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Jorge Chavez-Tafur, with Karen Hampson, Anita Ingevall and Rik Thijssen

Much has been said and written in recent years about the need to document the experiences of the many different development initiatives taking place all over the world, and thus learn from the successes and failures. Unfortunately, it is rare that time and effort is put into organising, analysing and documenting experiences, for various reasons. ILEIA, the Centre for Information on Low External Input and Sustainable Agriculture, has over the past 24 years contributed to the exchange of field-based information about the experiences of small scale farmers trying to improve their production in an environmentally sound manner. One of the major difficulties related to this aim has been, and remains, the lack of documentation of practical field activities taking place at community level. If achievements, difficulties overcome and learnings are not documented in some form, it is very difficult to share them. It is probable therefore that a lot of interesting information that could contribute to the further development of knowledge on ecologically sound agriculture has been lost, is in a format or language that is not accessible to all, or has not been fully reflected upon and presented.

This manual is an attempt to develop a method which will help people to document their experiences. It builds on the work of those who have written about or been involved in the documentation of  development initiatives for a long time, such as for example, Daniel Selener and his team at the International Institute for Rural Reconstruction (Quito, Ecuador), Oscar Jara (from the Centro de Estudios y Publicaciones Alforja in San Jose, Costa Rica), Maria de la Luz Morgan and Marfil Franke (Escuela para el Desarrollo, Lima, Peru), and Mario Ardon and the PASOLAC team (in San Salvador, El Salvador). It presents a practical method to help you describe and analyse your project, and thus document it fully. Our intention is to show that the documentation process does not have to be a difficult or complicated one.