Deploying Participatory Rural Appraisal Methods to Enhance Humanitarian Response in Ukraine

By harnessing efficient data collection methods and developing new information management products, iMMAP Inc. in Ukraine is striving to enhance the humanitarian assistance, ensuring it is more targeted, timely, and tailored to address the needs of local communities.

As Ukraine enters the third year of the full-scale invasion and over a decade since the start of the conflict in the East of the country, nearly 15 million people require various forms of humanitarian assistance (Ukraine Humanitarian Needs and Response Plan 2024). To ensure that aid meets the pressing needs of the people, it is crucial that the affected population be properly consulted. However, according to the latest survey by the Disaster Emergency Committee, some 60% of individuals in need of aid have never been consulted about their needs.  

The iMMAP Inc. team visits farms during the field visit to the Poltava region. (©Tetiana Kuras/ iMMAP Inc. Ukraine)

Upon the request from the Food Security and Livelihoods Cluster for an assessment of farmers' needs and the impact of the war on the agricultural sector, the iMMAP Inc. team piloted the use of the Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) method for comprehensive data collection. This method was chosen for its ability to grasp the dynamics of rural (local) communities, exploring their needs, resources, and priorities in detail. Importantly, it actively involves local residents throughout the process, from gathering data to analyzing it and proposing solutions. Through a suite of techniques including semi-structured interviews, mapping exercises, transect walks, and seasonal calendars, the PRA method not only facilitates the collection of crucial information but also empowers local communities to voice their genuine concerns. 

Equipped with the PRA techniques, the iMMAP Inc. team conducted a trip to the Poltava region, renowned as one of Ukraine's most agriculturally productive areas. There, they facilitated two focus group discussions, engaging a total of 16 farmers from 9 communities.  

Discussion in focus groups during the iMMAP Inc. team’s field visit to the Poltava region. (©Tetiana Kuras/ iMMAP Inc. Ukraine)

"I am very glad that we could thoroughly discuss our needs and evaluate the severe impact the war had inflicted on small farming enterprises. For instance, our farm suffered a decrease in profit of up to 70% over the past year. Therefore, we are currently seeking ways to stay afloat." Oleh Horobets, the head of the farming enterprise “Demetra Agro Group”

Farmer Oleh Horobets attests to the challenges faced by Ukrainian farmers. (©Tetiana Kuras/ iMMAP Inc. Ukraine)

The PRA method has helped identify the major challenges faced by farmers in crop production and harvesting. Among them are low prices for crops and increased logistics costs due to the ongoing conflict, the involvement of intermediaries adding extra costs to selling agricultural products, labor shortages, and the lack of adequate storage and drying facilities.  

While respondents reported receiving humanitarian assistance for agricultural activities, they indicate that the assistance frequently falls short of addressing their needs. "We appreciate the aid in the form of seeds or fertilizers," explains farmer Oleh Horobets. "But you see, seeds are like fish, and myself and my colleagues desperately need a fishing rod. Currently, to survive and move forward, we urgently require support in establishing grain storage facilities and acquiring drying equipment. And it is crucial that this assistance arrives on time." 

To boost the timeliness and efficiency of humanitarian aid to farmers, the iMMAP Inc. team developed a seasonal calendar based on their research findings. These calendars offer insights into the patterns and trends in farmers' activities throughout the year, with a particular focus on the production and harvesting stages of prevalent crops such as corn, wheat, soy, and sunflower. 

A seasonal calendar to show patterns and trends in farmers’ activities throughout the year. ©iMMAP Inc. Ukraine

"A seasonal calendar is a highly visual method that employs timeframes. It will be instrumental in aiding humanitarian partners to fine-tune response strategies, especially regarding livelihoods support for agricultural communities during this challenging period. We also plan to promote the use of seasonal calendar method and other PRA techniques among Ukraine Crisis Response Clusters to enhance the effectiveness of humanitarian efforts." Iryna Tkachuk, Capacity Building Coordinator at iMMAP Inc. Ukraine

As we continue our collaboration with partners within Ukraine, iMMAP Inc. remains dedicated to providing crucial information management support to organizations delivering essential aid, ensuring that their decisions are data-driven and inclusive, leaving no one behind. iMMAP Inc. Ukraine provides Information Management support within the project Provision of Information Management Support to Ukraine Crisis Response Clusters, funded by USAID Bureau of Humanitarian Assistance (BHA).    

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