«Deborah Duveskog Faculty of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences Department of Urban and Rural Development Uppsala Doctoral Thesis Swedish ...»
To be sustainable the empowerment process must alter both peoples selfperception and their control over extrinsic resources, but also greater autonomy and authority in decision making and assertiveness (Sen 1997). Empowerment on a large scale requires both top-down changes in institutional and organizational processes and bottom-up changes in poor people’s organisations and networks and in their individual assets. Knowledge empowerment is seen
as one of the core aspects of empowerment. It refers to:
Availability and access to knowledge can enhance or limit a social actors capacity to exert a particular type of agency. In this sense, having access to relevant and valid information is by definition empowering (Leeuwis 2004, p.109).
Measurements of assets and institutions provide intermediary indicators of empowerment. According to Alsop and Heinsohn (2005) direct measurements of degree of empowerment can be made by assessing: the existence of choice, the use of choice, and the effectiveness of choice.
In the recent World bank publication ‘Measuring Empowerment’ by Deepa Narayan (2005) a conceptual framework of empowerment is presented including four building blocks: Opportunity structures-1) institutional climate,
2) social and political structures & agency of the poor- 3) individual assets and capabilities, 4) collective assets and capabilities. The following section draws heavily on this framework, and in the below figure an overview of the framework is illustrated.
Figure 7. Conceptual framework of empowerment (adapted from Narayan 2005)
Agency Agency is an actor’s ability to envisage options and make meaningful choices based on reflection on the options available (Alsop and Heinsohn 2005). The concept of agency stems from the idea of the “human agent” according to Sen (1999) somebody who acts and brings about change, and whose achievements can be judged in terms of her own values and objectives. Rural people can become the agent of their own development, or they can remain objects of somebody else’s development process (Barlett 2005). Agency involves a selfdirected process, which includes the construction of a person and his/her word.
Empowerment where people take greater control of their lives involves more than a few exceptional activities, instead it relates to a profound and lasting change in people’s behaviours, and thus empowerment can be seen as transformation. Sen has been one of the clearest proponents of the notion of human agency, arguing that poor people often lack the capability to articulate and pursue their interests fully as they are “unfree”.
A comprehensive definition for agency is given by (Kebeer 2003) in the Gender Mainstreaming and Poverty Eradications and MDG handbook which explains that agency is how choice is put into effect and hence central to the processes of empowerment. Agency encompasses both observable action in the exercise of choice – decision-making, protest, bargaining and negotiation – as well as the meaning, motivation and purpose that individuals bring to their actions, their sense of agency. Agency in relation to empowerment implies not only actively exercising choice, but also doing this in ways that challenge power relations.
Agency can be expressed at individual or collective level (Narayan 2005).
Below follows a description of the two levels of agency.
Individual agency At the individual level, empowerment has been defined in terms of factors that give greater control over one’s life. Factors include an individual’s knowledge base, resources, rights, and assets. Reference is also made to the sense of wellbeing in terms of status and self-esteem that are both facilitated and give further support to the capacity to control key aspects of one’s life (DANIDA 2004). The capacity to aspire is crucial in the concept of agency and means the culturally formed capacity of poor groups to envision alternatives and aspire to different futures.
DANIDA (2004) defines a number of core areas in which farmer
empowerment should generate improvements for the individual. These are:
Ø། Productive assets: access to and control of land, water and labour Ø། Financial assets: access to financial services and ability to manage funds Ø། Human assets: skills, farming knowledge, technical knowledge Ø། Organisational assets: ability to articulate demands and interact with markets and other social actors Ø། Knowledge: analytical ability and tools to use information on markets, agricultural services, technologies, rights Ø། Self-esteem: self-respect, social esteem, relationship to authorities and other social actors.
Collective agency Empowerment strategies do not only focus upon the individual. If empowerment is the process of increasing the capacity of individuals or groups to make choices that result in desired outcomes then central to this process is actions which both build individual and collective assets, and improve the efficiency and fairness of the organizational and institutional context which govern the use of these assets (DANIDA 2004). Collective capabilities and organisations are often critical in helping poor people break through constraints of powerlessness and voiceless-ness (Narayan 2005). Strengthening the group means almost automatically to improve their power positions with regards to others (Leeuwis 2000). Zimmerman (1990) suggest that participation in community organisations has a direct positive effect on psychological empowerment.
Central to collective agency and empowerment are farmer organisations.
Farmer organisations provide a platform for joint action and have the potential to enhance the capabilities of their members to make choices, and to institute changes. It also enlarges people’s access to ideas, information and strengthens their capacities for planning, decision-making, collective action etc, and expands their ties to other networks and resources. Farmer actions through farmers’ organisations can even sometimes influence and change opportunity structure. The role and potential of the farmer organisations in relation to farmer empowerment depend on the type of farmer organisation and factors such as activities undertaken, resources possessed and available, outcomes achieved and geographical diversity and coverage (DANIDA 2004).
Building social capital is a core element of an extension strategy aimed at poverty alleviation. Social capital is the ability to facilitate collective action for mutual benefit through the organization and participation of farmers and rural people. Heemskerk and Bertus (2004) differentiates social capital into three
primary categories: bonding, bridging and linking social capital:
Ø། “Bonding” is the process of creating a network of people who come together for a common purpose, for example, a self-help group or a farmer association. The focus is on group formation, building trust or a type of glue that holds a group of people together.
Ø། “Bridging” social capital is the process of farmer groups linking up at meso- and national level into federations and networks and farmers organisations and creating linkages with other groups for a common purpose.
Ø། “Linking” social capital is the process of scaling up farmer knowledge and innovation system into a wider agricultural private-public system, with linkages to research, policy development.
In this research, the concern is with both types of social capital, but with an emphasis on linking producer groups to external groups that can open up new market opportunities.
Opportunity structures Opportunity structures is defined as the formal and informal context within which actors operate (Alsop and Heinsohn 2005) and in which farmers act and influence the development outcomes achieved (DANIDA 2004). These components include formal structures such as laws, policies, regulatory frameworks, information structures, market conditions and informal structures such as social solidarity, norms governing people’s behaviours and practices found in social and economic institutions. The presence of these items determine whether individuals and groups have access to assets, and whether these people can use the assets to achieve desired outcomes (Alsop and Heinsohn 2005). Several of these factors are externalities over which the farmer and farmer groups have little direct influence in most political contexts.
Empowerment is achieved by the removal of formal and informal institutional barriers that prevent the poor from taking effective action to improve their well-being, individually or collectively, and that limit their choices (Narayan 2005).
Narayan (2005) divides opportunity structures in institutional climate and social and political structures. The institutional climate creates incentives for action and inaction. Four elements of empowerment that must underline
institutional reform are mentioned:
Ø། Access to information: The presences of two-way information flow between government and citizens with the aim of having informed citizens that can take advantage of opportunities, access to services, exercise their rights etc.
Ø། Inclusion and participation: Authority and control over decisions should be devolved at the lowest appropriate level, to ensure that the use of public resources reflect local priorities, and to build accountability. Poor and other traditionally excluded groups should be included in decision making structures.
Ø། Accountability: State officials, public servants, politicians and service providers should be held to account, and answerable for their policies and actions.
Ø། Local organizational capacity: The ability of people to work together, organise themselves and mobilise resources. Governments should provide an institutional climate where communities can form organisations and gain voice and representation in policy dialogue that affect their well-being.
The social and political structures include aspects such as democratization, conflict resolution mechanisms and the degree of response among government structures to respond to people’s demands and aspirations.
Farmer empowerment outcomes in relation to opportunity structures could be (DANIDA 2004):
Ø། Markets: rights, access, state regulations, price subsidies.
Ø། Governments: the state of elected, administrative and judicial government institutions.
Ø། Informal institutions: ethnicity, gender equality, social rules, practices that give rise to social exclusion etc.
This study, and particularly the research presented in paper III set out to determine farmers own perception of empowerment and the links between education, empowerment and enhanced well-being. Building on the concepts outlined above, as an initial frame of reference, actual indicators of how empowerment play out in the daily lives of small holder African farmers, established through empirical work was established and measured. The concept of agency both at individual and collective levels served as a lens for understanding how power and empowerment play out in the FFS setting.
6.2 Adult learning This study relies on a constructivist approach, appropriate in a study of this kind that includes analysis of the learners’ constructions of reality and in which the empirical focus is on a learning approach (i.e. FFS) that emphasises experiential and problem based learning tools focusing on how to learn. The foundations of a constructivist approach, grounded in Piagetian (Piaget 1950 in Jarvis et al. 2003) thought, frame the theoretical framework of this study.
Experiential learning theory and Kolb’s (Kolb 1984) learning cycle have contributed to understanding the FFS learning process and the various phases of learning in FFS, and have been helpful in making sense out of empirical observations. The critical theory of Habermas (1971; 1984) has been central to understanding how learning is interconnected with the societal contexts of work, interactions with others and power. This is of particular importance in this study that focuses on learning taking place in a group setting and among a target group often considered relatively powerless. Transformative learning has been central to this study, as it explores how change among learners comes about, however Mezirow’s (1991; 1997; 2000) work focuses mainly on individuals and does not explain how change comes about on collective levels.
Therefore Freire’s (1970; 1973) thoughts on transformation in the collective space and learning for societal change have formed a crucial complement to the theoretical framework of this study.
6.2.1 A constructivist approach to adult learning The underlying perspective of this research study is that learning is best accomplished using hands-on techniques, where learners experiment rather than being told what will happen. Thereby they themselves are left to make inferences, discoveries and conclusions, where new knowledge is integrated with old experiences. This constitutes a constructivist approach to learning, a theoretical framework generally attributed to Jean Piaget, who articulated mechanisms by which knowledge is constructed by the learner (Piaget 1950 in Jarvis 2003). Today, constructivist theories are influential throughout much of the so-called non-formal learning sector.
A central assumption in the constructivist paradigm is its emphasis on the role of the individual’s mental activity in her interaction with the environment (Bourgeois 2002), thus in contradiction to behaviourism where individual’s behaviours are attributed to external influences rather than mental mediation.
Piagetian constructivism is characterised by 1) the emphasis of the role of the mental construction of reality by the individual and 2) the construction of the cognitive structures that are mobilised in that mental activity, i.e. the way in which existing structures may be transformed into a new structure as a result of individual’s interaction with the environment (Bourgeois 2002).