Case Study on Communication for Development in Sustainable by maclaren1


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    Case Study on Communication for Development in Sustainable Agricultural and
                         Rural Development in the Near East
         Capacity Building, Training and Networking for mainstreaming ComDev

                                                 Ziad Moussa1,2

There are very direct implications for agricultural education in the area of human
resource capacity building since by definition the term (and the process) has education,
both formal and non-formal, at its core… It is based on the concept that education and
training lie at the heart of development efforts and that without HRD most development
interventions will be ineffective…

                                                            The Food and Agricultural Organization

     1. Introduction
Different global changes and social pressures are affecting the Research and Extension
environment of our world today. The literature about the topic is remarkably convergent
and relates these changes and pressures to the rapid spread of globalization, the spread of
Information Communications Technologies (ICT), the increasing divide between rich and
poor, the changing nature of the nation-state, the changing nature of the private sector,
ecological pressure, decentralization of services, explosion of media and the emergence
of new social actors.
This is translated into an increasing demand for information, skills and multi-stakeholders
participation as well as an increasing demand for new communication tools and methods
to facilitate the exchange of the information and skills and to catalyze and foster the
multi-stakeholders participation

     2. Communication for Development
Over the past 30 years, Communication for Development provided a powerful enabling
tool for information exchange processes. It witnessed a significant shift in paradigms,
moving its focus from the dissemination of information to a focus on understanding,
monitoring and facilitating community participation, and from informing and persuading
people to change their behaviours or attitudes, to a focus on facilitating exchanges
between different stakeholders to address a common problem

  Officer, Capacity Development and Outreach, Environment and Sustainable Development Unit, Faculty
of Agricultural and Food Sciences – American University of Beirut, 11-0236 Riad El Solh 110 12020
Beirut - LEBANON
  The author acknowledges with gratitude the input of Dr. Shadi Hamadeh, Coordinator of the Environment
and Sustainable Development Unit in the conceptualization and development of this paper and the
permission to use the Arsal case study as an example. The input of Mr. Mohammad Jamil fom Change
Facilitation International in providing additional insights and comments is also acknowledged with great
Draft-Prepared for the Technical Consultation on Communication for Development in the Near East: Experiences,
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The terminology used in defining Communication for Development varies among various
agencies and donors (UNDP, IDRC, World Bank, …), yet there are a number of shared
principles in all these definitions that were further emphasized during the “Ninth UN
Roundtable on Communication for Development” which was hosted by FAO in Rome in
September 2004. These principles stem from the “… belief that communication for
sustainable development is about people, who are the drivers of their own development.
It must therefore contribute to sustainable change for the benefit of the isolated and the
marginalized. Further, Communication for Development is a horizontal, two-way process
that is about people coming together to identify problems, agree on visions for desirable
futures, and empower the poorest. It is about the co-creation and sharing of knowledge. It
respects the local context, values and culture….”

    3. Capacity Development
Similarly, one can find numerous definitions of capacity development, each reflecting a
particular bias or orientation. Some describe capacity development as an approach or
process, e.g. towards improving the well-being of rural agricultural communities, while
others see it as a development objective, e.g. targeting the development of individual or
organizational capacity in delivering agricultural extension. Many definitions fall
somewhere in between these two perspectives and suggest that there is no single
approach or prescription (“one size fits all”) for Capacity Development
The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA, 2000) defines Capacity
Development as “the approaches, strategies and methodologies used by developing
country, and/or external stakeholders, to improve performance at the individual,
organizational, network/sector or broader system level”.           The term “Capacity
Development” intend to include such nuances as “strengthening”, “building”, “creation”,
etc… “Development” is used as the preferred generic term for all of these variants.
Capacity Development draws on the lessons of more than fifty years of experience and
has evolved through time into “approaches, strategies and methodologies” that are more
systematic, integrated, based on developing country ownership and focused more clearly
on sustainable results. Table A gives a time-line overview of the development of the
terminology and the concepts from the 1950‟s until nowadays.

                Table A - Evolving concepts related to Capacity Development
  (based on Morgan, 1993; Grindle, 1997; UNDP, 1997; Lusthaus, Adrien and Perstinger, 1999;
  Gunnarsson, 2001)

      Term          Emergence                                  Objective and focus
  Institution       1950s and        Objective: to equip developing countries with the basic inventory of
  Building          60s              public sector institutions that are required to manage a program of
                                     public investment.
                                     Focus: design and functioning of individual organizations, not broader
                                     environment or sector.
                                                 "Imported models from developed countries"
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    Institution     1960s and        Objective: shift from creating to strengthening institutions. Concern that
    Strengthening   70s              existing institutions were falling far short of expectations.
                                     Focus: still on individual organizations, not a broader perspective.
                                                    "Expected to help improve performance"
    Development     1970s            Objective: reach special public or target groups previously neglected.
    Management                       Focus: delivery systems of public programs and capacity of government
                                     to reach target groups
                                                       "Addressing the needs of the poor"
    Human           1970s and        Objective: development is about people.
    Resources       80s              Focus: Supply of professional and technical personnel.
                                                  "Emergence of people-centred development"
    Institutional   1980s and        Objective: shape national economic behaviour, attention to long term
    Development     90s              processes.
                                     Focus: broadened to sector level (government, NGO, private) including
                                     networks and external environment
                                          "Emergence of the issue of governance and sustainability"

When trying to read the time-line provided in Table A from an Agriculture Extension
perspective, one can clearly situate the shifts in paradigms and methods from the early
days of the Technology Transfer and Extension (60‟s and 70‟s), to the Integrated Rural
Development approach (70‟s and early 80‟s), Farming Systems Research and the
Training & Visit approach (80‟s onwards) which matured later in the 90‟s until nowadays
into Farmer‟s Field Schools (FFS) and Agricultural Knowledge and Information Systems

     4. Evolution of Capacity Development
The evolution at the Capacity Development and Agricultural Extension fronts was
matched by a parallel evolution on the participation front, derived from the core paradigm
of “Putting People at the Center”. Yet the emergence of participation as an issue to be
addressed within extension approaches was slower in coming to the forefront, as
compared to the attention participation received within research systems. One key
element of participation is an emphasis on developing the capacity of local people as an
end in itself, as opposed to the purely mechanistic emphasis of participation as a means
within research and extension programs3. Table B situates farmer participation in a
comparative context of previous and existing research-extension paradigms.

 Participatory Research and Development for Sustainable Agriculture and Natural Resources Management:
A Sourcebook, IDRC (2003) Chapter 3 by Scott Killough
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Table B - Farmer-Led Extension Approach within Research-Extension Paradigms

         Indicative paradigm                 Technology development               Technology dissemination
             parameters                            (research)                           (extension)
     Processes with outsiders as           Conventional research;                 Transfer of technology;
     major protagonists                    farming systems research               conventional extension;
                                                                                  farming systems
     Processes with insiders as            Indigenous technical                   Indigenous communication
     major protagonists                    knowledge; indigenous                  networks; farmer-to-farmer
                                           experts; farmer innovators             extension
     Processes with insiders as            Farmer participatory research;         Participatory extension;
     major protagonists, but               participatory technology               farmer-led extension
     supported by outsiders                development

What insights can we raise through the e-forum and the Consultation concerning
the evolutions and trends provided in Tables A & B? What are the trends in MENA
from the practitioners and country perspectives?

    5. Conceptual Framework for Capacity Development
Capacity Development is hence a long-term learning process that is integrated, multi-
faceted, and systemic and which implies interventions with four groups of major
actors/levels: Individual level, organizational level, Sector/Network level and the
enabling environment level. Figure 1 summarizes the interconnectedness between these
o At the individual level, capacity development involves changing perceptions,
  assumptions, values, common sense, practical skills, relationships,… Change at the
  individual level should be contemplated as part of the broader framework. Too often,
  Agricultural Research and Extension projects have focused narrowly on training of
  individuals without giving adequate attention to organizational issues, broader
  processes of empowerment or relevant factors in the “enabling” environment.
                                                      o At the organizational level, capacity
                                                        development focuses on organizational
                                                        structures, processes, resources and
                                                        management issues. It involves changing
                                                        corporate       culture,    organizational
                                                        structures,      personnel      functions,
                                                        management systems, … Traditionally,
                                                        this has been the most common entry point
                                                        for bilateral donors. This level is
                                                        organically linked to the individual level
                                                        since organizational performance depends
                                                        on the availability, effective use and
                                                        motivations of individuals.
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o At the sector/network level, capacity development involves changing inter-
  organizational relations, institutional culture, assumptions and values, archetypes,
  paradigms, mind sets, philosophy, … Donor agencies are increasingly focusing their
  investments at this level, especially that change at the sector/network level can be
  very challenging due to competing organizational priorities, lack of coordination
  among related initiatives, or simply a lack of capacity. On the other hand, reforms at
  this level can contribute significantly to synergies and promote more effective use of
  existing capacities.
o The enabling environment represents the broad context within which development
  processes are taking place. Experience suggests that this environment may in fact be
  either enabling or constraining, or possibly a mix of both. For example, poorly
  conceived agricultural policies would create a “disabling” environment with
  significant consequences for extension programs. Time is a critical factor at this level
  taking into consideration the nature of the issues being addressed. While not all
  capacity development initiatives will seek to effect change in the enabling
  environment, they will need to be sensitive to factors which may have a positive or
  negative on initiatives which are focused primarily on the organizational, sectoral or
  individual level.
o The diagonal axis in the accompanying framework highlights the importance of the
  links among the various capacity dimensions and the importance of thinking in
  multi-dimensional terms. It helps in assessing opportunities and constraints at various
  levels, their potential impact on one another, in order to determine the most
  appropriate level(s) or type(s) of intervention. In essence, the framework emphasizes
  the importance of understanding the „problem‟ in its full dimensions, systematic
  analysis of opportunities and constraints, identification of windows of opportunity
  and promotion of strategic and integrated responses.
Capacity development should not be conceived as necessarily involving formal projects
or activities with specific capacity development objectives. Capacity development also
takes place through learning by doing, participation, observation, comparison of
experience,… It can be an important spin-off or by-product of the way in which
development, extension or research is done.
What are the formal Capacity Development projects or the learning by doing
activities which target the 4 levels/sectors mentioned in relation to mainstreaming
ComDev at the MENA level?

    6. Capacity Development and Communication for Development in the MENA
Although Agricultural Researchers and Extension practitioners in MENA are
increasingly aware of the potentials and synergies of Communication for Development in
their work, significant efforts are still needed in mainstreaming it at the 4 spheres of
influence listed above and more particularly from a Capacity Development perspective.
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An extensive online research in preparation for this paper revealed that only few
stakeholders in MENA have a clear Capacity Development component related to
Communication for Development within their programs. Apart from FAO, we could only
identify the Environment and Sustainable Development Unit (ESDU) of the Faculty of
Agricultural and Food Sciences of the American University of Beirut (AUB) – Lebanon
and the Center for Development Studies (CDS) of the Near East Foundation in Egypt.
This is further confirmed by analyzing the MENA presence at the Ninth UN Roundtable
on Communication for Development (Italy, September 2004) where only FAO, CDS and
ESDU were represented.
A search of the journal database of the Jaffet Library of the American University of
Beirut – one of the most comprehensive scientific libraries in the Middle East - revealed a
marked scarcity in scientific publications related to Communication for Development in
MENA, as we were able to identify around 20 articles and some chapters books about the
topic, most of them published by researchers from AUB/ESDU. The search in FAO,
UNDP and IDRC repositories returned few conference proceedings and regional
consultations about Research and Extension and fewer other references specifically about
Communication for Development (a workshop which was held in Jordan in 1997 about
developing Arabic material for PRA organized by CDS and another workshop organized
in 2001 by IDRC in Cairo on Participatory Development Communication).
Some of the reference books we could find in Arabic on Communication for
Development were the Arabic translation of IDRC‟s “From Information Dissemination to
the Participation of the Community: A Guide to Participatory Development
Communication” and a translation of the book “Our World, Our Voice, Our Media:
Community Media Experiences and Skills” (Praxis/Voices) which contains several case
studies about MENA. Both books were translated and published by CDS. Another book
which has been out very recently is entitled “Research for Development in the Dry Arab
Region: The Cactus Flower” by Hamadeh, Zurayk and Haidar (IDRC/Southbound,
March 2006) with an Arabic version of the book due in the summer of 2006. The 3
authors of the book are researchers at AUB/ESDU

This section needs to be complemented with the insights that will be raised during
the e-discussion and the regional consultation. Any suggestion/contribution is highly

    7. Case Study
One of the major livelihood sources of the author of this paper is training/facilitation in
development management and participatory approaches to development, with some 80
solid days of training delivered every year in MENA but also in some 20 other countries
throughout the world. The final version of this paper will definitely include reflections
and lessons learned from training-based capacity development initiatives with
international agencies such as IFAD, IDRC and the European Union, yet for the e-forum
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and the Regional Consultation, a case study from the “Sustainable Use of Marginal
Lands in Arsal” has been privileged.
The case study is intended to highlight the complexity and the inter-dependence of the
different factors listed in the various sections of this paper, and to reinforce the idea that
Capacity Development is not just workshops and formal trainings.
The extracts below are adapted from the book “Research for Development in the Dry
Arab Region: The Cactus Flower” by Hamadeh, S. Zurayk, R. and Haidar, M.
(IDRC/Southbound, March 2006)
    7.1 Putting the Case Study in the Context
Sustainable Use of Marginal Lands in Arsal project is a participatory action research
project funded primarily by IDRC and that was designed in response to the identification
of conflicts over the use of limited and degraded land and water resources on
communally managed lands in north-eastern Lebanon. The most important conflict, dated
back some 30 years ago when one member of the community experimented in growing
fruit trees in what was traditionally a pastoral grazing area. The experiment worked and
spread. Enclosure of fruit growing parcels soon became a source of conflict between fruit
growers and pastoralists, who increasingly witnessed restrictions on the movement of
their flocks and limited access to some of their best pastures. A number of community
development constraints were identified, largely linked to Arsal‟s isolation: lack of access
to agricultural extension knowledge and services as well as markets for fruit products and
women‟s handicrafts, in addition to poor soil conditions, limited access to water and loss
of biodiversity. The research team embarked enthusiastically on the project to help solve
some of these issues. As time passed, a number of actions were implemented, such as the
creation of a Local Users Network (LUN), an innovative participatory development
platform between the community, researchers, decision makers, and other development
actors… A major development resulting from the project was the creation in 2001 of a
new multi-disciplinary group at the American University of Beirut, the Environment and
Sustainable Development Unit (ESDU) which pools together expertise from the
university and elsewhere to deliver programs in research, education, training and
    7.2 Capacity Development at the Community Level
The interactive process (implemented by the project) helped ARDA (The Association for
Rural Development in Arsal, one of the key stakeholders at the community level) -
among other local players - to develop its capacity as a partner in research and
development. Members were trained to conduct various surveys and appraisals needed in
the project. Network members were trained in participatory research methodologies such
as participatory rural appraisal and farming systems analysis. They were actively
involved in research, surveys and on-farm trials. Through this capacity-building process,
ARDA built itself into a local incubator for two cooperatives that were established and
provided them with space as well as logistics and technical support. Moreover, it
acquired a national reputation via its active involvement in many national networks. Its
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regional moment of fame came through its exposure to the Mashreq-Maghreb project
coordinated by ICARDA.
The project facilitated the establishment of two cooperatives, one for herders, and another
for women involved in food processing and handicrafts production. The cooperatives
provided the institutional frameworks needed to translate research findings into economic
development and sociopolitical empowerment.
Women and herders are marginal groups in society. Their participation in cooperatives
gives them the framework to communicate with decision makers and a channel through
which to express their needs and to work on satisfying these needs. Today, only a few
years after it was founded, the herder‟s cooperative has become independent from the
project and is extremely active in development issues. For instance, it is participating in
nationwide initiatives such as National Action Program for Combating Desertification.
The institutional capacity building promoted a more democratic approach to decision
making, in sharp contrast to the centralized approach to both research and political
decision-making in Lebanon. At the national level, community-based resource
management, almost unknown in Lebanon prior to the project, became a model for LARI
(Lebanese Agricultural Research Institute) and other government agencies. The Aarsal
model was copied, and several herders‟ cooperatives have been established in the Bekaa
valley and elsewhere…
Decision making in Lebanon is confined to the higher echelons of government
institutions, who communicate very poorly with their technical and field personnel
represented in LUN (the Local Users Network, another key participatory mechanism
implemented by the project). To overcome this problem, the network-initiated tools
specifically targeted at actual decision makers, such as newsletter, websites, conferences,
seminars and launches where decision makers were invited as keynote speakers. These
initiatives have produced tangible outputs, such as freezing the implementation of a
quarrying plan in Aarsal, which would have eaten up parts of the mountains and was
highly controversial within the community. Moreover, they have pushed dryland
development issues on government agendas.
    7.3 Capacity Development at the level of the research team
The development research experience of academic institutions in the Middle East is
generally weak. LUN helped build the capacity of the research team in participatory
action-centered research. It sharpened the inter-disciplinary thinking skills of the project
team and eventually helped shape their research agenda according to local needs. When
the project was initiated, responsibility for research outputs was distributed among
research scientists according to their specializations, such as soil and water scientists,
livestock and range specialists, nutrition and gender specialists…. The research results
seldom had a significant bearing on people‟s livelihoods, as they put resources rather than
people at the center. As communication evolved with LUN members, the need for a
people-centered integrative approach became more apparent. A new framework of action
– Sustainable Livelihoods – was adopted and formed the basis for planning and
implementing project activities.
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    7.4 Introducing Participatory Development Communication
The successes and hardships experienced by LUN led to a more basic question: is it
really possible to involve the community in a participatory manner while its traditional
systems of communication are breaking down under the pressure of a globalized world?
The phenomenon of parabolic dishes spreading all over the roofs of the poor villages in
the MENA region is of surreal dimension. The pastoralists of Arsal, living relics of the
ancient system, are no exception. Television sets travel with them in their tents. Long
foregone are the lively evening conversations, the traditional songs and chants.
Bombarded with all kinds of alien information, people sit in their tents perplexed, barely
talking to each other. They see their traditional way of living falter around them,
surrounded by unfriendly forces which they cannot grasp. Confronted with the outside
world, they become apprehensive or falsely accommodating.
It was in such a context that “participatory communication” was initiated with the
pastoralists of Arsal, one of the most marginalized groups in the Lebanese society. It took
four years of in-depth discussions with the project‟s rural scientist literally acting as
translator (from development jargon to traditional concepts) and the use of various
incentives to bring about a congruence in problem statements which could be resolved by
the means of the same solution: the establishment of a cooperative.
The communication of information, persuasion in the form of conversations and
negotiations, and even incentives were simply not enough to pass onto the pastoralists the
“enlightened solution” proposed by the project to the problems they were aware they had.
It took a whole 4 years of sweat, tears (caused by dust) and 10,000 vaccinated sheep and
goat to encrypt the new information into acquired knowledge that could relate to their old
system of values and practices. Only then could the knowledge be translated into action
and the cooperative could see the light…
Information can be disseminated; knowledge cannot. This issue is at the heart of any
participatory communication process. LUN, based on the traditional model, provided a
successful channel for communication. Knowledge was shared regardless of the cultural
origin of the members. This was what LUN was able to offer in a specific context and in
a specific time frame…
    7.5 Evolving research and development capacity
The influence of the project on researchers and donors was remarkable. The project was
quoted by many to have become the test case for using research to stimulate development
in rural areas. It was one of the first post-war projects at AUB to link research objectives
and research methods to community development. The project‟s influence culminated
with the creation of the Environment and sustainable Development Unit (ESDU).
There was a need to consolidate various research activities on natural resource
management and sustainable livelihoods at AUB into a semi-structured unit. The
existence of such a unit would greatly improve the capacity of the recipient institution to
streamline, manage and implement multidisciplinary research projects. In addition, such a
unit would act as a focal point for seeking funding, coordinating projects and integrating
research themes across disciplines. It would also provide greater support to the flow of
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information among scientists of different disciplines by creating linkages and networks
and preparing documents and reports. Lastly, the unit would insure the sustainability of
the project activities by developing mechanisms for the continuation of specific activities
ad for assessing long-term impacts beyond the lifetime of projects.
IDRC coordinated a visit by the project leader to major Canadian interdisciplinary
research centers to explore working models for the establishment of such a unit. Then a
proposal was submitted in a truly “bottom-up” approach and positively received by the
AUB administration. ESDU became functional in 2001 under the umbrella of the Faculty
of Agriculture and Food Sciences.
The young ESDU is already making its mark as a national and, more importantly, a
regional player, delivering research, education and training as well as outreach. Among
its achievements is a community development initiative launched to foster partnerships
between communities and development actors, including policy makers, donors, the
private sector, community-based organizations and NGOs. It has also launched a capacity
building network for community development to bring together scientists, policy makers,
development actors and donors in an effort to formulate integrated research and
development strategies for Lebanon. This project was conceived in view of the fact that,
although many development initiatives by local and international actors exist in Lebanon,
there is little coordination, limited experience, and minimal attention given to value
adding through collaborative actions. There is a lack of replicability, little attention to
cumulative experience, and minimal sharing of what works and what does not. Moreover,
the making of decisions and the formulation of policies seldom draw on the full range of
relevant knowledge, critical resources and overall capabilities.
Under the umbrella of this capacity building network, a specialized platform for natural
resource management was initiated. The objective of the natural resources platform is to
bring players currently active in natural resource management together in joint research
and development activities. It was agreed that Aarsal would be a pilot site for joint
efforts to promote sustainable village-based development. The platform also facilitated
the development of a local development agenda that was jointly agreed by all user groups
in the community: the municipality, NGOs, cooperatives and sectorial representatives.
Donors and policy makers also agreed to coordinate their efforts through the platform to
deal with issues in the agenda. Several interventions are now being implemented, one of
which focuses on assisting the local municipality in land use planning and land zoning for
grazing and quarrying activities. Moreover, support is provided to the municipality to
help it to initiate negotiations with the various user groups (fruit growers, herders, and
quarry operators) to reach a jointly agreed management plan for the land and to work
with the quarrying sector in particular on site rehabilitation as well as waste and water

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