Research, Management and
Practice in Development
PARTICIPATORY RURAL APPRAISAL
This literature review aims to give an accurate representation
of Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) as an approach used for
international development. It seeks to give a holistic review of how PRA can be
used to allow the local communities or villages to improve, share, and evaluate
their knowledge of life and the conditions they live in, to plan and to act. It
concludes with leading theories and how they provide a critical analysis of the
is anticipated to allow the rural population and villages to carry out their
own investigation and analysis and to eventually take action for problems and
issues that are identified by the communities themselves (Chambers, 1994). According
to (Cavestro, 2003), PRA is based on rural experiences
where the local population effectively managesits natural resources.(Hudson, 1993),
suggests that by assuring the articulation of real feelings, PRA helps in
understanding of the socio-economic rationale for what people do and how they
to (Gosslink and Strosser, 1995) this participatory methodology, PRA is intended to mediate
with the local communities in an intimate way where the participation is
extremely interactive and leads to self-mobilization.
Origin of Participatory Rural Appraisal
The history of
participatory appraisal begins in the late 1970s with the introduction and
development of Rapid Rural Appraisal (RRA): a family of approaches which
(Chambers 1994) suggests were among the revolutionary development tools
introduced in various parts of the world to learn about rural life and
conditions. According to (Cavestro,
2003), the local
population in Rapid Rural Appraisal plays a role to only help in gathering important
local knowledge about the issue in question for research purposes as well as
development planning. In contrast, as further explained by (Cavestro, 2003), PRA is devised to learn with the locals and facilitate them while they monitor, analyze,
plan, take action, solve issues and evaluate according to the needs of the
fellow locals. The role of the
development workers in PRA is only that of a catalyst to facilitate the
procedure as the locals try to alter the situation they are in.
It is analysed
in a report by (Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United States, 1999)
that RRA mainly purposes at extracting information and places emphasis on making the local people
feel empowered enough to assume an operative role in analysing their own living
circumstances and problems. In RRA, project staff learns from the locals and take away whatever
information they have collected to interpret it according to their own terms as
denoted by (Olawepo, 2009).
PRA owes quite
a lot to the initial traditions and methods of participatory research (e.g.,
Freire, 1968), field research on farming systems andapplied anthropology and
has definitely developed most directly from a combination of agro-ecosystem
analysis and rapid rural appraisal (Carruthers and Chambers, 1981; Longhurst,
explained by (Mukherjee, 1995), PRA resounds
with numerous traditions and sources. Some of its methods certainly appear to
be recent; but some have been rediscoveries from researches (such as Pelto and
Pelto 1978; Rhoades 1990 and Whyte 1977).
PRA is a shift from the conventional method of extensive survey
questionnaires to experience sharing by the locals. The
wide applications of PRA range from economic education to reproductive and
sexual health. It has been wide spread due to the flexibility it offers, a
chance of learning from mistakes as well as correction and re-application based
on past experiences.
Practical Application and Methodology
According to (Gosslink and
Strosser, 1995), training
workshops and field experiences all over the world make the methodology of PRA
accessible to researches and development workers all over the world.
(Chambers 1994a) describes the functions of PRA in 4 different
types of processes in 4 significant sectors. The processes are:
Appraisal and Planning
implementation, monitoring and evaluation of programs
and orientation for outsiders and villagers
The four sectors in which PRA has been applied are:
and food security
and social Programs
Some Principles of PRA as described by (Cavestro, 2003) are as follows:
Offsetting biases: This could be
done through using different tools and methods, information sources,
participants from varied places and backgrounds, background of team members,
sensitive at all
Progressive Learning: PRA
ensures maximum flexibility and interaction
roles: PRA reverses the role as compared to the normal development techniques
where local people are often the ones being lead and taught by the development
workers. It involves learning from the
local people, with the local people and by the local people. It involves prompting
and using their signs and symbols, categories and indicators and criteria.
Focussed Learning: Not trying or striving to find out more that is
needed and not measuring when comparison is sufficient. Instead of making absolute
measurements and giving exact figures, PRA relies on relative proportions,
trends, scores or ranking tomake decisions and plan activities.
diversity and differences: Acknowledging
and welcoming different perceptions for the same situation.
Attitude: It is extremely important that the
attitude of the development workers is constructive. development workers and
facilitators must possess an attitude of patience, respect, humility and a
willingness to learn from the locals.
Six features of PRA
Participation through PRA creates diversity as the locals have
an integral role in understanding, applying, and often they even invent the
methods themselves. While reviewing the innovations of the past, (Mukherjee, 1995) explains
six salient ‘discoveries’ of PRA that stand out. These are:
knowledge and capabilities: Through PRA, the first discovery has
been the realisation that the villagers possess a much greater competence to illustrate
in the forms of map, model and diagrams than we generally think they are
capable of. To let these capabilities to be uncovered, the standard principle
has been to assume that the villagers are indeed capable of doing everything
until proved otherwise.
importance of relaxed rapport: The next discovery is that it is
very important to create a relaxed connection between outsiders and rural people
early in the process. Rapport is an integral factor in stimulating
participation. If the initial behaviour and attitudes of externals are relaxed,
the methods of PRA promotes further rapport. Personal demeanour of the
outsiders plays a vital part in this aspect. Showing respect, patience, and
interest in what villagers have to say and show; wandering around and not
rushing; and paying attention, listening, watching and not interrupting are
some of the attitudes that could lead to a relaxed rapport.
visual sharing: Diagramming and Visual Sharing are vital parts of PRA.
In case of a questionnaire survey, the outsider controls information so it can
merely be crosschecked or verified. In opposition to that, with visual sharing
of maps, models and diagrams, everyone who is present can see, point out, discuss,
manipulate and change physical objects or representations.
benefits of sequencing activities: Several methods for
participatory appraisal have been introduced and adopted in the past (Rhoades
1990). With the discovery of new methods for PRA there has been a fascinating
revelation of the power of combinations and sequences of these methods (Shah
1991). One action leads to another and eventually becomes a sequence of events.
training and re-orientation of outsiders: Another discovery
is that for some outsiders it may not take very long to complete the initial
training and set off to practice in the field. Face-to-face field experience is
the key to a quick re-orientation of the outsiders. The classroom is said to insulate
and inhibit whereas the field actualyexposes and liberates the individual. In
this regard, much of the PRA training in India has barelytaken three to five
days of camping in or near a village e.g. (Ramanchandran, 1990)
culture of sharing ideas: PRA is renownedfor its three basics: methods;
behaviour and attitudes; and sharing.Sharing, the third foundation, is
recognized to have grown in importance. Normally, a training camp of an NGO
will not only include its own workforce but also people from other NGOs and
people from the government. Sharing then becomes a part of the experience of
the camp. Information is shared by villagers, presented to each other and to
outsiders; ideas and experience concerning approaches and methods are shared between
outsiders and villagers and self-critical appraisal of the process are shared among
earliest innovators and users of PRA according to (Chambers, 1994a) were
government field organizations and NGOs working in the capacity of initiating, implementing,
monitoring, evaluation of programs and projects in the development sector. As
explained by (Gosslink and
Strosser, 1995), the
methodology of PRA can be divided into 4 distinct parts namely; group and team
dynamics, sampling, interviewing and dialogue along with visualizing and diagramming.
Visualization, according to (Chambers, 1994b), is considered to be one of the
major inventions of the methodology of PRA where participants and villagers
take over from the development workers and researchers who do not interfere
with the villagers, observe from a distance or simply go away so that the
process isn’t disrupted.
There are several methods of PRA, many of which also happen to
be useful for RRA. Listing the entire list of methods is beyond the scope of
this paper but a few of the various methods listed by (Hudson, 1993)are as
Secondary sources – utilizing already existing files,
reports, maps, articles and books
Do-it-yourself – Inquiring and requesting to be taught to
perform village tasks, such as cultivating, transplanting, weeding, drawing
water and then practically doing the tasks
Key informants – Finding out who the key experts are and
seeking them out
Groups of various kinds – Group activities of various kinds (such
as casual, specialist, deliberately structured, community/neighborhood) can be
carried out. Such interviews and activities often tend to be very integral and
allow crosschecking of information
Villagers and village residents as
investigators and researchers
– The essence of PRA is to engage both men and women whether they are students,
school teachers, volunteers, farmers, village specialists, poor people, etc. They can facilitate in the process, observe
and interview other villagers.
Participatory mapping and modeling – This method allows the locals to make demographic,
social, health, natural resource or farm maps, or construct 3D models of their
Participatory analysis of aerial
Transects– This technique involves the facilitators to steadily walk
with informants through an area, ask, listen, observe, discuss, identify the
zones, indigenous and latest technologies, seek problems, solutions and
opportunities, and map and illustrate resources andfindings.
Time lines– This involves listing major events in a village with approximate dates
Local histories and trend analysis – Information can be gathered regarding
ecological histories, changes in customs , practices, trends in population, people’s
explanations of the past, of how things
close to them have changed, changes in land use and cropping patterns,
migration, fuels used etc
It will be inaccurate to say that PRA is simply a toolbox that
can be picked off the ledge and applied instantly. It comprises of a change of
the regular professional practices (Chambers, 1994b), where the methods
prescribed may be of great help but they are not necessarily sufficient for
working in an interactive manner with the rural communities. Here, Modern
Social Theory concludes that discourse (involving mapping, interviews and its
likes) is only a partial view to make conclusions about communities whichprovide
a restrictive overview. Likewise, network analysis done by Mitchelle (Zambia)
concludes that PRA is not entirely participatory in essence, but, rather very ‘functionalist’
as also suggested by (Berardi, 1998) . Another debate surfacing
nowadays is between ODA & The World Bank regarding how anthropologists and
economists can somehow contribute to how PRA can be compressed to give precise
information which could be generalized. Similarly as indicated by (Douglas, 1999), it may be an
obstacle for economists to use this tool for long term for instance when
studying social change because it involves RRA/PRA to be forced into service
(for eg against the designer’s own best intentions) which can provide an imprecise
picture. However, undeniably, the use of PRA is an ever increasing tool in
anthropological and economic studies, as seen in (Balgah, 2016), which is
further relied on for drafting development policies and inculcate sustainable
changes in developing countries through its results and conclusions.
Balgah, R. (2016). Applying Participatory Rural Appraisal to
Unlock Gender Group Differences in Some Communities in Rural Cameroon. Asian
Journal of Agricultural Extension, Economics & Sociology, 12(3),
Berardi, G. (1998). Application of Participatory Rural Appraisal
in Alaska. Human Organization, 57(4), pp.438-446.
Carruthers, I. and Chambers, R. (1981).
Rapid appraisal for rural development. Agricultural Administration,
Cavestro, L. (2003). P.R.A. –
Participatory Rural Appraisal Concepts Methodologies and Techniques. pp.1-27.
Chambers, R. (1994). Participatory rural
appraisal (PRA): Analysis of experience. World Development, 22(9),
Chambers, R. (1994). Participatory rural
appraisal (PRA): Challenges, potentials and paradigm. World Development,
Food and Agriculture Organisation of the
United States (1999). Conducting a PRA Training and Modifying PRA Tools
to Your Needs. An Example from a Participatory Household Food Security and
Nutrition Project in Ethiopia. “Improving Household Food Security and
Nutrition in Northern Shewa (Amhara region) and Southern zone (Tigray region),
Ethiopia.”. online FAO Corporate Document Repository. Available at:
http://www.fao.org/docrep/003/x5996e/x5996e06.htm Accessed 1 Jan. 2018.
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Hudson, N. (1993). Working with
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Longhurst, R. (1981), Rapid Rural
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Mukherjee, A. (1995). Participatory
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Olawepo, R. (2009). Evaluating Housing Problems through
Participatory Rural Appraisal in Lokoja Nigeria. African Research
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Ramachandran, Vidya. (1990). A Workshop on Participatory Learning
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