DFID Policy Project: Developing participatory rural appraisal approaches with disabled people. A pilot project by Disability Development Services Pursat (DDSP) in Pursat province, Cambodia


The inspiration for this research project was the recognition of flaws in DDSP's prior experience of so-called participatory research with disabled people in Pursat. DDSP, like many other community development NGOs, aims to empower its target population in the development process, which can in part be achieved through realising the target population's genuine participation in assessing the community's needs. Disabled people are often the most marginalised people in the community and enabling their participation in community assessments presents additional challenges. Experience from other NGOs suggested that disabled people were similarly excluded from community assessments even though approaches used were described as 'participatory', eg. participatory rural appraisal (PRA). PRAs were too dominated by well-educated, mostly urban NGO staff and local authorities, while the voices of rural disabled people were not sufficiently heard.

The goal of the research project was to examine rural disabled people's role in all stages of a PRA exercise. The project aimed to maximise the control of the research process by rural disabled people and the participation of disabled people in village PRA activities. The project assessed the implementing team's performance in gaining PRA skills and facilitating PRA activities, and the village disabled people's participation in these activities. Recommendations were made on training rural disabled people in PRA, improving their facilitation of PRA exercises and increasing the participation of all disabled people (including women, children and people with severe disabilities) in the exercises. A secondary goal of the research project was to collect useful data from the PRA which DDSP could incorporate into its action plans for the villages involved.

The research project appointed a 'PRA team' to plan, coordinate and facilitate the PRA exercises. The majority of the team-members were inexperienced, uneducated rural people with severe disabilities such as paraplegia, double leg amputation and learning difficulties (it was possibly the first research project in Cambodia to include a person with learning difficulties in the implementing team). The team planned and implemented a complete PRA process, including training in PRA, planning and design of the PRA, fieldwork, monitoring and evaluation, presentation of the results, and visiting other NGOs to learn about their PRA practice.

The research took place in Pursat province, a poor, mostly rural province of western Cambodia. PRA fieldwork took place in three villages over a period of two weeks. Two of the villages were in very remote parts of the province and one of them has only recently been demined.

A 4-page executive summary is available as well as the full report.


Disability Knowledge and Research Programme, 69 pp.

Published 1 January 2005