The Origins and Practice of Participatory Rural Appraisal

Chambers, R.
Publication language
Date published
01 Jan 1994
World Development 22(7)
Accountability and Participation, Participation, Capacity development, Development & humanitarian aid

This article describes the origins of participatory rapid appraisal (PRA), a family of approaches and methods for enabling local people to share, enhance, and analyse their knowledge of life and conditions, to plan, and to act. PRA has sources in activist participatory research, agroecosystem analysis, applied anthropology, field research on farming systems, and rapid rural appraisal. In rapid rural appraisal, information is more elicited and extracted by outsiders; in PRA it is more shared and owned by local people. Participatory methods include mapping and modelling, transect walks, matrix scoring, seasonal calendars, trend and change analysis, well-being and wealth ranking and grouping, and analytical diagramming. PRA applications include natural resources management, agriculture, poverty and social programs, and health and food security. Dominant behaviour by outsiders may explain why it took until the 1990s for the analytical capabilities of local people to be better recognised and for PRA to emerge, grow and spread.