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Wagging the Dragon's Tail

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Abstract and Figures

This special issue of Participatory Learning and Action reflects on the journey towards participatory approaches to poverty reduction in China, focusing on transformations at the interface between government and rural communities. The discussion is relevant and important for the global audience that is trying to understand China’s unique approach to development and its implication for global poverty reduction. It is also relevant to understand how and under what conditions participatory approaches become embedded in specific contexts.
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62
par ticipator y learning and ac tion
Wagging the dragon’s tail:
emerging practices in participatory
poverty reduction in China
The International Institute for Environment
and Development (IIED) is committed to
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Participatory Learning and Action (PLA) is an umbrella term
for a wide range of approaches and methodologies, including
Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA), Rapid Rural Appraisal
(RRA), Participatory Learning Methods (PALM),
Participatory Action Research (PAR), Farming Systems
Research (FSR), and Méthode Active de Recherche et de
Planification Participative (MARP). The common theme is
the full participation of people in the processes of learning
about their needs and opportunities, and in the action
required to address them.
In recent years, there has been a number of shifts in the
scope and focus of participation: emphasis on sub-national,
national and international decision-making, not just local
decision-making; move from projects to policy processes
and institutionalisation; greater recognition of issues of
difference and power; and, emphasis on assessing the quality
and understanding the impact of participation, rather than
simply promoting participation. Participatory Learning and
Action reflects these developments and recognises the
importance of analysing and overcoming power differentials
which work to exclude the already poor and marginalised.
Participatory Learning and Action (PLA) – formerly
PLA Notes and RRA Notes– is published twice a year.
Established in 1987, it enables practitioners of
participatory methodologies from around the world to
share their field experiences, conceptual reflections,
and methodological innovations. The series is informal
and seeks to publish frank accounts, address issues of
practical and immediate value, encourage innovation,
and act as a ‘voice from the field’.
We are grateful to the UK Department for
International Development (DfID), the Swedish
International Development Cooperation Agency
(Sida), Irish Aid, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of
Denmark (Danida), the Norwegian Agency for
Development Cooperation (Norad) and the Dutch
Ministry of Foreign Affairs (DGIS) for their financial
support of PLA. We would also like to thank the World
Bank and DfID China for their additional support to
this special issue of PLA 62. The views expressed in this
publication do not necessarily reflect the views of the
funding organisations or the employers of the authors.
Participatory Learning and Action 62
© IIED, 2011
Order no: 14605IIED
Cover photo: Johanna Pennarz
Cover design: Simon Lim, Su Luo and Nicole Kenton
Artwork: Su Luo
Design and layout: Smith+Bell
Printed by: Park Communications Ltd, London
Guest editors: Johanna Pennarz, Song Haokun,
Deng Weijie and Wang Jianping.
Editors: Holly Ashley, Nicole Kenton, and
Angela Milligan.
Strategic Editorial Board: Nazneen Kanji, Jethro
Pettit, Michel Pimbert, Krystyna Swiderska and
David Satterthwaite.
Special thanks to James Keeley and Lila Buckley of
IIED and to Arjan de Haan for their expert advice.
International Editorial Advisory Board:
Oga Steve Abah, Jo Abbot, Jordi Surkin Beneria,
L. David Brown, Andy Catley, Robert Chambers,
Louise Chawla, Andrea Cornwall, Bhola Dahal,
Qasim Deiri, John Devavaram, Charlotte Flower,
FORCE Nepal, Ian Goldman, Bara Guèye,
Irene Guijt, Marcia Hills, Enamul Huda,
Vicky Johnson, Caren Levy, Sarah Le vy,
Zhang Linyang, Cath Long, PJ Lolichen,
Ilya M. Moeliono, Humera Malik,
Marjorie Jane Mbilinyi, Ali Mokhtar,
Seyed Babak Moosavi, Neela Mukherjee,
Trilok Neupane, Esse Nilsson, Zakariya Odeh,
Peter Park, Bardolf Paul, Bimal Kumar Phnuyal,
Giacomo Rambaldi, Peter Reason,
Joel Rocamora, Jayatissa Samaranayake,
Madhu Sarin, Daniel Selener, Anil C Shah,
Meera Kaul Shah, Jasber Singh,
Marja Liisa Swantz, Cecilia Tacoli, Peter Taylor,
Tom Wakeford, Eliud Wakwabubi, and
Alice Welbourn.
1
Editorial ..................................................................................................................................................................................................................................4
Acronyms ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................................10
THEME INTRODUCTION: WAGGING THE DRAGON’S TAIL: EMERGING PRACTICES IN
PARTICIPATORY POVERTY REDUCTION IN CHINA
Preface
Alan Piazza ....................................................................................................................................................................................................................13
Map of China................................................................................................................................................................................................................16
1. Overview: changing government-community interface in China
Johanna Pennarz and Arjan de Haan............................................................................................................................17
2. Prologue: reflections on participation in Southwest China in the early 2000s
Andreas Wilkes ............................................................................................................................................................................................24
PART I: COMMUNITIES TAKING CHARGE
3. Introduction
Johanna Pennarz ......................................................................................................................................................................................33
4. How community farmers participated in project planning and implementation
Nati..............................................................................................................................................................................................................................37
5. How an ordinary farmer was elected as project leader
Qin Guozheng ................................................................................................................................................................................................40
6. How farmers claimed their rights to supervise projects
Song Haokun ..................................................................................................................................................................................................45
Contents
622
PART II: CHANGING ROLES AND RELATIONSHIPS –THE FACILITATOR
7. Introduction
Johanna Pennarz ......................................................................................................................................................................................51
8. Reflections from the Sanjiang Workshop
Johanna Pennarz ......................................................................................................................................................................................53
9. Facilitating community-level processes
Qin Cheng............................................................................................................................................................................................................55
10. The role of village facilitators
Qin Guozheng ................................................................................................................................................................................................57
11. The role of the township facilitator
Meng Shunhui ..............................................................................................................................................................................................59
12. Adapting to the local context: lessons learnt from external facilitation
Wang Jianping ............................................................................................................................................................................................62
PART III: MANAGEMENT PRACTICES – TOWARDS FAIRER AND MORE TRANSPARENT
RESOURCE ALLOCATION
13. Introduction
Johanna Pennarz ......................................................................................................................................................................................71
14. From participation inside villages to competitive selection amongst villages
Yang Gang ............................................................................................................................... ...........................................................................74
15. Participatory planning and poverty analysis in Guangxi
Qin Zhurong ....................................................................................................................................................................................................79
16. Different ways for implementation in different communities
Chen Chunyun ..............................................................................................................................................................................................84
PART IV: THE CHINA WATERSHED MANAGEMENT PROJECT (CWMP) –
A PARTICIPATORY APPROACH TO WATERSHED MANAGEMENT
17. Introduction
Nicole Kenton..................................................................................................................................................................................................89
18. Background and approach
Wang Yue..............................................................................................................................................................................................................91
19. Innovative, community-led practices
Wang Baojun ..................................................................................................................................................................................................95
20. The perspective of the Ministry of Water Resources
Wang Yue ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................101
21. Challenges and lessons learnt
Liu Yonggong ..............................................................................................................................................................................................104
PART V: EXPERIENCES BY PROFESSIONALS – PARTICIPATORY APPROACHES IN
HEALTH AND EDUCATION
22. Introduction
Lu Caizhen and Johanna Pennarz..................................................................................................................................111
23. Improving the health of rural women through participation
Yu Denghai ....................................................................................................................................................................................................114
3
lContents
24. Applying participatory teaching in big classes – experiences of a primary school
teacher
Li Jianru ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................119
25. Participation based on empowerment: the Chengdu Gay Care Organisation
Wang Jun, Wang Xiaodong, Yang Dou, Yu Fei, Lin Shu, Lin Xiaojie, Wen Yi,
Yang Yu ..............................................................................................................................................................................................................125
PART VI: SCALING UP – WAYS OF INSTITUTIONALISING PARTICIPATION
26. Introduction
Johanna Pennarz ..................................................................................................................................................................................133
27. Exploring community-driven development in Chinese poverty reduction
Li Hui....................................................................................................................................................................................................................135
28. A participatory learning system in Guangxi
Huang Canbin, Zhou Qing........................................................................................................................................................142
29. Adapting participatory methods to the government system: the Wenchuan
Earthquake Rehabilitation Project
Deng Weijie....................................................................................................................................................................................................147
30. EIAs go public: creating new spaces for participation
Lila Buckley ..................................................................................................................................................................................................152
PART VII: CONCLUSIONS
31. Changing spaces at the interface of government and citizens
Johanna Pennarz ..................................................................................................................................................................................159
PART VIII: TIPS FOR TRAINERS
32. Why participatory research and how participatory?
Maruja Salas ..............................................................................................................................................................................................165
33. Learning is more than training – experiences from PRCDP
Johanna Pennarz ..................................................................................................................................................................................170
34. Training in the Chinese context: tips and resources for trainers
Wang Jianping, Deng Weijie, Sun Dajiang and Johanna Pennarz ......................................173
IN TOUCH
Book reviews, Events and training................................................................................................................................................187
RCPLA Network ..................................................................................................................................................................................................205
624
Welcome to Participatory Learning and
Action 62 on reflections on emerging prac-
tices in participatory poverty reduction in
China. We are very pleased to be able to
devote a special issue of PLA to China, a
country which is experiencing significant
shifts in its traditional government-led de-
velopment. As you will see from the contri-
butions from Chinese authors and others
who are working in the region, participatory
approaches and changing relationships be-
tween the state and citizens are at the heart
of these transformations. It is the citizens
who are ‘wagging the dragon’s tail’ in a pos-
itive and empowering way. In the west the
dragon is often portrayed as the nation of
China. Within China, the dragon is used as
a symbol of Chinese culture.
This issue looks at the interface be-
tween government and communities and
how this is changing as a precondition to
poverty eradication. Participation is be-
coming key to reducing poverty through
improving livelihoods, at the same time as
sustaining the environment, maintaining
China’s rich cultural and ethnic diversity
and ensuring good governance. Good gov-
ernance is not just about the performance
of government institutions, but about the
nature and quality of their relationship
with civil society organisations, community
groups and citizens (Bass et al., 2005). In
other words, it is about shifts in power – a
theme which underpins this issue of PLA.
Citizen’s participation in decision-
making in China started to become possi-
ble in the late 1980s. Privatisation of state
enterprises began in earnest when it
became clear that state-run enterprises
were not sustainable and could not com-
pete on a global scale, and so China opened
itself up to the rest of the world. In the early
1990s, participatory approaches were in-
troduced into China with the assistance of
international funding. Increasingly, the
state is giving greater independence to civil
society organisations. This is creating op-
portunities for increased participation by
citizens in decisions that affect their lives,
as the Overview to the theme section by Jo-
hanna Pennarz and Arjan de Haan
shows. These opportunities are accompa-
Editorial
5
lEditorial
nied by changes in the political decision-
making process at the local level, largely
due to the election of village committees,
greater service orientation and increasing
attention to consultative processes by gov-
ernment departments. The Overview is fol-
lowed by a Prologue by Andreas Wilkes
who sets the scene by reflecting on the
impacts and benefits of the introduction of
participatory approaches in China.
About the special issue
PLA 62 draws on case studies from a
number of projects funded by the World
Bank and the UK Department for Interna-
tional Development-China (DfID-China),
including the Poor Rural Communities De-
velopment Project (PRCDP), a commu-
nity-based project carried out in Southwest
China which started in 2005.1In his Pref-
ace to this issue, Alan Piazza of the World
Bank describes how an increasing under-
standing of poverty by the World Bank and
close cooperation with the government al-
leviation agencies has led to better targeted
projects and a growing recognition that
participation of the poor is critical for more
effective poverty reduction.
The PRCDP aimed to develop an inclu-
sive and equitable approach to poverty re-
duction among ethnic minorities in the
western provinces of China (see map on p.
16). In this region, people live in remote,
rural areas and are among the most impov-
erished. Their participation in these proj-
ects has given them visibility and voice.
Many of the contributors to this issue of
PLA are community members who had
never been given the opportunity before to
share their experiences and perspectives
with a wider audience. They are all practi-
tioners, many of them government staff,
who worked directly with communities.
The photos in this issue illustrate the diver-
sity of the community members – an image
which is often far from our western view of
‘modern’ China. China has 56 official ethnic
groups remaining. The largest group, the
Han, makes up over 92% of China’s culture,
yet the other ethnic minority groups main-
1See Box 1 on p 34 for a summary of the project.
Yao women in Guangxi Province waiting for training on agricultural production skills to start - with more and
more men leaving the villages for work in the coastal areas, women are increasingly taking charge of
agricultural production.
Photo: Guangxi FCPMC
626
tain their own rich traditions and custom-
ary way of life.2 Two contributors to this
issue represent small and little known
ethnic groups – Nati (Part I, Article 4) is
Lahu, a relatively small group in China, al-
though there are large groups of Lahu living
in the region (in particular in Thailand).
Qin Zhurong (Part II, Article 15) is
Maonan, one of the smallest ethnic groups
in China.
Many of the articles in the theme sec-
tion are case studies and reflections from
the PRCDP. The majority of these articles
were initially prepared for presentation at
the Kunming workshop in 2009, where re-
sults and lessons were shared. These case
studies were reworked for this issue of PLA
to provide further critical reflection on the
processes and lessons learnt. The articles
will be translated back into Chinese and
published online and will provide a valu-
able resource for Chinese readers.
The format of the articles in this issue of
PLA is slightly different. We have included
a brief introduction to the authors at the
start of the articles. In most cases, we have
not given contact details for the Chinese
authors, as most are not English speaking.
If you have any questions or comments for
the authors, please contact Song Haokun,
one of the guest editors, who worked
closely with the authors.3
The issue is divided into sections, with
an Introductory Overview and a Conclud-
ing Overview. Parts I-III look at enhanced
participation at the local level through fa-
cilitators and changing management roles,
reflecting on the PRCDP. Part IV is de-
voted to a participatory project which eval-
uated the impact on livelihoods of a
large-scale watershed rehabilitation proj-
ect in Gansu Province. Part V focuses on
participatory approaches in the health and
education sectors, and Part VI looks at
processes and initiatives for scaling up the
participatory approach in China. In our
Tips for Trainers section we have three ar-
ticles, the first from Maruja Salas, an ex-
perienced facilitator who has worked in
Southwest China. The second article re-
flects on experiences with the PRCDP by
those involved in the project, and the third
article is written by practitioners from
PRA training organisations in Southwest
China, giving information on their train-
ing activities and resources.
Our regular In Touch section includes
details of other resources on participation
from China, as well as other general re-
sources on participation and updates from
the RCPLA network. See the news from
IIED on p. 209 for updates on the analysis
of contributors to PLA.
About the guest editors
We are delighted to have the expertise and
experience of four guest editors – Johanna
Pennarz, Song Haokun, Deng Weijie and
Wang Jianping. Arjan de Haan was also
instrumental in the conception phase and
has provided invaluable inputs to the issue.
Johanna Pennarz is lead guest editor.
She has been working as a researcher and
consultant on poverty and local governance
issues in China since 1991. Johanna con-
ducted long-term research on livelihoods
strategies in rural Sichuan from 2001-2004,
and was based in China as a programme
manager and advisor on poverty reduction
projects between 1997 and 2004. Johanna
was the participation specialist for the
PRCDP from 2002. During her time in
China, she worked with a number of NGOs
on poverty reduction issues and has pub-
lished several articles from her field-based
work on participatory development. Jo-
hanna has been based in the UK since
2004, where she works as a social develop-
ment consultant for ITAD.4We are grateful
to Johanna for initiating this issue of PLA,
giving us expert advice, liaising with the au-
thors and other guest editors, and for com-
2http://no2.mofcom.gov.cn/aarticle/aboutchina/nationality/200903/20090306117655.html
3Email: songhk@ynu.edu.cn
4www.itad.com
7
lEditorial
menting on and assisting us with the edit-
ing of articles.
Song Haokun is Associate Professor in
Yunnan University and an executive
member of the council of the Yunnan Par-
ticipatory Association (formerly PRA Net-
work). His main areas of expertise are
rural development and social impact eval-
uations of construction projects. He par-
ticipated in the PRCDP in 2004 as Project
Coordinator and edited the Participation
Manual.5He was invited as a local expert
to carry out the impact evaluation of the
project. We are also extremely grateful to
Song Haokun for his coordinating role
with the authors of this issue.
Deng Weijie is Associate Professor at
the Sichuan Agricultural University. He
has been working on participatory devel-
opment in China for more than 10 years,
as a trainer and facilitator on national and
international projects, including the
PRCDP and the CWMP.6Deng Weijie
supported the Chinese authors through-
out the editing process of this issue of PLA.
Dr Wang Jianping is Associate Profes-
sor in Yunnan University and a member of
the Yunnan Participatory Association (for-
merly PRA Network). In addition to teach-
ing work at the university, she has extensive
project experience working with local
NGOs, international institutions, the pri-
vate sector and local government. Her re-
search focuses on the sustainable
management of natural resources, poverty
alleviation and more specifically on the use
of interdisciplinary approaches to evaluate
the impact of policy interventions and de-
velopment projects. Wang also worked
closely with the Chinese authors in the ed-
iting process.
Arjan de Haan worked as a social de-
velopment adviser for DfID between 1998
and 2008 – the last three years of which in
China. He then became a senior lecturer
in social policy at the Institute of Social
Studies in the Hague and moved to the
International Development Research
Centre (IDRC) in Canada in 2011. His
main interest is migration, poverty analy-
sis and social policy. Arjan has written
several publications on these themes in
the context of China.7He provided valu-
able advice and comments on this issue.
Acknowledgements
On behalf of all of those involved, we would
like to thank DfID and the World Bank for
funding the PRCDP and the Kunming
workshop, thereby providing the PLA
series with such rich material. DfID-China
provided the financial support to enable
the guest editors to work with the authors
and for this special issue of PLA to be dis-
seminated. DfID’s bilateral aid programme
to China closed in March 2011, so this issue
has brought this chapter of DfID’s support
in the region to a close. DfID’s work in
China has established strong relationships
that have enabled the UK and China to
start working together to tackle global
poverty. The future focus for DfID UK is
on a strategic partnership with China that
benefits the UK, China and other develop-
ing countries.
5See: www.itad.com/PRCDP
6The CWMP is the China Watershed Management Project (see Part IV).
7Recent publications include Towards a New Poverty Agenda in Asia: Social Policies and
Economic Transformation (2010), Narratives of Chinese Economic Reforms: How Does China
Cross the River? (edited volume with Zhang Xiaobo and Fan Shenggen) and How the Aid
Industry Works: An Introduction to International Development (2009).
PLA
62 guest editor Deng Weijie presents his
feedback at the PRCDP Reflections Workshop in
Kunming, 2009.
Photo: Johanna Pennarz
628
We are also grateful to DfID UK, the
Swedish International Development
Agency (Sida), Irish Aid, the Ministry of
Foreign Affairs of Denmark (Danida), the
Norwegian Agency for Development Co-
operation (Norad) and the Dutch Ministry
of Foreign Affairs (DGIS) for their core
funding to the PLA series.
We would like to thank our designers
Smith+Bell Design for their continued
professional layout and design of PLA and
to Cath d’Alton for drawing some of the
maps in this issue. We thank Simon Lim,
Su Luo and Zhiyan Ma for designing and
translating the Chinese illustrations on the
cover and section dividers.
Our special thanks go to Lila Buckley
and James Keeley from IIED for their
feedback and encouragement. Lila has also
contributed an article on participatory
policy-making in China in Part VI. As
always, we would like to thank our PLA ed-
itorial board for their support and advice.
News from the
PLA
Editorial Board
While we were in the final stages of prepar-
ing this issue for publication, we received
the sad news that Dr Neela Mukherjee
passed away in June 2011. Neela was a
valuable member of our board, and one of
the leading and pioneering champions of
PRA, as well as a very dear friend of PLA
and IIED. I remember the time she spent
at IIED on sabbatical in the early 1990s,
and her regular visits to IIED since then,
when she always gave us a colourful ac-
count of life from the field. Neela also
played a large role in this issue of PLA, as
she worked closely with the facilitators and
provincial management groups in PRCDP
and inspired many of the practices that are
presented here. It was her suggestion to
share practices of Chinese practitioners
with the wider participation community.
We are sad that she will not be able to see
this issue in its final form. We will remem-
ber her as a source of inspiration and mo-
tivation for participation in China and
beyond.
Multimedia bilingual DVD –
PLA
61
Tales
of shit: Community-Led Total Sanitation
in Africa
We are delighted to enclose with this issue the
bilingual (English/French) multimedia DVD
of PLA 61 on Community-Led Total Sanita-
tion in Africa (CLTS). This DVD contains sev-
eral video documentaries on CLTS, as well as
other resource material. Our thanks to the In-
stitute of Development Studies (IDS), Plan
International, UNICEF, Irish Aid, and the Bill
and Melinda Gates Foundation, as well as our
core donors, for funding this DVD, and to
Maryck Nicolas, our translator, for doing an
excellent job as always of translating articles
and other resources into French.
Changes to online subscriptions
For 2011, the PLA series is now completely
free online – and with no online subscription
required. This is because PLA is no longer
hosted online by IngentaConnect. Instead, all
issues of PLA are available for free on the
IIED website as soon as they are published.
This means that subscribers can now access
the series online without an online subscrip-
tion. To download PLA online visit:
www.planotes.org
New website
We are revamping our website and it will be
relaunched towards the end of 2011. Our
apologies to visitors to our current site,
which has not been able to feature updates
and recent issues. We plan to publish general
articles and more multimedia resources
online. Our web address will remain
www.planotes.org
Forthcoming issues
PLA
63
How wide are the ripples? From local
participation to international organisational
learning
This next issue of PLA is guest edited by Kate
Newman and Hannah Beardon.
When a pebble is thrown in the water it
has a very visible impact – or splash – and
then the ripples spread out, getting weaker
9
lEditorial
and less defined as they lose momentum. In
the same way, a good quality participatory
grassroots process can have a strong local
impact – for example more representative
prioritisation of local spending, more equal
power relations within the family or more
focused collective action – but the influence
and impact naturally dissipates the further
away from the original context you get. And
yet, the insight and analysis, evidence and
stories generated and documented during
participatory processes are just the kinds of
information which good development policy
and planning should be based on.
In this issue of PLA, the guest editors and
authors share their experiences and reflec-
tions of bringing grassroots knowledge and
information to bear at international level,
and some strategies for strengthening prac-
tice. They emphasise the importance of
acting as empowered individuals to be a con-
scious and active part of change. With this
issue of PLA we hope to inspire other em-
powered activists working with INGOs to
bring about more accountable, equitable
and participatory development.
PLA
64
Youth and participatory governance
in Africa
In March 2011, IIED, Plan UK and the In-
stitute of Development Studies brought to-
gether a group of adults and young people
involved in youth and governance initiatives
across Africa to take part in a ‘writeshop’ in
Nairobi, Kenya. The idea behind the week-
long meeting was to share learning and ex-
periences, build writing skills, form new
relationships, and develop a set of articles for
a forthcoming special issue of PLA in De-
cember 2011. The guest editors are Rose-
mary McGee and Jessica Greenhalf.
All over the world we are seeing experi-
ments in ‘participatory governance’. But ex-
citing as these new approaches are, are they
working for all – or are some voices still left
out? In particular, are they working for the
young?
The Nairobi writeshop uncovered the vi-
brancy, energy, persistence, passion and en-
thusiasm that youth bring to decision-making
processes. Participating in governance and
policy processes is re-shaping the way that
young people perceive and exercise citizen-
ship in powerful ways. It showed us that
young people can drive change in creative and
unexpected ways — a particularly promising
characteristic for governance work.
We hope the forthcoming issue of PLA
will highlight how young Africans are
doing this – addressing the documentation
gap that surrounds youth and governance
in Africa and enabling other participatory
practitioners – young and old – to learn
from their experiences.
PLA
65
Biodiversity, culture and rights
Our new strategic board member, Krystyna
Swiderska, is in the process of selecting arti-
cles for this special issue of PLA which will be
published in 2012 in English and Spanish and
distributed at the next Conference of the Par-
ties to Biodiversity Convention (COP11) in
India. This issue aims to capture learning
from participatory processes to develop com-
munity biocultural protocols and secure the
Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) of
indigenous peoples and local communities.
Other news
IIED is moving offices in September 2011,
after 27 years in Endsleigh Street. Our new
office will be at 80-86 Gray’s Inn Road in
London. We are moving into a 1950s build-
ing and we are in the process of improving
its green credentials. The extra space in the
new building will provide a cafe club area, as
well as meeting and workspaces. We look for-
ward to welcoming you!
Nicole Kenton, Co-editor,
Participatory
Learning and Action
REFERENCES
Bass, S., H. Reid, D. Satterthwaite and P. Steele (Eds.) (2005) Reducing
Poverty and Sustaining the Environment: The Politics of Local
Engagement. Earthscan: UK.
10
ADB Asian Development Bank
ARA Action-reflection-action
CBD Community-Based Development
CBO Community Based Organisation (CBO)
CDD Community-Driven Development
CGCO Chengdu Gay Care Organisation
CWMP China Watershed Management Project
DfID Department for International Development
EIA Environmental Impact Assessment
EPL Environmental Protection Law
FCPMC Foreign Capital Project Management Centre
IDS Institute of Development Studies (UK)
IIED International Institute for Environment and Development
INGO International non-governmental organisation
MEP Management of Environmental Protection
MWR Ministry of Water Resources
NRM Natural resource management
PM&E Participatory Monitoring and Evaluation
PADO Poverty Alleviation and Development Office
NGO Non-governmental organisation
PP Participatory Planning
PPA Participatory Poverty Analysis
PRA Participatory Rural Appraisal
PRC People’s Republic of China
PME Participatory Monitoring and Evaluation
PMO Project Management Office
PPMO Provincial Project Managment Office
PRCDP Poor Rural Communities Development Project
RMB Renminbi (or Chinese yuan) is the currency of the PRC
SLCP Sloping Land Conservation Programme
VDC Village Development Committee
VDP Village Development Planning
Acronyms
11
THEME
INTRODUCTION
Wagging the
dragon’s tail:
emerging practices
in participatory
poverty reduction
in China
6212
13
The Poor Rural Communities Develop-
ment Project (PRCDP) is the fourth of a
series of village-based multi-sectoral
poverty reduction projects supported by
the World Bank in China. The process
began with a careful analysis of poverty in
China through the 1992 World Bank
collaborative study – China: Strategies for
Reducing Poverty in the 1990s.1That study
recommended that a multi-sectoral
approach was essential to overcoming
poverty in China’s worst affected areas.
This included support for basic rural infra-
structure, basic education and healthcare,
farm production, and access to off-farm
employment. This and the study’s other
recommendations were put into action in
the first two poverty reduction projects:
• the Southwest Poverty Reduction Project
(beginning in 1995); and
• the Qinba Mountains Poverty Reduction
Project (beginning in 1997).2
The importance of participation was
recognised in these first two projects. In
fact, the Southwest project was one of
World Bank President Wolfensohn’s
‘participation flagship’ projects. However,
following a strong emphasis on participa-
tion during project preparation and early
implementation, the initially heavy focus
on participation dissipated.
In 2001, the World Bank’s second major
study of poverty in China – China: Over-
coming Rural Poverty,3called for the more
efficient and effective use of available
poverty reduction funding in China
through ‘greater community participation
in project design and implementation’. The
Chinese government’s poverty reduction
strategy at that time, China: Rural Poverty
Alleviation and Development Programme:
2001-2010, also called for strengthening
the participatory approach in poverty
reduction work.4The government’s docu-
Preface
by ALAN PIAZZA
1http://go.worldbank.org/7OZ1WCW2O0
2For more information see: www.worldbank.org
3http://go.worldbank.org/MN1DQS5690
4www.gov.cn/english/official/2005-07/27/content_17712.htm
6214
ment regarded ‘the poor as the main body
conducting and benefiting from the
poverty alleviation and development striv-
ing’, and noted concrete steps to support
empowerment at the village level. Most
importantly, a simplified participatory
approach was adopted in formulating
village poverty reduction plans. Nation-
wide, all of the more than 140,000 key poor
villages established such plans on the basis
of the participatory approach. The govern-
ment’s stated interest in strengthening
participation in poverty reduction set the
stage at the turn of the millennium for a
variety of international groups to assist
with the evolution and deepening of a
strong participatory approach in China.
Leveraging this favorable policy envi-
ronment, PRCDP has done an excellent job
of designing and developing its participa-
tory approach. It has spearheaded partici-
pation in large scale projects for all of rural
China. Beginning with the first Identifica-
tion Mission in October 2001, the project’s
participatory approach has played a central
role in the design and implementation of
all six project components. It has aimed to
empower local communities and promote
the inclusion of all disadvantaged social
groups throughout the project cycle. The
participatory approach has been an
empowering process that emphasised the
voices and choices of different groups in the
community. It built their ownership of –
and capacities for – self-reliant community
development. A Participation Manual was
developed during the project preparation
period to provide guidance to management
staff and county and township facilitators
on how to implement and monitor the
participatory approach. The Participation
Manual describes the basic principles of
the approach, details the main steps in the
participatory project cycle, elaborates insti-
tutional and management issues in using
the approach, discusses its costs and bene-
fits, and provides some resource material
on methods and tools.5
The provincial project management
offices (PPMO) of Guangxi, Sichuan and
Yunnan played a key role in testing and
developing the participatory approach over
the last decade during project preparation,
implementation and evaluation. The
PPMOs devoted their greatest energy and
resources to the participatory approach,
and it is striking that their enthusiasm and
support for participation grew continually
over the last ten years! The county level
project management offices and the lower
level township and village project work
stations also played a vital role in the devel-
opment and roll out of the participatory
approach at the local level. Of course, the
1.4 million project villagers themselves
were the key players in participation at the
local level. Their passion for PRCDP and
for participation has also grown over time.
In addition, the central government
authorities provided constant support for
PRCDP and for the participation through-
out project preparation, implementation
and evaluation.
The success of participation in PRCDP
could not have been achieved without the
wonderfully generous support of the
United Kingdom’s Department for Inter-
national Development (DfID). Not only
would there not have been a PRCDP
project in the absence of DfID’s major
grant support, but DfID also provided
substantial grants to help design and
supervise the evolution of PRCDP’s partic-
ipatory approach and the comprehensive
qualitative project participatory assess-
ments over the entire life of the project. The
lead ITAD staff joined the World Bank
team on each and every PRCDP prepara-
tion and supervision mission over the last
ten years , which was key to the success of
PRCDP’s participatory approach.6ITAD’s
annual qualitative project participatory
5www.itad.com/PRCDP
6The lead guest-editor of this issue, Johanna Pennarz, is a consultant at ITAD
(www.itad.com)
15
lPreface
assessments also played a key role in the
project’s success. They provided some of
the best documentation of the project’s
strengths and weaknesses, and set a new
standard for qualitative participatory
assessments in China. The final report on
the participatory impact evaluation of
PRCDP is under preparation and will be
available soon.
Clearly, PRCDP’s participatory
approach was a tremendous group effort.
With the sustained support of the project
villagers, the PPMOs and project manage-
ment at all levels, DfID and ITAD and the
World Bank team, the PRCDP participa-
tory approach has been enormously
successful. In my view, PRCDP is the
cutting edge of participation in China and
has served to greatly advance community
empowerment in all of rural China.
CONTACT DETAILS
Alan Piazza
Senior Economist
Social Development Department (SDV)
The World Bank Group, MC9-355
1818 H Street NW
Washington DC 20433, USA
Email: apiazza@worldbank.org
REFERENCES
UNDP and World Bank (2000) China: Overcoming Rural Poverty.
Rural Development and Natural Resources Unit, East Asia and
Pacific Region. Joint Report of the Leading Group for Poverty
Reduction, UNDP and the World Bank.
World Bank (1992) China: Strategies for Reducing Poverty in the
1990s. World Bank: Washington, DC.
6216
Map of China
showing provinces
(shaded) covered in
this issue of
PLA
.
17
Introduction
At a workshop in Kunming in March 2009,
practitioners from local governments and
community organisations from all over
China met for the first time to share their
experiences of promoting and implement-
ing participatory approaches in areas such
as education, health, rural development
and poverty reduction. This was a unique
experience, with many of the practitioners
presenting their own cases for the first
time, and indeed learning about others,
showing that there were many champions
of participatory approaches working at
local levels across the country. It was also
an important event because it made indi-
viduals and organisations – who often saw
themselves working alone as pioneers of
innovative approaches – realise that they
were part of a wider community of like-
minded people trying to address similar
challenges and issues within the same
system. This workshop took place fifteen
years after participatory approaches had
first been introduced in China and nine
years after they were formally adopted as
part of the government’s poverty reduction
strategy (see timeline at Figure 1). The
majority of the articles included in this
issue are edited case studies of papers
prepared for presentation at the Kunming
workshop.
Participation and poverty reduction:
what are the links?
This special issue of Participatory Learn-
ing and Action reflects on the journey
towards participatory approaches in
poverty reduction in China. The country
has been tremendously successful in
poverty reduction in the past, but it still has
a large number of people living in poverty.
The issue discusses why and how partici-
patory approaches have been introduced,
and why these approaches are useful for
addressing issues of poverty in China. The
case studies presented show how develop-
ment and poverty approaches continue to
evolve in the specific Chinese political
context and its ongoing governance
changes, and in line with China’s unique
ability to experiment with and pilot new
by JOHANNA PENNARZ and ARJAN DE HAAN
Overview: changing
government-community
interface in China 1
6218
approaches, pragmatically using interna-
tional experience. The discussion is rele-
vant and important for the global audience
that is trying to understand China’s unique
approach to development and its implica-
tion for global poverty reduction, but it is
also relevant to understand how and under
what conditions participatory approaches
become embedded in specific contexts.
It is widely accepted that the poor need
and have the right to participate in poverty
reduction initiatives, and the beneficial
impacts of community-based projects are
widely documented. In 2005, Robert
Chambers noted that participation had
finally been mainstreamed. However, so far
there is only limited evidence that broad-
based participation in large scale poverty
reduction programmes does in fact lead to
better targeting of the poor and a more
substantial reduction of poverty. Reviews
of community-based approaches
supported by the World Bank found that
projects that rely on community participa-
tion have not been particularly effective at
targeting the poor. It found some evidence
that Community-Based Development
(CBD) and Community-Driven Develop-
ment (CDD) projects create effective
community infrastructure, but no causal
relationship between participatory
elements and concrete outcomes, includ-
ing in terms of poverty (Mansuri and Rao,
2004).1Less tangible outcomes of partici-
pation, such as increased social capital, are
often not documented, while negative
outcomes, such as elite capture and
growing inequality, tend to be more
obvious.
By contrast, the Chinese case seems to
support the case that substantial poverty
reduction can be achieved through a top-
down planning approach. The Chinese
government remained suspicious about
participatory approaches for a long time.
More recently however, there is a growing
understanding that the benefits from
participation outweigh the costs and that
participation of the poor will lead to more
sustainable poverty reduction. The interest
in experiences with participatory
approaches in China have thus increased in
1http://ssrn.com/abstract=501663
Figure 1 – Timeline
The development of participatory practices for poverty reduction took place over a period of almost 20
years. The timeline shows the main events in this journey that are covered by this issue of
PLA
.
1994
• Yunnan PRA
Net established
1998
• Organic Law
on village self-
governance
adopted
2004
• Sanjiang
reflection
workshop for
PRCDP facilitators
2000
• Reflection
workshop of the
Yunnan PRA
network
• Government
poverty reduction
strategy (2001-2010)
2009
• Kunming
reflection
workshop on
participatory
poverty
reduction
19
lOverview: changing government-community interface in China
the last decade, as increasing inequality,
social unrest and the need to improve
governance became major concerns for the
government. In 2005, the Chinese
Communist Party called for a ‘harmonious
society’, a concept that covered an increased
commitment to social equity, accountabil-
ity and public participation. This call was
followed by the ‘new socialist countryside’,
a broad government initiative to address
inequality and focus efforts on rural devel-
opment, based on broad public participa-
tion, which put agriculture and rural
initiatives more prominently on the agenda
of China’s modernisation drive. The case
studies presented in this issue provide
important insights into the shift of govern-
ment thinking that has emerged from an
increasing top-level commitment to reduce
inequalities and create a ‘harmonious
society’.
The contributors to this issue are practi-
tioners, many of them government staff, who
present their insights and evidence on how
they believe participation became effective
and led to better poverty reduction. For
example, the China Watershed Manage-
ment Project (CWMP) case study in Part 4
presents insights into how ‘social manage-
ment’ was strengthened as a result of this
participatory project and how these changes
are aligned with the recent policy agenda.
Several of the case studies in this issue
compare the outcomes from community-
led approaches with those of the conven-
tional government-led approach. From the
evidence presented, we conclude that, in
the case of China, more equitable relations
are being crafted – slowly – with steps back,
but steadily.
• Participatory approaches in China: From
PRA to broad-based consultation
Participatory rural appraisal (PRA) was
introduced in China in the early 1990s.2
Since then researchers and development
practitioners have practiced participatory
methods in a wide range of areas and
subjects, mostly funded by international
donors and NGOs (see the Prologue to this
issue on page 24). Only recently, issues of
scale and quality have been directly
addressed in initiatives aiming to
strengthen participatory approaches to
poverty reduction. Various initiatives
funded by donors such as the World Bank,
the UK Department of International
Development (DfID) and the Asian Devel-
opment Bank (ADB), have been imple-
mented over the last few years in an
attempt to support institutionalising of
participation at local government levels.
The PRCDP pioneered a new approach
to building capacities, building on local
innovation and participatory learning. It
was a major challenge to balance the
breadth and depth of participation in the
process of roll-out. The project therefore
focused on the basic principles for partici-
pation, while methods and tools were
adapted to suit the local context.3This led
to very different ways in which participa-
tion was implemented across the three
provinces in Southwest China participat-
ing in the project (Yunnan, Sichuan and
Guangxi). The case described by the
Guangxi project office, for example, shows
how local government employed a ‘learn-
ing system’ approach to ensure that there
was ongoing learning and that practices
continued to improve (Part VI, Article 28).4
In the case of Sichuan, the method of
participatory village planning was used
subsequently in earthquake reconstruction
efforts (see Part VI, Article 29).
• The role of pilot projects
Compared to the large amounts of
national funding mobilised for poverty
reduction, the amounts of foreign aid to
2The visit of Robert Chambers and James Mascarenas provided the impetus for the
Yunnan PRA Network, which was established in 1994.
3See The PRCDP Participation Manual (available on-line at www.itad.com/PRCDP).
4See also Article 33 on learning systems.
6220
China are very small indeed, and the role
of the (mostly international) NGOs is
confined to small pilots. However, inter-
national collaboration has played a very
important role in sectors as diverse as
environmental management, infrastruc-
ture, health reforms, education, and
poverty reduction, and indeed in the prin-
ciples of project management itself
(World Bank, 2007). Projects funded by
international aid, although small in scale,
often had important functions in piloting
innovative approaches, building capaci-
ties and providing useful case studies and
reference points for ongoing policy
processes. Participatory approaches were
introduced in foreign-funded projects
first, and many of the practitioners
contributing to this issue have learned
from their initial experience with these
externally-funded projects.
The transition from small (but gener-
ously funded) pilot projects to large-scale
government projects operating under
ambitious targets and with limited funding
for capacity building remains a key chal-
lenge. The attempt of the Poverty Allevia-
tion Office to roll out participatory village
development plans as part of its poverty
alleviation strategy since 2000 (see Part II)
has yielded limited success due to the
magnitude of the roll-out, lack of familiar-
ity with participatory methods and weak
capacities at local levels. As a result, the
roll-out of the planning was stalled and
only half of the villages ever prepared such
a plan (Park and Wang, 2006).
In this issue, several practitioners
describe how they struggled to apply
methods that had been successful in small-
scale pilots to government projects operat-
ing on a large-scale. Deng Weijie provides
an interesting case on how participatory
training methods had to be adapted to cope
with the conditions set by government
training programmes (see Part IV).
Dong community dance – an opportunity to get together and demonstrate of unity, also used to share news
and make announcements (Longsheng County, Guangxi Province).
Photo: Guangxi FCPMC
21
lOverview: changing government-community interface in China
• Changing roles, attitudes, behaviour and
mindsets
Effective reduction of poverty depends on
numerous factors, many of them external
to the project, many happening over a
longer period, and often difficult to capture.
Participatory approaches typically imply a
change in attitudes, behaviour and rela-
tionships; changes that may happen in the
short-term, but often require more time to
be translated into effective policies. It is
therefore important that we understand
those changes of attitudes, behaviour and
relationships and how they may (or may
not) lead to more effective and sustainable
poverty reduction. The case studies, written
by local practitioners, are testimony to how
the approaches, thinking and attitudes of
officials and citizens regarding public poli-
cies are changing in China.
Due to their marginal locations, many
of the impoverished communities in China
had few interactions with the government
in the past and if they had these were often
experienced as being one sided and disem-
powering. In Part I of this issue, the articles
describe the experience of how communi-
ties took charge of a project and how this
created confidence and trust in the
community’s ability to take over responsi-
bility. Nati’s case study (article 4) provides
a rare account from a community perspec-
tive, written by a member of the Lahu
ethnic minority, one of the most margin-
alised ethnic groups in China.
Traditionally, government staff have had
little confidence in the abilities of the poor
to contribute to their development other
than by providing a free source of labour.
Several of the case studies written by local
government staff describe the shift away
from conventional thinking on poverty (see
Introduction to Part I; also Wang Baojun’s
case study (Part IV, Article 19). The case
study from the workshop documentation
facilitated by Deng Weijie (Part VI, Article
29) provides a vivid account of the profes-
sional biases common within the govern-
ment system and how they were challenged
through the event. The experience indicates
the enormous learning processes in which
government staff engaged, and their reali-
sation that projects often work better if
communities take charge. Both the PRCDP
and the CWMP case studies describe how
attitudes and mindsets changed within the
government as a result of the participatory
approach.
The China Poverty Alleviation Offices
embraced participation early on.5For
example, village planning provided an
important tool, particularly for the cross-
sectoral nature of their work. It was a
particular challenge to introduce partici-
patory approaches to sector departments,
whose work is much more dominated by
technical standards and targets. The case
studies set in the context of reforms in
education are therefore particularly inter-
esting, as they indicate a fundamental
change in mindset regarding the role of
education and importance for citizenship
within the rapid transformations in China
(see Part V, Article 24). The country’s
health sector is also undergoing dramatic
changes, and the case study here shows
how participatory approaches have the
potential to make the newly emerging serv-
ices more people-oriented and equitable
(Part V, Article 23).
• Why it is important to document and share
experiences
As mentioned, the majority of the articles
in this issue were prepared for presentation
at the Kunming workshop. They provide a
first-hand account of how practitioners are
struggling to adapt participatory practices
and institutionalise principles of participa-
tion in today’s China. The workshop
5China has dedicated Poverty Alleviation and Development Offices (PADOs) at all
government levels which coordinate all poverty reduction programmes under The 10
Years’ Poverty Reduction Plan. However, funds are disbursed through various
departments and technical bureaus.
6222
included participants from all walks of life
who had practiced and promoted partici-
patory approaches wherever they were.
This included representatives from local
communities, some of them members of
ethnic minority groups – such as Nati –
who had never addressed a national audi-
ence before and were excited to share their
experience of empowerment. There were
also participants from national Ministries
who shared their insights into the useful-
ness of community participation, as part of
the wider policy changes. And there were
the professionals working in various
government departments who immersed
themselves in the details of making partic-
ipation work within the realities of an over-
whelming bureaucracy and often under
less enabling conditions.
In addition to the workshop material
we have included a few case studies from
NGO projects to provide a more rounded
overview of the range of participatory
approaches in China at this point of time
(articles by Andreas Wilkes, Wang Jian-
ping and Lila Buckley).
We included Andreas Wilkes’ article as
a prologue to this issue. The article pres-
ents a first reflection on participation in the
early 2000s. The reflection took place at a
time when a first wave of participatory
approaches had been introduced and prac-
titioners saw a need to conduct a critical
reflection on the impacts, based on
evidence from the field. The aim was to
convince government leaders that partici-
pation was useful.
In the early 2000s, participation was
very much the domain of researchers. In
his contribution to PLA Notes 37, Lu Xing
noted that many researchers regarded
participatory approaches as a method of
great use in conducting surveys or assess-
ments (Xing, 2000). The strong focus on
using participatory tools in the context of
research meant that the work of participa-
tion practitioners, mostly with an academic
background,was often delinked from the
approaches used by government staff in
national poverty reduction projects. The
focus on Participatory Rural Appraisal
(PRA) left a legacy of emphasis on
methods, enhancing insights, and soaking
up indigenous knowledge, with less
emphasis on capacity building, particularly
in terms of analytical problem solving and
negotiating skills amongst practitioners.
Building capacities for participation
within the government was seen as a major
challenge by development practitioners, far
more than what could be achieved by
isolated projects. As Lu Xing noted earlier
in the same article, ‘The adoption and
application of participatory development
challenges current development thought in
China; its policies, institutional arrange-
ments and working procedures’.
It took another 10 years to address the
challenge of integrating the principles of
participatory development into the govern-
ment – gradually – and the remainder of
this issue provides insights into how this
has been done.
Why an issue of
Participatory Learning
and Action
?
We believe that the current publication is
important for three reasons.
• First, we are very excited about the way
this publication and the preceding work-
shop enabled practitioners who have been
pioneering innovative approaches in their
field to share their experiences. We saw
with our own eyes how much interest there
was to learn from others, how quickly prac-
titioners gained confidence in presenting
their experience, and – we believe – can
become the champions of participatory
approaches.
• Secondly, we hope that this publication will
help to create a better understanding
amongst practitioners of participation across
the world of the experiences that are being
developed within China. Its context is
unique, but so are all contexts, and we firmly
believe that there is much to learn from –
and with – China, including in its own newly
emerging foreign cooperation programmes.
23
lOverview: changing government-community interface in China
• Finally, we also believe that these case
studies on participation provide a new
glimpse into the reasons for China’s devel-
opment success – in which it is responsi-
ble for two-thirds of global progress on
Millenium Development Goal (MDG) 1 –
and its ongoing challenges. While its insti-
tutional structure is unique, enormous
changes are taken place at various levels of
governance, radically reshaping the social
contract between the state and its citizens.
The articles in this issue provide a unique
set of views from the ground of these
dramatic changes.
CONTACT DETAILS
Johanna Pennarz
ITAD Ltd
12, English Business Park
English Close
Hove, BN3 7ET
UK
Email: Johanna.pennarz@itad.com
Website: www.itad.com
Arjan de Haan
International Development Research Centre (IDRC)
PO Box 8500 Ottawa, ONK1G 3H9
Canada
Email:arjande@yahoo.co.uk
REFERENCES
Chambers, R. (2005). ‘Ideas for Development’, Earthscan: London
Lu Xin, L. (2000) ‘Searching for participatory approaches: findings of
the Yunnan PRA Network’ in PLA notes 37. IIED: London.
Mansuri, G. and V. Rao (2004). Community Based (and Driven)
Development: A Critical Review. World Bank Policy Research
Working Paper No 3209.
Park, A. and S. Wang (2006). ‘Community-based Development and
Poverty Alleviation: An evaluation of China’s Poor Village
Investment Program’ Background. Paper for The World Bank’s
China Poverty Assessment.
Poor Rural Communities Development Project Participation Manual
(2005), prepared by PRCDP with ITAD for Dfid/World Bank.
World Bank (2007). China and the World Bank. A Partnership for
Innovation, The World Bank: Washington DC.
24
Practitioners of participatory approaches
are wont to proselytise for the benefits of
participatory approaches, mostly drawing
on their own experiences and often paying
less attention to drawbacks and limitations.
In contexts where other approaches have
also been demonstrated to be effective in
bringing about change – such as rapidly
transforming rural China – experience and
persuasion are often insufficient to
communicate what participatory
approaches are, what they can do, and in
particular what the benefits of participa-
tory as opposed to other approaches are.
Reflection on experiences to identify
lessons – about both benefits and limita-
tions – can help muster evidence to
persuade others, and can also transform
practitioners’ own understanding of issues
affecting participatory approaches and
their promotion.
In the early 2000s, some 5-8 years after
the introduction of participatory
approaches to Southwest China, a number
of practitioners were involved in a reflec-
tion process which aimed to identify what
participatory approaches can actually do.
This paper reports the main findings of the
reflection process and the changes in
understanding the process brought about.
by ANDREAS WILKES
ANDREAS WILKES has been working in China promoting participatory approaches in
rural development and natural resources management since 1997. Trained in
anthropology and economics, he has a PhD in environmental anthropology. Previous
positions held include Director of Programmes at the Center for Biodiversity and
Indigenous Knowledge (a Chinese NGO), Team Leader for the China NRM
programme of The Mountain Institute (a US-based international NGO), and Deputy
Country Coordinator for the China & East Asia Node of the World Agroforestry
Center (a Kenyan-based research institute). His work currently focuses on rangeland
and livestock management, in particular the design of climate change mitigation
projects based on improved rangeland management.
Prologue: reflections on
participation in Southwest
China in the early 2000s
2
25
lPrologue: reflections on participation in Southwest China in the early 2000s
Introduction
The Yunnan Participatory Rural Appraisal
(PRA) Network was established in 1994,
after around fifty people took part in a PRA
training workshop facilitated by Robert
Chambers (IDS) in Kunming. Most partic-
ipants were from research institutes and
government departments involved in the
Yunnan Upland Management Programme,
a poverty alleviation programme funded by
the Ford Foundation. In the years that
followed, most applications and promotion
of participatory approaches in Yunnan had
some relation with the members of the
PRA Network, either through their own
research and action projects, their employ-
ment with international NGOs, participa-
tion in government projects or through
consultancy services provided to interna-
tional donor projects. Practitioners in
Sichuan and Guizhou also mostly came
from research and education institutes and
gained practical experience in internation-
ally funded projects in the mid-1990s. By
the end of the century, participatory
approaches had been applied in a wide
range of sectors, and after some years of
internationally supported projects, some
local agencies had begun to institutionalise
participatory approaches in their work.
In the late 1990s, practitioner networks
in Yunnan and Guizhou and regional work-
shops provided opportunities for sharing
experiences, methods and lessons. By the
turn of the century, with such diverse expe-
riences among practitioners, there was
demand among practitioners in all three
provinces to ‘take stock’ of what had been
learnt and to identify common challenges
to further promote participatory methods.
In 2000, the Yunnan PRA Network
convened workshops to enable practition-
ers from all three Southwestern Chinese
provinces (Guizhou, Sichuan and Yunnan)
to reflect on and share their experiences
and lessons (Wilkes, 2000). About seventy
people took part in provincial and regional
workshops, discussing a range of themes,
such as experiences in learning, training
and promoting PRA, the impacts of PRA,
and emerging themes at the forefront of
practice. Key issues identified through
these discussions included the challenges
to further promote participatory methods
presented by the institutional contexts of
decision-making in rural China, as well as
the particular contexts faced by govern-
ment, donor and NGO projects. With a
common identified need to persuade
leaders to create institutional space for
upscaling and deepening participatory
practice, the need to demonstrate and
convince leaders of the impacts of partici-
patory approaches came to the fore. PRA
practitioners, whether from research insti-
tutes or government, also frequently
commented on the cost (in terms of human
and financial resources) of participatory
approaches. Some government projects
had already begun to institutionalise PRA
in regular work procedures. However the
time incurred in PRA activities and diffi-
culties in linking the outputs of PRA with
the information requirements of existing
planning systems were seen as obstacles.
On the other hand, some government
departments had already realised the bene-
fits of community participation for project
relevance and sustainability. But practi-
tioners still felt that senior officials needed
a better understanding of the trade-offs
between costs and impacts.
In response to these identified needs, in
2000 the Yunnan PRA Network, with
grants from the Institute of Development
Studies (IDS) Pathways to Participation
project and Oxfam Hong Kong, supported
14 practitioners to return to project sites
where participatory methods had been
used, in order to explicitly identify the
impacts of using participatory methods.
The 14 case studies presented at that time
covered a range of sectors, such as natural
resources management, water infrastruc-
ture, agricultural extension, microcredit,
PRA in urban areas and PRA and gender.
Some studies were conducted by
researchers, and some by staff of the govern-
6226
ment agencies that implemented the proj-
ects. Most studies did not employ formal
controlled comparison methods. But two
case studies focused on communities where
the same project had been designed twice,
once in a conventional way and once
through a participatory process. Two case
studies compared the costs of conventional
and participatory approaches, and several
case studies examined the challenges to
scaling up, including two studies of the
impacts on the quality and results of partic-
ipatory projects when rapidly scaled up
using conventional government manage-
ment approaches. Despite the lack of formal
methods used in the studies, this was the
first time in China that research was
conducted attempting to clarify the impacts
of participatory methods, as opposed to
simply extolling the virtues of participation
as much development literature is wont to
do.
To synthesise the findings of the 14 case
studies, I employed an interpretive frame-
work based on an understanding of a
participatory process as consisting of
participants ‘having voice’ and ‘having
influence’. ‘Having voice’ implies that
Table 1: Summary of the impacts, benefits and preconditions for ‘voice’ and ‘influence’
Source: Wilkes (2001)
Impacts and Benefits
1. Improved information
generation and sharing
2. Improved relationships
3. Changes in personal
attitudes and awareness
(In general:)
4. Releasing drivers of social
energy
5. Changing roles
6. Commitment to follow-
through
7. Creating institutional
structures that support
community participation
Preconditions
• Respect, transparent working procedures
• Repeated interaction over time
• Gradual learning process; sufficient time; practical
experience; availability of full and trustworthy information
about the project and the role expected of them
• Villagers have access to full and trustworthy information
about their expected role
• Open and equitable system for discussion and decision-
making
• Good facilitation
• Alignment of project with villagers’ interest
• Creation of awareness of common interest
• Respect and creation of confidence
• Community institutions that provide structures that release
energies
• Increased awareness amongst villagers of the role expected
of them
•Gradual and continual learning process among staff and
villagers; learning through practice
• Community institutions that provide structures that enable
shifts in roles
• Supporting project management mechanisms
• Active involvment in decision-making
• Community institutions for self-management
• Supporting project management mechanisms
‘Voice’
‘Influence’
Overall
27
lPrologue: reflections on participation in Southwest China in the early 2000s
participants engage in information or
knowledge generation and sharing, while
‘influence’ refers to participants being able
to have an actual influence on the decisions
made in the process. In analysing each case
study, I identified what types of impacts or
benefits for ‘voice’ and ‘influence’ partici-
patory methods had, and identified the key
factors or preconditions which brought
these benefits about. The main results are
summarised in Table 1. Clearly, this
required great oversimplification of the rich
detail in the case studies.
Key findings on the impacts and
benefits of participation
What can giving or having ‘voice’ do?
The case studies provided evidence that
participatory approaches can improve
communication and improve relationships
among project participants. Several case
studies reported that shifting from tradi-
tional work styles to a more participatory
mode had beneficial impacts on the gener-
ation and sharing of information between
locals and outsiders (e.g. local officials,
technicians, project staff), by enabling
direct communication between project
staff and villagers, enabling researchers
undertaking surveys to avoid subjective
biases, reducing survey refusal rates, and
allowing the villagers’ own creativity to
come into play, such as by drawing on
indigenous knowledge. The most common
factor that enabled improved communica-
tion was the perception by villagers that
staff were giving them respect, which also
improved relationships among partici-
pants. Improved relationships – charac-
terised by equality, cooperation, mutual
understanding and mutual trust – were
built on repeated interactions that took
time.
Changed understandings and attitudes
on the part of both villagers and staff were
found to be preconditions for changing the
roles each played in project and wider
development processes. Specific attitude
changes on the part of staff included
increased appreciation of the capabilities
of villagers, and changing understanding of
villagers’ role as the main actor in develop-
ment. This transformation also depended
on changes in villagers’ attitudes towards
their own roles in development, such as
increasing awareness of their potential role
in pursuing self-development and the real-
isation that they should and can do things
for themselves. In most cases, changes in
attitude and improvements in relationships
took repeated interactions between staff
and villagers over time. Sometimes
improvements in relationships were noted
within a year during which staff made
repeated visits, but one example where
conflict with nature reserve staff preceded
the participatory activities, changes were
noted over a much longer period of 5 to 6
years. Transparent work procedures and
full and trustworthy information about the
nature of the project were also identified as
essential preconditions.
What are the benefits of participatory
decision-making?
In the 14 case studies, villagers took part in
a range of decisions at different stages of
project activities, from needs assessment
through to post-project management of
infrastructure or natural resources.
Several case studies argued that
farmers’ participation in decision-making
enabled farmers to pursue their interests.
It enabled participants to form a common
awareness of their common interests and
consensus on the importance of coopera-
tion in order to achieve those interests. One
case study reported on a process of facili-
tating villagers to formulate new forest
management rules, in which there was no
project funding apart from that required to
cover the facilitator’s cost. This case showed
that interests need not be defined by
farmers’ interest in obtaining project
funding as is commonly assumed.
Other case studies argued that partici-
patory processes – which give villagers a
6228
sense of respect, a sense of being the ‘host
in their own home’, and which draw on
their own tangible and intangible resources
– enable ‘spiritual energies’ to be released
at individual and community levels, and
that it is these energies that fuel local
participation in development action.1
Adopting participatory approaches also
enabled government staff to change the
focus of their work. For example, there was
a shift from conflict resolution to service
provision and from enforcing rules to facil-
itating community development. At the
organisational level, participatory develop-
ment implies significant shifts in the roles
of government agencies. Along with the
decentralisation of some decision-making
powers to farmers participating in projects,
government agencies were able to focus
more on providing services and training,
ensuring organisational structures, assist-
ing farmers and providing information.
In general, the case studies suggested
that there are several possible precondi-
tions for villagers to take part effectively in
decision-making processes, including:
• access to full and trustworthy information
on the nature of the project (‘informed
consent’);
• outsiders should trust that villagers can
make the right decision;
• villagers should fully understand the
expectations of their role;
• the decision whether to participate or not
should be voluntary;
• establishing an equitable and transparent
system for decision-making prior to
making any decision to ensure that ‘voice’
can translate into ‘influence’; and
• good facilitation of negotiations between
different interest groups.
Institutional structures and mecha-
nisms were found to be important in
enabling and supporting participation.
Community management institutions were
established in half of the projects analysed.
These institutions were important for
enabling villagers to cooperate, access and
provide services and for ensuring that
activities continue beyond the lifetime of
the ‘project’. These institutions put in place
appropriate structures, processes and
incentives for action. Villagers also stated
that the new management regulations and
institutions gave them the confidence to
develop, as well as an increased sense of
responsibility and enthusiasm. Community
institutions can also provide structures that
enable shifts in roles among project staff
and villagers, since some of the tasks
formerly taken on by project staff (e.g.
planning the location of water tanks, moni-
toring use of natural resources) could now
be performed by villagers.
In the projects documented, participa-
tory approaches were applied as part of a
wider range of project management mech-
anisms. Some mechanisms specifically
supported the adoption of participatory
methods, such as requiring evidence that
technical designs had been approved in
community meetings, or linking staff
salaries to outcomes of villagers’ activities.
Other mechanisms, such as requiring
receipts for materials as they passed along
each stage of the supply chain and public
announcements of fund use, were not
specifically designed to support adoption
of participatory approaches, but were
considered to have helped in creating a
transparent operating environment that
mitigated potential obstacles to villager
participation.
What are the risks and limitations of
participatory approaches?
Villagers alone were found to have limited
knowledge of technological options and
information on market opportunities
outside the scope of their available infor-
mation. Farmers were found to choose
projects with which they were already
1‘Spiritual energies’ is used as a catch-all to refer to the excitement, pride, satisfaction
and other mostly unmeasurable dispositions in people who have been prompted to
individually and/or collectively promote collective action.
29
lPrologue: reflections on participation in Southwest China in the early 2000s
familiar and that had low levels of invest-
ment and thus lower risk. Most case studies
reported ways to resolve this potential limi-
tation, and concluded that participation is
not a process of ‘bottom-up’ decision-
making, but a process of ‘multi-stake-
holder’ decision-making in which
successful planning is a joint product of
villagers’ and outsiders’ wisdom, or of
villagers preferences or knowledge about
their own needs and capabilities on the one
hand, and information on market and
technological options provided by outsiders
on the other.
The cost of participatory approaches –
particularly in terms of manpower – has
often been raised as a limitation. Three case
studies examined costs of facilitating partic-
ipatory approaches, two of them in compar-
ison to conventional approaches. Costs of
participatory components of projects exam-
ined were found to range between 0.1% and
3.6% of the total investment cost. Although
this seems small, officials were still found to
have a clear preference for adopting cost-
minimising approaches, especially when
there is no special budget item to cover
these costs, as is the case in large-scale
government projects.
Participatory approaches – as with
other conventional approaches – have
almost always been introduced in China in
a top-down way. Both staff and villagers
often begin with a passive attitude to the
acceptance of PRA: either they are
required to adopt it or they are unsure
about the benefits that the approaches will
bring for their work. Participatory
approaches require a gradual learning
process on the part of villagers, local staff
and government officials. For frontline staff
and for project managers, learning occurs
mostly through practice, for which allow-
ing sufficient time is a precondition. The
emphasis on gradual learning seems to be
extremely important and was a major
conclusion of the majority of case studies. If
insufficient time and consideration are
given to enabling gradual learning, passive
participation may result despite the adop-
tion of participatory approaches. Rapid
scaling up may also increase farmers risk
to levels beyond their coping capacity.
The role of reflections in learning about
participation
The Southwest China reflection process
occurred at a time when many practition-
ers in Southwest China had just shifted
from an understanding of PRA as a set of
survey tools, to engagement with partici-
patory approaches as part of a process to
support development action. By docu-
menting, analysing and sharing the
impacts of participatory approaches in
action-oriented development projects, the
reflection process and the case studies
helped practitioners to deepen their under-
standing of the potential, preconditions
and options for participatory approaches
to development action.
The importance of changes in personal
attitudes and behaviour, as had been
stressed by Robert Chambers (e.g. 1995,
1997), was noted in many case studies. But
they also showed that personal attitudes
and behaviour are shaped by the position
of villagers and project staff in institutional
contexts. Incentive systems and decision-
making procedures were highlighted as
important obstacles to change in govern-
ment agencies. Case studies analysing the
impacts of rapid upscaling of participatory
approaches highlighted the importance of
wider institutional contexts for supporting
participatory approaches. Some practi-
tioners went on to look beyond participa-
tion in the project cycle to examining
organisational management and develop-
ment options for institutionalising partici-
patory approaches in departmental work
procedures. At a time when China’s Village
Democracy Law (1998) had just been
promulgated, and the first round of village
elections were just beginning, several case
studies highlighted the importance of
building community institutions to support
villagers’ involvement in decision-making.
6230
The wider governance context of partic-
ipatory approaches was firmly put on the
agenda of PRA practitioners around the
time of the reflection process. Both
researchers and development practitioners
moved ‘beyond the project cycle’ to
examine management issues within imple-
menting agencies (e.g. Wang and Sun,
2002; Han, 2002; Zhao, 2006) and the
wider institutional environment that
shapes communities’ opportunities to have
voice and influence decisions (e.g. Zuo,
2003; Zheng, 2006; He et al., 2007). In
this, they have been further supported by
some government initiatives, such as the
requirement to develop participatory
poverty alleviation plans (PADO, 2001),
and the many other institutional reforms
that have continued to be implemented in
China’s rural government systems since.
CONTACT DETAILS
Andreas Wilkes
Almondbury
Albert Street
Bury St Edmunds
Suffolk
UK
Email: andreas.wilkes@yahoo.com
REFERENCES
Han, W. (2002) ‘Practice and lessons of applying participatory methods
in poverty alleviation projects.’ Guizhou Agricultural Sciences
30 (1): pp. 50-53.
He, J., B. Hillman and J. Xu (eds) (2007) Rural governance, village
autonomy and natural resources management. China Agricultural
University Press: Beijing.
PAO (2001) Rural poverty alleviation strategy (2001-2010). Poverty
Alleviation Office of the State Council (PAO): Beijing.
Wang, W.Y. and D.J. Sun (2002) ‘Research on the function of
participatory methods in the development of community science
and technology mutual aid groups.’ Yunnan Geographical and
Environment Research 14(1): pp. 1-9.
Wilkes, A. (2000) ‘The practice of and reflections on PRA in Southwest
China: a report on the PRA Reflection project in Yunnan, Sichuan
and Guizhou.’ Unpublished manuscript, Yunnan PRA Network.
Wilkes, A. (2001) ‘What can participation really do? Report of the PRA
Reflection Project in SW Yunnan.’ (In Chinese, with English
summary). Printed Manuscript, Yunnan PRA Network.
Zhao, Y.Q. (2006) ‘The institutionalization of participatory work
methods in rural development processes.’ In: Yunnan Participatory
Development Association (ed) Participation: Extension and
Deepening. China Social Sciences Press, Beijing, pp. 188-197.
Zheng, B.H. (2006) ‘Participatory development and return of power to
the people.’ In: Yunnan Participatory Development Association (ed)
Participation: Extension and Deepening. China Social Sciences
Press, Beijing. pp. 152-164.
Zuo, T. (2003) ‘Performance and stakeholder analysis on
decentralization of environmental governance in rural China.’
Journal of Central China Normal University 43 (2): pp. 21-25.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
The PRA Reflection Project was supported by a grant from the Institute
of Development Studies (UK) and Oxfam Hong Kong to the
Yunnan Institute of Geography.
31
PART I:
Communities
taking charge
6232
33
This section looks at how communities
have experienced the gradual change of
roles and responsibilities. It shows that
although communities are keen to take
charge, the transition to new ways of
working is a learning process for both the
community and government staff involved.
Village communities are the basic
social and economic unit in rural China. In
the southwest the village ‘community’ may
cover a huge diversity of natural settings
and economic, social and ethnic groups.
There are ‘administrative villages’ – the
basic administrative unit with elected
representatives (including the village
head) and cadres (including the party
secretary).
The administrative villages emerged
from the former production brigade which
was the basic accounting unitduring the
era of collective agriculture. The brigades
included several work teams which owned
most of the land. Production brigades were
organised into communes, which were also
the basic unit of government. The collec-
tive production system was dismantled
with the introduction or rural reforms from
1979, which crucially meant a return to
family farming.1An administrative village
will cover a number of hamlets (‘natural’
villages), which may be scattered over a vast
area. The natural village tends to form a
more cohesive social unit, where people
with a common history and ethnic back-
ground live together.
Today, villages still play an important
role in the provision of rural infrastructure
services, and are involved in poverty reduc-
tion activities, social welfare, basic educa-
tion and public health, particularly in
better-off areas. Villages are in theory ‘self-
governing’ and central government has
emphasised that communities should
increasingly take responsibility for their
own affairs.
The legal basis for community partici-
by JOHANNA PENNARZ
Introduction 3
1See ‘Introduction – a basic guide to development from 1949 to 1989’ (Cannon and
Jenkins, 1990).
6234
pation is laid down in the Organic Law.2
This outlines principles of grassroots
democracy (election of village committees)
and public participation. According to the
law, villagers should participate in all proj-
ects that affect their lives. The central
government sees farmers’ participation in
project selection for infrastructure invest-
ments (yishi yiyi) as critical. Community
participation is meant to improve effi-
ciency, halt unwanted projects and facili-
tate more responsive ways of investment.4
2The ‘Organic Law of the Villagers Committee’, adopted by the Standing Committee of
the Ninth National People’s Congress at its fifth session on 4 November 1998, provides the
legal base for self-governance and elections in Chinese villages (see
www.china.org.cn/english/government/207279.htm).
3See www.itad.com/PRCDP
4The Decision (CCP Central Committee 2008, pp. 13-14) reiterates the importance of
setting village compacts (yishi yiyi) for individual service provision projects (cited from:
Christiansen and Zhang, 2009).
Box 1: The Poor Rural Communities
Development Project (PRCDP)
The PRCDP was funded by the World Bank and the
UK Department for International Development
(DfID) to reduce poverty in the three Southwestern
provinces of Yunnan, Sichuan and Guangxi. It had
an overall investment of US$140 million. The project
supported the government's objective of
development in western China through a
participatory and multi-sectoral approach to the
reduction of absolute poverty among ethnic
minorities living in extremely remote and resource-
deficient areas. PRCDP covered more than 1,000
administrative villages (519 in Sichuan, 305 in
Guangxi and 187 in Yunnan), home to about 1.4
million people. Project components included:
• environmentally sustainable mountain
agriculture;
• community-based infrastructure;
• basic health, education and other social services;
• project management and support; and
• village-level training.
The overall objective of PRCDP included the aim
to ‘achieve sustained participation of the poorest
rural people’. This meant that PRCDP fully involved
poor people from project villages in the design,
implementation, monitoring and evaluation of
project interventions. During the preparation phase,
PRCDP developed an approach to community
participation that built on existing experiences with
participation in the three provinces, adapted to the
context of such a large and diverse region.
Participatory Poverty Analysis (PPA) and
Participatory Planning (PP) were piloted in Yunnan
and Guangxi during the PRCDP feasibility study
phase.
The participation approach is documented in the
PRCDP Participation Manual,3which describes the
methodology for planning, implementing and
monitoring sectoral projects at the community level
in a participatory way; it also includes a wealth of
practical cases from the provinces.
Figure 1: Administrative structure
Province
Prefecture
County
Township
Village
(Natural Village)
35
lIntroduction
Despite the central government’s
commitment to increase community
participation, the reality is not so straight-
forward. Local governments and commu-
nities are often not clear how the interface
between government and society should
work in practice. The specific authority of
village administration and scope of village
finance is largely undefined and varies
widely in practice. Local governments are
still learning on how delegated responsi-
bility should work in practice (see Part III).
Communities often need to build the confi-
dence and skills to assume a greater
responsibility in project management.
For the government, greater commu-
nity ownership and responsibility are
expected to solve the problem of mainte-
nance that has previously led to the deteri-
oration of existing infrastructure and
repeat investments. In the past, unclear
arrangements and lack of ownership often
resulted in a lack of follow-up mainte-
nance. Village-level infrastructure was, on
the whole, not formally owned by the
villages but by the townships. This meant
that the villages could refuse to take
responsibility. Cases like this have made
local governments more supportive of
participatory approaches (see Qin
Guozheng’s article, Part II, Article 10).
Internationally funded projects like the
Poor Rural Communities Development
Project (PRCDP) have been very important
in shaping the new interface between
government and society. PRCDP aimed to
involve poor people fully in the design,
implementation, monitoring and evalua-
tion of project interventions (see Box 1).
This provided a ‘safe space’ for local govern-
ment and communities to experiment with
new roles and responsibilities, thus moving
the participation agenda forward. PRCDP
has helped to reshape the roles and rela-
tionships at the local level, as the following
articles show, describing how communities
have taken responsibility once the local
government has delegated management
functions to villages.
PRCDP’s participatory approach has
profoundly influenced the communities
involved, which have now, often for the first
time, taken charge of investments in their
villages. Through the project, the relation-
ship between local government and
communities has grown with mutual trust
and confidence. The three articles in Part I
provide an account of these catalytic expe-
riences. They are written by people who
were involved in the process as community
members and facilitators.
Nati comes from a small village in
Ximeng County (Yunnan Province). This
is one of the most remote areas in China,
close to the border with Myanmar. In
recent years, the number of poor people
migrating out of these areas into the
more industrialised provinces in the east
and south has been soaring. Nati’s case
study shows that the project greatly bene-
fited from the experience of returning
migrant workers who contributed their
expertise in the process. She describes
how the community was actively involved
in all aspects of the project and, as a
result, was extremely satisfied with the
results.
Qin Guozheng is from Luocheng
County in Guangxi Province. His case
study describes how local government offi-
cials were taken by surprise when the
community decided to depart from the
common practice of nominating members
of the local elite. Instead, they elected an
ordinary farmer as Project Manager. The
community had identified him as a key
stakeholder in a proposed irrigation
scheme and agreed that his motivation
would be key for a successful project. They
were right, and the fact that this project
was a success has made government offi-
cials rethink their common assumption
that ordinary villagers are not capable of
taking charge.
Song Haokun’s case study (from Ping-
shan County in Sichuan Province) tells a
different story. In this case, a conventional
management approach was taken and the
6236
CONTACT DETAILS
Johanna Pennarz
ITAD, Hove, UK
Email: Johanna.pennarz@itad.com
Website: www.itad.com
REFERENCES
Cannon T. and A. Jenkins, eds (1990) The Geography of
Contemporary China. Routledge: London.
Christiansen, F. and H.X. Zhang (2009) ‘The Political Economy of Rural
Development in China: Reflections on Current Rural Policy’.
Duisburg Working Papers on East Asian Studies 81.
management group only included the
village cadres: key stakeholders were left
out. When members of the community
found problems in the implementation
process, it was not until they received
support from the local government that
their complaints were addressed. The
article shows how difficult it is to transform
community relationships and conventional
mindsets into more democratic ways of
local governance.
These case studies all highlight the
energy at the community level that the
government often oversaw and neglected.
Once communities are given the space,
individuals and groups quickly recognise
this as an opportunity to become active and
demand greater responsibilities on behalf
of the communities. The articles underline
the tensions arising from unclear relation-
ships and insufficient delegation of respon-
sibilities. But negotiation takes place not
only around issues of roles, but also on the
extent to which responsibilities should
remain within the formal governance
structure.
37
Manheng Administrative Village is part of
the PRCDP project, which started in 2005.
Our village has 85 households and 315
people, and we are all Lahu ethnic minor-
ity. Our village is just 1km away from the
China-Myanmar border.
In August 2004, our village set up a
project working group. We organised the
dissemination and participatory planning
meeting, which I attended as group leader
of Muguba natural village. The project
working group was elected by the represen-
tatives of different wealth groups. Each
group contributed 20% of the representa-
tives. At least 35% had to be women. During
this meeting we used participatory tools,
such as group interviews (poor households,
women, men) and special household inter-
views (such as divorced households), to
discuss priorities and project ideas.
Women’s participation was very weak at
the beginning of the meeting, especially
during the mixed group discussion by men
and women. But gradually women gained
respect from both the men and the working
group, and they contributed more ideas,
especially concerning their vision for a
better future.
After the meeting I passed the findings
of the working group on to the villagers.
NATI is a farmer from Muguba village in Ximeng County, Yunnan Province. She is a
member of the Lahu ethnic minority. Nati was involved in PRCDP as a community
representative. In 2009, she presented her experience of the participatory process to a
wider audience at the Kunming workshop. The following is a transcript of her speech,
which provides a first-hand account of how her community experienced the process of
empowerment in the project. Although the style of her presentation is factual, her
presence and contribution made a deep impression on the audience, who had never
seen a member of a marginal ethnic community speaking out at a national event. Nati
made active contributions to the workshop discussions and gained further confidence
through this event, which she then brought back to her village.
by NATI
How community farmers
participated in project
planning and
implementation 4
6238
Everybody contributed their own ideas on
the main difficulties of the village. When
we selected the projects, each household
had at least one representative participat-
ing in the discussion.
In May 2006, our villagers started
implementing the first project; rehabilita-
tion of the drinking water system. Before
implementation, county and township
project staff had meetings with the villagers
to select the water supply sources and iden-
tify a suitable site for building the water
pool. It was particularly noteworthy that
women were consulted consistently during
the implementation phase, for example
with regard to the location of the taps in
their homes. In order to ensure the quality
of project implementation, the villagers
elected twelve people, including five
women, to form a project supervision
group. These people often worked as
migrant labourers and, therefore, had the
skills to supervise all kinds of construction
work.
In the course of the project implemen-
tation, we organised the farmers to actively
participate by providing labour, such as
digging ditches and transporting sand and
gravel to the job site. The supervision group
members took turns to visit the job site
every day and inspect whether the
construction materials were up to a desir-
able standard. If they found any substan-
dard materials, they would promptly
request the construction team to take
remedial measures.
After completion of the project
component, we – including the women
representatives – also participated in its
final check and certificate (yanshou). The
check and certificate group also asked the
farmers to provide their opinion. The
working group then facilitated the
villagers to develop the maintenance
Nati giving her speech during the Kunming workshop.
Photo: Johanna Pennarz
39
lHow community farmers participated in project planning and implementation
rules, so that the project facilities could be
well maintained by the community organ-
isation.
To date, we have completed several
project components: drinking water for
people and livestock has been provided,
and three 1.5km ditches have been dug,
which can irrigate 200mu of rice fields.1 All
85 households in the village have been
covered by these project components.
PRCDP was implemented in our village
with the participation of the villagers
throughout the entire project cycle, includ-
ing deciding the components, monitoring
and supervision, management and final
check and certificate. Compared with the
way in which projects were implemented
in the past, the villagers feel much more
satisfied with PRCDP. The satisfaction of
the beneficiaries is an important indicator
for the successful completion of any
project. The more local people participate
in the decision-making, the more satisfied
they will be. Good participation means that
all groups in the village have an opportu-
nity to participate in the decisions.
CONTACT DETAILS
Nati
Manheng Village
Ximeng County
Yunnan Province
PR China
Contact: songhk@ynu.edu.cn
1 15 mu = 1 hectare
When the local villagers elected the Super-
vision and Implementation Group for the
ditch project of Shepu Village, Naweng
Township, the villagers unanimously
elected Qin Shenggui as the group leader, a
result that came totally unexpected for the
county and township facilitators. This is the
story of how an ordinary villager became
the group leader.
Shepu village has ten natural sub-
villages, 11 villagers’ groups and a total
population of 1,327. It is comprised of 322
households and has a total cultivated area
of 957mu, including 807mu of paddy fields.
About 50% of the natural sub-villages are
located in a semi-hilly area, with residents
from Zhuang, Miao, Yao, Han and other
ethnic groups. The main sources of income
for the farmers are China fir tree planta-
tions and rice crops.
Within Shepu village, the farmland of
Shepu sub-village and Hongdong sub-
village is topographically more favourable
than the other natural sub-villages, with
flatter land.
In the past, the villagers of these two
sub-villages had grown two crops of rice a
year with quite high yields. When the farm-
land was contracted to individual house-
holds in the 1980s, the village’s main
irrigation ditch had not been maintained
for many years. Several parts had collapsed
and weeds had grown everywhere. As a
result, the ditch became blocked and was
unable to hold much water. The villagers
were aware that there were problems with
by QIN GUOZHENG
QIN GUOZHENG is a township official at Naweng Township in Luocheng County,
Guangxi Province. He worked on PRCDP since the preparation phase, first in the
township workstation, later in the country project management office (see his
reflections in Part II, Article 10). In this article, he describes one of the catalytic events
in the participatory process, which was the election of an ordinary farmer as project
leader in PRCDP. His article provides a detailed account of the election process and
the considerations the community took into account when electing their leader.
How an ordinary farmer was
elected as project leader
5
40
the water provision, but nobody was willing
to provide the money or labour to maintain
or repair the ditch.
When the ideas of the PRCDP project
were introduced to Shepu Village in 2005,
the villagers were initially very excited, as
the project might bring timely help to
undertake the long overdue ditch repair.
However, the villagers then had doubts
whether or not they would be able to
participate in this project and make deci-
sions according to their own needs and
capability. Also, the villagers had no idea
how to start, since they had no previous
experience in repairing ditches.
In order to efficiently involve local
villagers efficiently in the project, empha-
sis was put on the following aspects. Firstly,
by using tools such as listening, interviews,
field visits and a literature review, the coor-
dinators of the PRCDP project eventually
established trust and good relationships
with the villagers. Secondly, they intro-
duced the villagers to participatory tools
such as village mapping, seasonal calen-
dars, timelines and trend lines, risk matrix
and priority setting, causal-flow diagrams
and strengths, weaknesses, opportunities
and threats (SWOT) analysis.1By applying
these tools to the project, local villagers
were able to identify their critical needs,
causes of poverty and decipher possible
sources and solutions. As a result, the
villagers’ awareness, knowledge and skills
for participation have been dramatically
enhanced.
As a result of their inclusion, the
villagers became very interested in the
project and were motivated to rebuild the
ditch. They all expressed the view that as
long as the project provided financial and
material support, the villagers of both sub-
villages were keen to participate in its plan-
ning and willing to provide labour inputs
into project construction.
While discussing how to build the ditch,
Completed ditch, Shepu Village, Naweng Township.
Photo: Qin Guozheng
1See also Part III for further details on the process of the participatory poverty analysis and
planning.
lHow an ordinary farmer was elected as project leader 41
6242
some villagers said that if they were to build
it by themselves the problem would be that
they did not have the necessary skills. So
the construction quality would be difficult
to guarantee and the construction sched-
ule would be slow. Also, because it was the
China fir timber logging and transporting
season, villagers from both sub-villages
would not have time to organise the
construction. Therefore, they unanimously
agreed to contract the construction job to
qualified construction teams, and agreed to
allow some villagers from both sub-villages
to participate in construction on a volun-
tary basis, so as to manage and supervise
the construction quality.
The villagers from both sub-villages
then held a meeting to elect members of
the Ditch Construction Management and
Supervision Group. Each household had to
send at least one family member to attend
this meeting. They discussed and agreed
the criteria to select members and finally
elected seven villagers according to the
criteria. Their duties were to properly
control the construction quality of the ditch
project, to ensure the successful completion
of the works and to make sure that the
project construction met both technical
requirements and local realities, from
design and implementation to completion.
The group included four men and three
women who were responsible for manag-
ing the materials in the course of construc-
tion, supervising the construction quality
and participating in the completion check
and acceptance (yanshou).
The next step was to select a group
leader to take on the main responsibilities
for the project management and imple-
mentation. In general, project manage-
ment offices and villagers usually elect
project group leaders from the village and
sub-village cadres or economically active
people in the village. Compared to the ordi-
nary villagers, the village and sub-village
cadres have more extensive social relations.
They often have good relationships with
the government and different departments.
They have rich social and managerial expe-
rience and they are often regarded as
‘talents’. They are, therefore, influential
within the village or trusted by the higher
authorities.
In this case, however, Qin Shenggui, an
ordinary villager, was nominated by one
representative at the village meeting, and
his nomination was immediately agreed
upon by all the other villagers. Qin Sheng-
gui accepted the nomination and was
formally elected as the group leader of the
PRCDP project in Shepu village and was
warmly congratulated. Everybody congrat-
ulated Qin Shenggui at his election with a
warm applause. Due to the fact that he was
neither a village cadre, a sub-village cadre
nor an economically active man, Qin
Shenggui was nicknamed the ‘common
people’s group leader’ by the villagers.
The project facilitators were keen to
understand why Qin Shenggui was elected
as the group leader. The villagers’ answer
was unexpectedly simple: the paddy fields
of Qin Shenggui’s family were downstream
of the ditch so if the ditch could not be
properly maintained, he was one of the
most direct stakeholders of the ditch repair.
It was not until then that the facilitators
understood that the villagers all believed
that the need for water to irrigate the paddy
field would push Qin Shenggui to effec-
tively implement the component, and that
his sense of ownership and responsibility
over the project was the strongest. Only
through Qin Shenggui’s hard work and
commitment would the project would be
successful, and he would benefit as well as
the villagers of the entire sub-village.
The simplest answer reflected the true
feelings of the villagers. The result of the
participatory process was that manage-
ment responsibilities were conferred on
someone who had the greatest stake in the
project’s success. In fact, during the course
of the ditch construction, Qin Shenggui
worked very hard as the group leader. He
organised the Management and Supervi-
sion Group to exercise their duties. He
43
lHow an ordinary farmer was elected as project leader
undertook all the coordination work
required over the course of construction.
He noted all the problems that were
brought up by the villagers throughout and
promptly reported them to the village and
township project staff. He then made sure
that they were addressed by the construc-
tion team. He also reported the project
construction status to the Village Project
Implementation Group and the Township
Working Station.
Not surprisingly, Qin Shenggui and the
Ditch Construction Management and
Supervision Group faced challenges from
the first day. As the common villagers did
not have any experience of project manage-
ment, they lacked both sufficient confi-
dence and capabilities required for such a
major project. In particular, some knowl-
edge and skills related to ditch construction
were quite new to them, such as engineer-
ing, budget management and quality
control. And because the role was volun-
tary, undertaking the work responsibly
involved a strong commitment, substantial
investment in terms of time and energy
and trade-offs between public service and
family duty. Qin Shenggui was also
confronted with the huge challenge of
motivating his members to actively partic-
ipate in the project all the time.
Through great efforts by all its members
and a complicated ‘learning by doing’
process, the Ditch Construction and
Repairing project was finally completed in
October 2005, after four months of hard
work. In the end, the villagers of Shepu
natural village and Hongdong natural
village were very happy with the completed
ditch, because all households from these
two natural villages benefited. The
completed ditch made it easy to divert and
use water, either for irrigation or drinking
purposes, which relieved villagers from
worrying about water. So far, the water has
irrigated almost 200mu each year, and it
has the capacity to irrigate more than
300mu if needed. It ended the cycle of
villagers having to ask the government for
assistance and fight for irrigation water
Shepu village in Luochcheng, with fields waiting to be irrigated.
Photo: Johanna Pennarz
6244
CONTACT DETAILS
Qin Guozheng
Nawen Township
Luocheng County
Guangxi Province
PR China
Contact: songhk@ynu.edu.cn
every year. The villagers from Shepu and
Hongdong commented that Qin Shenggui
was a responsible ‘common people’s leader.
They trusted him entirely and were compli-
mentary about his organisation and lead-
ership skills. They were very pleased with
the ditch and happy to see the success of
PRCDP under the organisation of Qin
Shenggui.
For us, the local government facilitators
provided a number of important lessons.
We found that locally-elected community
organisations and group leaders were very
committed and took their responsibilities
seriously. A democratic voting process
helped to ensure the accountability and
transparency of the institutions. But in
order to ensure the efficiency and fairness
of the election process, the external facili-
tator had an important role to play by
helping local villagers clarify the criteria of
a good group leader before starting the
election.
We conclude from this experience that
if the principles of the participatory
approach and the core ideas contained
within PCRDP are internalised into the
villagers’ body of knowledge, this could
help guide future project management in
the area.
Poor village in Luocheng.
Photo: Song Haokun
45
Subconsciously, people always pay more
attention to something that is related to
their own interests. When a ditch
construction project is carried out in a
local community, the quality of the work
and the actual impacts of the project are
the top issues for the local villagers. This
article shows how critical it is to establish
the relevant institutions to enable efficient
information exchange, and how to adapt
conflict management to local contexts
when various issues are raised.
Project background
West Village, Loudong Township, Ping-
shan County, Sichuan Province is one of
the first villages in Pingshan County where
PRCDP was initiated. This large, poor
village covers 12 villagers’ groups and more
than 420 households. Its basic character-
istics are the fragmentary landscape and
great variance in altitude. According to
different topographical characteristics, the
village can be divided into the gully area,
semi-hilly area and hilly area. The gully
area is relatively flat, but the population
density is high and the total area is small.
Most cultivated land in West Village is
located at a higher altitudes and further
away from the river. Therefore it is neces-
sary to pump water for irrigation during
the dry season.
Under normal circumstances, each
household in West Village spends as much
as 200–300 RMB on pumping water
every year. With inflation of diesel prices,
the pumping expenses also increase each
year. Therefore, building a gravity irriga-
by SONG HAOKUN
How farmers claimed
their rights to supervise
projects 6
SONG HAOKUN is an associate professor at Yunnan University and an executive
member of the council of the Yunnan Participatory Association (formerly PRA Net).
He was one of the first practitioners of participation in the province, as a researcher
and project manager. He has worked on PRCDP as a facilitator since 2004. His article
presents an interesting case from Sichuan where village cadres have neglected their
duty and, as a result, the community has become active in monitoring project quality.
6246
tion ditch to divert water from the river
upstream was voted as the priority by the
villagers. It was finally listed as part of the
2008 Implementation Plan by the Project
Management Office (PMO). This irriga-
tion ditch would divert water from a large
river with abundant runoff all year round,
which is 800m away from West Village.
Once the ditch had been completed, only
10% runoff of the river would be chan-
nelled to West Village every year, which
will meet the irrigation needs of the village
without causing too much negative impact
to the downstream communities.
Project implementation and supervision
In order to encourage the local villagers to
participate in the project process, the
project management office decided that
this project should be autonomously oper-
ated by the villagers. In accordance with
this principle, the Project Implementation
and Management Group, elected by the
villagers, was assigned the responsibility of
organising and implementing construc-
tion. The members of this group included
the village cadres and some village repre-
sentatives. Having consulted the villagers
as well as reviewing some lessons from
neighbouring villages which had carried
out a similar construction project before,
the Village Implementation Group
decided that the villagers should provide
their own labour to excavate the ditch
foundation. Technically demanding jobs
like masonry and concrete linings were
contracted to local construction teams.
Members of the Village Implementation
Group and the Township PMO were
responsible for supervising and inspecting
the construction quality. In order to
complete the project, it had to pass the
formal acceptance checking, which was
jointly conducted by the County PMO and
technical department before the Township
PMO disbursed the construction funds.
Although it was decided that all
members of the Village Management
Group were in charge of the day-to-day
supervision and management of the
project, it was the village head who ulti-
mately undertook most responsibilities but
due to the fact that he was usually occupied
by other management duties at the village
level, the village head did not have suffi-
cient time to monitoring the ditch project
from the start. At the same time, some
common villagers showed a strong interest
and concern about the progress and quality
of the work. The villagers believed that
although the village had appointed
construction quality supervisors, the
members of the Implementation Group
were too busy to stay at the job site to
oversee construction quality all day long.
One day in September 2008 one of the
villagers, Guo Yuangui, passed by a section
of the irrigation ditch that had just been
laid with concrete. Out of concern for the
irrigation ditch, she used a stone to strike
the ditch lining. She watched how the
concrete ditch walls cracked, with dry sand
flowing out. Obviously, an adequate appli-
cation of concrete would not have created
such a problem. She reported her finding
to the contractor, but the contractor was
dismissive and ignored her complaint. As
the problem could not be solved by talking
to the contractor, she reported what she
had found to the managers of the Imple-
mentation Group, expecting them to
handle the matter. However, her report
was not taken seriously, and somebody
even said: ‘You did not pay for building the
ditch, so it is none of your business.
Guo Yuangui was enraged by such
reply and she argued: ‘Why is it none of my
business? I did not pay, but I am the bene-
ficiary. If the quality is poor and affects
irrigation, I will have to spend money on
pumping water.’ Frustrated, she called the
village party secretary and reported the
matter. The village party secretary claimed
he did not have time to handle it in person,
but he reported the case to Director Wang
from the Township PMO.
In less than half an hour, Director
Wang came to the site and verified the
47
lHow farmers claimed their rights to supervise projects
situation together with the villagers,
including Guo Yuangui. They reviewed the
technical aspects of the job and confirmed
that it was an issue related to the construc-
tion quality. Faced with the facts, the
construction team were forced to agree
that this problem occurred as a result of
using an uneven concrete mixture. As
requested by the villagers and the PMO,
the construction contractor had to rework
the entire 15m long section. The losses of
over 1,000 RMB were covered by the
construction team.
The villagers realised that although the
problem had been resolved, no-one could
guarantee that it would not occur again in
the future. After consulting the other
women in the group, the women of one
village group decided that each household
would take turns to input labour and
voluntarily supervise the construction
quality. The construction team also took
on board the lesson, controlled each
construction link, and ensured construc-
tion quality.
When the work was finally completed,
the farmers were very satisfied, and it
successfully passed the technical accept-
ance check by county inspectors.
Reflections
In fact, villager Guo is just one individual
with strong leadership skills who was
willing to step forward to be responsible in
a situation where wider participation is
absent. Compared with the traditional
cadre-centred management, the formation
of the Project Implementation and
Management Group had already made
visible changes. However, due to the lack of
sufficient participation and unspecified
duty assignments, the function and the
performance of the Project Implementa-
tion and Management Group in monitor-
ing and quality control were very poor. The
quality of a ditch would be a serious
problem if there was not somebody like
Guo playing the monitoring role. Even with
Guo’s participation, solving the problem
was still not easy, because she had not been
given a mandate to monitor. This is also the
reason why she had to hand over the
Guo Yuangui standing on the newly constructed irrigation ditch.
Photo: Song Haokun
6248
problem to the PMO, which has enough
power to make changes and did eventually
solve the problem. Therefore, the root
cause of the problem in this case was the
lack of accountability to the community.
This problem could be addressed by
empowering local people like villager Guo
and involving them in the whole monitor-
ing and evaluation procedure.
Lessons learnt
When the community implements and
monitors a project, it is necessary to
decentralise responsibilities and rights
to qualified members. As the main stake-
holder in project implementation, the
community should not confer all the
responsibilities and powers on the Village
Implementation Group members, as they
are often the village cadres. Because village
cadres have so many responsibilities and
obligations, they often do not have enough
energy to fully accomplish all the tasks
they have been assigned. Moreover, when
all the powers are conferred on them, they
are unlikely to properly perform all their
duties. On the contrary, if some responsi-
bilities and powers are decentralised to
other farmers, especially principle stake-
holders, they could properly undertake
tasks such as supervision to safeguard
their own interests.
As supervisors, farmers need suffi-
cient power to guarantee effectiveness of
their supervision roles. When farmers
from the community find and report prob-
lems to the contractor, the latter might
reject the farmer’s opinions to protect their
own interests. On the contrary, if the super-
vising farmers had certain powers e.g. the
contracted works could not pass an accept-
ance check or be paid for without the
supervising farmers’ consent the contrac-
tors would be forced to listen to and accept
the opinions and suggestions of the
farmers.
Supervising farmers from the
community also needs external support.
Supervising construction quality is often
technical. Due to limited skills and knowl-
edge, the farmers themselves may not be
able to identify specific technical prob-
lems, or they may not be able to identify
quality-related problems. It may be diffi-
cult for them to convince construction
teams to make corrections. Therefore, the
farmers need support from outside, specif-
ically professional guidance from techni-
cal departments, so as to properly
supervise construction quality. The trans-
action costs would be lower if the farmers
were involved in ordinary inspection,
despite the necessary training that would
be needed on the technical aspects of
quality assurance. The knowledge would
then be retained in the village and could
be used again for other projects in the
future.
CONTACT DETAILS
Song Haokun
Yunnan University
Kunming
Yunnan Province
PR China
Email: songhk@ynu.edu.cn
49
PART II:
Changing roles
and relationships
– the facilitator
6250
51
This section explores the experiences on
the other side of the equation. As local
governments are trying to redefine their
roles and relationships with village
communities, they discover the potentials
of communities taking over responsibili-
ties. Townships are the lowest level of the
government hierarchies implementing
government policies and programmes.
They are the critical interface with rural
communities.
Projects implemented by the govern-
ment facilitation of the participatory
approach in the Poor Rural Communities
Development Project (PRCDP) mainly
depended on government staff. The key
challenge for government facilitators was
to overcome the legacy of their relationship
with communities, often marred by
distrust, as well as biases on both sides.
This section includes three short pieces
that were written by local government staff,
soon after they started implementing the
participatory process. The main issue
reflected upon is how participatory
processes can be best facilitated.
Qin Cheng raises some of the key chal-
lenges that are linked to a facilitating role.
Traditionally, the government tried to avoid
the arguments and conflicts that often go
along with open discussions. As facilitators
they are required to manage expectations,
balance diverse interests and manage
conflicts within the communities. Qin
Cheng’s reflection is about how to achieve
consensus and strengthen cohesion within
the community. A major conclusion is that
any project requires the participation of the
community as a whole.
PRCDP used two types of facilitators.
During the initial phase, township facilita-
tors introduced participatory poverty analy-
sis and planning in a small number of
villages. Later, village facilitators were
trained to roll out the approach throughout
a large number of villages. During the work-
shop the participants reflected on the differ-
ent approaches. Qin Guozheng argues that
village facilitators are well placed to roll out
the approach, because they are trusted by
the community and accepted as mediators
in case of conflicts.
by JOHANNA PENNARZ
Introduction 7
6252
Township government staff can, on the
other hand, play more of an independent
facilitation role. But Meng Shunhui
describes the challenges that township
facilitators face, mainly as a result of insti-
tutional constraints such as insufficient
empowerment and being overburdened
with routine management tasks. His case
study provides a testimony of the efforts it
takes to gain support from higher manage-
ment levels and other government depart-
ments.
NGOs are often seen as honest brokers,
more neutral and open to listening to the
demands of communities. However, as the
case study by Wang Jianping shows, as
outsiders they often find it challenging to
adapt to the local context. Her case study is
an interesting reflection on the limitations
(and compromises) that well-meaning
NGOs face, and in particular in a challeng-
ing ethnic minority setting. The ability to
adapt to the cultural and social preferences
of the community becomes a key factor for
project success.
The case studies in this section reflect
on some of the dilemmas of facilitation in
China, particularly on how to deal with
indigenous structures of power and
inequality. Local communities can show a
high degree of strength and resilience in
dealing with outside intervention. External
facilitators are obviously struggling to
balance the need for cultural and social
sensitivity with their aspiration to help
communities develop and change.
CONTACT DETAILS
Johanna Pennarz
ITAD, Hove, UK
Email: Johanna.pennarz@itad.com
Website: www.itad.com
53
When Guangxi Province conducted a
Participatory Poverty Analysis (PPA) in
2004 in preparation for the Poor Rural
Communities Development Project
(PRCDP), it was a ground-breaking exer-
cise that deeply affected the government
partners working on poverty reduction.1
Guangxi Province had a population of 48
million people living in poverty, most of
them ethnic minorities living in the Karst
Mountains. Through the PRCDP, the
provincial Poverty Alleviation Office exper-
imented with a bottom-up approach to
participation, where local communities
were fully mobilised and involved. This
new approach to poverty reduction
changed roles and relationships, as the
excerpt in Box 1 shows.
Guangxi has gone a long way in build-
ing capacities for participation within the
government system. During the prepara-
tion phase, PRCDP organised a series of
training and sharing workshops on partic-
ipatory approaches in Guangxi. The
by JOHANNA PENNARZ
Reflections from the
Sanjiang Workshop 8
1The project targeted six counties within the province.
Box 1: Excerpt from the provincial report
Governmental projects in the past had been
planned projects, which were implemented by the
relevant government departments and the
townships (towns), and the local people were not
‘in the know’. Being influenced by such for a long
time, they were unenthusiastic and unconfident
about the project implementation, and worried
about not being able to afford the collection of
money from them, especially the larger, technically
intensive projects (…)
During the specific implementation of the
project, we only put hands on some directional
issues, and left the other work arrangements and
fund-using to the decision of all the project
community groups. According to characteristics of
agricultural production, we completely allowed the
community villagers to discuss and decide by
themselves on how to smoothly implement the
project and complete it as scheduled, without
affecting the farm work, and autonomously
arrange labour time and the number of labours to
be contributed by each household. Once they
encountered technical or other issues, they could
directly report to the responsible persons of the
county or township (town) Project Management
continued on next page
CONTACT DETAILS
Johanna Pennarz
ITAD, Hove, UK
Email: Johanna.pennarz@itad.com
Website: www.itad.com
6254
purpose of these workshops was to support
the process of participatory poverty analysis
and planning through regular sharing and
reflection. The participants, a small number
of local government staff, were involved in
the entire process. The workshop in
Sanjang in early 2005 was an opportunity
to take stock of the process so far. The
following three articles are reflections on
the participatory process presented at this
workshop.
Box 1 continued
Office (PMO). No matter when, no matter where,
we would answer to all their requests, and try
every means possible to alleviate their sufferings.
Therefore, we further earned trust and
cooperation from the community villagers, and
laid a foundation for the smooth implementation
of the project (…)
We allowed the community farmers to clearly
understand and participate in all the links, from
project determination to money appropriation,
money management and future maintenance of
the project. In addition, during the course of
project implementation, the community
management groups took the lead in posting
information sheets on the walls of sensitive issues
of concern to the people such as how the money
was used, consumption and sources of materials,
number of labours the people who contributed,
and how the project schedule was followed. They
made their own decisions and managed by
themselves on whether the project needed to
collect money from the people. As a result, such a
means of management made the community
villagers very satisfied.
Source: PRCDP Guangxi Province Report (2005) on
participation in PRCDP (not published)
Qin Guozheng (left) at the Sanjiang Workshop.
Photo: Johanna Pennarz
QIN CHENG is a township official at Xianan Township in Huanjiang County, Guangxi
Province. During the PRCDP preparation phase he was a township facilitator during
the Participatory Poverty Analysis and Planning process. The following is his
reflection on the process.
55
I believe that before deciding whether to
implement a project in a certain commu-
nity, it is necessary to find out if it is of
interest to the local people and if it is what
they urgently need. If the answer is yes, I
believe we should convene a meeting, and
make the heads of each household sign for
commitment. Secondly, we should find out
if the project implementation would
involve any other sub-villages. If yes, we
should first let both sides reach written
agreements. Finally, the people should feel
‘I need this project, and it is not a project
that the higher authorities arranged for me’.
Only after the project funding had been
settled were the farmers interested in
participating in the discussion of fund
management. While considering where to
deposit the money and how to use it, what
the farmers considered first was how to
guarantee their right of control over the use
of the money. Once their right of control
was secured, they could consider how the
money could be safely, conveniently and
effectively used and managed.
There were often various conflicts
during the course of project arrangement.
Since the community farmers were eager
to shake off poverty, they thought that once
the investigation was complete, they would
gain access to financial supports immedi-
ately. However, the farmers who did not
benefit were less keen to participate in the
project. Some of them even became factors
hindering implementation. Therefore, it
became necessary to hold a meeting for all
villagers, and ask the representatives to give
speeches. The representatives had been
elected by the villagers in the natural
villages and therefore had the mandate to
represent the majority of the people. In a
plenary meeting, it would usually be the
by QIN CHENG
Facilitating community-
level processes 9
6256
representative who would speak. If there
were people with different opinions, the
township facilitators would need to explain
to them why their opinions were not
adopted. If there were hard to deal with
households which were difficult to deal
with, it was sometimes necessary to talk to
them outside of the public meeting.
Due to the multi-faceted nature of
poverty, I believe that when selecting proj-
ects and distributing resources, we cannot
only focus on the poorest households,. We
also need to consider the feelings and
thoughts of the majority. If a certain
project is only implemented amongst the
poor households, it is very likely that it
would not receive support or help from the
other farmers. Therefore, the best solution
is that all community members are
allowed to participate in the project but
that the very poor and destitute house-
holds get preferred access to subsidies,
labour contributions and exemptions. In
this way, the project is more likely to be
accepted by the entire village, which will
benefit the implementation. This will not
only make the farmers in the community
more cohesive, but also play an active role
in improving the environmental and
economic situation in the entire commu-
nity, which would better represent the
purposes of the project.
Maonan village community in Huanjiang County, proud of having successfully completed their drinking water
projects (Guangxi Province).
Photo: Johanna Pennarz
CONTACT DETAILS
Qin Cheng
Xianan Township, Huanjiang County
Guangxi Province
PR China
Contact: songhk@ynu.edu.cn
57
QIN GUOZHENG is a township official at Naweng Township in Luocheng County,
Guangxi Province. He has been working on PRCDP since the preparation phase, first
in the township workstation, later in the country project management office (see
also his article (no 5) inPart I). The following is from the project preparation phase,
when he presented his reflections on the role of facilitating participatory approach.
At the stage of conducting participatory
work in the pilot villages, since everybody
was quite new to the participatory
approach, the County Project Manage-
ment Office (PMO) transferred all the
competent project facilitators to the
county and township levels to tackle
some initial problems encountered in the
pilot villages. A working structure came
into being, with county and township
project facilitators as the main drivers
and village facilitators as the supplemen-
tary drivers.
At the roll-out stage, the number of
experienced project facilitators was
limited and there were quite a number of
project villages where participatory
assessment was needed. One problem was
the lack of sufficient human resources
from the county and township level. In
order to solve this issue, our county fully
relied on trained village-level project facil-
itators to play their roles. The County
PMO and township working stations were
responsible for quality control.
We decided to hand over greater
responsibilities to the village-level facilita-
tors. We trained a group of village-level
facilitators and improved the participatory
capacity of the communities. The village-
level facilitators played great roles, mainly
in the following aspects.
• They were part of the local community
and shared common development needs.
The villagers were willing to listen to and
trust the village-level facilitators and their
feeling of ownership over the project
doubled.
• They also had relatively a strong organi-
sational capacity. They had experience built
by QIN GUOZHENG
The role of village
facilitators 10
6258
over a long period of time working in the
rural areas, something which the county
and township facilitators did not have.
• They were extremely familiar with the
situations of their villages, which was very
favourable for conducting the work.
• Their authority was respected in the
mediation of all sorts of conflicts.
Participatory planning process in Luocheng.
Photo: Qin Guozheng
CONTACT DETAILS
Qin Guozheng
Nawen Township
Luocheng County, Guangxi Province
PR China
Contact: songhk@ynu.edu.cn
59
MENG SHUNHUI is a township official from Huishui Township in Longsheng County,
Guangxi Province. He has been working on PRCDP as a facilitator since the
preparation phase, first in the township and later in the Country Project
Management Office (PMO). In this article he presents his lessons as facilitator during
the preparation phase.
During the course of piloting village-level
participatory project planning and partic-
ipatory extension, our county adhered to
the local mechanisms. Here, I share some
of my reflections on the facilitation process.
Remove control and let the township
facilitators do the practice
The township facilitators worked hard to
introduce the participatory approach to the
project villages. After the initial training,
the township facilitators organised the
villagers and conducted participatory pilot
work in the pioneer villages. They
mobilised the villagers and convened
villagers’ congresses, so as to understand
poverty and its causes and seek solutions in
the area. After almost one month of work,
they assembled a participatory poverty
relief project planning report.
Provide township facilitators with
opportunities for training, and lobby the
leaders of the townships
As the township project facilitators were
not full-time they also had their own jobs
to do too. Therefore, they were very busy.
In order to help them handle the relation-
ship between full-time and part-time jobs
properly, we actively communicated with
their township leaders, trying to get
support and understanding from them.
The township leaders said they would give
their full support to the PRCDP project as
long as it was needed. Therefore, no matter
what kind of meeting the PRCDP project
convened, the facilitators could put all their
energies into the project duties. The
County PMO always tried to ensure they
could attend the meetings, and ensure
workloads were relatively stable and
by MENG SHUNHUI
The role of the
township facilitator 11
6260
continuous. The results show that that we
were fairly successful in our approach.
Work hard to create a favourable
participatory environment for the
township project facilitators, and
enhance their feelings of ownership
The County PMO tried hard to stress to
facilitators the importance of attending all
meetings at the county level, so that they
could be kept informed of the project
progress. In addition, in all the meetings
attended by the county leaders and town-
ship leaders, the responsible persons of the
County PMO often praised the facilitators,
giving positive feedback on their working
achievements and attitudes. The meeting
also showed the leader and colleagues that
participating in learning tours could be
fun. This helped them to understand that
the PRCDP project work was steadfast
and that it was worth their time and
energy. In addition, everybody unani-
mously agreed that the initial work of the
PRCDP project moved ahead smoothly,
which was attributable to the support of
the township leaders and tireless work of
the facilitators.
In order to further enhance their
feeling of ownership of the project, each
time the PRCDP project experts came to
Longsheng, we promptly directed them to
attend informal meetings, so that they
could listen to the opinions of the experts
and give feedback to them.1Their opinions
were valued because they were from the
grassroots level and so understood the
local context better. We also asked them to
remember the opinions of the experts as a
reference.
The PRCDP project staff organised the
training courses on participatory village-
level planning held in our county. They
adopted a cooperative approach, which
Scoring as part of the participatory planning in Huanjiang County (Guangxi Province).
Photo: Deng Weijie
1The author is referring to the visits of the World Bank/DfID missions and consultants.
61
lThe role of the township facilitator
included dividing the tasks and each staff
member teaching a different topic. The
training sessions were very successful.