Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) broadly aims at enabling the people to assemble together, analyze their past, examine their present and envisage their future by assessing their socioeconomic and geographic situation, identifying their problems, exploring locally available resources, hammering out feasible and achievable solutions and formulating community action realizable during certain time span.
The acronym PRA( Participatory Rural Appraisal) may look misleading at first because it includes “Rural” although it can be applied to an urban environment as well as the rural situation and because it implies “Appraisal” or “Assessment” even though it can be carries out beyond the assessment stage on to action planning and project design.
What is consistent is that the process is characterized and driven by “Participatory” action by the involvement of the members of a community (rural or urban) or the participation of members of an organization. PRA emphasizes giving a voice to those who are not usually heard.
Key Aspects of PRA
Local people’s input into PRA activities is essentials to its value as a research and planning method and as a means for diffusing the participatory approach to development
To the extent that reliability of PRA data relies on informal interaction and brainstorming, perspective and knowledge of the area’s conditions, traditions and social structure and individuals with a complementary mix of disciplinary backgrounds and experience. A well balanced team will represent the diversity of socioeconomic, cultural gender and generational perspectives.
PRA does not provide blue prints for its practitioners. The combination of techniques that is appropriate in a particular development context will be determined bu such variables as size and skills of the PRA team, the time and resources available and the time and topic of the work as well as the issues that freely flows out of the participants.
- Optimal ignorance
To be efficient in both time and money. PRA wok intends to gather just enough information to make the necessary recommendations and decisions.
PRA works with qualitative data. To ensure that the information is valid and reliable PRA Teams follow the rile of the thumb that at least three sources must be consulted or techniques must be consulted or techniques must be used to investigate the same topic.
PRA is a tool for structures planning. A plan evolves from PRA and from a plan, a development program may be drawn which determines the various projects required to achieve the goals that evolved as a result of PRA.
There are four main stages leading to community development planning:
- Needs identification through information sharing, gathering and analysis an important application of PRA and situational analysis
- Planing – are needs based and are structured derivatives of PRA or Situational analysis
- Programming – based on a development plan formulated as a result of the needs identified during the PRA Situational analysis.
- Project stage where projects are designed within the framework
- Project stage where projects are designed within the framework of the programs set out in the plan. Projects are designed, drawn and submitted for approval and funding. Projects provide the final mechanism for the achievement of the goals set out in the plan. Monitoring and Evaluation are essential components of any project.
PRA is an exercise in communication and transfer of knowledge Regardless of whether it is carried out as part of project identification or appraisal or as part of a country economic and sector work the learning -by doing and participatory spirit of PRA requires transparent procedures.
For that reason a series of open meetings (an initial) open meeting and a follow up meeting) generally frame the sequence of PRA activities. There are many methods and approaches to participatory appraisal and its use depends on the objectives of the exercise, its clientele, location, time and situation.