|Inter-regional project for participatory upland conservation and development - NEPAL - Strengthening the participatory process through community-based evaluation and re-planning workshops (1996)|
|2. Workshop design and preparation|
The first of these preliminary meetings was carried out with the workshop team at Base Camp on Monday 7 October.
This meeting started with a group review of the strengths and weaknesses of the Majgaon 19% CAP. Workshop team members agreed to consider as major strengths of the plan:
* the consistent link existing between planned activities and felt needs, as identified and prioritised, in previous PRA sessions;
* the activity mix, covering improvements of household living conditions (water sources protection), income generating initiatives (vegetable production), and natural resource management initiatives (forest management and fruit trees planting); and
* the share of responsibilities in implementation among project and user groups.
On the other hand, the formulation of the plan was criticised because of:
* the limited concern for the actual feasibility (cost/effectiveness) of some proposed activities (namely, protection of water sources affecting a very low number of actual beneficiaries);
* the insufficient definition of specific responsibilities in implementation and the very broad timing of activities;
* the ubiquitous presence of the project (and DSC) as the main source of support, leading to underestimating the potential contribution of government line agencies institutionally in-charge of assisting villagers in agricultural production and forestry initiatives (i.e., the District Agriculture Office and the District Forest Office).
The latter issue was the main subject of the subsequent discussion. It was observed that during the year the mediation and facilitation role expected from the project may have prevented User Groups to establish more direct collaboration links with other agencies. On the other hand, it was also acknowledged that the very structure of the participatory planning matrix so far used (including a special column for "project support") was conducive to this attitude. Based on these considerations, a risk of turning the CAP from a community-based development planning tool into a community/project collaboration contract was eventually identified.
This discussion was very instrumental in helping the team to answer the basic workshop design question: "Who will evaluate and re-plan what?". Following the above considerations, two different options were indeed considered.
The former option was to focus the evaluation and re-planning exercise on the collaboration between the project and the already established user groups. In this case, project staff and user groups members would had been asked to evaluate CAP activities so far implemented with project support, and to plan their continuation according to progress made and lessons learned through mutual interaction.
The latter option was to re-focus the process on community actors and their initiatives. Community members (participants and, as far as possible non participants) would had been asked to look at the progress made through 1996 CAP implementation as achievements of the overall community development process. It was assumed that this approach would had facilitated:
* the incorporation in the new action plan of both continued and new activities;
* the involvement new user groups in CAP formulation and implementation; and
* the establishment of a direct collaboration relationship between the community and the relevant line-agencies and NGOs.
Based on these considerations, at the end of the meeting, an unanimous consensus was reached about the opportunity of developing the workshop according with this second hypothesis.