IFC Project- Biweekly Meeting 2- Last two weeks reporting experience by the Field Team- 17 January 2022

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Samuel (FR-Butajira): My last two weeks’ experience, in general, was good. I had one incident but other than that it was good. I learned a lot from our last week specifically on loan. My understanding of it and the way I was asking them has improved. I was only focusing on large loans and loans that have a longer repayment period. But now I was able to get more information on loans that were repaid in a short period of time.

One problem was I didn’t do interviews during Christmas week. That created a problem with the crop monitoring survey. I was able to solve it by talking to the management. I am now done with all my interviews until Week 4.

The one incident I mentioned was a person from a Kebele who tried to attack me. He came with a stick running towards me and he asked me all kinds of questions. I was a bit shocked by it and I tried to calm the situation. I called the Kebele administrator who is a very well-respected individual. He talked to the person and the situation resolved quickly. I didn’t even have to inform the management about it. These types of cases could happen to others as well and you should use a smart way to deal with the problem.

There are some points I would like to share about my best practices with the team in regularly meeting my target respondent number every week.

First of all, it is really important to create a friendly environment with respondents. I am a sociable person. I joke with them; I sometimes help them in their work whatever they are doing. I create that comfortable environment. When you do that, they are open to accepting you, open to sharing information, talking more, and in general giving you their time. It is really important to have wise communication with them- use their language, dress normally…in general the way you approach them matters.

Secondly, it is very important to keep the same dates every week. For Christmas week, I didn’t go on Saturday and Sunday which was my date of interviews. That created a problem for me and they were also not happy about it. I learned that from my mistake so keep your regular days with your respondents as much as possible.

Thirdly, using the guide is very effective for me. I treat him well; we eat lunch together sometimes even breakfast together. I buy airtime for him. He helps me a lot in organizing the respondents and convincing the respondents. They know him more and trust him too. He explains very well about the research, the purpose of the study, and the respondents are motivated to be part of it.  

Melesech (FR-Jawi): For me, the biggest challenge was the crop monitoring survey. For example: when I ask them if there are any new crops during last week- they say “No” then I enter that. When I ask about the storage amount, they tell me a figure but the app doesn’t allow me to pass. On top of that, the farmers get bored with these repetitive crop questions. They often say I answered this last time. Other than that, it is going well for me.

Tekalign (FR-Assela): Aschalew and I talked a great deal amount of time about improving my performance in a number of respondents I am interviewing. I don’t know how to explain it but meeting respondents has been really challenging for me. Even though, their home is around town, near the main road- their farmland is around Mountain Chilalo in Assela which is very far especially those who are engaged in Barely. When they travel there, their phone usually doesn’t work. They don’t get electricity to charge their battery but even if they have the battery, there is still a network problem. I can’t reach them via phone call to make appointments.

As a solution, what I did was to wake up really early and go to their homes before they leave to their farm for harvesting. That helped me to progress. In addition, I tried to meet them in the evening when they come back as well. But that didn’t work because it is usually dark and some of them even go to consume alcoholic drinks after their hard workday. So, this was not ideal to conduct the survey with them and I discarded that option.

I know am still lagging but I am hopeful for the coming weeks. Most of them (around 80 to 90%) are finalizing their harvesting. They are having challenges though as it is raining. And in order to use the combine harvester, their crops should be dry. This has created delays in their work.

However, I am planning to do Week 4 and 5 (two weeks together) in the coming week. There are some respondents who don’t even come back home until they finish harvesting. It is called “Godasa” in Oromiffa. There is one respondent that I couldn’t meet for weeks because of this reason but I met him last week. There is still one respondent that I still couldn’t meet after registration who is a trader and a farmer. He goes really far for his farming activity and only comes back on market days. On market days, he buys crops and the farmers also come to him to store their produce in his warehouse. This involves measuring, recording….it is very hectic. And later when they want to sell, he transfers the money with the current price.

One observation I have is about them holding off their produce because of the expectation of higher prices. They are storing it in their aggregator warehouse. Unless they want to pay some loan or they want to have some money for holiday expenses or urgently need the money for other purposes, they are not selling their crops. Even if they have this reason, they only sell a small amount. For example, one respondent sold about 1 quintal which is about 3700 birr for purpose of having money to harvest the rest of his crops. So in general, they are not selling without a specific reason.

Ibrahim (FR-Bekoji): I have some progress compared to last time. I still faced challenges in meeting respondents. Their residence area and their farmland are far from each other. Their phone is also switched off. What I did was travel to their farmland with the help of my friend to progress a little bit.

I also categorized my respondents based on location (those who are found inside the town; near the town and very far from the town) and set my program based on it. I tried to use this method and I have some progress. In addition, I changed my guider because my previous guider was very busy to help me.

On the crop monitoring survey, I have data that hasn’t been synced. It says incomplete. The app doesn’t allow me to pass when I enter a figure. In the crop set up, they usually estimate the number and now it is hard to remember, and am stuck.

Gurmessa (FR-Meki): My progress is good. I have one dropout who gave birth. I also informed the management last time. In week 3 which was Christmas week, I had a challenge that most of the farmers were not available. For traders as well, they travel 3 to 4 places for trading activity. I have about 11 traders and I couldn’t find them at their residence.

Some technical difficulties I had are on Finbit, specifically on employees. I registered the owner (the respondent) as an employee. For the workers, it is not a problem but for the owner who engages in lots of activities, it is hard to link his work hours with payments. I report what they earn like 2000 to 3000 birr per week on the income section but it seems double recording to put that payment as well in employee reporting because I registered them as employees.

Another difficulty I had was doing the crop monitoring survey. I finished Week 3 this week but for Week 4 reporting, I couldn’t find the survey on the app. So, I only did diary reporting. This is because I didn’t finish Week 3 in the assigned week cycle. That created a problem. From now on, I will try to complete the interviews in the assigned week. Regarding crop monitoring, additional observation is rainfed crops (maize, wheat, barley) is already been harvested. I know it is important to ask about storage, consumption, and trading but it doesn’t seem to be relevant to ask about new crops. They only have irrigation-fed crops in their field now.

Another one is the data check survey. It seems repetitive. It asks me again and again about the variables- more than one week.

I do meet my respondents regularly. I only had a problem with one farmer. He lives in Dodicha Kebele but he has a wife in another place so he spends most of his time there. The second week and the third week, I couldn’t meet him. But by the fourth week, I went to his place- another Kebele and I was able to conduct the interview.

I would like to share some points about my experience with the rest of the team that can be taken as best practices. One that is very important is I encourage my respondents to use the notebooks we gave them for those who could write and read. I gave them the variables like income, expense, account…etc in Oromiffa. They usually write it down before my visit. I record that on Finbit and I ask them questions if there is anything missing and for additional information. So, I easily collect data for them. Another advantage I have is most of my respondents are women (about 15). Some are traders but still, they don’t move as much as men so that also helped me to meet my target respondents per week.

Mahlet responses for the questions: Regarding the crop monitoring survey, it is assigned once a week and you get a new survey for the week every Monday. That is why it is announced to sync your survey every week. If you meet your respondents twice a week then you won’t be able to get the survey. It doesn’t work. So, if you failed to meet your respondent in the assigned week, it is better to appoint the respondent the following week and collect two weeks’ data. Of course, it is ideal if you complete your interviews within the assigned cycle. Regarding the data check survey; the first question asks for how many weeks of data did you report for the respondent? It has 3 options: “1 week report”; “2 weeks report”; “3 weeks report”. If you have done one report only then you choose the option “1 week report” then it only asks you about the variable just one time. But if you choose “2 weeks report” and “3 weeks report”, then the question seems repetitive. So be careful about what you select on the first question.

Tigsit (FR-Dangla): I didn’t face many challenges in the last two weeks. My respondents are really good. I also did what Gurmessa said about encouraging them to use the notebook. I gave them the variables and also writes down the appointment date for those who could write and read. They are very motivated to write on it and they do use it. If I met them on Friday, I tell them I will come next Friday and I ask them to give me a call if there is anything. I even buy them airtime like 5 to 10 birr so that they can call me. This also motivates them to call me and keep the appointment. I only had a problem with one respondent who disappeared from me for a couple of days but I was able to convince him. Seven of my respondents are women which is also an advantage. They are very good to me. Even the traders call me when it is convenient for them to do the interview and make an appointment with me.

I also stress the fact that I have to do this every week. I believe the quality will be compromised if I miss a week and do a two- or three-week report. I am doing that by creating a common understanding with my respondents.

If I find my respondents working on something, I sit down with them and help them in whatever activity they are doing. They are treating me like family. It is very important to be at their level not to be seen as an outsider. The way you conduct yourself and present yourself really matters like the way you dress, eat, drink…etc. If you do that, they respect you and they welcome you into their lives.

The only problem I have is about the crop monitoring survey. The app doesn’t allow me to pass even if I say “No” and try to fill in figures for the other follow-up questions.

Other than that, it is all good. For this week though, it is an epiphany week. It is a 3 to 4 days celebration and they told me not to come this week. I would like to hear your recommendation about what I can do.