A Workshop on Participatory Learning Methods.



February 13th to 15th 1990



MYRADA Huthur Project
Odeyarapalya 571 457.
Kollegal Taluk, Chamarajanagar District




23 Staff members of MYRADA, ODP and CRS.



Mr.James Mascarenhas, MYRADA Mr.Vedamurthy, MYRADA Mr.Syed Elias



CRS is supporting MYRADA to do a Watershed Development Programme in Huthur. This training programme was taken up as the first formal attempt to set up a process that would:

Introduce staff to a method of learning with the people as teachers, and
Involve people in the process of reflecting upon and understanding their development problems and finding solutions.

Ardhanaripura Village – which is located in the Amegundi Watershed, was chosen as the focal village for the purposes of this workshop. Accordingly, the men and women of Ardhanaripura were involved in all the field exercises of the workshop.



After introductions and clarifications on the participants expectations from this training, PRA concepts and methods were defined and explained. They can be summarised as follows:


Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) refers to a systematic, semi-structured approach and methods of assessing and understanding particular or all village situations with the participation of the people and through the eyes of the people.

PRA gives us a clue to the way people think.

Major PRA Segments:


refers to a calendar of historical events from as far back as one can remember upto the present, in the life of a person, community, village, area or institution depending on what history we wish to reconstruct. Such a calendar can form the basis of helping us trace trends through history and study the reconstructed calendar from the memories of the people; the best informants are the really old people of the village. Giving dates to events can pose some problems but can be overcome by asking questions such as “How old do you think you were when this happened?”, or “Do you remember if the Collector was British or Indian at that time?”, and so on.


: refers to the calendar of the people. It helps us to understand time as the local people understand it. Drawing up such a calendar helps in locating annual occurrences and events, linking up such events to their seasonality, planning programmes on the basis of patterns that emerge and relating to people by means of a jargon that they find easier to understand. Examples of patterns could be: seasonality of disease outbreaks, periods of maximum and minimum fuel availability, commodity  price fluctuations, patterns in migration and numerous other such things.


: is a technique that serves two purposes:

a. it helps us develop a sense of observation that is more keen and more accurate. In making a map or a model we look at things that we may otherwise have overlooked. Maps be made of villages, kitchen gardens, market places, drinking water systems, location of various resources in and around the village, etc. etc.

b. it helps us in understanding how people and resources are organised. E.g. social mapping of a village provides a picture of the way houses, water taps, etc., are organised and can help us see class and caste patterns. Similarly, natural resource mapping can give details of land, water, trees, and other such resources, their locations in relation to the village and from there on, to an indication of how and by whom they are used.


takes us for a walk through the country side – usually from a high point to a low point but it does not always have to be so, it can also be a cross country walk – to give us an idea of the changing zones within the countryside, and the nature, causes, and direction of such changes. It  gives us an idea of what the land is presently supporting, and what it has the potential to support if some intervention is made. Transects can also be historical, in the sense that one can trace what the land looked like 50 years ago as compared to now and so on.


is an exercise that can be done with individual families to get a micro level understanding of how people live and make ends meet. It involves interacting with a family on a variety of issues and subjects to get a comprehensive picture of that particular family’s lifestyle and factors affecting it.


 is a technique to find out how people from the village itself would rank the different families as rich, middle and poor, and what criteria they would use to define rich and poor. The procedure involves making a list of all families to be ranked in the village on separate slips of paper so that there are as many slips as there are families, choosing a knowledgeable informant and explaining that the families have to be informant and explaining that the families have to be ranked as rich, medium and poor and handing the informant slips of paper to be put  into separate piles depending on which particular category the family belongs (in the informant’s opinion). Once the piles are made they may be reviewed again for revision. Sometimes, an informant might feel the need to make more than three piles. After part of the exercise is completed the informant  should be asked what factors he/she considered in rating the families. The exercise can be repeated with one or two more informants for cross verification. Wealth-ranking not only helps us identify the rich and poor families of the village but also gives us an insight into what constitutes wealth and what constitutes poverty as far as the people are concerned.

Once the concepts had been explained, most of the remaining time was spent in the field with the farmers. Participants were divided into groups to interact with groups of villagers and check out the practical applications of the concepts learnt.

Results of the various exercises were as follows :


Time Line of Ardhanaripura

An old man of the village was interviewed and he referred back to his own age to recollect the history of the village :

Approx. Year 

Approx. age of  
the old
man at
that time




They were bonded labourers; village never existed.



Government of Tamilnadu enquired about feasibility of school and shifted police station in order to construct the school building.



Thick forest, plenty of fodder, high cattle population, more wild animals, more milk availability and good social life.



Indian Independence through the effort of Gandhiji




Land was assigned by Government of Tamilnadu. About 660.8 acres for 100 families covering 4 villages. Due to famine in the area people migrated to this area from the other areas.



Ardhanaripura village came to existence.



School and houses were built (21). Out-break of disease was in the area. People evacuated the place. After some period they came back and settled.



200 acres of forest land was burnt.



Population increased, investment on non-essentials increased. Personal conflicts were common, depletion of vegetation, low cattle population, non-availability of milk for consumption. No wild animals, low productivity and income.



Population is 218 (Adults – 90 and Children – 128) 41 Houses.


Wealth Ranking of families in Ardhanaripura

The procedure for wealth ranking as outlined at the beginning of this report was not followed in this instance. Instead, four farmers were questioned as to how the village could be divided into rich, medium and poor. This is not a good way of getting information, and it is recommended that the correct procedure be followed whenever wealth ranking is being attempted.

Five families were classified as relatively better off. The criteria used for this were :

– 3 to 5 acres of good lands.
– Mulberry cultivation

– 10 – 15 goats
– 1 pair of bullocks.

Five families were classified to be of medium level. The criteria used were :

– 2- 5 acres of land of medium to good soil.
– 5 – 6 goats
– a pair of bullocks
– No mulberry cultivation.

The remaining 32 families were classified as poor. Criteria used were :

– Cultivation on encroached lands
– 1 to 2 goats
– No bullocks
– No mulberry.


Note : Classification criteria are not extensive enough. When the classifications are made using names of the families in the village many more criteria come into play. For eg. when the same exercise was done on another occasion in another place, some of the classification criteria were as follows :

Better Off :

Own house, well built. Employ labour, no need to borrow money, are in a good position to lend money to others, they own good quality land and livestock.

Medium :

Own land, but not large holdings, own house, have the confidence and capacity to borrow money and rep[ay it, considered creditworthy by others, employ labour.

Poor :

Either landless or having marginal lands, forced to borrow but poor credit worthiness; find it difficult to repay loans or create assets; forced to sell assets under crisis, forced to mortgage labour.

In this case the exercise was probably more productive as well as accurate because they were forced to think of the actual families they were being called upon to classify, and the position of these families.


Participatory Analysis of livestock and fodder management systems

Four men and two women were interviewed on a number of aspects such as types of fodder locally available, benefits of the various types of fodder, seasonal use of fodder and feed, etc.

The group sat under a tree, and after introducing themselves to each other, the purpose of the exercise was made clear to all. The group used four stones of the same size to represent quantity, each stone being given a value of 25%. The information that was collected was also finally written up on charts in a way that the village people could understand, i.e. using diagrams instead of words, and using the local calendar of seasons and rains instead of the January to December period.

Some of the inputs were as follows :

A) Historical transect showing forest, land, water and livestock position in the area:

Though the above information as well as the information in the charts that follow cannot be considered as absolutely accurate, there is no doubt that they provide planners with many good leads that can be followed up in greater detail when required, depending on the type of development programme being planned.

Example : Forest lands have deteriorated but agricultural lands have actually increased due to encroachment, etc. Similarly, agricultural yields have gone up due to the use of high yielding varieties of seeds and chemical fertilisers. Yet, the opposite has been depicted in the charts. What accounts for the people perceiving things this way? These and other such questions can be explored.

b) Seasonal variations in the availability of different types of cattle foods :m m m m = stones used to represent quantity
(Data gathered in a short time. Requires detailed verification with farmers & A.H.Staff

c) Impact of some fodders on health and milk yield :

Other information that was collected was as follows:

    • At the moment, the livestock population of Ardhanaripura is as follows:
      Cows – 100, Chicken – 100, Goats – 30, Sheep – 3

    • Women insisted that three fourths of all the tasks involved in livestock rearing was being performed by them. (This meant that they should be the main participants in animal husbandry training programmes.)

  • Inspite of the fact that the yields were poor, animals still constitute the family’s best bet during contingencies and hence, they are definitely considered as ‘wealth’.


6 men and 3 women joined the participants in the village to provide the required information :



Case Study of a family

Thippe Gowda is a farmer aged 77. Major events in his life, as recollected by him are as follows :

  • When I was eight years old, I became a bonded labourer to settle my father’s debts.

  • For 30 years I worked as a bonded labourer and finally cleared all debts. I was floating in poverty.

  • I got married when I was 32 years old. To be exact, I robbed a girl, according to our custom and tradition.

  • By the time I was 36, I had 3 children – a boy and two girls.

  • Around the same time, still as a bonded labourer I came to Bailur. I was earning around Rs.2.50 and 12 ‘kolagas’ of ragi per annum.

  • At that time, within the space of 7 days, all my three children died of dysentry.

  • In the next 3 to 5 years, 4 more children were born to me.

  • When we got Swaraj (Independence) I was released from bondage.

  • I then came to Ardhanaripura and started working for a Timber Contractor.

  • Now all my children are married.

The above information was collected from Thippe Gowda in the space of a single interview in a limited period of time. It is incomplete and cannot be considered as an example of livelihood analysis. However, it can form the basis for further questioning that can lead to a more complete and comprehensive understanding of the lives of poor farmers.