Village Histories and Trends

Objective: To understand trends and history from the local perspective, and map out developments in various arenas.

Materials/Preparation: Idea cards, markers, stones. Together, the research team should also discuss key arenas to track through the history and identify what categories are relevant (i.e. politics/political conflict, epidemics, livelihoods/economic well-being, development, clan relations, etc). This can also be defined with communities.

Participants: Elderly men and women in gender-segregated groups from within the community being studied.



After introductions and explanation of objective, the facilitator asked how the local women and men measure time/eras. What are key periods of time? (reigns, political periods, economic depression, etc.) Or key events? (i.e. drought or flood, a national/international political event like a coup, a widespread epidemic)

The facilitator then asks participants to construct a timeline of the village, beginning with its founding. And place the periods in order from founding to present with idea cards. The facilitator then asks a participant to review the timeline and gain consensus. In finding time markers, the facilitator clustered events by decades, roughly. Focusing at the first period, the facilitator asks:

  • Who settled here first?
  • Where did they come from and why did they move here?
  • What else was happening at that time – in terms of livelihoods, infrastructure, and other relevant categories? How many generations ago was this?

Key ideas should be written on cards and placed within the matrix.

One the first period has been thoroughly discussed, the facilitator moves to the next period. Again each of the key categories are discussed, and probed to understand relation of:

  • Conditions/events to bigger changes / political events, as well as
  • The impact of conditions/events on the community.

Once all periods are discussed, the facilitator presents a summary to participants and asks for further points to add, probes into gaps and asks follow-up questions on the relation between events, etc. With the discussion, the facilitator adds cards as necessary.

The matrix should be copied for analysis at the end of the exercise.

Example Matrix - Acholiland, Northern Uganda

In relation to big events, country-wide

Political, Conflict
(village, district)



(land use, sell labor, migration, loss of livestock

(health, units, water, ...)

Clan conflict

Severe Floods 2007;
Juba Peace 2005;
Camps mandatory in 2003;
Ebola in 2001
Camps opened in 1998
LRA, 1989;
Holy Spirit Mvt 1987;
Museveni took power in 1986;
Okello coup 1985-1986;
Famine, 1982
Locusts, 1968;
Independence, 1962
World War II, 1930s-1940s
Kitgum town established, 1924
Lamogi Rebellion, 1911


Within each time period, the facilitator then asked participants to recall what are key events/developments (both positive and negative) that took place under each category. As they describe such developments, this exercise may serve as an opportunity to also probe into key actors or institutions affecting the community.

As participants detail events, the writer on the facilitation team writes key events and lays out responses on idea cards in a matrix on the ground.  After each time span is discussed across all categories, the facilitator reviewed the cards aloud with participants in order to affirm and clarify events noted.


The SEAGA Field Handbook also describes an option of visualizing the changes over time by drawing trend lines for each category discussed in the histories. The handbook outlines the following questions to deepen the discussion:

  • What are the most important environmental trends? e.g. drought, deforestation, erosion.
  • What are the most important economic trends? e.g. jobs, wages, prices, costs of living, crop yields, livestock population.
  • What are the most important demographic trends? e.g. birth-rates, infant mortality, in- migration, out-migration, increases in female-headed households.
  • What other trends are important?
  • What are the linkages between the trends?
  • Are there linkages or causes stemming from the intermediate- or macro-levels?
  • What is getting better? What is getting worse?
  • What trends impact women and men differently?
  • What trends impact the poor more so than the rich?
  • Are there differences by ethnicity, caste, etc.?

The LEADER Initiative in CARE Tanzania also adapted this tool to understand the history of key institutions, such as schools, to understand how the story was started and key events that have influenced its development.




  • B Bode (2010). Annex 3 – Methods Compendium. East Africa Regional Capacity Building Initiative in Situational Analysis. CARE International – East / Central Africa Regional Management Unit.
  • B Bode (2009). The Causes and Conditions of Poverty in Acholiland, Northern Uganda. CARE International - Uganda.
  • S Sharma (2009). Participatory Methods, Processes and Analyses: A handbook for identification of underlying causes of poverty and formulation of strategies. CARE International - Nepal.
  • B Bode (2007). Power Analysis in the Context of Rights-Based Programming. CARE International - Bangladesh.
  • CARE (2007). Ideas and Action: Addressing the Social Factors that Influence Sexual and Reproductive Health.
  • Patsy Collin's Trust Fund Initiative (2006). LEADER Workshop, CARE International - Tanzania.
  • V Wilde (2001). Socio-Economic and Gender Analysis (SEAGA) Program Field Handbook. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).