«Deborah Duveskog Faculty of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences Department of Urban and Rural Development Uppsala Doctoral Thesis Swedish ...»
Gender equity and relations have gained an increased focus lately through the growing recognition that processes involved in alleviating poverty are more complex than simply develop ways for women to have control over productive resources. The increased power and new opportunities for women in particular, shown as leading to an increase in household wellbeing and income, provides valuable input into the global debate on poverty reduction and the role of women in development (The World Bank 2008). The results of this study also strongly support the notion that women should not be targeted in isolation, which is often the case in support to women groups only, but that real change in gender dynamics can only come about when men and women change together. FFS seem to generate gender impacts not only because they empower women, but also because they provide opportunities for the men to change as well.
A particularly interesting finding, in relation to power, of this study is that men did not seem to feel threatened by the shift in gendered roles and responsibilities which often led to increased power and status of women and women’s increased economic contribution to the household. Instead men welcomed it and saw it as a relief on their burden as breadwinner. This supports the notion of ‘power to transform capacity’ rather than ‘power as domination’ (Giddens 1976). An increase of power among women to make changes in their lives does not necessarily imply a zero-sum relationship where men automatically lose. On the contrary, power in this sense might even have synergistic elements, where action by some enables more action among others (Gaventa and Cornwall 2001).
Collaborative learning This research exposed a stronger focus on collaborative learning and collectiveness of the change experiences than normally considered in the fields of both agricultural extension and transformative learning theories, where normally much focus is on the individual and his/her learning experience. The findings of this research indicate that it is primarily the collaborative features of the learning in FFS that contribute to the impact on the action arena.
Collaborative learning was particularly found to be a new aspect for men, who do not traditionally engage collectively in their daily activities to the same extent as women do. Men were found to begin appreciate and engage in collaborative learning processes, also outside of the FFS context, after exposure to this manner of working in FFS. This is new to most men, for whom individual learning is traditionally the norm. Collaborative learning, however, is not new to the sphere of women, since they traditionally engage collectively in most of their daily activities.
Safe space The protected space provided by the FFS group further enables participants to test out new behaviours and to question traditional norms that previously were restricting behaviours and actions. According to (Mezirow 2000) a safe environment for the learner to practice critical reflection is a pre-requisite in educational settings for fostering transformative learning. FFS allows participants a non-patriarchal and non-hierarchical space where they can test and act out new roles without fear of repercussions from the wider community.
The importance of a safe space for transformative learning to take place is seldom given much attention in development practice. The collectiveness of the change, that is, the fact that changes are taking place among group members simultaneously, seems give support to participants to live out their new behaviours in their daily lives. This is possibly a particularly important aspect in the rural African context where norms and culture strongly dictates the space individuals have to act out new ways of doing or being. FFS as a collective unit, usually considered a high-status organization in the community, was found to assist in sanctioning individuals to express new forms of behaviour. In some cases, members explained that if some of these new behaviours were expressed by individuals without the collective support structure that FFS provide, they could face discrimination and be reprimanded by village and clan leaders, as well as family members. This brings to light the importance in African settings of collective processes of change and puts in question the mainstream, individualistic perception of human empowerment as well as agricultural extension based on work with individual farmers.
FFS as platform for wider social change?
The learning in FFS groups seemed to produce a gradual shift in formal and informal rules that shape human interaction (North 1990), especially in terms of gendered norms and rules. This shift induced changes in the communityregulated patterns of social interaction. The FFS process implied what Woodhill (2008), in his description of institutions, terms association changes while changes in rules and norm especially related to gender roles and cultural taboos implied what he terms control changes. The change in practices and behaviours, both farming related and non-farming, further implied changes in the action arena. Development in this context is a process of change of patterns, of setting new, transformed rules, standards of behaviours and cooperation and interaction between individuals in FFS groups and among the group and other structures. Current development trends, towards demand driven services, market access, good governance, right-based approaches recognise the complexity of the human ecosystem and calls for institutional innovation with very different dynamic in relations within society. Soft capacities like communication trust building, networking and leadership are required (Woodhill 2010). FFS with its combination of impact on the individual level as well as social structures thereby seem well placed to serve as a platform for wider social change alongside the technological innovations induced. Its participatory and bottom-up planning focus has a comparative advantage in inducing changes that by nature cannot be neatly planned in a topdown manner, such as gender and culture related changes for example. An emerging area of thought based on findings of this study is whether FFS groups, and the interphase between FFS groups and the wider community, could possibly be seen as emerging institutions if considering institutions as rules and norms for social interaction (Woodhill 2010).
Figure 14. Members of the Bungoma FFS network, Kenya, in their office where they among other services provide access to agricultural inputs for their members.
(Photo by D. Duveskog)
10.3 The FFS learning process explained though transformative learning theory The study showed that the FFS learning process can be explained through transformative learning theory, however only partly. The study revealed a complex picture of Non-Formal Education (NFE) and fostering of TL that begin to call into question some long-held assumptions about both. In terms of contributing to the theoretical fields of learning FFS introduces some new characteristics that are not typically associated with NFE, such as its highly structured program and complementary teaching tools, mixing transmission based models of teaching with highly participatory and student led processes, thereby creating a complex blend of learning models with quite different philosophical backgrounds. This blend of learning modes seems particularly appropriate for the rural poor context of Africa with its high level of illiteracy and deep-rooted traditional ways of learning. It seems apparent that several of the core elements identified by participants of FFS as central to their transformation are consistent with what is known about fostering transformative learning particularly within a development setting (Easton et al.
2009; Kollins and Hansman 2005). However gaps in the TL field of theory have become apparent in terms of understanding TL from an Afrocentric standpoint. For example what is known about reflection in western situations appear to express itself differently in the African setting with stronger emphasis on other ways of knowing such as affective, relational and visual rather than more analytical reflections. The findings further indicate a significant role of instrumental learning i.e. learning to control and manipulate the environment (Mezirow 1991, p.73) in fostering TL among rural poor.
Instrumental learning has been given a short stick in its relationship to fostering TL and is seldom discussed. Among the studied participants instrumental learning seemed closely interconnected with TL. Possibly this indicate that transformation of mindsets among poor need to go hand in hand with improved well-being (physical and economic) since poverty possibly indirectly affects peoples worldviews and feeling of life satisfaction so much that TL cannot take place without simultaneous poverty alleviation. Further, the widespread focus on the individual in TL theories appeared limiting considering the importance and relevance of the group and collective learning in fostering TL.
While the findings confirm existing research in many areas and imply that there may be universal constructs of transformative learning that transcend cultural context, at the same time, the findings begin to reveal indicators of transformative learning that are unique to the cultural context of Africa.
Framed within an Afro-centric perspective of transformative learning, the epistemological shift seems unique to this setting (a shift to empiricism), and not something that has been revealed in any of the Western studies about perspective transformation (Taylor 2007). This is also similar to the ontological shift revealed in this study, a change in ‘forms of relatedness’ with others, where participants experienced a change in their status in the community (e.g., leadership) and a greater appreciation of more equitable relationships in their family.
In addition to the possibly transformative nature of FFS, the findings also reveal other insights about transformative learning. Assuming the participants experienced a transformation in perspective, this seems to have had a secondary, ripple effect at both the household and community levels. In other words, this study sheds light on the impact of transformative learning beyond the initial educational experience (FFS), including on the participants’ everyday lives. For example, changes in gender relations and family roles emerged as a significant result of this transformation in perspective, expressed in terms of a more equal balance of power among men and women in the household setting and in terms of beliefs about men’s and women’s respective roles in the practice of farming. In particular, this seems to have had a liberating effect on women, as they acquired greater opportunities to engage in decision-making and economic activity. Also, methodologically, this qualitative study provides a more explicit perspective on earlier findings of more quantitative nature about the impact of FFS on participants, particularly women (Davis et al., 2005).
10.4 Further research A number of methodological limitations to this study as well as concerns about emerging findings open up the scope for further research in the field. Firstly, a major part of the research was qualitative in nature, therefore the generalizability of some of the findings may be questioned, this aspect is enhanced by the fact that a successful FFS program was sampled purposefully.
Secondly, in-depth perspectives were obtained predominately from the perspective of FFS participants, and not those that interact with them, and were based on retrospective recall, not longitudinal in nature.
In terms of concerns about the findings, firstly the links between empowerment and poverty did not come out as clear as the link between FFS and empowerment and between FFS and poverty in the quantitative research component. Possibly this indicate that the relationship is a complex one with many additional factors influencing the dependency between the two aspects looked at in this study, thus subject for further research. With some exceptions, the perceptions of and attitudes to power do not show a significant link to poverty level: that is, the less poor did not perceive themselves to have more power than the very poor. However, when looking at actual expressions of empowerment in terms of innovation uptake, access to services, engagement with markets and involvement in collective action etc., a clear link between poverty level and these empowerment indicators was observed. The reason for this discrepancy would benefit from more in-depth inquiry. Further research, that take into account a greater number of external factors in the institutional, social and political context is needed to un-pack the complexity and interconnectedness between empowerment and wellbeing. Also for this link to be better explored measurements of poverty need to include more subjectively based measurements such as feelings of power in everyday life.
While the study does provide some insight in terms of understanding the impact of FFS on the daily lives of participants and their relationships, it does generate additional research questions in terms of how the various pedagogical aspects of the learning processes within FFS create a transformation perspective. Particularly the role of tools used to bring out experiences among participants in what Heron (1996) terms presentational knowledge, i.e.
experiential knowledge expressed through imagery such as sound, colour, drama, story etc. which thereby serves as a bridge between experiences and knowledge expressed in statements or theory. While such tools is generally applied in FFS as ice-breakers and energizers, this research indicate that such tools potentially could play a much greater role in fostering learning and reflection as well.