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Team members had in-depth knowledge of smallholder agricultural development processes in East Africa, with particular expertise in the Farmer Field School (FFS) approach.
Methodology and data analysis Data collection for the qualitative evaluation of the RIPAT concept and approach involved individual and group interviews, observations of RIPAT in action at several different locations where the four RIPAT projects were in operation, and observations of individual stakeholders. The DIIS/FAO team employed a mix of qualitative methods, according to the different types of data being collected. There were a total of 49 qualitative interviews,
which can be divided into four types:
30 Farmers’ ChoiCe • individual interviews with key stakeholders, including all leading RECODA staff, extension workers, administrative staff at district and regional level, local government politicians, village leaders, RIPAT group leaders, and the Rockwool Foundation programme officer;
• focus group interviews with RIPAT groups;
• thematic group interviews with selected members of RIPAT groups; and • individual interviews with members of RIPAT groups, farmers who had previously been members of RIPAT groups, and farmers in RIPAT-supported villages who were not members of RIPAT groups.
Qualitative interviews were combined with on-site observations and reviews of relevant reports. Finally, comparative analyses were carried out with agricultural development projects that use comparable approaches in East Africa, drawing on experience among the evaluation team members of FFS in Kenya, the National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS) in Uganda, and the Agricultural Sector Development Programme (ASDP) in Tanzania.
The RIPAT 1 project had formally ended at the time of the evaluation, while the other three RIPAT projects were still ongoing. In order to evaluate the relevance, effectiveness, and sustainability of the RIPAT projects, priority was given to interviewing farmers who had participated in the RIPAT 1 project. However, additional interviews with participants in the three ongoing RIPAT projects allowed the DIIS team to examine how and to what extent lessons learned in RIPAT 1 had resulted in adjustments to and evolution of the RIPAT concept over time.
Some of the group interviews focused on a particular theme, e.g. agricultural technologies, group learning approaches, or gender issues. In other instances, there was sometimes first a general interview with the whole group, and then the groups were split up into sub-groups to consider specific topics. Some of these topics were predetermined by the DIIS team, while others evolved in the course of the discussion with RIPAT participants. Themes for group interviews included gender issues, leadership and group governance issues, processes of individual and collective technology adaptation, FFS teaching methods, and group dynamics.
3.6 The context and adoption study The purpose of the context and adoption study was to understand to what extent and via what mechanisms practices introduced through RIPAT are adopted and spread. Farmers participating in RIPAT groups have the option of adopting practices introduced through the project on their own farms; not all practices are adopted by all farmers. One aim of RIPAT is to encourage the spread of RIPAT practices beyond the original participants, particularly through farmer-to-farmer contacts in different forms – within and between villages, and through neighbours, kinship ties, trade contacts, etc. The adoption study investigated the extent to which this spread took place, and therefore the adoption of RIPAT practices by non-RIPAT farmers. The study team explored diffusion mechanisms, and focused particularly on the context and conditions of adoption from the farming families’ point of view. What are the social, economic, organizational, practical, and other realities of daily life that have encouraged farmers to adopt (or discouraged them from adopting) the options offered by the RIPAT project?
evaluation methods In order to explore and analyse the nature and extent of the adoption of elements in the RIPAT projects, a qualitative study based on ethnographic methods was carried out by a group of researchers from the Department of Anthropology at the University of Copenhagen. Four of these researchers had extensive fieldwork and other research experience relating to a range of African countries, including Tanzania, and to a range of issues, including agricultural development. The research process was managed by the department’s consultancy unit, Anthropological Analysis.
Methodology and data analysis In preparing for the fieldwork, literature on ethnic, agricultural, and historical characteristics of the region was collected and studied, and a range of possible understandings of and scenarios for diffusion were discussed. In order to obtain information about the experiences and viewpoints of farmers who had participated in the RIPAT projects, it was decided that ethnographic fieldwork should be carried out in one or two of the villages associated with RIPAT 1. This was to be supplemented with information obtained from a range of other sources, including visits to other villages and interviews with various local officials and researchers. Contact with a local independent and experienced research assistant, Jehova Roy Kayaa, was established, in order to obtain relevant local information. The staff of RECODA were consulted extensively, and the local interpreters used by the research team in their work also proved to be a useful source of information.
Members of the Anthropological Analysis team carried out a total of 20 weeks of ethnographic fieldwork during the period of May to July 2011. Half of this fieldwork was carried out by researchers based in the two RIPAT 1 villages, where local households made living space available for them, allowing the researchers to have close daily contact with farmers in the area. Several visits were made to other villages as well, and a total of 20 villages were visited in the RIPAT 1, 2 and 4 areas. Fieldwork involved participant observation – i.e. experiencing continuous interaction with local people and observing local life through participation in daily activities, engaging in informal conversations, and making visits to homes. Researchers also found it useful to do village and field walks, and crop and field visits, in order to encounter local farmers and converse with them both about their agricultural practices and produce, and about other issues of interest.
The research team further participated in market mapping and observations, particularly with respect to banana crops. They also took part in group and project meetings and attended Farmers’ Day (a local agricultural show).
In addition to the individual interviews detailed later, nine group interviews were conducted. Further input was provided by five women who kept diaries of their daily activities and thoughts for two weeks; these diaries were later used as inspiration for interviews and discussions. Four ‘participatory rural appraisal’ group sessions, each with four to eight female farmers, were conducted; these focused on the participants’ experiences with different crops (existence, availability, quality, preference, priority, etc.). All of these activities were recorded in written field notes, and, as far as possible, observations and findings were continuously discussed among the researchers – this opportunity for discussion being one of the major advantages of undertaking fieldwork as a group. The explorative and flexible nature of ethnographic research was very clearly evident in this study process.
32 Farmers’ ChoiCe In total, more than 70 farmers were interviewed, slightly more of them women than men; this number included both RIPAT and non-RIPAT farmers. A range of other relevant informants was also interviewed, including seven employees of local government and four extension officers or experts. Ten people involved in the market – either wholesale or retail sellers of bananas – were interviewed in connection with market visits. Several field trips were made with RECODA staff, including visits to RIPAT and non-RIPAT farmers in the RIPAT 2 area, in order to compare conditions and progress in the different areas.
Other visits were made with RECODA consultants to the RIPAT 4 area to observe the practical training of and meetings with local RIPAT group farmers and local extension officers.
By its very nature, the ethnographic research process allows the inclusion of a virtually indefinite range of issues. This is particularly so in the first phases of fieldwork, when foci have not yet been established and the crucial questions have not been finally settled, as the researcher attempts to keep an open mind regarding the facts relating to the situation. In the RIPAT study, a range of issues was covered as the research progressed, in an attempt to understand the conditions for RECODA’s work as well as the many factors upon which RIPAT might have made an impact – and therefore upon the potential and actual adoption of RIPAT elements. These issues included questions regarding the ecological and economic difficulties facing the area as a whole (such as drought and problems with water access), overall prices of food, land issues (tenure, rents, and rights), the farming and development history of the area (including prior projects), and farmers’ relationships to local extension officers. General issues of village life were also covered, including the organization and practices of village government, and cooperation and conflicts in the community. Local farming conditions and methods – in terms of soil, water, labour, tools and techniques, planning, economy, etc. – were central concerns.
Former, current, and new crops were discussed, including good and bad experiences, problems, and expectations, as well as questions of subsistence versus cash cropping, and rights and obligations in relation to different crops and farm animals (cattle, goats and chickens). Marketing strategies and experiences – in the villages, at town markets, and with traders – were covered too. Household life – livelihood strategies, family and gender relations, work, economy, and relationships and obligations within and outside the household – proved to be of crucial importance for understanding the impact of RIPAT.
Finally, of course, the experience of group work was of relevance – not only group work in connection with RIPAT, but also in savings groups, cooperatives, and in other projects, including issues of membership, group dynamics, organization, finances, training, and cooperation.
As is evident from the chapters that illustrate the results of the analyses of the qualitative data concerning the adoption and spread of RIPAT practices (chapters 4, 7, 8, 9 and 10), the issues mentioned above have been incorporated into the discussion of RIPAT in various ways and to various extents. In qualitative ethnographic research processes, analysis begins with the fieldwork preparation and data collection stages, and is a continuous process through all stages of the project, culminating with the writing of presentations. Discussions with peers and co-workers form an integral part of the analysis process, and, in an important sense, the final text is the analysis, not just a presentation of it.
3.7 Conclusion In this chapter, we have given accounts of the various approaches to evaluation adopted, and the various methodological and analytical choices made as a consequence of the different foci and types of questions implied by these approaches. In particular, we have outlined how qualitative and quantitative methodologies have shed light on the processes and results of the RIPAT projects in a number of ways.
Practical interventions that aim to influence people to adopt new knowledge and change practices are likely to operate in a local context that is both dynamic and complex.
Such ‘social change’ projects call for a flexible and pragmatic approach to project implementation as well as to evaluation, and the RIPAT intervention is characterized by having an implementation process in which activities have changed and been refined over time based on a trial-and-error approach.
The evaluation of the RIPAT intervention was designed to analyse this complex and diverse project implementation by dividing the study into different research questions and by making use of different methodological approaches to collect and analyse the information. This was done by having three separate evaluation studies, each one conducted by a group of researchers with expertise on the subject matter and the research methods used in the study. Apart from making use of both quantitative and qualitative approaches to analyse experiences and determine outcomes and impacts in the separate studies, there has also been a fruitful methodological crossover in terms of using quantitative and qualitative data to inform the analysis and broaden the understanding of the findings presented in chapters 7, 8, 9 and 10. The combination of evaluation methods that address results – ‘what came out of it?’ – with methods that address process – ‘how and why did it happen?’ – gives depth and perspective to both sets of evaluation issues, and has made it possible to extend discussions and conclusions further than would have been possible in a single-approach evaluation model. In addition, it has been a goal of this book not simply to let each methodology speak for its own results, as it were, but to challenge and explore insights across disciplinary approaches. We leave it to the reader to judge whether the book has succeeded in this endeavour.
References Denzin, N.K. (2006) Sociological Methods: A Sourcebook, 5th edn, Aldine Transaction, Piscataway, NJ.
EDI-RF APFS data (2011) EDI-RF Assessment of Poverty and Food Security, Rockwool Foundation Research Unit, Copenhagen.