Written June 17, 2011
We’ve returned to Harare after 10 days in the Zimbabwean district of Buhera in Manicaland Province. Things went about as well as we could have hoped!
To remind you, my Emory colleague Chantalle and I have been charged with designing, conducting, and analyzing a quantitative survey seeking to understand the impact of IRD-Zimbabwe’s REVALUE program on the wellbeing of children of rural groundnut farmers.
We began the field visit by training our four survey enumerators on the specifics of our survey, including how to ask certain questions, probe for answers, and verify crucial information such as the age of the respondent. In turn, the enumerators provided us with insight on which parts of the survey might be difficult to administer due to linguistic nuances or cultural differences. Our enumerators shined from the beginning, as they had all conducted a different survey just two weeks previously. Their experience and honesty enabled us to quickly work out most of the kinks and begin surveying the same day.
Local IRD staff advised that it would be wise to introduce ourselves to the political and traditional tribal leadership before we started asking questions of residents, as Buhera is a particular political hotbed in a country full of them. To ensure our safety and acceptance, we quickly met the important people and explained our limited scope of operations, promising not to stray from it.
Our team of four managed to conduct nearly 140 survey-interviews of the female caretakers of children of IRD groundnut farmers, averaging about 20 per day. Each day, we spread out amongst different parts of a sprawling rural village, trying to find willing participants who fit our criteria and had a free 20 minutes.
People were more receptive than expected, giving freely of their time, and trying hard to give us accurate information about the children in their home. Frequently, the respondent would send us on our way with a small plastic sack of recently harvested groundnuts, sweet potatoes, wild fruits, or – on one occasion – a juvenile chicken. Though the generosity was not a surprise, as I’ve worked in this part of the world before, the warmth of the gesture does not lose its novelty. I will always be heartened to receive the hard-earned fruit of a farmer’s labor for merely paying a visit to her home.
Now we’ve returned to Harare for data entry and analysis, which will dominate the next two weeks. We’re confident that we’ll find some interesting trends which will inform future IRD-Zimbabwe programming.
In other news, I was lucky to attend a soccer game between Zimbabwe and Mali last week. The atmosphere was surprisingly electric considering Zimbabwe hadn’t won in several matches and had only scored once in their previous three games. The stadium—at least 50% over capacity—was filled with supporters chanting and dancing, leading their team to a thrilling 2-1 win.