26. Participatory education and grassroots development: the case of rural appalachia.
Gatekeeper Series No. 25; IIED, 3 Endsleigh Street, London WC1H ODD, UK, 1991, 13 p.
The failure of the traditional trickle-down methods of development is now well documented. Though better recognized in Third World countries, it is also central to the steady erosion of livelihoods in rural, resource-poor regions of the industrialized countries. Perhaps nowhere is it more evident than in rural Appalachian communities of the United States of America.
The Appalachian region refers to the mountainous region in the middle eastern part of the United States, stretching from as far north as western New York state, and running through parts of Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia down to Alabama and Missisippi.
Historically, the region has contained some of the poorest socio-economic conditions of any region in the country. It is one of the least developed in the United States in factors including agriculture, unemployment, housing, urbanization, poverty, economic diversity, etc.
The economic crisis in the egion poses a crisis for traditional economic development policy. Historically, the development model for the region has been based on creating a favourable 'business climate', which in turn could be used to lure industry into the region. In the name of maintaining the business climate, workers received low-wages, and communities provided tax and other concessions to industry. Based upon a traditional understanding of 'trickle down' economics, the assumption was that what was good for business was good for communities and local livelihoods. To some extent, within its own definitions of success, the 'business climates' model of development worked. Thousands of industrial plants came to the region. The overall standard of living grew.
A number of methods were used which were similar to those employed in participatory research and extension approaches such as Rapid Rural Appraisal, Rapid Assessment Procedures, and Farmer Participatory Research. A central point was the emphasis upon the development of peoples' knowledge, and peoples' research and analysis as an important part of the process of beginning to reverse the pattern of dependence upon external economic forces. These methods include those described below:
- Oral histories
The definition of successful development expands to include criterion broader than jobs and income, but also community participation, democratic participation and dignity. Community development - economic, cultural and social - flowers when people value themselves and their neighbours, and begin to work together in common endeavours.
As important as these may be, these case studies and the experience suggest a broader view, especially if one is interested in participatory development. In the latter approach, the development of 'infrastructure' includes human development, an education for creativity, regaining and understanding popular knowledge and history, democratic decision-making, and consciousness of religous and political symbols. With this investment, people can become better equipped to rebuild their own communities and economies.
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Farming systems research and development
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