|GATE - 3/91 - Impact - A Neglected Dimension of AT (GTZ GATE, 1991, 52 p.)|
Report on an Impact Study of Village-Level Blacksmith's Shops
by Ruth N. Lopez
Bolos, ploughs, forging tongs, fire boxes, blowers, hammers, car coil springs, iron scraps. These were a few of the basic farm tools and implements and fabricating materials that were of interest to an all-women team as they investigated the impact of a project that was an all-male domain - blacksmithing at village-level.
The impact study, specifically, wanted to look at the outputs, effects and the impact of village-level blacksmith projects implemented by peasant organizations (PO) in partnership with the Indigenous Technology Resource Station (ITRS), a SIBAT member based in Cebu. Simultaneously, the study also wanted to take note of the methodology employed, in order to contribute to the continuing and ongoing discussions on the most appropriate ways of conducting impact monitoring.
The study necessitated the gathering of basic information on the blacksmith projects, BS training programmes, village profiles, living conditions of the peasants and other sectors in the village, roles of the peasant organizations and the NGOs, viability of the blacksmith's shops, as well as effects and impacts on the direct and indirect beneficiaries. For such, the team agreed to elaborate case studies of four out of eighteen PO-ITRS initiated blacksmith projects located on five islands of the Visayas, in Central Philippines; and to utilize a participatory approach.
A women undertaking
The impact study was a joint undertaking of four organizations, all involved in the promotion of appropriate technologies. Each sent a representative to the impact study team which was finally composed of three Filipinos and one German national.
The team was as an all women mission - a fact that only came to light when they met to undertake the first field work, but which turned to be favorable for the study, as this facilitated help and cooperation from the blacksmiths and farmers.
In keeping with the participatory approach, efforts were made to ensure that all four members were present at the design and instrument formulation as well as the analysis and packaging aspects of the study. This could not be strictly enforced however. So while two members fully participated in the entire duration of the study, the others were involved at varying phases.
Some important clarifications
To look into project impact is to look at project realization. It means reviewing what has happened, and pausing to reflect, not so much for the purpose of knowing what went right or wrong, but more for drawing out the lessons and recommendations that could strengthen the project's implementation strategies and schemes. This impact study of village-level blacksmith shops was seen as such and, based on its objectives and the time chosen for its implementation, was a combination of an on-going and a final evaluation, without being strictly either one.
As mentioned earlier, the team opted for a participatory approach with instruments and techniques adopted mainly from the social sciences and anthropology. In the process, it applied a combination of components from both a participatory and empirical research approach. It hinged on a inductive method - starting at village-level.
The participatory approach
The study team invited major project participants - from local partner NGOs, to farmers organizations, to individual farmers and the blacksmiths themselves - to get involved in the study. This was to enhance dialogue, to jointly undergo a common learning process with them and to encourage commitment with a view to generating the necessary innovations. But despite all these efforts, the project partners could not be fully mobilized throughout all the steps of the study. Their participation was most visible during the field data gathering and analysis portions of the study. Most of the suggestions and recommendations emanate from them.
Village integration was a must. It was done for the twin purposes of developing peoples trust, confidence and cooperation with the study team and of getting a first-hand feel of the realities of village life. This was cultivated by living in the villages, sharing and working with the people, collectively discussing problems, affirming findings and elaborating common suggestions. Time spent in doing this did not suffice, however, but what the study team missed out, the farmers representatives ably covered.
As the peace and order situation at the four selected sites was delicate, necessary protocol was observed. Courtesy calls to provincial commanders, town mayors and village captains were paid to inform them of study objectives and, more importantly, to get their cooperation. In these instances, the presence of an expatriate in the team was a bonus: she easily got the clearances.
Before the team went into its first field study, special guidelines for interviews for each key respondent were elaborated. These were done with representatives from the local NGOs and farmers organizations who also gave introductions and orientation on projects and the sites. The questionnaires formulated were never actually used, except as general reference for checking the adequacy of data on hand and as guide for the team. As a more open and less formal atmosphere was called for, immediate and creative improvisations were made.
The practice of giving project overviews at the onset was appreciated a lot as it facilitated the process of getting acquainted with the projects under review. It became a standard opener in every area visited.
A part of peoples' initiatives
The village-level blacksmith projects, as part of the peoples' initiatives towards socioeconomic development in the rural areas, directly inputs into an agricultural production program aimed at promoting a self-sustaining farm economy. Specifically, it has aimed to
a) equip farmers with skills and techniques in fabricating farm tools and implements;
b) set-up village blacksmith shops, and
c) repair, fabricate and mass-produce farm tools and implements.
As with any similar project in its formative years, it has been faced with difficulties necessitating mid schedule detours and modifications among which are: the pioneering nature of the project itself; the dynamics and complexities of socieconomic milieu in which it operates; the limited resources and capabilities of the organizations concerned; and the inability to fully flesh out the details of project implementation during its design stage.
Such difficulties and shortfalls notwithstanding, the study revealed that the blacksmith projects have contributed to the realization of organizational goals and objectives. The project has become one of the more viable tools for forging collective efforts and tempering farmer organizations in gaining fuller control over the agricultural production process. More specifically, in a modest manner, the project has equipped farmers with skills and techniques in fabricating and repairing basic farm tools and implements and in establishing eighteen village-level blacksmith shops all over the Visayas.
Effects on the network
The study has created positive impact on the network. It has affirmed the necessity of pausing and reflecting on what has been, before rushing headlong into the project's next phase or continuity. It has afforded ITRS an initial insight into the village-level blacksmith project's over-all status vis-a-vis its original objectives; it has allowed a look into specific concerns which the project need to address, such as upgrading product quality and studying dispersal patterns or even marketing potentials.
Already, some other members, in partnership with the National Secretariat, have gone into similar undertakings, i.e. studies on community seed banks and demonstration/experimental farms, with the results and instrumentality used in the blacksmith project study as important materials in deciding how to proceed.
This kind of impact study has been regarded as an effective tool for project development, is relatively easy and within capacity to implement, especially for projects needing mid schedule review in the light of longer term project implementation. With what it can do and with the continuing efforts at improving the methodologies employed, impact studies shall be incorporated in the over-all SA evaluation planned by the network next year and in other projects that the National Secretariat shall be engaged in the future.
The author describes the procedure employed by a team of German and Philippine women in producing an impact study on village level blacksmiths, which had been established by farmers' organizations in conjunction with the Indigenous Technology Resource Station, a member of SIBAT. Four of a total of eighteen projects, all on Visayas, in the Central Philippines were examined in detail.
L´auteur decrit la methode utilisee par une equipe germano-philippine exclusivement composee de femmes pour la realisation d'une analyse des effets relative a des forges villageoises. Ces equipements communautaires ont ete amenages par des organisations de paysans en cooperation avec l"'lndigenous Technology Resource Station" une organisation membre de SIBAT. Quatre des 18 projets au total, tous mis en oeuvre aux Visayas, Philippines centrales, ont ete passes au crible fin.
La autora describe la forma de proceder de un equipo filipino-aleman, compuesto exclusivamente de mujeres, al analizar los efectos de un proyecto de talleres de herreria a nivel de aldeas. Se trata de instalaciones fundadas por organizaciones campesinas en colaboracion con la "Indigenous Technlogy Resource Station" una organizacion afiliada a SIBAT: Se estudiaron a fondo cuatro de los dieciocho proyectos que se vienen realizando en las islas Visayas, en la parte central de archipielago filipino.
The next article by Dorsi Germann sketches what it really means to work in an international team, and the experience she gained, as the only German national in a team of Filipinos.