Using PRA to better understand the local context for better development planning

A key component in the BENEFIT-REALISE progarmme is incorporating a participatory approach with targeted beneficiaries throughout the programme implementation process. As an entry point for designing meaningful and sustainable interventions, the programme has started conducting PRAs, baseline and scoping study in its 60 intervention woredas. Eight Ethiopian universities, implementing partners of BENEFIT-REALISE, have started working with regional, zonal and woreda agriculture bureaus extension workers, Regional Agricultural Research Institutes (RARIs), and local communities to identify priority food security challenges, local resources and indigenous knowledge to solve existing needs, and build common understanding of the programme. These exercises are key to design testing and validation activities and build a sense ownership at local level supporting the bottom up planning process adopted by REALISE.

In order to guide this process, a PRA manual was prepared in collaboration between WUR and REALISE PCU (Programme Coordinating Unit) team. The manual contains 10 different community data collection tools on nutrition, seed, climate vulnerability, cropping calendar, daily activity mapping, landscape mapping, access to control, FGD checklist etc. Each tool includes information on number of participants to include (men, women, youth, poor, rich, PSNP beneficiaries, non-beneficiaries), time to spend on each exercise, types of data to collect, as well as methods of facilitation. Overall sixteen focus groups are needed to collect data for the 10 tools.

The PRA exercise is being conducted in all implementing woredas, at different levels. This is done to ensure interventions are designed based on the specific needs and challenges of the communities. Out of the 60 intervention woredas covering 240 Kebeles (similar to Peasant Associations (PAs) spread across four regions: Tigray, Amhara, Oromia, and SNNP, ten (40 kebeles) are research woredas, while the remaining 50 (200 kebeles) are scaling woredas. Research woredas are woredas where Best fit Practices (BFPs) are selected, validated and adapted based on a constraints and opportunity analysis and mapped for suitability against socio-economic and biophysical conditions in selected woredas. At the scaling woredas, scaling methodology is designed, tested and institutionalized into the extension system.

Considering the length of time and resources needed to conduct full PRA in all woredas, it was decided to conduct full PRAs, using all 10 tools, in 2 selected kebeles in each of the research woredas (2*10=20 full PRAs) and two scaling woredas in the satellite clusters: Oda Bultum and Arba Minch (2*2=4 Full PRAs). This means a total of 24 full PRAs. On the other hand, PRA light, using only 2 tools will be conducted in two kebeles in the remaining 48 woredas (48*2=96 PRA light). All clusters began the PRA exercise simultaneously and expected to complete the exercises at the end of November.

Throughout the process different measures were taken to facilitate open discussion. The farmers were central in ranking the priority problems under each topic, what they perceived to be the cause of the problems and what kind of coping strategy to implement keeping in mind the available resources that are present in their surroundings and at their disposal.

Thus far, the exercise is found to be a great opportunity for the community to reflect on their livelihood and for REALISE to identify technically viable, environmentally sound and culturally meaningful interventions that will address the food security challenges of the communities. The motivation, sense of ownership, and tireless engagement of all involved in the PRA process is a good indication of positive things to come in the planning and implementation of the programme.

BENEFIT-REALISE is a three year programme (2018-2020), implemented in collaboration with eight local Ethiopian universities spread over four regional states of Ethiopia (Tigray, Oromia, Amhara, and SNNPR) and  Wageningen University & Research (WUR) in Netherlands. The main implementing local universities are Arba Minch University, Arsi University, Bahir Dar University, Haramaya University, Hawassa University, Mekele University, Oda Bultum University and Woldia University. In addition, REALISE partners with government institutions at all levels throughout the implementation process.

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