Research in motion

If I can illustrate my typical fieldwork day, this is how it would look like!

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Leaving so soon?!

July 22, 2011 – Today was supposes to be my returning day to Canada!! Due to many delays that I faced early on (i.e., research approvals from the local and upper government), I still have much work to take care before I return to Ottawa. Well, technically speaking, I can consider “mission accomplished” at this point too: I finished my fieldwork and got the data that I need, so thank you, bye bye! BUT, this would be selfish as a researcher to just “extract” data from the study area and the people without adequately sharing or disseminating (although preliminary at this point) the findings of the research. That is why I decided to extend two more weeks to at least finish the data entry and do a preliminary analysis of the data here in Rwanda. The findings will be limited to descriptive statistics at this moment, but it can still illustrate the baseline information of the Girinka beneficiaries. Their socio-economic conditions (family size, head of the household’s education, employment information, and the number of dependents, and household assets compositions) and accessibility to drinking water, energy sources, and markets. This information will give a good snapshot of the current livelihood conditions of the beneficiaries, and in future, our work can serve as a baseline for other (and further) studies.

In particular, this research probed the usage of manure as organic fertiliser, amongst the cow beneficiaries. This study was interested to find out the current level of manure preparation and application knowledge, attitudes and practices (KAPs) of the farmers. By understanding their perceptions of benefits and challenges of using manure, we can better design and improve the support programmes such as farmer training on soil fertilisation and organic manure management. If properly managed and applied, this can lead to increased crop production which will ultimately lead to better food security and healthier households (both physically and financially).

Also, I have to meet other Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) who are actively giving out cows as part of their poverty reduction strategy. The big international NGOs like Heifer International and Send A Cow have been operating in Rwanda since early 2000. Their primary mission is – yes you guessed it right – give a cow (heifer) to resource-poor farmers in the developing countries. I have much to hear and learn from their experiences. In fact, I met the country director of Send A Cow – Rwanda on Monday and had a very insightful discussion about their programme. More on this later.

Wish you many cows!

July 8, 2011 – Today was the last day of our fieldwork! I am in awe that despite all kinds of challenges that we’ve faced every day we got all we asked for: a total of 450 interviews conducted in 12 sectors (out of 14). The remaining two sectors were for focus group meetings. I am so thankful to our team members, and their hard work ethics cannot be overemphasised.

To thank my dear team members, I decided to make a t-shirt (kind of a souvenir of our teamwork) with a traditional greeting printed on the front and back. The front reads “Amashyo?” and on the back “Amashyongore!” The literal translation is “Wish you a big herd of cows”, and the reply is “Wish you (in return) many heifers in your herd and many spears to protect them”. Now, this is an old greeting that we rarely hear nowadays, but it shows how important and valuable of the role the cows played in Rwandan culture and tradition. Rwanda is known for its thousand hills, but I say Rwanda is also the land of a thousand moo cows.

Well, I first heard this greeting last year when I met a local grandmother in the village. When I shook her hand to greet her, she wished me a big herd of cows! How sweet of her. Perhaps that was the spark of my Girinka program research. This greeting seemed most appropriate for my study this year – wishing for a better livelihood through a girinka cow and eventually hoping for a more significant herd of cows and more heifers to pass-on. The whole team wore the t-shirt, and its message was a big hit in the villages. We made many farmers laugh and more importantly, we were proud to be part of this research team. Go girinka cow team go!

Pictures: The first one is our first survey day picture (my INATEK team and the UBC students who were also in Rwanda for the continuation of the Nutrition project that I worked on last year). We took this picture at our Stella bus driver who is also a good friend of mine now, Vedaste’s farm. He’s no ordinary bus driver – he owns over 80 cows and 46 hectares of land! In fact, he is the shareowner of the Stella bus company in Kibungo. All this to say, cow ownership is still king here!

The second one is my team wearing the t-shirts. We look goofy here, but I can assure you of their professionalism. We just lived by the “work hard and play hard” motto.

(Picture #4: From right to left – Top: Emmanuel, SK, Innocent, Epaphrodite, Robert – Bottom: Jean-de-Dieu, Pallotti-Vincent, Emile, Toussaint, Claudine, Noëlla)