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close this bookResource Management for Upland Areas in Southeast Asia - An Information Kit (IIRR, 1995, 207 p.)
close this folder4. Diagnostic methods and tools
View the documentParticipatory appraisal methods
View the documentIntegrated land-use planning in upland areas
View the documentFarm househoId profile
View the documentGender analysis
View the documentCollecting information on crops
View the documentBuilding on indigenous knowledge

Participatory appraisal methods

A number of participatory approaches for assessing local conditions, problems and opportunities have been developed. They provide a "basket" of tools and techniques for visualizing, interviewing and group work. The approaches share various features:

· They can be used to collect and analyze information in a participatory way.

· They examine interactions between social, economic and biophysical systems.

· They allow interdisciplinary teams (e.g., of researchers, extensionists and planners) to work in a sensitive manner directly with farmers and local communities in the field. Each team member uses his/her specific expertise to develop lines of inquiry with local people.

· Information is pooled to construct a picture of the area and current resource management issues and to generate ideas on major constraints.

· Learning is from and with rural people and stresses local knowledge, skills and practices. The learning is rapid, progressive and iterative (not a fixed blueprint).

· The information is a selective sampling of a range of conditions and extremes (not solely based on averages).

· Probing and "triangulation" of methods and sources of information ensure reliability and validity.

· Local people can analyze and make decisions on the spot, based on the information they themselves provide.

· These techniques can help mobilize and organize local people around issues they consider important.

Advantages of participatory approaches

Participatory approaches allow close interactions between local people and outsiders.

They can provide insights to complex, multidimensional problems.

They can identify key problems quickly and cheaply.

They can be followed by surveys to provide in-depth analysis and understanding of selected components.

They allow local people to identify problems and empower them in seeking solutions.

Examples of participatory appraisal methods

· Farming systems research
· Agroecosystems analysis
· Diagnosis and design
· Rapid rural appraisal
· Participatory rural appraisal
· Situation-specific assessment.

These approaches are continually evolving as they are used and further tested and adapted in the field.

Basket of participatory assessment tools and techniques for collecting and analyzing information.


· Diagnostic studies
· Planning and design of research and extension projects
· Land-use planning
· Community development
· Agricultural development
· Participatory monitoring and evaluation

Site selection

Since the target area is often large, it is impossible to do assessment in the whole area. It is necessary to select some typical sites that represent local features and conditions. Later, the information collected and findings can be presented to the whole community.

It is necessary to meet the local leaders and the community as a whole. This helps people in the community understand and participate in the program.

Methods and tools

Visualized analyses

Guidelines for conducting three of these methods (transects, matrices and calendars) are given later in this section.

· Participatory mapping and modelling (resource and social maps)
· Transects
· Seasonal calendars
· Changing trends (historical profiles/trend analyses/time lines)
· Matrices, reference ranking
· Participatory diagramming (systems, flows, institutions, decisions, problems)
· Tables or graphs showing basic village data
· Listing of problems, causes, strategies, potentials.


· Semistructured household interviews
· Focus groups
· Key informants.

The team

· 4-8 persons with varied disciplinary backgrounds. (Number depends on the size of the community or village and on the scope of information to be collected.)

· Each member collects one type of data.

· Rotate responsibilities among members.

· Combine and integrate information obtained.

· Stimulate interaction and information exchange.

Socioeconomic indicators

Wealth ranking
Traditional practices and beliefs.

Field sampling

Transect walks
Direct observation.

Group and team dynamics

Rapid report writing
Work sharing (in local activities)
Villager shared presentations.

Writing up results

The report should be written immediately after the fieldwork and be based mainly on the records. The sections may be divided among the team members or may be written jointly through a workshop. The report should be short and clear.


· Difficulty of building the right team dynamics.
· Superficial data collection, generalizing based on a small sample.
· Failure to involve all members of a community.
· Overlooking the invisible.
· Lecturing instead of learning and listening.
· Imposing external ideas and values without realizing it.
· Raising expectations in the community regarding follow-up activities and interventions.

Participatory assessment methods are not an end in themselves, but a process that must be judiciously used in combination with other tools, including secondary data, select surveys and other more in-depth investigations into key problems and constraints.



A transect is a cross-section of major land-use zones. It compares the main features, resources, uses and problems of the different zones.


A transect shows the different land-use or ecological zones. It provides a detailed picture of a community. It shows how the natural resource potential is managed and used, as well as problems and opportunities related to each zone.


Flipcharts and colored markers, notebooks and pens, a community map.


· Find key informants (both men and women) who are knowledgeable and willing to assist.

· Identify the transect route (on the map).

· Walk along the transect route.

· Discuss with key informants the different factors to be drawn on the transect (crops, land use, trees, soil, water, etc.), problems and opportunities.

· Identify the main natural and agricultural zones.

· Draw the transect.

· Cross-check the transect with the key informants.


A transect walk is an excellent tool to get information on details of land use, natural resources, soil types, yields, problems, constraints, advantages and possible solutions. It encourages villagers to participate in the assessment process.

Example of a transect



A matrix lists certain items (such as tree species or crop types), in the rows and characteristics of each item (such as yield, uses and drought resistance) in the columns. The body of the matrix shows the level or rank of the characteristic for each item. Local people choose the items to list and the measures to be used.


Matrices can be used for many purposes. Examples:

· Crop and tree species: uses, characteristics, farmers, preferences.
· Prioritization of possible development interventions.


Local materials (sticks, stones, seeds, leaves). Chalk or stick to draw matrix frame. Papers and pens to record the results.


· Identify interested and knowledgeable individuals (both men and women).

· Find a large, clear area to draw matrix.

· Ask participants to define items (e.g., list of tree species).

· Draw a series of rows (the number of rows depends on the number of species to be evaluated). Write the name of each species to the left of each row. Put a leaf or fruit from that species here.

· Ask participants to identify criteria to use.

· Draw a series of columns (the number of columns depends on the number of criteria used). Write criteria at the top of each column.

· Ask participants to decide categories for each criterion (e.g., highest yield, high, medium, low, lowest).

· Participants put sticks or stones in the body of the matrix. The number of sticks or stones depends on the level of the category: for instance, 1 stone means "lowest yield,,, 5 stones means "highest yield.”


Helps farmers and program managers make decisions in conducting the program. Questions that can be answered:

· What species are desirable or important?
· What are priority activities to solve identified problems?
· What resources can be utilized?

In the field



A calendar identifies items or activities that vary from month to month, for instance: livelihood tasks (crop production, harvesting, etc.), rainfall, cultural events, prices, off-farm income and food availability.

Calendars can categorize responsibilities for livelihood tasks by gender, age and intensity of activity.


Developing a calendar can generate information on seasonal variations in social, biophysical and economic conditions, show the relationships between them and identify opportunities for change.


Poster board or a large roll of brown paper, markers.


· Identify interested and knowledgeable local people (men and women). This exercise can be done with either focus groups or key informants.

· Draw a matrix with 12 columns and as many rows as you need (you can add rows as you go on). Write the names of the months at the top of each column.

· Define some items (e.g., types of tasks, etc.) to discuss. Write these to the left of each row. Ask participants to define additional items (e.g., additional tasks).

· Ask participants to trace on the calendar when certain activities occur.

· Make sure that the level of each activity (e.g., sporadic, continuous, intense) is reflected.

· Make sure that the activities and responsibilities of each household member (men, women, children) are represented.


· Assists project planners and managers to anticipate the best timing for work in the community.

· Helps analyze various local indicators and the relationships among them.

· Information can show responsibilities of individuals (men, women, children) and groups and how these change over the year.

· Calendars may vary according to socioeconomic status of the participants.

Seasonal calendar for the Pabalays on Siquijor Island, Philippines

Integrated land-use planning in upland areas

Planning process


· Use land according to its capacity.

· Production needs must balance with environmental conservation needs.

· Promote efficiency and long-term stability of land use.

· Plans must be sensitive to local culture.

· The complex upland situation requires an integrated approach.

· Dialogue between farmer and extension worker is necessary to find viable solutions.

· Soil and water conservation measures need time to take effect; therefore, long-term solutions must be linked to the solution of the farmer's immediate priorities.


An interdisciplinary and participatory process helps avoid treating symptoms rather than actual causes.

Ecological context

· Climate changes
· Food chain disruption
· Diminishing productivity
· Unstable soil
· Forest changes
· Flood and droughts
· Other environmental effects of human activities.

An example of the results of a land-use planning process (carried out in Northern Thailand)

Potential innovation

Areas of sloping land

Assumptions for successful implementation




Permanent tree cover


Other lands available on slopes for cash-crop cultivation

No burning




Alternative weed/pest management

Adequate labor available

Use of mulch



Awareness of mulching benefits

Adequate labor and mulch available

Minimum tillage



Economic feasibility

Mulch used

Labor available for seedbed preparation

Willingness to shift from mono- to multiple cropping

Awareness of erosion problems in area.




Financial benefits from hedgerows

Hedgerows visibly reduce erosion.

No down-hill plowing

Cut-and-carry livestock




Adequate labor available


Awareness of possible impact of free grazing

Training in livestock management



Financially viable market for intercrop increased income from intercropping

Adequate labor available

Fruit-tree cultivation



Higher income from fruit-tree cultivation

Transition period can be tolerated.

Cash, seedlings and labor available for tree establishment

Promising market for fruit.

Cover crops



Cover cropping financially beneficial

Awareness of erosion problems in area

Extension available




For some farmers: credit availability

Crop diversification




No dependence on monocrop middlemen

Integrated aquaculture


Knowledge/technical supervision

Fingerlings available

Proper pesticide management on adjacent lands.

Farm househoId profile

The household is the basic unit of a community. Looking at the household unit, one can do a true natural resource accounting. An inventory of goals and aspirations of household members can also reveal much. The household is a source of labor, skills, cash and other resources. When monetized, the value of consumption at the household level can provide information about community livelihoods and, when analyzed at a community level, can indicate how much the community saves or spends. The farm household economy includes income, as well as all assets and liabilities.

Developing a farm household profile involves a process of identifying labor, goods and income shared by a group of people living in one house and determining the adequacy of resources in relation to their needs. Among other things, a farm household profile looks at the incomes and expenses of individual household members by gender so that the whole family decides where and on what to invest. The profile should also consider other critical factors, such as educational level (see also checklist in General syslems overview). It also involves gender and generational analysis in terms of decision-making, contributions, influences and expenses.

A farm household profile can be developed through the use of three simple tools: a farm household inventory (balance sheet), a farm household gross income statement and a farm household budget. (Facie of these tools is explained below.) All members of the farm household should be involved in the use of these tools in order to ensure that each of their different perspectives is included and to ensure joint decision-making. Before beginning with these three tools, identify each member of the household by number, age and gender. Also, identify labor utilization of each of the household members—who does what, when, where. (See also Gender analysis.)

Farm household inventory (balance sheet)

A farm household inventory (or balance sheet) shows the net worth of the farm household. The total value of liabilities (e.g., debts, loans, etc.) is subtracted from the total value of assets (e.g., land, livestock, saving, etc.)

1. List farm assets.

· land (value of landholding)
· farm buildings
· farm animals
· farm equipment and tools
· stored crops
· other farm supplies stored on the farm (e.g., fertilizer, etc.)

2. List household assets.

· house
· vehicle
· furniture and other appliances
· savings

3. Estimate the current market value for each asset item.
4. List farm and household liabilities.

· short-term loans
· mortgages and other long-term loans

5 Subtract the value of the total liabilities from the total assets to provide the net worth of
the household.


Farm household inventory (balance sheet)

A. Farm assets


Estimated current market value per unit

Total amount

Land (ha)




Farm buildings

Farm sheds




Farm animals









Farm equipment









Stored crops

Corn (kg)




Total farm assets


B. Household assets













Total household assets





Short-term loans


Long-term loans




CURRENT NET WORTH(total assets less total liabilities)


Annual farm household gross income statement

This tool shows the sources and amounts of the farm household income. It is a usefill tool for households to be able to know how important are the various income-generating activities to the total income of the house.

1. List the value of sales of crops and livestock for the year.

· Quantity the number of pieces or kilos sold per item
· Estimate the current market price per unit for each item.

2. List other income sources.

3. Add the income items from the farm and other sources to come up with annual farm household gross income. In order to calculate the net income, the various expenses for each of the income sources should be subtracted. These are the cost of production (e.g., fertilizer, feeds, seeds, etc.).

Annual farm household budget

A farm household budget serves many purposes: 1 ) it allows the family to compare their expenditures, based on their income; 2) it allows them to discuss and agree upon what items or activities they spend their money on; and 3) it allows them to set limits (on a per-month and per-year basis) for their amount of spending. For a rural development worker, this information can be very helpful to determine who might receive specific technical assistance (given the labor profile) and the capability of the household to venture into new activities and to assume new risks. l. Invite the members of the household to list the items they spend their income. 2. List average monthly expenses. 3. Multiply the monthly expenses by 12 months to determine the annual amount spent on each item. 4. Sum the annual expense for each item to come up with the total annual farm household budget.

Example: Annual farm household income statement



Current market price per unit

Total amount

1. Fruit

-Pomelo (pcs)




-Papaya (pcs)




2. Vegetables

-Cabbage (kg)




-Sweet peas (kg)




3. Livestock

-Sale of goat







1. Sale of firewood




2. Remittances



3. Hired labor (days)






Total annual farm household gross income



Annual farm household budget

1. Food

1,200 x 12


2. Gas

50 x 12


3. Soap

50 x 12


4. Education

150 x 12


5. Transport

20 x 12


6. Medicines


7. Tobacco

200 x 12


8. Alcoholic beverages

100 x 12


9. Gambling and leisure

50 x 12


10. Others




Gender analysis

Gender roles

Most upland development programs have presumed that there is a clear division in the labor of women and men. Women were thought to be primarily responsible for the care and maintenance of the household and its members, including bearing and caring of children, preparing food and collecting water and fuel. Men were thought to be primarily involved in agricultural and livestock production activities.

Research has shown that, while gender roles clearly differ in most societies, women are often involved in making key decisions related to agricultural and livestock production. In addition, women's roles are changing. Upland development efforts, therefore, must also change.

Gender analysis and upland resource management

The disappearance of much of the forest and increased cultivation of fragile upland areas have transformed gender roles, increased the hours women work to fetch water and fuel, increased the number of female-headed households and forced women and men to explore new ways to earn a living.

Gender analysis reveals how gender differences define women's and men's rights, responsibilities and opportunities in resource management.

Types of labor

Different types of labor are divided into productive, reproductive and community work. Analyzing what men and women do, their interactions and the possible effects of development projects can help in the design of such projects.

Productive work

The production of goods and services, such as farming or wage labor

Reproductive work

The care and maintenance of the household and its members, including childbearing, cooking and cleaning.

Community work

The collective organization of social events, such as church, school and cultural events.

What is gender?

Gender is the social differences between men and women. These differences are learned, vary from place to place, and may change over time. Gender is a socioeconomic variable used to analyze roles, responsibilities, constraints, opportunities and needs of men and women.

Sex is the physical or biological difference between men and women.

Why gender analysis?

Gender analysis helps decision-makers to:

· Design programs which recognize the different roles, interests and needs of women and men.
· Enhance women's productive role, without adding to their work burden.
· Create projects which promote the partnership of women and men in determining their future.

Gender and age division of labor

An analysis of tasks, functions, roles, responsibilities and activities of men, women, boys, girls and the elderly reveals what society deems culturally appropriate. While women continue to be primarily responsible for the wellbeing of their families, more and more are engaging in income-generating activities.


1 Prepare a chart with six columns showing boys, men, elderly men, girls, women and elderly women. (See table.)

2 Ask respondents (both men and women) to name activities and identify whether these are tasks dictated by gender and age.

3 Discuss the implications of such a division. Is it fair? Is it just? Should something be done about this?

Gender and age division of labor

Some examples



Elderly men



Elderly women

Productive work

pasture livestock

cultivate fields

feed livestock

weed fields

tend garden

tend garden


weed fields

weed pasture livestock


food processing

Reproductive work

collect firewood

maintain house

care for children

cook food take care of younger siblings

care for children and elderly

care for children

fetch water

maintain house

clean house

cook food

wash clothes

clean house

wash clothes

buy house hold needs

Community work

organize youth activities

lead village council

sit on village council

beautify village during festivals

attend to church activities

attend to church activities

repair roads

work in community health activities

Gender-based labor calendar

A gender-based labor calendar shows the female/male, adult/ child responsibilites for productive, reproductive and community work.

The calendar can generate information on the types of labor men, women and children do and can show opportunities for intervention and extension.


1 Identify males and females of various ages who are interested in participating. Explain the purpose and process of the exercise.

2 On a big sheet of paper, draw a matrix with 12 columns (1 for each month) and as many rows as you need. (See table.)

3 Ask participants to list the major types of activities under "production,,' "reproduction" and "community work.', Write each activity on the left side of the rows.

4 Ask participants to show on the calendar (using chalk or markers) when certain activities occur.

5 Request participants to define the intensity of the activity. Use continuous lines for continuous activities and broken lines for sporadic activities.

6 Match all activities with who specifically within the household is responsible for each task. Possible categories are male/ female, child/ adult/elder and hired labor.

7 Discuss with them their reactions to the results on the chart. Explore ways where adjustments might be needed.

Gender-based labor calendar (Example adapted from the National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women)

Access, responsibility and control

It is important to know who has access to, responsibility for and control over existing resources. While women are heavily involved in (and are responsible for) production activities, they often do not control the use of the benefits of production.

Access, responsibility and control matrix

A matrix can show which household members have the primary responsibility for, access to and control over which key resources It can show both gender and generational role differences.


The opportunity of a person to make use of resources.


The burden of ensuring that the task(s) is completed.


The authority to determine the use of the resource and impose this decision on others.


1 Identify interested and knowledgeable local women and men who can participate in the activity.

2 Explain the purpose of the exercise and the meanings of access, responsibility and control.

3 Draw a matrix with 3 columns, one each for access, responsibility and control. (See table.)

4 Ask the respondents to define what key resources and activities are important to include. Write each of these to the led) side of each row in the matrix

5 Ask respondents to indicate who has responsibility for, access to and control over the item in each row. Put their responses in the correct cell in the matrix. You can use drawings or cut out shapes from paper for men and women. Or use sticks for men, stones for women. Use different sizes of sticks and stones to show children, adults and elderly people.


The matrix can lead to an understanding and discussion of the range of roles different household members play. It demonstrates the differences between responsibility, access and control and stimulates a discussion of the reasons for these differences.

Responsibility, access and control matrix (Example adapted from the National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women)

Collecting information on crops

Information on income, labor and other costs involved in producing individual crops can be useful in many situations. It can be useful for:

· scientists in determining suitable topics for research.

· planners in estimating the probable returns of a project.

· farmers in making farm management decisions.

· extension workers and farmers as basis for discussions aimed at finding ways to improve the farm economy.

Data collection

Crop information can be collected in various ways. The method used depends on available local resources, purpose and the degree of accuracy needed.

Data collection workshop

Gather farmers (men and women) in the area for a 1-2 day workshop. Small groups of 3 to 5 farmers should discuss a specific crop and fill out the information sheet. Crop data can be presented and discussed among the participants.

Individual interviews of farmers by extension agents

This is a time-consuming way to gather information. The data may not be any more accurate than those collected through a workshop or group meeting.

Collection by farmers

Interested individual farmers collect information by themselves as they carry out their farm activities. Initial supervision by the local extensionist is needed to ensure that the data are recorded correctly. Once every 6 or 12 months, the extensionist can gather the information from the farmers for analysis and presentation.

Data to collect

· Yields
· Fertilizers and pesticides—management, use, quantities and costs
· Labor use—days for different activities, cost per day
· Other inputs, costs
· Income, prices received, quantities sold
· Constraints in the cultivation of individual crops
· Marketing.

Write the data on a form (See example on next page) This form is adapted from one used in Khao Kho (northern Thailand), an area with commercial agriculture. It should be adapted to suit local conditions. The units of measurement (e.g., $, kg, ha) should also be changed to suit local uses.

Presentation of results

After collection, the data should be presented in a systematic yet simple way that everybody can understand. The presentation should stimulate a dialog among farmers and researchers or extensionists. Suitable times are during a short training session, workshop or farmer group meeting.

Crop information sheet

Building on indigenous knowledge

Over centuries, communities have acquired a wide spectrum of information, skills and technology in:

· agriculture
· Iivestock rearing
· food preparation and preservation
· construction and building
· soil and water conservation
· natural resource management
· community organizing
· health care, education and other subjects

This indigenous knowledge is a product of many years of experience. Indigenous knowledge is

· unique to a given community
· based on cumulative experience
· often tested over centuries of use
· adapted to local culture and environment
· dynamic and changing with conditions
· transmitted through indigenous communication channels.

In many instances, indigenous knowledge will be a blend of "locally rooted” and exogenous knowledge.

Development and indigenous knowledge

Indigenous knowledge is a valuable resource for development activities. It may be equal or even superior to the know-how introduced by outsiders.

Development initiatives should build on a community's knowledge. They should unleash a process of blending, strengthening, energizing and synergizing indigenous with exogenous knowledge.

Roles of indigenous knowledge in development

Indigenous knowledge:

· Is a basis for selfsufficiency and selfdetermination.

· Strengthens people's participation and the empowerment process.

· Ensures viability and sustainability.

· Promotes the use of appropriate technology.

· Ensures cost-effective approaches.

· Provides the opportunity to understand and facilitate the design of appropriate development approaches.

Types of indigenous knowledge



· Which trees and plants grow well together?
· Which tree species are best suited for mulching?

Practices and technologies


· Ways to store seeds.
· Simple threshing devices.
· Stonewall terracing.
· Grafting, composting or other practices.


Beliefs can play a fundamental role in a people's livelihood and in maintaining the environment.


· Holy forests, protected for religious reasons, in fact, maintain a villager's lifegiving watershed.
· Rituals and religions may regulate the access and pattern of water distribution.



· Implements for planting and harvesting.
· Carriers for fodder grass collected as animal fodder.



· Farmers' integration of new tree species into existing farming systems.
· Farmers' modification of planting practices.

Human resources


· Specialists such as healers and blacksmiths.

· Local organizations such as kinship groups, councils of elders, or groups formed for labor sharing and exchange.



· Animals' breeds.
· Local crop and tree species.



· Stones for building walls.
· Housing construction materials.

Deciding on appropriate interventions

Not all indigenous knowledge is equally useful Some may be ineffective or even harmful from a development point of view. Practices originally benign under conditions of low population and limited contact with the outside may no longer be appropriate

Therefore, indigenous knowledge should not be applied indiscriminately. Projects should document local knowledge and assess its validity before selecting what to use. The flow chart on the next page illustrates how to proceed when deciding on the type of technology to be promoted

Example: Introducing an agroforestry scheme into a village. Before deciding which species and techniques to promote in this scheme, farmers and project staff should systematically record and document whether there are any local tree and bush species, how they are used arid whether farmers have indigenous knowledge related to agroforestry, such as intercropping, terracing, etc. Then the team should decide whether any of the existing indigenous knowledge (information, practices, technologies, species) could be used, improved or blended with outside technologies. As with any technology, efficacy, costs, cultural and social feasibility, effect on user and non-user groups, environmental impact and other factors should be considered and weighed against characteristics of alternative solutions

Blending indigenous and exogenous knowledge

Farmers in East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia, have several practices to improve soil fertility and prevent erosion. The table shows how the Indigenous knowledge can be blended with and improved through exogenous knowledge.

Indigenous practice

Indigenous practice blended with exogenous knowledge

Carry biomass from the forest and burn it on fields.

Promote tree growing on farm for biomass production.

Burn plant residues on the farm and distribute the ash.

Reduce burning on farm; incorporate at least half of the residues unburnt into the soil.

Build walls from dry branches, shrubs and

Combine wall with contour ditch uphill from wall.


Strengthen wall with live hedgerows.

Integrate trees into fields.

Improve planting patterns of existing practices.

Build terraces from rocks.

Strengthen terraces with live hedgerows.

Integrating indigenous knowledge in development