the conference is intended for
persons in international, bilateral, voluntary and national
organizations as well as academic institutions who are interested
in the application of rapid assessment methodologies for either
evaluating the effect of intervention programmes on household and
community behaviour or for obtaining information for programme
planning or improvement. Major emphasis will be on
anthropological procedures.

Limited funds are available for participants with relevant field
experience accepted for discussions or presentations at the
conference. It is expected that most participants will have
extensive relevant field experience and be supported by their
organizations. There is no registration fee but attendance will
be restricted to invited participants and advance registrants.
Registration closes by October 1, 1990.

For further information contact:

International RAP Conference Secretariat
United Nations University Programme Office
9 Bow Street
Cambridge, MA 02138, USA
Telephone (617) 495-0417
Fax (617) 495-5418
Telex 92-1496

Recent Publications

1. Manual from the Philippines

The Institute of Environmental Science and Management has
recently produced a manual entitled, "Rapid Rural Systems
Appraisal: Diagnostic and Design Tool for Upland Development
Products". Rapid Rural Systems Appraisal (RRSA) combines the
Agroecosystem Analysis framework and the Rapid Rural Ap-raisal
approach (see article in this issue). Process documentat on and
community validation are also built into the procedure.

This manual aims to provide social foresters with a handy tool
for more effective rural systems assessment in order to implement
the Integrated Social Forestry Program. The manual is also
designed to be useful to NGOs working in the Philippine

For copies of this manual, contact:

Ma. Victoria Ortega-Espaldon
University Research Associate
Institute of Environmental Science Development
University of the Philippines at Los Banos (UPLB)

2. Rapid Appraisal of Community Forestry

FAO have recently published two review papers on rapid appraisal
techniques of relevance to community forestry projects:

Molnar, A. 1989. Community Forestry Rapid Appraisal, FTPP
Community Forestry Note 3.

The aim of the document is to provide a state-of-the-art
review and a guide to the promising approaches being

Davis-Case D'Arcy. 1989. Community Forestry.
Participatory Assessment, Monitoring and Evaluation. FTPP
Community Forestry Note 2.

This document outlines the concept, the methods and the
tools of participatory assessment, monitoring and
evaluation. The section on tools provides brief guidelines
on the uses of each tool, the benefits and limitations of
its use and how it has been used.

For copies of these documents, contact:

Maiilyn Hoskins
Comn inity Forestry Officer
Poli, v and Planning Service
ForeE ry Department
Via d< 'le Terme di Caracalla
00100 ome, Italy