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3. Conventional wisdom and popular participation in development planning

Recent national development plans, international assistance strategies and development literature emphasize the importance of local participation in development activities aimed at ameliorating poverty. Indeed, the very magnitude of the task of poverty eradication under an immense variety of sociocultural and ecological conditions, makes local participation and selfhelp projects imperative. In the transformational approach to development, predicated as it is on building on existing local resource systems, the involvement in planning and implementation of ythe local population who will be affected by transformation and change is a sine qua non for success, since, for the most part, regional and national planners and decision-makers have little or no systematic information on which to base their planning for marginal areas. Without popular participation and an understanding of the time-honoured "conventional wisdom" that underlies traditional practices, an accurate understanding of the components and functions of resource systems within communities and regions is impossible, since most resource systems invariably involve great complexity and high degrees of technological sophistication, most of which is either unfamiliar to or unappreciated by development planners in central and regional governments. Moreover, popular participation in the planning and implementation of local development projects has the potential for developing latent skills and talents among rural populations, for, as Johnson argues, "many poor countries . . . are poor because they have failed to release the full creative potentials of their great masses."

Although proponents of the extension and training approaches claim that a two-way flow of information exists, the reality of most such situations is that information flows only from the top down; practitioners generally claim that client populations are neither able to diagnose their problems, nor formulate their needs, and that they are completely incapable of devising strategies for their own development.

Most of the resource systems for which decision-making information is required are at the subsistence level. The term "subsistence" evokes in the minds of many a basically uniform type of hard-scrabble peasant family farm from which food is procured by "primitive" hit-ormiss methods of cultivation, complemented by animal husbandry, fishing, hunting, and gathering. Generally, it is assumed that hard work, just to survive, is continuous; labour yields pitifully low returns, life is insecure, and dietary, nutritional, and health levels are abnormally inadequate. The subsistence farm is not thought to produce a marketable surplus, and the labour force lives largely outside the cash economy. A great many of those stereotypic notions are, in fact, incorrect. In terms of the type of indicators needed for decision-making, little is known about the content, structure, and ecology of subsistence. There is an urgent need to re-evaluate the productivity relationships among labour, technology, and natural and human resources, the capability of such systems to sustain human life over several generations and to produce food of an acceptable dietary quality. It is also imperative to assess the long-term ecological stability of particular systems and to analyse the potential of such systems for transformation into more highly productive, sustainable and environmentally conservative systems.

Traditional systems of resource use are ecologically adaptive in that they provide a sustained yield of renewable resources. Most artisanal fisheries, for example, employ a diverse and flexible technology that is well-adapted to the complex spatial and temporal heterogeneity of marginal environments. Sophisticated adaptation, together with a detailed knowledge of the local ecosystems, highly developed skills and social controls on the exploitation of resources, often results in high yield/effort ratios and a high degree of sustainability. But commercial fisheries in many parts of the tropics, for example, are showing an increasing reliance on the transfer of large-scale technologies and a high market demand unchecked by controls (this is particularly evident in peninsular Malaysia). As a consequence they are becoming more intensive, increasingly unstable and exhibit declining ratios of yield to effort. Almost nowhere are commercial fisheries based on the principle of sustained yield over a long time horizon, such as characterizes most traditional systems.

Yet equally clear is that it is impossible for modern commercial fisheries to adopt outright the techniques of traditional fishermen in order to achieve ecological stability, regardless of how well adapted and sophisticated they might be. Nevertheless, if the decline of commercial fisheries is to be halted throughout the tropics a method must be found to blend together the traditional, timehonoured techniques - and particularly those that ensure stability and sustained yield - of artisanal capture fisheries with the needs and advantages of commercial fisheries. If planners would study traditional fishing communities they might conclude that perhaps the most important role of aboriginal fisheries in the development of the tropical world is in providing guidelines for the design of small-scale, highly adaptable and sustained technologies and techniques for fisheries, particularly in the more fragile marine environments.

In the implementation of the Resource Systems Approach, popular participation in the planning effort is particularly important since the relevance and operation of elements, functions and structures of a particular resource system can probably never be adequately discerned by an external investigator working alone. Efforts to model resource systems are complicated, because of their extreme complexity. In general, it can be reasonably assumed that only subsystems and particular sets of relationships in a resource system will be adequately understood.Despite these inherent difficulties, which should not be underestimated, the examination of resource systems within an ecological matrix permits an understanding of some functional relationships linking and regulating interchanges. It will be of immense practical value for planning and decision making if the functional mechanisms or sets of variables which adapt a society to its environment can be measured. In this way, it may be possible to identify adaptive or maladaptive trends in resource systems.

Major operational and epistemological constraints inhibit the identification of components, structures and functions of natural ecosystems, and these difficulties are magnified when attempts are made to quantify resource systems. The flow of energy is a principal organizing characteristic of natural ecosystems and one which permits a distinction of resource systems. Moreover, energy flow is theoretically amenable to fairly precise measurement, but because of both the impracticalities of instrumentation and the overwhelming complexity of most systems, only a few "energy paths" can be measured in human societies, and between them and the biological and physical environment. From a small nucleus of measured and observed relationships, supplemented by estimates to assign empirical values to those which are missing, attempts are made to describe and explain systemic relationships. Often when the assumptions underlying the estimates are made explicit they are sometimes extensively flawed by cultural biases. A simple and yet profound problem arises from this use of Western models, taxonomies, and methods to measure energy flow in non-Western resource systems: researchers must fill in data gaps from their own cognitive appraisal of what constitutes the "whole system." Often the "system" appears to be simply an association of freefunctioning elements over which an investigator has imposed a unifying matrix.

In an effort to overcome some of the uncertainties regarding the content of resource systems, ethnoecology, as a branch of ethnoscience, has been advocated as an information source, since ethnotaxonomies can offer major tools for understanding a populations's perception of and use of renewable natural resources. It is important for the decision maker to realize that the perception of available resources and the nature of exploitative behaviour are, to a large extent, culturally influenced.

Apart from a number of methodological difficulties involved in attempting to use that approach to collect decision-making information, ethnoecology also suffers from an inability to describe ecological processes and environmental relationships which affect a people without their being aware of them. It can successfully describe "cognized environments". but is not a useful means for elucidating "latent function", which may. perhaps, be critical in understanding interactions between a particular subsistence system and its biological and physical environment. For an understanding of the ecological functions and consequences of the operation of such mechanisms decision-makers must supplement the ethnoecological approach with the methods of Western science, imperfect as they may be, for more fully comprehending resource systems.

Human perception of and response to the biological and physical environment is extremely complex and cannot be simply understood as a functional relationship between particular sets of stimuli and responses. Understanding of the perceptual bases of man's relationship to environment is still rudimentary, the methodology for probing this realm is still in its early stages, and no body of theory has yet been properly developed. In recognition of the need to develop better indicators about man's relationship with renewable natural resources and his perception of environment and natural hazard, there has arisen in many academic disciplines the belief that the human ecological approach can provide information for decision-makers, despite the difficulties of gathering and analyzing it.

In the concept of a resource system, environmental perception is embraced by the subsystem principally concerned with the processing of information from the environmental components of an ecosystem to the human system. In the practical context of a development project, a communictions model may be a useful means of both revealing the structure of the information subsystem and for analyzing the processes operating within it.

But, for the most part, the inhabitants of the marginal areas of developing countries have, historically, wielded little political clout with which to counter the power and influence of populations living elsewhere, in the "core" of the national territory. That populations of subsistence farmers and artisanal fishermen have little influence is particularly evident in the failure of planners and decision makers in developing countries to make use of peoples' accumulated wisdom on renewable resource use and environmental management. Such "wisdom", although granted it may sometimes not be particularly sophisticated or even always scientifically correct, is itself an important resource.

Although local particiption in the planning decisions for marginal areas is critical for their successful implementation, it is far from easy to operationalize, and in much of the developing world remains a high-sounding and empty phrase, since, in general, there is precious little intelligible communication among the various groups involved in development decision-making and planning processes. In most developing countries these processes are characterized by an appalling lack of communication, by misunderstandings, by the absence of common perceptions of problems and solutions at all levels, and often by conflicting personal ambitions. Differences arise among various divisions of the central government; between senior planners and administrators; between the central government and various regional authorities; among the branches of the regional government; between the regional government and the "grass roots level"; at the local level among different social groups, and between local elites and the rural masses.

The main problems preventing successful popular participation in local development occur at the local level and within central government bureaucracies. At the local level, agricultural extension and community development programmes have often been the vehicles selected to elicit popular participation. While paralyzing structural flaws have invariably restricted such efforts to only a small percentage of marginal area populations, individual, externally appointed "change agents" are responsible for much of the failure at the interpersonal level. Many local development projects are doomed to failure, given the change agents' a prioi attitude that traditional resource systems are inefficient, maladaptive, and unsophisticated, and that external, "modern systems" are superior. And being external to the local community, change agents usually work through local intermediaries, termed "opinion leaders." Not uncommonly, those identified by the change agent as opinion leaders are either poorly selected or, in reality, are not opinion leaders at all

Freire identifies another impediment to the success of rural development programmes, by arguing that inherent in the basic concept of development itself, however it may be defined in detail, is an element of colonialism or cultural invasion. In other words, planners generally aim at a total replacement of a time-honoured resource system, the parameters and variables of which are appreciated by the local population, by a system that is considered to be "modern" or "better", without the planners either understanding the traditional system or comprehending its potential for transformation. Not uncommonly, this may be perceived by local populations and popular participation may fail to emerge or be actively resisted because people do not want "development". Under such circumstances it is rather difficult "to make people want what they need".

The process of development is far from being neutral since it involves culture contact. which implies for some minority ethnic groups alien domination. Moreover, popular participation may involve, to some rural populations ways of thinking, varying degrees of subordination to a dominant culture, and an intensification or the generation of local social stratification or even the evolution of subcultures as the benefits of development accrue to superior groups rather than to the intended beneficiaries directly. "To many people", observes Pitt of the Samoans, "the loss of their local identity is more important than becoming wealthier and more developed. In addition, a greater emphasis may be placed on the quality of life . . . rather than on the quality of goods".


1 See for example F. Kluckhorn and F L. Strodtbeck. Variations in Value Orientations, Evanston,III: Row, Peterson, 1961; L. Minturn and W.W Lambert, Mothers of Six Cultures, Antecedents of Child Rearing, New York: Wiley, 1964; K Wexler and A K. Romney, "Individual Variations in Cognitive Structures," in A K Romney et al (eds ) Multidimensional Scaling, Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press, 1965; S A Freed and R.S Freed, "A Note on Regional Variation in Navajo Kinship Terminology," American Anthropologist, Vol 72 (1970), pp 1439-1443, G Sankoff, "Qualitative Analysis of Sharing and Variability in a Cognitive Model," Ethnology, Vol. 10 (1971), pp 389 408; and T Akimichi, "Individual Tuna Trolling Strategies and Transmission of Fishing Skills in a Local Community in Shimokita Peninsula," Joumal of Human Ergology, Vol 4 (1975), pp 83-101

2 A W. Johnson, "Individuality and Experimentation in Traditional Agriculture," Human Ecology, Vol 1 (1972), pp 149-159; and H J Rutz, "Individual Decisions and Functional Systems: Economic Rationality and Environmental Adaptation," American Ethnologist, Vol 4 (1977), pp 156 174.

3. See, for example, D. Aberle, "The Functional Prerequisites of a Society, " Ethics, Vol 60 (1950), pp. 100111.

4 PJ Pelto and G H Pelto, "Intra-Cultural Diversity: Some Theoretical Issues," Amencan Enthnologist, Vol 2 (19751, pp 1-18

5 J S Bennett, Northern Plainsmen: Adaptive Strategy and Agrarian Life, Chicago: Aldine, 1969

6 A Allard and B. McCay, "The Concept of Adaptation in Biology and Cultural Evolution," in J J Honigmann (ed ) Handbook of Social and Cultural Anthropology, Chicago: Rand McNally, 1974; and Rutz, op cit.

7 A P Vayda, War in Ecological Perspective Persistance, Change and Adaptive Processes in Three Oceanian Societies, New York: Plenum Press, 1976.

8 S J. Burki, "Sectoral Priorities for Meeting Basic Needs," in World Bank, Poverty and Basic Needs, (Washington: World Bank, 1980), pp 13-17

9 G S Becker, "A Theory of Social Interaction," Journal of Political Economy, Vol 82 (1974), pp 1063-1093; and G S Becker, "A Theory of the Allocation of Time," Economic Journal, Vol 75 (1965), pp 493-517; KJ Lancaster. "A New Approach to Consumer Theory," Journal of Political Economy, Vol 74 (1966), pp 132 157; R.E Evenson, ''Philippine Household Economics: An Introduction to the Symposium Papers, " The Philippine Economic Journal, Vol 17 (1978), pp 1-31; and Y Hayami, Anatomy of a Peasant Economy A Rice Village in the Philippines, Los Banos, Philippines: International Rice Research Institute, 1978

10 See K Ruddle, "A Preliminary Survey of Fish Cultivation in Ricefields With Special Reference to West Java. Indonesia," Bulletin of the National Museum of Ethnology (Japan) Vol 5 (1980), pp 801-822; and K Ruddle, "Traditional Integrated Farming Systems and Rural Development: The Example of Ricefield Fisheries in Southeast Asia," Agricultural Administration, 1982, Vol 10, pp 1-11

11 K Ruddle and R Chesterfield, "Change Perceived as Man-made Hazard in A Rural Environment," Development and Change, Vol 7 (1976), pp 311-330

12 M C B Szanton, A Right to Survive. Subsistence Marketing in a Low/and Philippine Town, (University Park, Pa The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1972), pp. 129-130

13 W L. Collier, H Hadikoesworo and M Malingreau, "Economic Development and Shared Poverty among Javanese Sea Fisherman," paper presented at Second Biennial Meeting of the Agricultural Economics Society of Southeast Asia, Tigbauan, Philippines, 1977

14 K Ruddle and W Manshard, Renewable Resources and the Environment: Pressing Problems in the Developing World, Tokyo and Dublin: The United Nations University and Tycooly, International Publishing Ltd., 1981.

15. Collier, op. cit., p. 7.

16. Ruddle and Chesterfield, op. cit

17. Bennett, op. cit. p 14.

18. B. McCay, "Systems Ecology, People Ecology and the Anthropology of Fishing Communities," Human Ecology, Vol. 6 (1978), pp 397 -422

19 M K Starr, Product Design and Decision Theory, Englewood Cliffs, N J.: Prentice Hall, 1963

20 W Edwards and A Tversky, Decision-Making, Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1967.

21. See S L. Savage, "The Theory of Statistical Decision," Joumal of the American Statistical Association. Vol. 46 (1951 I, pp 55 67 and M Lipton, "The Theory of the Optimizing Peasant." Journal of Development Studies, Vol. 4 (1968).

22. G Katona, The Psychological Analysis of Economic Behavior, New York: McGraw-Hill, 1951.

23 H .A Simon, Models of Man New York: Wiley, 1957.

24 C.L. Hull, The Behavior System. New York, Wiley, 1964.

25. H.A Simon, "Rational Choice and the Structure of the Environment," Psychological Review, Vol 63 (1956), pp. 129 138.

26 Simon, Models of Man op cit.

27 Johnson, The Organization of Space in Developing Countries, op cit., p. 144

28. Ruddle and Manshard, op. cit., p. 8

29 ". . the concept of a system embracing the totality of nature and culture is probably beyond the grasp of any one scholar or any scholarly discipline . Establishment of the functional character of a [particular] link [in a particular ecosystem! permits expansion into other components of a system." M W. Mikesell, "Cultural Ecology," in P. Bacon (ed ) Focus on Geography(Washington: National Council for the Social Sciences. 1970), pp 39 61.

30 The objective of ethnoecology is to present a particular society's view of the biophysical context in which it operates, and its own perspectives regarding behaviour appropriate to that context. See W.C. Sturtevant, "Studies in Ethnoscience." in A K. Rommey and R.D. d'Andrade (eds.) Transcultural Studies in Cognition, American Anthropologist Vol. 66 (1964) pp. 99 131.

31. A "cognized environment" is an environment as understood by those acting within it. "Latent functions," or consequences of behaviour are those either not intended or not recognized by the behaving people, according to R.K. Merton, Social Theory and Social Structure, Glencoe, Illinois: The Free Press, 1957. See also Ruddie and Chesterfield, op. cit.

32. Perception, a complicated field, can be briefly defined as the "complex process by which people select, organize and interpret sensory stimulation (both conscious and unconscious) into a meaningful and coherent picture of the world." It is doubtful that different people perceive identical stimuli in precisely the same way. The mechanisms of selection, organization and interpretation probably operate differently in terms of cultural, eductional and experiential variables. See R. Berelson and G.A. Steiner, Human Behavior: An Inventory of Scientific Findings, New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1976. Environment is taken to mean anything physical, of whatever origin. But it is one of these difficult terms which takes on quite different meanings within different disciplines Burton notes that "the breadth and complexity of the concept of environment are apparent. There is no knowledge or area of specialization that is not intimately concerned with environment. It may be seriously asked. therefore, if the concept is too broad to have any operational value. Like the term 'mankind' the term 'environment' signifies a concept but does not convey much information." See I. Burton, "The Quality of the Environment: A Review," Geographical Review. Vol. 58 (1968), pp 472-481.

33 Ruddle and Chesterfield, op. at.

34. Ibid

35. P. Freire, Education for Critical Consciousness, New York: The Seabury Press, 1973.

36. D.C. Pitt, "Development from Below," in D C. Pitt (ed.) Development From Below: Anthropologists and Development Situations (The Hague: Mouton, 1971), p. 15.

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