No.2,Service Road
Domlur Layout
BANGALORE 560 071.


A Review Workshop

held at

Nugu : H.D.Kote Taluk



7th & 8th August 1990

Facilitated By : Robert Chambers
                                   Aloysius Fernandez

NUGU, AUGUST 7th AND 8th, 1990


Much has happened in MYRADA following the first PRA Workshop conducted by Dr.Chambers in Gulbarga (October 1989) and the subsequent one at Talavadi (January 1990) introducing PRA concepts and methods to all MYRADA projects. PALM has generated a good deal of excitement and has found many uses.

This workshop was to take stock of the past 7 – 8 months of PALM activity, discuss issues and concerns raised by the different projects with regard to the applications of PALM, and plot plans for the future regarding the growth, development, and use of PALM.

Al Fernandez :

We have now reached a stage where we have to become self-critical. We have much to feel satisfied about, so it is very important that we do not become complacent.

Robert Chambers :

 The most positive thing about MYRADA has been its openness and willingness to share with others. This, in turn, has led to a similar culture of openness among those (non-MYRADA people) trained by MYRADA. We have to build on it.

Jimmy gave a concise overview of MYRADA’s PALM activities over the last 8 months. Detailed notes are available on request.

Major points were :

We can compliment ourselves that

  • To date we have conducted 28 PALM workshops.

  • We have introduced PALM to 764 development personnel of whom 413 are the staff of MYRADA, 48 are from various Government Departments and 303 are from other development institutions. Atleast 100 of the above have had the opportunity to participate in PALM workshops more than once.

  • We have experimented with PALM in relation to several issues: watershed planning, tank rehabilitation, credit management, forestry, health, agriculture-livestock, fodder development, etc. It has helped us see patterns of behaviour that we may have been aware of but had never really discussed with the people; it has also given us many new insights into what the priorities of rural people are, how they manage their livelihoods, and why they do the things they do. (For example, one group of farmers gave us rainfall data in term of the number of inches of moisture that permeated the soil; apparently, neither the quantum of rain nor the number of rainy days was important to them).

  • We have introduced some new exercises into PALM. Apart from games and cultural evenings that set the tone for an atmosphere of friendliness and informality, the most important has been the “Do-It-Yourself” (DIY) exercise where participants have to perform village tasks such as ploughing, thatching roofs, lighting a fire, making a basket, and so on. Our ability (or more often inability) to perform them leads us to a better understanding of what the tasks involve.

Al Fernandez: But do-it-yourself does more than that. Very often we enter a village with a baggage of ideas, attitudes and solutions. DIY helps to dilute this baggage. We realise that there are things that they can do that we cannot do. It develops humility in us and confidence in the villagers.

  • We have paid attention to documenting our workshops and experiences. In addition to literature, we have also concentrated on visual documentation. We have a good set of slides and are adding to them, we are also building up video documentation.

  • An important achievement has been the start of some good institutional linkages: with volags, Government Departments in whose training we have assisted; with research and training institutes, etc.

  • We have focused on identifying those among the PALM workshop participants who are emerging as trainers, and are fostering their capabilities in order to build them up as effective trainers. Depending upon interest, we are giving them opportunities to specialise in those exercises that they feel most inclined and confident to handle.

That is as far as we can take credit for. On the other had, there are also certain areas and issues that we have to take responsibility for :

§  Are our training programmes too tightly packed? A fair amount of responsible feedback seems to indicate that our training programmes of 3 to 5 days’ duration attempt to include more than what is reasonably possible to achieve. Not everybody gets a chance to try a hand at everything and some participants may be getting a little left behind. Can trainings be structured differently?

§  We have to look at the issue of quality control both in the dissemination and use of  PALM.

§  All PALM exercises take up villagers’ time. We have to be more sensitive to this and concerned about it. Is it reasonable to think that they should be compensated for it? How?

§  We have allowed a backlog to accumulate in documentation. There is so much material generated at each training workshop that would be well worth carefully analysing, classifying and writing up. How can we ensure that all of it is not lost?

§  There is the problem of being unable to keep up with the demand for training. Trainee groups are in danger of becoming too large and too heterogeneous for effective learning.

These and other such issues would have to be addressed in the coming days.

The timing of PALM exercises may influence outcomes. E.g. assessment of credit needs in March may be different from assessment of credit needs in September. We have to be sensitive to this fact.

PALM workshops are not ends in themselves. Neither is it necessary for every exercise to conclude with a plan. PALM has to be seen as part of a process.

The tendency to interview or even the use of the word ‘interview’ contradicts the spirit of PALM. An interview does not denote a relationship of equality between the parties involved. What else can we come up with?

Following this, there were presentations from projects on the work that each had done in the area of PALM. Almost all MYRADA projects have had training in PALM for staff; some have used PALM for programme planning, especially with regard to watersheds. Papers circulated by projects can be made available on request. A summary of points of interest consolidated from all presentations include the following:

– The variety of uses to which maps have been (and can be) put to. Village maps (i.e. maps drawn by the villagers themselves) had been used to see caste patterns, asset ownership, households with school-going children, credit-giving and credit receiving households, households with disabled persons, sanitation systems and points in the village where dirt accumulated, ownership of trees in the village etc., etc.

In discussion it was expressed that participative mapping was one of the most versatile of PALM exercises which could be used not only to gather but also to update various types of information and evaluate development programmes.

– The enormous amount of data that PALM can generate if questions are open-ended and timed well, if outsiders’ function as facilitators rather than interviewers, if people are allowed to express themselves in the way in which they are comfortable and if observation is combined with following up on the leads thrown up by people. Since this is more spontaneous data, it is also more relevant for development purposes.

– The usefulness of combining two or more methods in seeking information. E.g. mapping with wealth ranking, transects with resource mapping, seasonal analysis with ranking, and so on. The data that is generated is both relevant and comprehensive.

– The use of children as informants. Children have produced village maps that often include details left out by the adults. When engaged in discussions they are often more observant and have a greater eye for accuracy and detail (E.g. “there is one more well in the village, only thing there is no water in it”, “So-and-so’s house used to be the school but now she has taken it back”).

– The usefulness of diagrams and graphic representation of data. They are more easily understood by everybody, since they rely less on words and numbers. If we go a step further and get the people themselves to make the diagrams, then far less explanation is required from our side.

– Using farmers as trainers. This is both necessary and possible. Here we are going beyond the stage of using farmers only as informants; we are acknowledging that they have their own areas of specialisation and are training them to communicate their knowledge and experience to others.

– Quantification of data is a frequent cause of problems. Often there is a tendency to let farmers indicate preferences by using stones or seeds, and later convert them into numbers or percentages. It is best not to do so unless one is absolutely sure. For E.g. to indicate cash earning from neem in relation to tamarind the farmer say:

Neem : = oo
Tamarind: =

Instead of concluding that tamarind earns 5 times more than neem or that neem earns 80% less than tamarind it is best to say that returns from tamarind are much more than from neem. To understand this much is usually enough for our purposes. Quantification in absolute terms can take us off the track if we are not careful.

Our professional training orients us to measure things in absolute terms whereas relative terms are more acceptable, more sensitive and yield more information.

At times there are difficulties in understanding information, i.e. what people say may be different from what they mean, which may be different from what we interpret. In such cases, it is better to use the output generated directly by the people rather than our version of it, and then ask for clarifications.

– Another point where misinterpretations can occur is when matter from the ground (E.g. maps, seasonality diagrams, etc.) is being transferred on to paper. Once again, this will have to be done carefully and with clarifications.

– How do people understand time? And how do they represent it? This is an area where our understanding is limited. Sometimes, it is represented as a circle, sometimes as a straight line. On two occasions (with 2 different groups) people have drawn horseshoe-shaped timelines on which events were marked. If we do not have a shared understanding of time, then what is the basis for communication where time is involved?

– When complex data is generated there is no compulsion to force it into simple categories; in fact, good information can get lost in this way.

– The response to wealth ranking has been mixed. The criteria used for ranking may differ from group to group within the same village. Should discussions be held in private or in public? Should they involve one farmer or a group of farmers? If one farmer, the how should he/she be chosen?

In fact, the choice of informant(s) for any exercise is a critical and tricky issue. To explore deeper and to cross verify any information is an important part of the PALM process.

The discussion process itself is also critical.

v The need for all participants to be clear about the objectives of any exercise is important if later confusion is to be avoided (this has been a problem more than once).

v The method of conducting an exercise must also be clear (more in terms of what not to do) though there is much scope for improvisation on the spot.

v The need to anticipate that all trainees may not be equally ‘proficient’ has to be borne in mind. Therefore, every training group must have a facilitator who is clear on what PALM is all about.

v The need to be aware of when and how to facilitate discussions is important. For example, in constructing the history of the village, is the advent of the post office considered to be an important event by the villagers themselves, or are we provoking them into recording it as such?

In one case we asked a group of farmers “What are your problems in marketing cotton?” One participant-observer pointed out and proved that much more information regarding the dynamics of cotton-marketing could be got by asking instead, “How do you market cotton?”

– Finally, there were issues like: why should we talk about things that both the villagers and we ourselves know the answers to (E.g. seasonality of agricultural operations)? Why should we perform village tasks? Isn’t it more of a gimmick? And so on.

a) The point is not to talk about the obvious (we may have been doing so upto now because we are still being trained to understand the methods/exercises themselves, and have not really gone into using them independently and outside the workshops). But the real issue is: do we have a shared understanding of issues and priorities? Have we reached a point in our relationship where we recognise each others’ knowledge, are confident about each other, and respect one another? That is the real objective of PALM and that is the real test of PALM.

b) The value of any learning depends on the seriousness of the student. Whether an exercise is a gimmick, or a symbolic act, or a learning opportunity depends upon the frame of mind with which the student approaches it.

How can we make PALM a better tool in fulfilling MYRADA’s Mission?

This led to a session of questions, doubts and clarifications.

Questions have been recorded in the order in which they were asked and answered, with the clarificatory comment that nobody is an authority and there are no absolute answers.

1. Time Line : How should we go about the exercise? Do we ask leading questions or do we wait for people to recall what they feel are momentous events? (See example on page 8).

* Decide for yourself. Why are you doing the exercise? What kind of information do you want? With experience, the discussion process will get refined (provided you pay attention to it). But make sure that you give people a chance to express themselves.

2. On what do we base our choice of informants?

* Informants can differ from exercise to exercise and purpose to purpose. For E.g., older people may make better informants for timelines; but there is no point in involving an elderly person who has only recently moved into the village. Certain types of information can be better obtained from farmers, and certain other types from landless labourers. On some issues women may have a better knowledge than men and so on. Experience is a good teacher.

Ask yourself the question “Who should be present here who is not present?”

Women, children, old people, sick people and shy people are generally ignored, (poor people also, because they may hesitate to come forward). We must make an effort to seek such people out.

But whoever the informants, the best responses are obtained if prior appointments are fixed.

3. Why is ‘Time Line’ type of information required at all?

* It helps to establish rapport. It helps to study changes over time. Very often, the sequence of change and reasons for change may be more important than the changes themselves. Time line can give us leads for further questioning. Absolute accuracy is hardly necessary since the purpose is to study patterns and see trends.

4. How can we cope with divergent information?

* Divergent information offers good opportunities for learning. Ask for clarifications, talk to more people, cross check and cross check again. We may not only get closer to the truth but also find out more about the method, the informants, and our own ability or inability to facilitate discussions.

5. If PALM is to be used for planning in every village, can we afford the staff time?

* If we invest in participative planning at the beginning, we may in the long run be actually saving time, achieving better results, and be able to withdraw sooner from the programme. We need not use the whole range of exercises in every village. We may make sectoral plans as and when needs arise, rather than plan all programmes at one shot in every village. When PALM is used for programme planning we may find that some of the activities have already been initiated and so there may actually be lesser work to do than expected. For E.g., we may make a watershed development plan envisaging the construction of many structures, and anticipate that it will take us two years to complete the work. In discussion with the people and doing a transect and watershed model we may discover that many of the structures have already been put up by the farmers themselves, so our work is significantly reduced. Besides the above reasoning, it is also true that our experience of PALM has upto now been largely limited to training programmes only, where we have been spending a lot of time in coordinating the group, making presentations, etc. This may have given us the idea that PALM is time-consuming whereas in fact, it may not be so.

6. Are we having a ‘honeymoon’ with PALM? What if its attraction wears off?

* If we are serious about involving people and think PALM offers a useful framework for action, we will simply integrate it into our work pattern rather than seeing it as something separate. The novelty may die down but the methods become a part of process.

7. How do we compensate the villagers for their time spent with us on PALM?

* Choose a time that is not inconvenient to them (i.e. when the opportunity cost of their time is low so that they do not feel they are wasting it with you).

Hopefully, the people are gaining something out of the exercise as well! If the exercises are going to lead to action (E.g. in terms of initiating some programme) then in participation there is actually a benefit to them.

When farmers are being used as consultants (as suggested on page 6), we may think in terms of some form of payment.

8. Before entering a village to do a PALM exercise we usually go a day or two ahead and collect some advance information. What methods do we use then, and do they compare poorly with PALM?

* The need to get some advance information is only to save time during training and get down to the actual exercises faster. Besides, the information collected is very limited. If we are not engaged in training, there is no need for ‘advance information’. Such information can also form a part of the PALM process.

9. Why can we not use secondary data instead of PALM in every case?

* This discussion process yields much more and varied data. We can use PALM output and secondary data to confirm each others’ findings.

However, it is true that the use of secondary information is neglected. It has its own place even in PALM.

10. Is PALM feasible for entry into new villages (or is it more  appropriate for re-entry)?

* It can play a useful role in both (re-entry here is taken to mean that we have all along understood a village in a particular way, influenced by the ‘baggage’ we have carried with us into the village. We are now entering it again by understanding life as the villagers see and understand it).

11. How can PALM be a way of bringing about attitudinal changes?

* It requires a change of attitude to opt for PALM in the first place. Therefore, the use of PALM more than once both presupposes an attitudinal change and reinforces this change (though, of course, it need not work alike in all cases and with every person).

Use of PALM can result in attitudinal changes among the villagers as well, though this is something that has to be inferred from behaviour.

12. Can PALM be applied to solve social conflicts (or, can understanding of the village through PALM facilitate solving social conflicts)?

* PALM can be (and has been) used in identifying social conflicts and their causes. But solutions have to rely on other factors (E.g. common sense, timing of intervention, personality of intervenor, nature of conflicts, etc.,etc.).

13. How can we reduce bulk in documenting PALM exercises?

* Diagrams can help both in cutting down space and in simplifying the understanding and presentation of information. We need not produce attractive diagrams; only make sure that the information obtained is being correctly and clearly represented.

We can think in terms of writing up the notes from each exercise then and there, and setting aside some time for this purpose.

However, it is true that we are still left with a lot of data that requires to be analysed, organised and shared with others. We may have to think in terms of establishing a separate system to get this done.

14. Can PALM provide a strategy to withdraw from programmes and villagers?

* Please refer to question 5.

PALM can be used to come up with plans and programmes for groups that can prepare them to function independently. But it must be remembered that nowhere is it said that PALM is an end in itself. It is a part of a participatory process that also includes other components, the most important of which is facilitating the growth and development of appropriate people’s institutions that can enable people to continue to manage their programmes on their own.

15. When PALM is used for planning, how can we ensure that the outcomes are actually implemented?

* For PALM to be used in planning, we will have to devote more than just ‘training time’ to it. (Because upto now in most cases making plans has been a part of the training programme).

The first plan can, at best, be considered a draft plan. It will have to be taken back for discussions with all concerned.

The more the number of people (beneficiaries under the plan) involved in planning, the greater the chances are that it will be implemented.

The implementation of plans also depends on resource availability, and the commitment of all parties to contribute and use these resources to their best advantage.

Finally, the best of plans can alter once implementation begins. It is not something that happens with PALM plans alone.

16. In PALM documentation, how can we communicate the intangible, i.e. experiences (as against information)?

* We will have to use our discrimination. Include what you – and the people – think is important. As earlier said, there is no need to convert everything into numbers or categories. Some things can be recorded as they happened.Adjectives can be used for purposes of description.

17. Can we do a pilot project (in MYRADA) based entirely on PALM?

* By all means, but it will have to be done with sensitivity, maturity and understanding.

18. Can the analysis of information obtained through PALM also be made participatory (ie. why should the process of participation end with obtaining data? Can people not be involved in analysing this data as well?) How?

* (It was not possible to have a thorough discussion on this point. Though it was agreed that this should definitely be a part of the process, the question of ‘how’ was left unanswered. Individual practitioners may work out their own ways and please share them with others. In fact, if people are used only as informants and not involved in the process of analysis, then it is only an incomplete version of PALM).

19. How can PALM be used to introduce innovations into villages?

* The question can be reversed for an answer : do people want your innovation? What are their priorities?

Try and find people in the village who are prepared to try out something new, and introduce the innovation through them.

20. Can village youth be trained in PALM?

* Yes, why not. Also refer to Page 6 ‘Using farmers as trainers’.

21. Can PALM be used to influence public policies?

* Flexibility and discretionary powers available with Government functionaries are somewhat limited on account of procedures and need for standardisation. But it is (and has been) possible to influence public policy through PALM by involving senior officers in training programmes and also by demonstrating the efficiency of these methods.

Following this session there were brief clarificatory discussions on wealth ranking, transects, etc., which had been dealt with before but where a few doubts still persisted. A paper circulated on wealth ranking is available on request. Field exercises offered participants a choice doing transects, ranking and qualification, and seasonal analysis. Three out of the several charts produced have been attached to this report for their learning value.

This was followed by project wise discussions on plans for using PALM, attached as annexures to this report.

Forthcoming Sessions:

* Training of Trainers for PALM
* Training in diagramming




PALM – Action Plan – 1990-1991

Introduction :

Though only two PRA programmes have been conducted the project has clearly understood the relevance and applicability of PRA methods in its work. They can help the project in understanding development as people see it and in understanding people’s priorities, thus enabling appropriate and innovative interventions.

In order to realise the above objective the project has decided on the following plan of action :

1) A PRA resource team has been formed at the project comprising the following members :

a) Janardhan b) Arulswamy c) B.R.Bhat d) Krishnan e) Rajkumar

2) Enhancing and up-dating the PRA skills of the resource team on a continuous basis.

3) The project has decided to develop its own training materials on the use of various methods, showing the process involved in each method which will be used in its training programmes.

4) It has been decided to introduce certain commonly used PRA methods to all staff working in the project in a phased manner.

5) The team will help the staff in studying each sangha and in working out a development plan by actively involving the sangha members.

Development plans and withdrawal strategy using PRA methods will be formulated for atleast two sanghas every month.

6) As all developmental efforts whether channelised through individuals or groups, will have to lead to the development of the family, the PRA methods will be used in learning the developmental needs of each sangha members family.

7) Use of PRA methods for entry and re-entry in areas of Eastern, Far-Eastern and Bargur sectors.

8) Exploring the possibilities of training other NGOs in Periyar District.


PALM – Action Plan in general for one year from September 1990

I. Training :



No. Of Trainings

No. Of Participants


The Project Training team 



The Project Staff 



Other NGOs 



Mandal, Bank & Government 


II. PRA in practice

1. Gathering of information both new and old villages.
2. Evaluation and planning for the on-going NOVIB programme.
3. Planning of watershed for 2 watersheds.
4. Monitoring the watershed programmes.
5. Documentation of the programme progress.
6. Evaluation of the watershed programmes when required.


Action Programmes July 1990 – June 1991

I. Training :

Staff :

1. Staff Trainings in all       : 4 in all.One in each methods quarter.

2. Core team of six staff as second line of trainers
including deputation outside the project. :  4 in all.One in each as quarter. 

Animators :

1. Methodology for 30 selected animators : 4 in all.One in each

Others :

2. Government Officials/ Bankers, Mandal Members: 2 in all. One each half  year.

II. PRA in practice

1. Employment opportunity oriented programmes.

2. Documentation of resources/programmes.

3. Evaluation of programmes.

4. PRA to gather information and planning strategy before entering new areas.

5. Policy planning for developmental programmes.


PALM – Action Plan – September 1990 to December 1991

1. Workshop to be held in January 1991 for project staff and other NGOs working with HIDA/MYRADA.

2. Training workshops will be held in July and December 1991 for projects and other Government agencies involved in the Project programmes.

3. All PRA exercises and reports gathered so far will be analysed for making a report, which will be used in project as a background information.

4. Project will send its staff to participate in PRAs conducted by other MYRADA projects and NGOs.

5. Fresh staff joining project will be trained in PRA methods by the senior staff of the project from time to time.

6. It is planned to give atleast one PRA task to each staff member every month. PRA exercises will be an on-going programme and new areas to explore possibilities.


PALM – Action Plan – August 1990 – July 1991

Sl. No.

Selected Subjects


No. Of Sessions



August – September 1990




October – November 1990




 January – February – March 1991.


Outside Trainings :

Exposures will be arranged for staff of the project to build up a good trainers team for better implementation of PRA exercises in our programme implementation and development.

Constraints :

Lack of well trained staff at the field office level to conduct effective trainings.

Support required from Head Office:

To provide opportunity for selected staff to attend atleast 5 PRA sessions outside the field office and to provide a faculty to help the field office to conduct PRA exercises at the projects.


PALM – Action Plan for one year

1. Building trainers among project staff.
2. Organising PRA trainings for the counter-parts/Government/ other taluk/volags.

PRA in practice

1. Watershed planning for two watersheds
2. Monitoring the programmes (farmers)
3. On the job evaluation as and when required.
4. Documenting the programme progress. – Impact by PRA methods.