Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) Manual
According to St. Lucia's National Agricultural Policy, the Government's core strategies to promote growth and socio-economic development involve the fostering of a commercialized and agri-entrepreneurial approach to farming. Towards this end, Government will pursue, among other policy measures, the strengthening of the agricultural research system and technology adoption, to ensure that policy and strategies are more responsive to farmers' needs.
Adoption of technologies is heavily influenced by the perceptions, knowledge, creativity and competence of farmers. Gender issues are also important factors that need to be considered. In effect, socio-cultural factors like these greatly influence decision-making, choices, actions and outcomes in the sector.
The FAO project which is geared towards: Assistance to improve agricultural production and productivity by promoting technology adaptation, duly recognizes the prevalence of less than adequate management of the land resource base, the presence of "diseased" soils, unsanitary farm conditions and consequent low agricultural productivity levels. Plant nutrition and plant health are indispensible to the process of realizing optimal productivity at the level of the farm household's cropping subsystems and also to the overall farming system of which they are a part. Historically, technology validation and transfer methodologies were mainly focused on the adoption of new techniques and practices. Little attention was paid to the constraints faced by farmers and their households or to the inherent mitigating factors within either the policy, bio-physical or socio-economic environment.
This manual takes account of the experience of the Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) exercise conducted by FAO in collaboration with the Extension Division within the Ministry of Agriculture, Lands, Fisheries and Forestry in St. Lucia in June 2009. The objective of this undertaking was to diagnose the constraints and opportunities related to the adoption of integrated soil management, plant nutrition and plant health systems. It therefore engaged key stakeholders in the assessment of resource endowments and availability and the intensity of production and productivity of selected farm models.
The training approach and materials in this manual records the methodologies to be employed in determining the situation, needs, constraints, motivation and opportunities for farmers and their households. This manual also presents the PRA "tools" that, if adopted, can greatly assist in identifying deep-seated problems, as well as opportunities which impact on the pace of technology adaptation and transfer within the agricultural sector of St. Lucia.