WORKSHOP ON PARTICIPATORY RURAL APPRAISAL APPROACH AND METHODS
Monday, 8th January 1990:
Dr.Chambers started the session by posing two questions that were taken up for discussion in small groups:
The responses that came are as summarised in the box below:
Important discussion points
Are people the focus of study, or are the people the informants, or is it both?
The session that followed was a brief theoretical exposition to the Participatory Rural Appraisal approach.
Among other things, PRA asks two questions: (a) Can we try to see things the way other people see them? and (b) Can we recognise that other people may be seeing things differently from us, and accept that this does not make them wrong?
Another principle of PRA is the principle of Triangulation:
Normally, decisions regarding survey methods are taken on the basis of three main factors:
PRA permits one to wander around between the three parameters before choosing to focus in greater detail on any particular area.
The next session included a couple of exercises to help participants discriminate between ‘FACT’, ‘HEARSAY’, and ‘OPINION’. To learn to be discerning is especially important in the PRA context because the data that is generated is ‘live’ rather than ‘cold’ and it is often easy to get carried away by the eloquence of a respondent or the attractiveness of a method without checking whether the information being obtained is ‘correct’ or not.
A further point to bear in mind is to do with the process of eliciting information itself. Without really being aware of it we often find ourselves asking ‘leading’ questions simply because it is easier to do so. Responses to such questions can become rather limited; they may not provoke the farmer to think and respond expansively. For example: “Isn’t your yield higher this year than last year?” is a leading question. A better way of asking could be, “What are your yields like this year when compared to last year?”
The next session went into the four major PRA segments, each of which makes use of a combination of methods and techniques to yield information of a certain kind.
1. TIME LINE: 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 we wish to construct. Such a calendar of historical events can form the basis of helping us trace trends through history and study the nature of change. Examples of events could be “the year when we had to leave the village for three months because of an outbreak of plague”, “The time when Soliga Soora was the only brave man who went out and killed the tiger that was attacking our cattle”, “The year when our road was built and a bus started coming”, and so on. Since these events are reconstructed from the memories of the people, the best informants are the really old people of the village. Giving dates to events may have to be done by asking questions such as, ‘How old do you think you were when this happened?’, or ‘Do you remember if the District Collector was British or Indian at that time?’.
Every time an old person dies, a wealth of information is lost.
2. SEASONAL CALENDAR or SEASONALITY DIAGRAMMING: 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: their calendar of agricultural operations, busiest and slackest months in the year, periods of maximum stress, price fluctuations, seasonality of disease outbreaks, periods of maximum and minimum fuel availability, patterns of migration, and numerous other such things. If a match is being attempted between the village calendar (which may be based on seasons, rains, or festivals) and ours (i.e. Jan. – Dec.) it is best that we use an 18-month period of our calendar over which the village calendar can be transposed.
3. PARTICIPATORY MAPPING AND MODELLING: This is actually a technique that serves two purposes –
4. TRANSECTS ANALYSIS: takes us for a walk through the countryside 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 directions 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 interventions are made.
With the above exposition, classroom sessions for the day concluded. Participants divided into 8 groups and spent the rest of the evening in Chikkahalli where 4 groups sat with farmers to do a Time Line exercise, and the other 4 groups the Seasonal Calendar exercise. In the late evening, each group made a presentation in the village itself with the informants also attending and participating. The details of group presentations have not been incorporated into this report.
Tuesday, 9th January 1990
In the forenoon, the participants once again divided into 8 groups and went into Chikkahalli. 4 groups had the task of making a social map of Chikkahalli, and the other 4 groups a resource map. Once again, on completion of the exercise the presentations were held in the village so that farmers could also join in. Each presentation was in two parts: the maps themselves, and the processes that went into the production of the maps. In 4 out of the 8 groups, the map-explanation part was handled by the farmers themselves.
In the discussions that followed, the following points were made:
If people have to participate in the exercise, they have to first understand what it is all about. It takes a long time to get started but once they understand it, the map emerges rather quickly.
The above points emerged out of the discussion on the subject of participatory mapping in general, though the lessons were drawn out of the experience of the morning. However, to also record a few criticisms regarding the functioning of some of the groups:
The session concluded with two observations: (i) the technique of participatory mapping can generate a tremendous amount of information and provide many insights into the lifestyles of rural people. (ii) in doing such exercises it is very important and very useful to be self-critical and questioning.
One important aspect not considered up to now:
-> While PRA helps us see patterns in ‘static’ entities/realities, we have not yet looked at either relationships or systems of management. Can PRA methods help in this kind of understanding also?
THE PROCESS OF DEVELOPMENT STARTS WITH REFLECTION. PRA DEFINITELY HELPS TO START THIS PROCESS OFF WITH THE PEOPLE WITH WHOM WE ARE WORKING.
In the afternoon, some groups departed on a Transects exercise as outlined on Page 8, while others looked at the subjects of women’s time use, and home gardens. The presentations that followed were not made in the village but back at the Training Centre.
Some points that emerged were:
At the end of the day there was a brief reflection on the usefulness of the methods learnt. PRA helps us go beyond data collection and into processes. It is a methodology for learning rather than information gathering. Perhaps it should be named something else? Mr.Fernandez suggested that we could rename it.
P A L M
Participatory Learning Methods
Wednesday, 10th January 1990
A short time in the morning was spent in discussing the Do’s and Don’ts of interviewing. A long list developed, the central theme of which was that the relationship between the Interviewer and Interviewee is absolutely crucial to the outcome of the interview and care should go into seeing that a positive relationship is established. One other point was that in the case of using PRA methods where so much flexibility and room for improvisation is present, one decision that the interviewer may want to take beforehand is whether the interview has to be with an individual or a group.
The nature of groups was also very briefly touched upon, and distinctions were made between Casual, Specialist, Structured and Community groups.
The next session went into an explanation of the method of WEALTH RANKING and LIVELIHOOD ANALYSIS. While doing a livelihood analysis would give us insights into the way people manage their lives, wealth ranking was a good way of finding out how people from the village itself would rank their population as rich, middle and poor, and what criteria they would use to make the distinctions.
Wealth Ranking : The Procedure
Following the briefing, 8 groups once again left for 2 villages, Marur and Mudianur, to do the wealth ranking and livelihood analysis exercises.
Presentation of findings was done in the late evening. Some examples of findings are as follows:
Comments on the day’s work:
Thursday, 11th January 1990
This day was allocated for participants to choose any topic of their choice and make an investigation into it using PRA methods. However, before leaving for the field, each group also had to write up the processes they had observed and experienced while doing the wealth ranking and livelihood analysis. (These write-ups have not been attached to this report)
For the field exercise, topics that were chosen were:
1) Livestock feeding: resources and management practices.
Presentations were scheduled for the following day.
Friday, 12th January 1990
Morning until teatime was spent in making presentations of the previous day’s work.
Comments on the work turned out:
· The topical PRAs had succeeded in generating plenty of good leads for further investigation. For e.g. the Literacy group had elicited the information that in 3 out of 7 families IRDP loans had resulted in one child being taken out of school in order to look after the animals purchased. Was this a fact in all cases? Was IRDP being merely stated as an excuse?
· Another piece of information was that by giving youngsters an education the families were actually losers because they either left the village, or did not contribute any money to the family, or felt ashamed of the traditional occupations practiced in their families. How widespread would this be?
· The groups had been very creative in using methods of eliciting information. To go back to the literacy group again, their method of selecting families to be interviewed had been to make a participatory social map of the locality, ask the villagers to name the families that had the characteristics that they wanted to investigate into, (e.g. a family with one child going to school and another not; a family with educated female children, and so on) and mark their houses on the map.
· Doing a time line with a family to study changes in well-being had yielded a very powerful case study which was not only of academic interest but also made an impact on the team doing the interviewing and renewed their motivation to continue working in the field of development.
· On occasion it seemed a good strategy to work backwards from a concrete point in the present. For e.g. the trees group had started by asking the informant how many trees there were in his village at present, how many were there five years ago, and five years before that and so on.
· One group learnt that some interviews could be very painful and embarrassing both for the Interviewer and Interviewee. This was particularly so in the case of poor families who did not want to talk about their poverty. The group looking at changes in well being found one informant closing up when the questions got personal. It was best to terminate such interviews.
· Diagrammatic representation of materials was appreciated. However, there were occasional instances where the diagram chosen was not appropriate for the information to be presented. For e.g. the group dealing with migration used a single graph line to depict the pattern of migrating both across the last fifty years and over the months of any single year.
The results are as follows:
The discussion suggested that care should be taken to see that diagrams are not likely to cause confusion, to mislead, or be misinterpreted.
From Dr.Chambers: A few additional points before closing:
For further understanding we requested the informants to further classify the poor lot as poor and poorest.
Again the informant group developed their own criteria for the poorest class and started classifying.
We felt it necessary to further classify the families.
At the end of the second time classification the family members were as follows:
a> Rich : Nil At the re-assessment two
Once again the informants were asked to further classify the very poor and poorest among the very poor.
The informant group developed criteria for poorest group and proceeded the classification work.
Their criteria for judging the wealth was combined and assessed. The criteria for classification of families under different categories was arrived at by the informant after discussing amongst themselves which are as follows:
List of informants :
Mr.Guruswamy Mr.Veerathappa Mr.Nagaiah Mr.Basavashetty
The exercise of wealth ranking in Marur village of Talavadi Project was taken up as part of the RRA workshop held at Talamalai. The information presented and results obtained would not have been possible but for the active voluntary participation of the informants. The results clearly indicate the large of very poor families as compared to poor and the poorest of poor.
The team expressed its abundant thanks to the informants before their departure.
Participants: Mr.Herman, Mr.Manohar, Mr.Krishna Prasad and Ms.Lathamala
Informants: 14 women of the sangha.
After a preliminary discussion about the procedure, the team proceeded to Marur, where a group of Harijan women sangha members warmly welcomed us, especially Herman who conducts trainings for them. In the greetings and informal chat we explained the reasons for our visit, which was to learn the happenings in the village. They took us to house by the side of the road for a chat. We discussed about the village, houses, Sangha thrift and other sangha activities. The topic of agriculture and employment opportunities, brought up the idea that after the sangha started, many of the sangha members ‘Neravagithe’ which means they have economically and socially improved considerably.
This paved the way to the economic classification of people into three categories i.e. Anadi (very very poor), Anukoola ‘Neravagi’ (not that poor) and Saukar (rich). A literate woman was found among them to read out the names of the householders in the village, then on a chart on the floor, 3 circles were drawn; one was small, another slightly larger, and the third still larger. The chit was presented to the literate woman, who read out the names and the group after interacting placed the chit on the relevant category.
Some of the names raised problems. They were not able to place them in any of the three marked categories. So they suggested another category between Anadi and Neravagi, which was styled as Sumar which meant poor people. The literate woman read out the names and the group discussed as to which category they belonged and then placed the chit on the appropriate symbol.
When the concerned family members list surfaced, she was asked to locate herself. After much hesitation, and reflection she found her slot. In four instances the chit placed was further discussed and then shifted to another slot on common consent. Mahadevappa who resides with his wife in another village, the group was not willing to accept him in any of the slots, as the participants did not know how much property the wife had. Since the group felt that he might return to the village, he was also categorised.
43 families were identified as ‘Sumar’ and 11 as ‘Neravagi’. No one was classified as ‘Anadi’ or ‘Saukar’.
Basis of Classification
1. ‘Anadi’ – very very poor : They have no land, no house, no brothers or sisters, no children and often starving.
2. ‘Sumar’ – poor : Little land about 1/2 acre, casual worker, irregular employment, one or two cattle, own house, more or less three meals per day.
3. ‘Neravagi’ – middle class : Educated, holding some sort of Government or private job, two or three acres of land, petty shops, 3 meals per day ensured, and a pretty good house.
4. ‘Saukar’ – rich : Employer, employs continual labour, coconut plantation, big house, scooter, storage of grains, lending money, excess food.
After this work was done, we had to go into livelihood analysis which had to be done privately with an individual family. So we schemed a strategy. We said we wanted to visit each household. Some people went back home quickly to show us some of the damaged portions of their house. We visited seven houses and in the process identified the poorest family with the help of a sangha member. We gave her the 43 chits identified as sumar, and asked her to point out the poorest among them. She spread them out one by one and picked out Rangaswamy’s family as the poorest.
Our extension worker, Susheela, was very helpful throughout the process. We started this meeting at 11.45 a.m and concluded by 1.10 p.m. After visiting the houses we started the livelihood analysis by 1.30 p.m. to end the whole process by 3.00 p.m.
The team was with Rangaswamy (32), his wife (28) and two daughters, Kalamani (7) and Sundari (5). They live in a hut, on a plot given to them by Rangaswamy’s wife’s father.
They live on daily labour and in the lean seasons, Rangaswamy collects firewood from the forest and works as helper in brick making.
The interview started in an informal way – the team shared duties: interviewer, recorder and observers. Employment opportunities got priority. Seasonal work break-up: February to March he works as helper to brick cutters. During the agricultural season he gets work rather frequently as an agricultural labourer. During the lean season he goes into the forest to collect firewood.
The discussion then switched to food, availability, intake etc. During Ashada no money is available as no employment is possible and no one lends money as the people believe it is inauspicious to loan money during the particular period.
Credit – He used to satisfy his credit needs from the money lender. After the formation of the sangha his needs are usually met by the sangha. Necessity of loan arises during the lean season, festivity and purchase of clothes.
Crisis – Health hazards are the major crisis points of the family. Like when his child had throat infection and had to be hospitalised he was forced to borrow Rs.200/-. Similarly when his wife developed complications after a family planning operation she borrowed Rs.150/- for treatment. Similarly when he himself had chest and stomach problems they were forced to borrow money to meet treatment costs.
Expected Crisis – in the near future. Construction of house. As he is one of the few people who do not have their own home and his present shed could not withstand the rainy season he is bent on having a roof over his head before the rains start. As he is not able to mobilise funds from the Government, he is now trying to get it done through the Sangha.
Highlights – To ascertain the poorest person we planned to take the literate woman aside, but the rest of the women flocked together to that place and Mr.Krishna Prasad called them for a discussion about the village, they were forced to leave her alone to sort out the poorest.
Wealth Ranking at Marur
Village Entry : Informant Mr.Chikke Gowda and sangha members welcomed the team.
– Bhajan Mandir was selected.
Rich : 5 Middle class : 10 Poor : 29
Observation : A large number of chits were found in the poorest category. The group was asked to do a recheck.
Rich : 10 Middle class : 21 Poor : 18
Observation : Some of the poorest were put into middle class and a few were moved to the rich. The group was asked to do a 3rd ranking.
Rich : 8 Middle class : 18 Poor : 23
Some members of the group who were observing the first two rankings suggested that they were not satisfied with the ranking and changed the position of a couple of chits.
One observer asked why Mr.Mahadevappa was placed in the middle class. He should be placed in the poor class because his family was a large one. That after distribution of land in his family he would be in the poor class.
The group leader Mr.Lingappa in the earlier discussions had expressed he was poor, but the rest of the group had placed him in the rich category.
Mr.Chikkegowda who was placed in the middle class was moved to the poor class because the group felt his economic conditions were poor. Although he had land he had leased it out and was working as a labourer.
A fourth ranking was done taking care to involve all members.
Rich : 15 Middle class : 14 Poor : 20
Some comments from the group were –
Content Wealth Ranking