|Rapid Assessment Procedures: Qualitative Methodologies for Planning and Evaluation of Health Related Programmes (International Nutrition Foundation for Developing Countries - INFDC, 1992, 528 pages)|
|Section III: Community participation and rapid rural appraisal (RRA)|
|30. The relationship between rapid rural appraisal (RRA) and development market research (DMR)|
By Scarlett T. Epstein
Scarlett T. Epstein is affiliated with the IDRC-sponsored secretariat of the International Committee for Development Market Research.
This paper lays out several useful considerations in organizing participative research for programme planning. However, the reader may find that there are definitional ambiguities in terms such as "academics" vs "business." It becomes apparent that the arguments for "Development Market Research" (DMR) reflect an orientation toward usefulness by development planners, particularly donors. In following the arguments posed on "cost-effectiveness" and "usefulness" the critical question remains, "To whom is it cost effective and useful?" The orientation here is clearly toward those planning to help. Most others dealing with Rapid Rural Appraisal are among those who seek approaches with a stronger orientation toward the beneficiaries as planners and genuine participants in transforming the development process. Since the conference, DRM has continued to develop and a training manual was published in 1991. - Eds.
SEVERAL DIFFERENT TYPES of Rural Appraisal (RA) methods are now available. They are all rooted in the disillusionment that began in the 1970s with the top-down bias of development activities. This disillusionment is exemplified, for instance, by the now famous McNamara speech of 1972  and an ILO publication of the same year , both of which contributed to the explosion of the myth that a fast rate of economic expansion automatically solves the problem of poverty. Prior to that realization, if planners sought grass roots level information at all, it was collected only by means of survey questionnaires. The survey results yielded quantitative data that lent themselves readily to statistical analyses, which in turn provided the basis for the design of development plans that focused on optimizing growth rates of gross national income. These plans normally left the distribution of income to a "trickle-down" process and paid no overt attention to the impact of the development process on the quality of life of affected populations.
Qualitative data were then - and often still are - labelled by development planners as "woolly" because they were not generated through rigorous statistical sampling and therefore do not facilitate easy generalizations. Many planners still seem bewitched by computerized statistical data, though they themselves often realize the high degree of unreliability and lack of meaning of the basic data that are fed into the computer.
The new focus in the 1970s on basic needs and poverty alleviation programmes necessitated a change, not only in the type of developmental data gathered, but more important, also in the techniques of collection. The Green Revolution, which switched research and planning attention to the problems of farmers in poorer and more heterogenous environments  further emphasized the need to change the focus and methods.