PARTICIPATORY LEARNING & ACTION

The heart of this issue concerns real participation – valuing the contribution of each individual and ensuring that each person has the opportunity to share their views. Too often, ‘experts’ from outside think they have the answers to development issues. Too often, local people (who may have been told for decades that their knowledge is inadequate) assume that only outside experts can solve their problems. Genuine sustainable development can only come from community action – begun and continued by the community itself. Lots of impressive things can be achieved with outside funding and experts, but – like the example of the hand-pump – will they last once the outside help finishes? Sadly the benefits may rapidly fade away unless the community owns them. 

Please find below articles from Footsteps issue 29 in html.

To download a pdf version of Footsteps issue 29 click here (719K).


  • Adult Education - Who sets the agenda?

    by Simon Batchelor. There has been a lot of discussion in academic circles about how adults learn. People working in development are becoming increasingly influenced by the writings of Brazilian adult educationalist, Paulo Freire. He suggested that education is never neutral. When a teacher teaches, it either leads to people conforming to society, or to liberation. He went on to say that people learn more by critically thinking through their own situation than by soaking up the ...

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  • Bible study: Each of us is special to God

    Each of us is special to God. Many people feel they are failures. They may have failed to progress with their education; they may struggle to maintain their families; they may lack confidence because they lack outside knowledge. When others ask for their opinions, they may feel they have nothing to share. This lack of confidence in people is something which goes against biblical teaching.

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  • Community survey for AIDS awareness

    Many people continue to become HIV infected, despite all the work in HIV/AIDS education carried out by many organisations. (However, in Uganda the figures are no longer increasing, showing the effectiveness of AIDS education there.) It is clear that though people’s understanding has increased, resulting changes in behaviour still follow a long way behind. PLA sessions were conducted in Lungwena area, Mangochi in Malawi to find out how much people know about AIDS. In the eight villages we ...

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  • Editorial

    The heart of this issue concerns real participation – valuing the contribution of each individual and ensuring that each person has the opportunity to share their views. Too often, ‘experts’ from outside think they have the answers to development issues. Too often, local people (who may have been told for decades that their knowledge is inadequate) assume that only outside experts can solve their problems. Genuine sustainable development can only come from community action – begun and ...

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  • Letters

    Erosion – a double disaster. Soil erosion is a huge environmental and economic burden to many developing nations. In the tropics, torrential rain can wash away tons of topsoil from each hectare in just a few hours. In drier areas, swirling winds and flash floods can be equally disastrous – huge amounts of valuable soil are being lost every day. This is typical in the Maroua and Bamenda areas of Cameroon. Even worse, the soil accumulates in rivers, reservoirs, harbours, estuaries and other ...

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  • Parkinsonia aculeata

    This multipurpose tree comes from the Americas, but has been introduced throughout the tropics because of its many uses. It grows well in drier areas and will cope with poor or salty soils, occasional frost, low rainfall and long dry seasons. It is also known as Jerusalem thorn, Mexican palo verde or simply Parkinsonia. 

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  • Participatory training in Tanzania

    by Dr Thomas Kroeck. Participatory Learning and Action (PLA) methods can be very helpful as a way of collecting information for planning and setting up development projects. They have a number of advantages over formal surveys.

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  • PLA Practical Techniques

    by James Mascarenhas. MYRADA in South India have done much work with rural people on participatory methods and provide training for other organisations in the use of these methods. They have produced a very helpful training video (see 'Resources'). Their address is…

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  • REFLECT - a PLA approach to literacy

    PLA exercises are often used with farmers – but they can have many other uses too. Literacy training is one of the most recent. In 1993 Action Aid began a research project to study the REFLECT (Regenerated Freirean Literacy through Empowering Community Techniques) approach to adult literacy. The REFLECT approach uses no primers or textbooks (other than a guide for the literacy facilitators). Instead each literacy circle develops their own learning materials based on PLA exercises.

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  • Resources

    Participatory Learning and Action: A Trainer’s Guideby Pretty, Guijt, Thompson and Scoones. This is an excellent and comprehensive guide to the whole subject of PLA. It is well designed and easy to read and use with 267 pages. It covers a wide range of topics, from warm-up exercises with newly formed groups, to adult learning and the challenges of training in the field. Full details are given for 101 exercises, including their uses, time involved, materials needed and how to use them. This ...

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  • The Alayon Work Group System - Farmers helping other farmers

    In the Philippines, it is very common to see neighbours helping a family repair their house or preparing food for the wedding of a son or daughter. Filipinos are ready to help one another in times of need, celebration or grief. This readiness to offer each other time and support is known as alayon (a voluntary work group) in the Philippines. The main purpose of forming an alayon is simply to help one another lighten a heavy task. People organise alayons to help with farm work, harvesting crops, ...

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