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«Edited by Helene Bie Lilleør and Ulrik Lund-Sørensen Practical Action Publishing Ltd The Schumacher Centre, Bourton on Dunsmore, Rugby, ...»

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thrown into a turbulent ocean. The many new ‘stones’ in the RIPAT basket of options therefore affect household and gender dynamics in unexpected ways that can both weaken and strengthen women and their abilities to act and to care for the family. In this chapter we have attempted to describe the troubled water of women’s social lives and to give examples of how items in the basket of options may be selected by women and become tools in their attempts to navigate through these waters. When we look at what people actually do in their everyday lives, rather than at what they fail to do, we observe them to be creative social agents, and see evidence of social synergies that RECODA and the designers of the RIPAT projects had not anticipated.

The main points of the chapter are, firstly, that households are not homogeneous units and there are many – often conflicting – interests at stake within them. They are composed of people of different ages growing up and growing older, moving in and moving out. The RIPAT experience shows that it is important to involve both men and women, but not necessarily the household as a unit, and consideration should also be given to whether households are the most appropriate unit when it comes to measuring the impact of an intervention. Secondly, farming and small-scale trade are both closely integrated into women’s lives. Some villages have more success than others in keeping cash flows within the village. Thirdly, negotiations over men’s and women’s rights and responsibilities are always in a state of flux, and at present men are trying to take over the banana, which was traditionally a woman’s crop but which is now turning into an important cash crop. It is not yet clear what the outcome will be of these negotiations over the rights to the banana crop, but it should be considered whether it is possible – and desirable – to try to support women in acquiring and keeping control over banana cultivation (and possibly also over other crops).

References Haram, L. (1999) Women out of Sight. Modern Women in Gendered Worlds: The Case of the Meru of Northern Tanzania, PhD thesis, Department of Social Anthropology, University of Bergen, Bergen.

Mikkelsen, B. (1995) Methods for Development Work and Research: A New Guide for Practitioners, Sage Publications, New Delhi.

Swantz, M-L. (1985) Women in Development: A Creative Role Denied? The Case of Tanzania, C. Hurst and Company, London.

Talle, A. (1988) Women at a Loss: Changes in Maasai Pastoralism and their Effects on Gender Relations, Nalkas Förlag, Stockholm.

Weiss, B. (1996) The Making and Unmaking of the Haya Lived World, Duke University Press, Durham, NC.

CHAPTER 8 The RIPAT groups Helene Bie Lilleør, Rockwool Foundation Research Unit, and Eva Kaas Pedersen, Department of Anthropology at the University of Copenhagen 92 Farmers’ ChoiCe This chapter takes a brief look at the role and characteristics of the RIPAT farmer groups, as they constitute a crucial component of the intervention. The targeting of the ‘lower middle-class farmer’ seems to have been a good choice, as wealthier farmers are more likely to leave the farmer groups prior to project completion. However, farmers who are the sole adults in their household are also more likely to drop out. This accords with the fact that the majority of group dropouts report having left the RIPAT groups because they found the group work too demanding. Even so, the majority of the original RIPAT 1 participants declare themselves still to be group members, and 13 out of the original 16 RIPAT 1 groups are still active in the sense that they continue to make joint agricultural investments.

8.1 Introduction The establishment and use of farmer groups as an entry point for technology transfer through participatory learning methods are crucial components of the RIPAT project design. The groups and the common group fields are intended to function as valuable and cost-effective demonstration sites for the implementation of new agricultural technologies. In the RIPAT concept, groups are viewed as providing suitable mechanisms for spreading agricultural technologies to the rest of the community, as the group field serves as a persuasive example of good agricultural practice that can inspire other villagers.

The use of farmer groups was largely driven by a pragmatic approach to achieving the objective of ‘closing the technology gap’ rather than by an adherence to existing participatory extension approaches such as the classic Farmer Field School (FFS) methodology.

That said, the RIPAT groups developed into farmer groups with many similarities to those of FFS groups. For instance, RECODA also used the RIPAT groups to focus on factors such as the mobilization and empowerment of group members to enhance both their individual and their collective power within their communities. Chapter 7 thus argues that the support of the groups gives female group members more power to act freely in their everyday lives, and Chapter 9 stresses the supportive function of the groups in terms of strengthening RIPAT farmers’ negotiating power with village authorities.

Furthermore, as the RIPAT projects have progressed, some RIPAT groups have taken on an additional function as savings groups. These increase the degree of financial freedom among the individual members, as described in Chapter 9.

The farmer groups are therefore not only a useful tool in the work of introducing, adapting, and spreading the new agricultural technologies and components of the RIPAT basket of options in the targeted villages; they have also come to play a role in the everyday lives of their members and their communities. In this chapter we consider in more detail how the groups were formed, and by whom. We analyse what characterizes those original RIPAT 1 farmers who have decided to leave the group. We look at the benefits of being in a group and at the role of the groups in village communities. Finally, we discuss which group characteristics seem to be of importance for their long-term sustainability by comparing active with inactive groups. In doing this, we draw on the findings from the qualitative context and adoption study, and we revisit the quantitative impact survey data, which is based on interviews with both households and RIPAT group representatives (see Chapter 3, Section 3.4).

The riPaT grouPs

8.2 The main selection criteria in the formation of the groups RIPAT group members were selected on the basis of age, gender, land ownership, physical ability, and social status. As described in Chapter 2, Section 2.3, RECODA facilitated group formation through village governments, in order to help in establishing local ownership. The village governments were therefore asked to form groups (two in each village) consisting of farmers who complied with a list of criteria. Participants were to be voluntary and committed to the project; they should have a reasonable amount of land to cultivate themselves (at least 1 acre), though not too much land (for later projects a 5-acre maximum was applied), as the target group was lower middle-class, small-scale farmers; they should not be rich in terms of their wealth ranking in the village; they should be willing and able to share the new ideas with others and to learn from others, which meant that they had to be integrated members of the community. Furthermore, the village governments were asked to create the groups in such a way that there was an equal number of men and women in each group, or more women than men. Only one person per household could participate in the group. Although not explicitly stated in the criteria, RECODA staff have mentioned in interviews with the researchers that it was expected that group members should not hold leading positions in the village; in reality, the wealth ranking was probably the objective criterion that avoided this from happening.

The aim of these selection criteria was to create groups consisting of lower middleclass, small-scale farmers, who nevertheless had access to some land that they could use for agriculture and who were in good enough physical shape to enable them to take an active part in the group work, whatever their age. This meant that the most deprived members of the local community, such as landless or sick people, were deliberately excluded from the target group because they would lack the resources necessary to learn, adopt, and spread the new technologies.

Another aim of the criteria was to create the best chance for the successful spread of technologies, because RECODA relied on the participating farmers to disseminate their new knowledge to their fellow villagers. To this end, it was a requirement that the group members should be well respected in their village societies. As a RECODA staff member explained: ‘We need socially acceptable people; someone who wants to make a step in their life and somebody who is ready and willing to share, to train and teach others. So “socially acceptable” means someone who works well with others in the village and whom the other villagers respect and are willing to learn from.’ Last but not least, the selection criteria had the aim of helping to balance power in the community and improving the position of women in society, by making sure that none of the group members were among the wealthiest in the community, and that at least 50 per cent of the group members were women.

In general, it seems that RECODA was largely successful in guiding the village governments in the group formation process. However, visits to and interviews with RIPAT 1 groups revealed some variation in group composition from village to village, indicating that the various village governments may have interpreted and prioritized RECODA’s selection criteria differently in organizing the groups. The quantitative impact survey data suggest that among RIPAT 1 groups there was a reasonable gender balance (45 per cent women), and also that there was a reasonable distribution of group membership across age groups. It appears that the lower middle class of small-scale farmers was largely captured as intended. However, not all households complied with 94 Farmers’ ChoiCe the ‘not more than 5 acres of land’ criterion. There are a few instances of farmers with less than 1 acre of land in RIPAT groups, but almost 21 per cent of the RIPAT 1 group members owned more than 5 acres in 2006. This proportion was reduced to 14 per cent in the case of RIPAT 3 group members, where the land criterion was made more specific.

In addition, one should keep in mind that the selection criteria were to some extent contradictory. On one hand, having more than 5 acres of land goes against RECODA’s land ownership criteria. On the other hand, including the better-off farmers might be seen as an effort on the part of the village government to include respected villagers in the group, thus enhancing the potential for spreading technologies and perceptions among fellow villagers. As such, the inconsistency observed becomes a matter of interpretation and adaptation to the needs and interests of the village government. Different village governments have different interests in the project and might interpret the targeting criteria differently. It is not possible to envisage whether a more strict compliance with the target criteria would have made the project more or less successful, and any attempt to do so would be mere speculation. However, letting the respective village governments choose the group members was not just a matter of practicality; it was also a matter of leaving the targeted villages in charge of their own development. As a member of the RECODA staff explained: ‘We don’t choose – the village government does that, because the groups are taken care of by the village government. It is their mandate to make sure that the groups continue and survive, not ours. Our responsibility is to “bridge the technology gap”, but we need to work hand in hand with the local government and let them be part of their own progress.’ From visits to the villages, it is clear that some village leaders have taken this concept of village ownership of the RIPAT project seriously and, as we shall see, the sense of local village ownership has played an important role in the support given to groups and thus the long-term sustainability of those groups.

8.3 Who leaves the groups and why?

When the RIPAT 1 groups were set up in 2006, a total of 16 groups were constituted in the eight target villages. These groups had an average of 33 members each. Of the 16 original groups, 15 were still active after the first year; 14 groups completed the planned three-year RIPAT programme in January 2010; and in January 2011, 13 of these groups were still active, in the sense that they had sold crops harvested from their group fields in the previous 12 months and/or they reported having plans for making joint additional agricultural investments in the coming year, either by planting more bananas or by purchasing more land. This willingness to invest collectively shown by the large majority of the original 16 groups indicates that gains continue to be made from joint group activities, and this seems promising for the longer-term sustainability of the groups.

Such gains do not come without an effort, however. Group members are required to attend meetings and to work the common plot, and by 2011, one year after project completion, 25–35 per cent of the original RIPAT 1 farmers had left their groups.1 According to the quantitative household survey, dropout rates peaked when RECODA’s involvement ended in 2009, at which point almost two-thirds of all exits from the project took place. It is worth mentioning that the RIPAT 1 project was advertised as a three-year project and there was a graduation ceremony in January 2010 after the project’s completion. Farmers were not obliged to participate in group activities after that, The riPaT grouPs some years of schooling, and are more likely to be women. Again, adoption of the improved banana technology lowers the probability of having left the group prior to project completion considerably.

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