A Review Workshop
Nugu : H.D.Kote Taluk
7th & 8th August 1990
Facilitated By : Robert Chambers
DEVELOPMENT PROFESSIONALS’ TRAINING PROGRAMME
PARTICIPATORY LEARNING METHODS : A REVIEW WORKSHOP
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.
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
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.
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:
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.
– 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.
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).
2. On what do we base our choice of informants?
Ask yourself the question “Who should be present here who is not present?”
3. Why is ‘Time Line’ type of information required at all?
4. How can we cope with divergent information?
5. If PALM is to be used for planning in every village, can we afford the staff time?
6. Are we having a ‘honeymoon’ with PALM? What if its attraction wears off?
7. How do we compensate the villagers for their time spent with us on PALM?
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?
9. Why can we not use secondary data instead of PALM in every case?
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)?
11. How can PALM be a way of bringing about attitudinal changes?
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)?
13. How can we reduce bulk in documenting PALM exercises?
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?
15. When PALM is used for planning, how can we ensure that the outcomes are actually implemented?
16. In PALM documentation, how can we communicate the intangible, i.e. experiences (as against information)?
17. Can we do a pilot project (in MYRADA) based entirely on PALM?
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?
19. How can PALM be used to introduce innovations into villages?
20. Can village youth be trained in PALM?
21. Can PALM be used to influence public policies?
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.
MYRADA TALAVADI PROJECT
PALM – Action Plan – 1990-1991
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.
MYRADA KAMASAMUDRAM PROJECT
PALM – Action Plan in general for one year from September 1990
I. Training :
II. PRA in practice
1. Gathering of information both new and old villages.
MYRADA CHALLAKERE / HOLALKERE PROJECTS
Action Programmes July 1990 – June 1991
I. Training :
1. Staff Trainings in all : 4 in all.One in each methods quarter.
2. Core team of six staff as second line of trainers
1. Methodology for 30 selected animators : 4 in all.One in each
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.
MYRADA KADIRI PROJECT
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.
MYRADA/PLAN MADAKASIRA PROJECT
PALM – Action Plan – August 1990 – July 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.
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.
MYRADA HUTHUR PROJECT
PALM – Action Plan for one year
1. Building trainers among project staff.
PRA in practice
1. Watershed planning for two watersheds