We’re back in Kwale County – working with Kwale Youth and Governance Consortium, Kwale Young Journalists and Dzilaz Ecotourism group to continue mapping governance, child protection and eco-cultural resources. There was quite a bit of excitement on Monday & Tuesday as we gathered together to review the progress made while our team was away. We also returned with Jeff Mohammed and Javin Ochieng – two young men from Mathare Valley who will share their experience and train their peers from Kwale on videography and blogging.
Overall, field data collection on the various themes had gone well. In one week, Kwale Young Journalists collected 27 points that relate to children’s issues. The features included schools, CBOs and dispensaries.
Kwale Youth and Governance Consortium had collected over 100 points – and had managed to cover various devolved funding projects. They had about 50% of their target data collected.
Dzilaz aimed to map 38 schools in Samburu area and had reached 18 of them. They were also planning to map 8 nature trails that included community sites preserved for eco-tourism – they had mapped 5, so had 3 left to cover.
During the week of field data collection, the three groups reported the following challenges:
- Large area to cover and mappers were spread out so had to travel long distances to meet (or in summary, coordination)
- Poor attendance at one community meeting because of last minute planning
- Bad roads (heavy rains and flooding exacerbated this situation)
- Interviwees not giving correct information
- Too few field days
- Work was very tiresome
- Gaining cooperation from stakeholders
- Did not have money for transport
- Group dynamics (coordination)
- People working late hours
- Some vehicles were having problems (lack of fuel, uncooperative driver)
- Lack of clear information
- Creation of high expectations from schools in the community (i.e. some schools expected that the presence of the mappers, and the involvement of Plan International meant that they were there to assess the prospect of giving direct assistance to school programmes)
- Some GPS units had problems
Most of the challenges encountered were logistical and we asked the youth to brainstorm solutions. The solutions involved planning ahead (we’re trying!), having a letter of introduction to facilitate open data sharing when they reach a site and to manage expectations from the community (very important!).
The challenges remind me of those reported by the YETAM teams in Mozambique and Cameroon – logistics in rural areas is a difficult beast (e.g. long distances to travel, poor roads, bad weather exacerbating the bad road conditions, etc). Some of these challenges can be mitigated by planning, a flexible time frame and a lot of patience!
The experience of resistance to giving information is perhaps another type of challenge. We’ve also experience similar resistance in Kibera and other areas. Sensitization meetings were carried out in the 3 areas ahead of the data collection work, however the teams were of course not able to meet everyone they encountered during the field work.
An introduction letter by the District Officer for the area was something the Cameroonian team prepared – and yesterday the teams were having difficulty obtaining information without such a letter. It was our intention to have these prepared ahead of time, but time restrictions and the large area we are trying to cover has made it difficult to have this arranged in advance. Next week the letters will have been prepared and the youth will continue with data collection. This will no doubt make it easier for the Kwale teams (note that in some villages, people were more open to giving information so this may or may not help in the area where the group experienced resistance).
In some cases, the letter may make little difference as the mappers probe for information about school drop outs and early pregnancies – this is sensitive information and school administration may not be keen to provide information that may paint their institution in an unfavourable light – even if the information may be used to generate a discussion that could lead to youth-generated solutions. This is understandable and can happen in many contexts. The youth have already identified those schools where they suspected they were receiving mis-information. As with any data, we cannot expect 100% accuracy and the interpretation of the results must be taken with a grain of salt.
The Plan Kwale staff – keen to see the project succeed – have been working diligently to try to fix the “bumps in the road”. One main challenge to designing and carrying out an iterative project that is supported by a large organization is procurement procedures that need to be followed (eg to secure accommodation so the youth can work from a central location, or ordering more vehicles to split the teams into smaller groups to cover a large area – different DOs for different areas are spread across hundreds of kilometers) – but the great team from Plan Kwale are doing their best and are working long hours to see that the project moves forward! So kudos to the Plan Kwale team for their hard work.
We’re learning together with the youth and the Plan Kwale team about mapping rural areas. One week of data collection in Kwale County results in about as many GPS points as we could have collected in Mathare in a single day! This of course presents a different set of challenges and opportunities – we look forward to reporting more stories and lessons from the field!