“PAR Methodologies for the 21st Century” Sandra Kruger
Presented by Sandra Kruger, Director, Sandra Kruger & Associates, South Africa
On April 22, 2011, Sandra Kruger, Director of Sandra Kruger & Associates (SKA), presented “PAR methodologies for the 21st Century” to CFAT faculty, students, and associates.
SKA is a South African training service provider specializing in agricultural standards and certification. Ms. Kruger possesses a Master’s in Land and Agrarian Reform from the Institute of Poverty Land, and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS) at the University of the Western Cape. Her research examines the socio-economic conditions and opportunities of Southern African farmers and farmworkers, with specific focus on Fair Trade and Black Economic Empowerment.
Ms. Kruger recently collaborated with CFAT to design and implement a market-access training project in South Africa’s emerging Rooibos tea sector. Funded by USAID’s Horticulture Collaborative Research Support Program (HortCRSP), this project pursued a unique approach to capacity building by integrating participatory action research into every program component. The objective was to provide producers with critical tools and skills needed to access specialty markets like Fair Trade.
In this seminar, Ms. Kruger (1) outlined the South African and emerging farmer contexts, (2) highlighted project background, objectives, and activities (3) problematized the challenges and opportunities of developing an integrated methodological approach, (4) explored lessons learned, and (5) opened a discussion on questions concerning participation, impact, and sustainability.
Ms. Kruger first highlighted the persistence of extreme socio-economic inequality. While South African legislation is progressive, implementation is weak and social change slow to occur. The contentious question of land and agrarian reform lies at the heart of this issue. Emerging farmers are classified as “emerging” due to historical land and market marginalization. They are predominantly smallholders and tenure security remains a major concern, particularly within the Rooibos industry where very few farmers own land.
In recent years, the Rooibos sector has witnessed a proliferation of production and market standards and certification and emerging farmers have sought to take advantage of the Fair Trade system. Despite some successes, market opportunities have been stymied for the majority due to cooperative conflict and de-certification, lack of adequate industry-level representation, and falling conventional prices.
To effectively involve emerging farmers and sustain change, Ms. Kruger stressed the importance of focusing on method rather than topic. Instead of prioritizing Fair Trade, this project focused on leadership development. Engagement began with community workshops to assess capabilities, identify training needs, and elect farmer leaders for in-depth involvement. Project methodology was cyclical and participatory rather than linear and hierarchical.
Multilevel and participatory project evaluation allowed implementers to aggregate outcomes. Project successes included enhanced farmer leader capabilities and confidence levels. Leaders have expanded ties with industry and organizational actors and are in the process of formalizing an Emerging Farmer Working Group within the South African Rooibos Council. A primary question now facing project implementers is how to remain connected and sustain project momentum into the future. Ms. Kruger concluded by arguing the need for development and donor communities to develop a more complex understanding of participation, impact, and sustainability so as to more effectively address ongoing knowledge and resource inequalities.