APPROACH TO DEVELOPMENT: USE OF VIDEO
A TOOL FOR PARTICIPATORY RURAL APPRAISAL IN MALAWI
need for a participatory, bottom-up and people-centred approach to
development cannot be over-emphasized. Participation at its highest
levels, according to Arnstein’s Ladder of Participation (Arnstein,
1969), is citizen control, delegated power and partnership that entails
getting communities involved at every stage of the project cycle.
everyone within the community gets involved throughout the development
process; this is genuine participation. Other types or levels of
participation are considered to be tokenism, whereby communities are just
consulted or informed about decisions already made elsewhere.
fact, in most communities across the world there are only a few that make
decisions governing the majority. It is also a fact that women’s
participation in many countries is discouraged by cultural as well as
legal barriers. Recent efforts to break these barriers have met resistance
and often have needed a combination of interventions. This is partly
because we have been trying to dissolve boundaries that have existed over
centuries in very short periods of time. However, it is mainly because we
expect people who have never had an opportunity to voice their needs and
views to suddenly become perfect public speakers and clearly articulate
their plight in front of the very people who may have suppressed them for
Rural Appraisal (PRA) is an approach that seeks to encompass communities
at all levels of decision-making processes in project development. It has
a variety of tools that are aimed at obtaining information from
participants while at the same time taking them through a journey of
discovery about resources that they have, potential resources, and other
strengths of the community that can be used for its development. PRA
allows the community to identify and prioritize its needs in addition to
making it aware of organizations, individuals and other institutions that
may assist in its development. Most importantly, when a PRA has been done
well, it leaves the community empowered, aware of its environment, and
able to take positive action to deal with future predicaments.
the end of a PRA exercise, an action plan is drawn up so that
responsibilities are shared within the community. The PRA exercise usually
ends at this point.
Falls in Follow-Up
a potential donor is behind the PRA process and commits itself to help the
community realize its development venture, the community has little hope
of acquiring funding. The PRA process may have raised its awareness about
who might be approached for assistance, but it might not know how to
example in Nyanthumbi village in Malawi, a team of practitioners undertook
a PRA exercise in 1996 with a community at the request of the Ministry of
Environmental Affairs for the Malawi/World Bank Community Environmental
Micro-Projects programme. Both the community and the consultants had
expectations about receiving funding from the programme. The previous year
the ministry had hired a different set of consultants, who had visited the
community and promised that a PRA team would visit them on request from
the ministry. At the end of the PRA process in Nyanthumbi in the same
year, both the community and the consultancy team felt they had developed
a project that would be in line with criteria set out by the programme.
They were disappointed, therefore, when the project was rejected by the
ministry’s selection committee. The committee said that although the
community had requested an irrigation project, the area was a potential
flooding area because it had suffered a flood eight years before.
Actually, for almost 11 out of 12 months in the year the area is dry and
harsh with high temperatures—any visitor would see that crops are dying
due to lack of rain. The selection committee, however, made its decision
without visiting the area. Even though it later promised to reconsider the
decision after visiting the area, several years have passed and the visit
has still not taken place.
community knows that there are other organizations that may be able to
help, but it has no means of contacting them and presenting their case. If
the consultants failed to convince possible donors when representing the
community, chances are slim that a group of villagers can convince the
communities are able to articulate their needs to some extent by the time
they conclude the PRA exercise, grooming of community members for
presentations to high-ranking politicians, government officials and NGOs
cannot be achieved during the normal PRA process. Although communities may
be able to express their sentiments, they may not be able to communicate
and discuss their case with the very decision makers who might be able to
assist them. Communities need ways to present their case with appropriate
aids that will capture the interest of decision makers and motivate them
of Video as a Tool for PRA
Malawi, the use of video as a tool for PRA was introduced during a
1996-1997 survey on Incentives and Hindrances in the Use of Alternative
Firewood in Malawi, jointly implemented by Natural Resource International
(NRI) and the Malawi Ministry of Energy and Mining. Sue Braden, lecturer
at the University of Reading (United Kingdom), trained a team of PRA
practitioners to use video as a tool in participatory programme
development. Its feasibility was then tested out in two of the four
communities that went through PRA exercises for the survey.
obvious advantage of using video is that it introduces individuals to
themselves. People get used to seeing and hearing themselves speak and
gain confidence in public. Usually the process starts when the community
elects an editorial committee, which decides on shots that are allowed for
public viewing or not, as well as those that may or may not be taken
outside the community. The consultants at this point have input to ensure
that the committee elected is gender- and culturally-balanced.
editorial committee also establishes the fact that ultimately all material
is the property of the community, and consultants cannot use information
they have not been authorized to use. This a step toward gaining
confidence of the community as a whole, and individual participants in
PRA practitioners may opt to have separate sessions of young women, older
women, young men and older men. After the sessions are filmed, they are
played back and discussed separately with the different groups. Each group
selects what it wants to share with another group. Group members practice
presenting and defending issues in their video to a different group.
may then mix the groups into, for example, all women (young and old), and
all men (young and old), or youth and adults. These again are filmed and a
number of copies made. Each group watches a copy and discusses how to
improve or expand on issues raised during their presentations.
the groups have built up confidence and are able to present points clearly
and support each other in defending their issues, they are ready for the
next challenge. Groups make known their stand on different issues before
the entire community. At this point the consultants play a key role in
setting up a code of conduct during presentations. The code might include:
no interrupting when someone is presenting their issues; differences of
opinion must be respected; members should be encouraged rather than
discouraged, such as clapping after each presentation before asking
questions or challenging; everyone must understand that diversity
strengthens rather than weakens; and everyone must realize that there is
never only one “right way” to do things. It is the duty of the
consultants to ensure that the code is adhered to and that they lead by
may then become more mixed and task-oriented. At this point the focus is
on community issues rather than personal, individual or group
predicaments. Therefore problems are raised and debated with the full and
equal participation of all.
the community has agreed on an action plan, the editorial team sits down
to decide how best to present their problems in a 20- to 30-minute film.
It determines what shots need to be included that will support and best
portray the community’s plight, and how to spell out or defend its
objectives. For example, scenes of agricultural land with crops that are
obviously doing poorly in an area that is bare of trees and natural
vegetation provide visual justification for an integrated environmental
and agricultural programme. It is always best to have narratives in the
local language to enable the community to understand and explain the
contents in future. For the sake of those who may be interested in the
film but do not speak the local language, sub-titles in English can be
included in some tapes. This ensures full ownership of the final product
by the community.
of Video as a Tool
countries that have national television, video gives a community the
conduit to share a little bit of themselves with the rest of the country.
This may also attract the attention of well-wishers and others who may be
able to assist the community. Further, it raises awareness that all within
the nation have a responsibility to aid those less fortunate. Most
importantly, issues that are captured on tape are more self-explanatory
since evidence of the problem is visual. Therefore the community has a
tool that can be used again and again in the future, and that others can
show on its behalf. The process itself leaves the community in a position
to plan similar presentations in the future, and it learns to involve and
listen to all its members. Communities are also left in a position to make
joint decisions on projects they want to undertake, and to conduct the
process of deciding about coordination.
with video communities have a permanent record for future reference and
for different forums they may organize or be invited to attend.
of Video as a Tool
is costly and needs experienced camera persons. Equipment in countries
such as Malawi is scarce; when available it costs exorbitant prices.
Coverage in countries without national television is limited to meetings
or workshops. Even at these types of forums, it is not always possible to
obtain the necessary equipment.
PRA team that wants to use video as a tool needs to carry extra equipment
on top of its already bulky PRA materials. Although there are increasingly
smaller brands of video recorders, the team still needs to carry numerous
tapes, a video machine and video monitors. In addition, travelling to
remote localities that have no electricity means the team must carry
generators and extra fuel.
idea of using video in development has been introduced and has tremendous
potential for a human-centred and bottom-up approach to programme
video as a tool for PRA is an example of how technology can be used to
promote development, especially at the grassroots level. Perhaps unique to
this technology is the fact that it can be used by both the literate and
illiterate. Whereas with other technologies learning might be internal
with benefits apparent for the community after a long period of time, this
is one technology that brings changes to the community soon after
exposure. Its direct fruits are also felt when the community receives
support in response to presentation of its video. Just the discovery
itself and links established during development of a video goes a long way
in boosting people’s confidence and ability to achieve their objectives.
Indeed, video as a tool for PRA takes the notion of participation a step
further and adds a whole new dimension to participatory rural appraisal.
Sherry R. (1969). “A Ladder of Citizen Participation” in Journal of
the American Institute of Planners, 35 (4): 216-224.
Voices from Africa no. 9