Wednesday, 31 July 2013

A picture’s worth a thousand words – using photos in social research in Pakistan

‘Visual ethnography’ involves the use of photos as an aid in education and workshopping.  This technique has recently been successfully used to gain a better understanding of the dynamics of poverty in Pakistan, particularly related to mango, citrus and dairy farmers.  This social research forms part of a larger research program (Australia–Pakistan Agriculture Sector Linkages Program, ASLP), which aims to improve livelihoods of the rural poor in Pakistan through enhancing the dairy, mango and citrus industries.
Pakistani women looking at photos
Women discussing citrus value chain issues
at a workshop in a citrus-growing village near Faisalabad
Baseline surveys of around 750 households across Pakistan provided information on village demographics, including family size, income, land ownership, education levels and use of technology (mobile phone and computer). Survey teams then worked closely within selected villages, particularly through facilitated workshops, to identify the locals’ priorities related to food security and income generation. Separate workshops were held for men and women.

The workshops featured the use of many photos taken in Pakistan to promote discussion. Photos typically depicted best-practice examples of every stage of the agricultural value chain, such as soil preparation and irrigation, pruning and harvesting, postharvest processing and transport, marketing and banking.
Men's workshop rating training needs in
the dairy value chain in a dairy-farming village, Lahore

women next to photos on board
Project co-leader Prof Barbara Chambers with photos
of mango value chain prioritised by village women
based on their training needs 

In communities where the rate of illiteracy is very high (especially among women), the photos trigger people to discuss their experiences, and help them understand new concepts. The workshop participants discussed what constraints they face, and what they find easy or difficult to do. They prioritised their needs and interests based on their own abilities and potential.

For example, women in a Sindh village in the Mirpur Khas region said they needed training on commercial mango pickling and juice preservation, and how to best feed their cattle. Men in the same village prioritised training in pesticide management, furrow irrigation, nursery management and mango harvesting. Both women and men expressed interest in working in groups to buy inputs (seeds, fertiliser, etc).

The social project's results have been shared with each commodity team in the AusAID-supported ASLP (for dairy, mango and citrus) to help inform their future biophysical and market research. A program of recommended interventions that address the villagers’ identified priorities has been designed. The ideas will be funded from the project and trialled over the coming years, and baseline survey work will then be repeated to judge the adoption, adaption and success of new tools and practices.

More information:
ACIAR Project HORT/2010/003 Social research to foster effective collaboration and strengthen pro-poor value chains
Australia–Pakistan Agriculture Sector Linkages Program (ASLP) (supported by AusAID)
Pakistan medium-term research strategy
Fact sheet: Improving market opportunities for mangoes in Pakistan
ABC Rural News article: Pakistan's mangoes improving thanks to Australia

By Dr Wendy Henderson, ACIAR's Science Communicator
Photos provided courtesy of the Social research project team


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