Dahari, an NGO working in the Comoros islands, aims to shape sustainable and productive landscapes with Comorian communities. This local NGO contacted the RHoMIS team in order to better understand their beneficiaries and to measure the impacts of their projects. Earlier this month, I travelled to the Comoros to train the enumerators that were going to be using the survey.
While my work typically focuses on the analysis of RHoMIS data and the development of “back-end” systems, this trip was a fantastic opportunity for me to better understand the farmers behind the data and to gain a deeper understanding of the data collection process. I wanted to write this blog to describe the effort that goes into designing the RHoMIS survey and explain the important role that enumerators play in both survey design and data-collection.
When preparing surveys, the RHoMIS team must ensure that the data they collect is compatible with previous studies whilst also accommodating the diversity of farming systems across the countries in which they work. Before I went to the Comoros, the RHoMIS team had asked Dahari how the survey should be adapted for “localisation”. However, it was not until I began my training workshop, that I realised the important role of the enumerators in providing the local knowledge needed for survey design.
For the training workshop, the enumerators and I went through the entire questionnaire. This gave them an opportunity to shape each question using their knowledge and experience. I was astonished by the depth of their knowledge and their passionate debates on how to accommodate local specifics in a way which would still lead to harmonised data collection.
The most interesting discussion arose in relation to polygamy. In the Comoros “family law states that women may marry and stay in the homes built for them by their parents, over which the husband may not have any right.” (article). As a result, the different wives of one husband do not often interact with one another. The enumerators discussed how this could pose problems when trying to define a “household”: when the husband is asked about his “household”, he will count what he considers the assets for all of his households (from all of his wives): if an enumerator interviews one of the wives, the wife will only consider her personal assets.
After the workshop, the enumerators were given the chance to test the surveys in the field. The surveys were tested in Ngadzale, in the South-East of Anjouan. Despite the tiring workshop and a two-hour journey to the site, the enumerators arrived early in the morning and were keen to start their surveys. Testing the survey in the field revealed some of the challenges associated with estimating farm-size, crop-yields and income. Additionally, there was a serious debate about how to sensitively question farmers about food security.
It was fantastic to see how each interviewer approached challenges and how they were able to come together to develop solutions. Despite the challenges of interviews, the test-run was a great success. Enumerators were pleased to see how their input had led to modifications in the survey. They were pleased with the quality of their responses and they all managed to complete their first survey in under two hours.
For the rest of the data-collection process, the enumerators will go to four regions across the island. They will stay overnight, interviewing between three and four farmers per day over a period of two weeks. The information collected will not only be used to help inform Dahari’s projects, but because of the harmonisation of RHoMIS data, the information will also be used by the wider research community to better understand smallholder farms.
The RHoMIS community of practice is made up of RHoMIS users and creators from across the world. Here we share their stories of how RHoMIS is helping to record and analyse household data.