Participatory Rapid Opportunities and Constraints Analysis

The AgWater Solutions project is developing and testing an approach known as Participatory Rapid Opportunities and Constraints Analysis (PROCA). PROCA provides a systematic analysis of different types of innovations (technology, policy, community empowerment) in order to identify solutions for improving agricultural water management and ultimately smallholder livelihoods.
Input from researchers, development practitioners, and stakeholders has gone into developing PROCA – to ensure it is practical and easy to use and that it yields relevant and actionable information.
Donors, ministries, investors and NGOs can use PROCA to: 
  • design and refine AWM investments or projects,
  • monitor and evaluate on-going projects to improve implementation, and
  • assess the impacts of completed projects. 
Putting PROCA into action
PROCA has three basic steps, which are described in more detail in the following section.
  1. Situation analysis and initial screening.
  2. In-depth study.
  3. Analysis of outscaling impacts.
The steps are not necessarily linear and not all may be needed to identify appropriate innovations – depending on whether the innovations under consideration are software (e.g., policy changes) or hardware (e.g., small-scale irrigation technologies) and how well tested they are. In addition, the steps can be adjusted to suit ex ante or ex post evaluation.
Table 1. The three interactive steps of PROCA
Step 1: Situational analysis & initial screening
identification & prioritization of possible AWM solutions
literature reviews, secondary data collection & analyses, brainstorming, surveys, workshops, gender mapping, priority setting using scoring and ranking techniques
impact potential, gender-equity, scale potential, implementation pathway (ex-ante)
menu of AWM solutions for detailed investigation
Step 2:
In-depth case studies
further evaluation of AWM solutions that passed step 1
field research,
access, economics, social and institutional dynamics, backwards linkages,
forward linkages, resource sustainability, externalities
proven AWM solutions for dissemination
 Step 3:
Analysis of outscaling impacts
analysis sustainability & externalities at larger scales
hydro-economic modeling, partial equilibrium analysis (e.g., cost benefit analysis, economic surplus analysis),
GIS /RS applications
concrete AWM investment options
Step 1: Situation analysis and initial screening
This step starts with making an inventory of existing initiatives, ideas and projects: Who is doing what? What approaches work and where? What are the factors that influence success or failure? The idea is to cast the net wide and look not only at technologies but also policy and management innovations.
Next, the resulting long list of possible AWM solutions must be screened using four key criteria (outlined in Box 1) to identify those that deserve a closer look. In the AgWater Solutions project, an important element in this process is the national consultation meeting where stakeholders make a first selection of promising solutions for their country. This national scoring and priority setting exercise not only facilitates rapid identification of the most appropriate AWM solutions, but also improves linkages among stakeholders and builds a spirit of collaboration.
Box 1. The four hurdles: Criteria for identifying promising solutions
Possible solutions are evaluated and compared according to four key criteria. These criteria can be thought of as hurdles that the possible solution must pass in order to qualify for the next step – in-depth evaluation. The four criteria are:
  • Contribution to smallholders’ livelihoods: it increases smallholder income, food security and household water availability and decreases drudgery, income fluctuation and risk.
  • Gender and equity considerations: it benefits women as well as men; it does not place an undue burden on women or children (e.g., by increasing the labor required of them); and it does not increase income disparity in a community.
  • Out-scalability: it has the potential to benefit a relatively large number of people over a wide geographic area.
  • Ease of implementation: it has an implementation and dissemination pathway that is sustainable and cost-effective and an identifiable champion to carry it out.
Step 2: In depth study to analyze opportunities and constraints
Step 2 is to analyze opportunities and constraints for the promising solutions identified in Step 1, while looking for ways to enhance the former and ease the latter. PROCA focuses on seven clusters of constraints that must be addressed for a technology or a policy/management innovation to succeed (see Box 2). Some of these constraints will be internal to the community and can often be resolved locally; others will be the result of external forces and will require action at higher levels (for example, changes in national policy). This analysis will result in an even shorter list of possible solutions and a better understanding of the circumstances under which they can be successful.
Box 2. Key questions for evaluating opportunities and constraints
  1. Technology access: How accessible is the innovation at the household level and in particular to women?
  2. Technology economics: How affordable is the innovation to adopt and maintain? What are the costs (in terms of money and labor) and benefits (in terms of income and food and livelihood security) and how are these distributed among different members of the household and community?
  3. Techno-institutional, social and policy dynamics: What institutional structures are necessary to support uptake and optimal performance of the innovation? To what extent are these present, functioning and accessible to men and women?
  4. Backward linkages: How strong (or weak) are the input linkages necessary to adopt and benefit from the innovation?
  5. Forward linkages: How strong (or weak) are the market linkages—roads, communication, cold-chains, etc.—necessary to derive optimal benefit from the innovation?
  6. Resource sustainability: How reliable is the resource base in terms of its ability to sustain the innovation?
  7. Managing externalities: What are possible social, health and environmental consequences from large-scale uptake/implementation and how can these be eliminated or ameliorated?
Step 3: Analysis of outscaling impacts

Although it’s important to consider outscaling impacts from the beginning of the process, a more in-depth impact assessment is required before promoting the spread of an innovation. Step 3 is to evaluate the likely positive and negative impacts and externalities of outscaling the promising AWM solutions identified in Step 2 – looking at the potential to positively or negatively affect water resources, the wider economy and the environment. This analysis can help not only to identify AWM solutions with few negative social and environmental externalities but also measures for reducing such externalities.