The Fallacy

The first step is to measure whatever can be easily measured.


The second step is to disregard that which cannot be measured or give it an arbitrary quantitative value.


The third step is to presume that what cannot be measured easily is not very important.


The fourth step is to say that what cannot be easily measured really does not exist.


A.Smith, Super Money.

Ever since logical positivism was founded and evolved by a group of ‘Vienna Circle’, efforts have been made to predict and quantify human behaviour and institutions. So much was the emphasis on quantification that when Everett Rogers (1963) gave his ‘Diffusion of Innovation’ theory in agriculture, questionnaire method of survey and analysis became the talk of the time. Planning bureaucracies proliferated at all levels and better trained natural and social scientists assumed the role of developers and experts in rural development. While this was happening, all the hopes, based on initial enthusiasm were being eroded by disappointment, cynicism and bitterness due to the widening gulf between the rich and the poor.

However a change was to come about in the early 1980’s, when Gordon Conway and his associates started using ‘informal methods’ for rural appraisal in S.E.Asia. The methods were termed as ‘Art’ rather than ‘Science’ by the ‘scientific community’ and jokes were cracked at these ‘funny games’. They were called ‘Rapid Rural Appraisal’ (RRA) techniques. At the end of the 80’s decade, a change was suggested which was going to make rural appraisal participatory in exploration and action. Such appraisals were called the ‘Participatory Rural Appraisal’ (PRA).


P.R.A. methods have assumed great significance these days when emphasis is being laid on involving the people in management and decision making. The R.R.A/P.R.A. methods when they were initially conceptualised were meant for agriculture extension. Later on the methods were found useful in rural development and measurement of rural poverty. P.R.A. methods however, can be put to a variety of uses especially in the forestry sector.

Some of the uses can be :

1. Natural Resources Management.
2. Watershed Development/Eco upgradation of an area.
3. Extension of Forestry.
4. Rehabilitation of degraded forests through people’s participation.
5. Wild Life Management.
6. Working Plans.
7. Development of Forest Villages, and
8. Office Management.

A. Participatory Forest Resource Management :

(Applications of P.R.A. techniques to Resource Management)

FRM through PRA or Participatory Forest Resource Appraisal and Management involves gathering information about the following :

a) Species and composition of forest.
b) Forest Areas prone to cutting.
c) Open Forest areas which can be taken up for plantation.
d) Old plantations with high success rate.
e) Illicit cultivation areas.
f) Range of wireless sets.
g) MFP, fuelwood and fodder availability.
h) Wildlife.
i) Livestock population in and around the forest.
j) Disease and pest attacks.
k) Forest areas prone to fire.

The above list is not exhaustive and many other things can be included in it.

P.R.A. in the case of Forest Resource Management is carried out in two stages/phases. The Phase I PRA is exploratory PRA, while Phase II PRA is detailed/topical PRA. While Phase I PRA is done with field staff, Phase II is carried out in the field/villages with the villagers.

Under Phase I a meeting of the staff is called to discuss the problems faced by them. Everybody has to speak. None is to be obstructed. The problems must be listed out. Each time a problem is discussed it should be circled.

The problem getting the maximum circles is ranked 1; the one which gets the next highest circles is ranked 2 and so on….

A similar exercise can be carried out for finding out the dominant amo ng the staff, and those talking less can be exhorted to talk.

Under Phase I we move from whole to part. Having identified the problems in the range we move over to round. The round map is taken up and Beat Guards, Foresters, RFO and ACF are asked to discuss the problems of the round. The routes and means employed by illicit cutters are identified and faithfully recorded by a person acting as process recorder. The complete flow/process diagram from cutting to transportation to final conversion is drawn up. A situation of conflict might arise where the staff may not agree with each other about the areas of maximum cutting. This situation must be handled carefully for resolution of such a conflict is ‘what PRA is all about’. Once this gets resolved, areas prone to maximum cultivation, maximum cutting, successful plantations etc., would be available.

It has become a venn diagram. Common area becomes most sensitive. This should be verified with a field visit.

This will involve more number of people and hence a more clear picture is likely to emerge.

Similar exercises can be carried out for areas prone to illicit cultivation, MFP and fuelwood areas, open areas needing under planting, livestock population and high g razing intensity areas.

A time line exercise is then carried out in which the whole of the staff of the range participates and narrates incidents of the past relating to :

1) Massive illicit cutting.
2) Cases of conflict with villagers and village involved.
3) Co-operation extended by the villagers.
4) Sighting of wildlife.
5) Wildlife kill in the area.
6) Disease/pest attack in the range.
7) Area Fire incidents in the area.

B. Participatory Wild Life Appraisal and Management :

(Applications of PRA to Wild life Management)

The items to be covered under this can be:

1) Location of village vis-a-vis sanctuary or national park.
2) Dependence of people and livestock on forests/habitat of wildlife, and conflicts thereof.
3) Routes of wild life and number of water holes.
4) Poaching and routes followed by poachers.
5) Habitat existing and improvement in it.
6) Kills by wildlife.
7) Cases of straying by wildlife.
8) Participatory census.

The first exercise here would be a meeting of staff to identify problems.

The next would be participatory wild life mapping which would include tracing out of routes of wild life on the round map. Also villages falling along the route, livestock population there, poaching and its possible routes are identified.

The habitat and possible improvements in it and fuelwood, MFP, fodder collection from the areas falling within habitat are also discussed. The grazing and its intensity are also covered. Thus we can find out HOTSPOTS related with the following:

i) High grazing intensity
ii) Fuelwood, fodder, MFP collection areas.
iii) High livestock carrying capacity.
iv) Livestock vulnerable areas.

The time line exercise can give a good idea about the wildlife status in the area. The past number of wildlife can also be obtained to a close approximation.

The seasonality exercise can give an idea about months of poaching etc.

C. Participatory Forestry Extension:

Participatory Forestry Extension would also employ some of the previous techniques. For eg., Participatory Resource Mapping gives an idea about the land lying idle in or around the villages that can be used for plantation. In village Valigaban (Jhagadia Taluk), District Bharuch, a patch of area, during participatory mapping, was kept vacant. Constant pestering revealed that the land was wasteland and if planted could meet the fuel and fodder needs of the village.

Direct Matrix ranking of species can lead to a choice of species.

D. Participatory Watershed Development:

(Application of PRA techniques to watershed development)

A watershed is a natural entity and constitutes a compact technical and economic unit for resource management and cycling of energy.

Watershed Development includes the development of –

a) Forestry
b) Horticulture
c) Agriculture
d) Minor Irrigation
e) Animal Husbandry
f) Non-conventional Energy Source.

Thus, in Watershed development we have different sub-departments working under one command. These combined disciplines can produce incisive and efficient diagrams of watershed conditions. While educating people about multi-disciplinary thinking the people working here must be well trained in their own fields, but must not hesitate to make contributions to one or more of the other fields. The following methodology needs to be adopted for participatory watershed development :

Day 1 : A field visit by the whole team is done so that they can get acquainted with the area and also with one another. The more multi-disciplinary the approach, the greater is the probability that critical factors would be brought to light.

Day 2 : Teams of two are made which scatter throughout the area and carry out the following exercises :

1) Participatory Mapping 2) Seasonality diagramming 3) Time Line 4) Venn Diagrams 5) Group interviews or meeting of the villagers.

These are then exchanged at the end of the day with other members/teams. By this team the group starts understanding the relations encountered in the region, and delimits the zone and type of study that is necessary to help development of watershed.

Day 3 : Before going into the field, each member is assigned a portion of report that is to be prepared by him/ her. This assignment is based on his/her disciplinary background. The team goes to the field, this time preferably to the same village or faliya of village. The member of one discipline might need another from a different discipline. Thus a deeper interaction among disciplines take place.

Day 4 : Report writing is done. In case points/queries arise for which nobody has the answer, then a field visit may be resorted to. In the afternoon each one reads his/ her report. The team as a whole approves or modifies the report. The reports are then combined, conclusions are drawn and specific recommendations are then made.

This technique is also suitable for eco-upgradation of wastelands and areas where rehabilitation of degraded forest is to be taken up with the involvement of people under Participatory Forest Management (PFM).

E. Participatory Development of Forest Villages :

The division of Forest Department looking after development of forest villages have successfully used PRA techniques to assessing the needs of the people and preparing Action Plans. In Rajpipla (DFS) division PRA techniques have formed the basis of planning.


Thus we see that the use of PRA techniques is not limited to rural development only and can be put to use in the forestry sector as well. In fact, the use of these techniques can be there in any sector which involves planning. However, a word of caution is necessary here. PRA is a means and not an end in itself. It is not a solution but leads to one and hence, must become a paradigm for development.


1. Peter Hildebrand, Combining disciplines in Rapid Appraisal. The Sondeo approach, Agricultural Administration (1981).
2. Neil Jamieson, The Paradigmatic Significance of Rapid Rural Appraisal (proceedings of 1985 International Conference of PRA) PP 89-102.
3. R.Rhoades, The Coming Revolution in methods of Rural Development Research.
4. N.S.Jodha, Poverty debate in India. A minority view, Economic & Political weekly, Nov.1998.
5. N.J.Greenwood & JMB Edwards, Human Environment & Natural Systems, Durbury Press, Massachussets.
6. Rudy Rucker, Infinity and the mind.