Expedition: Research

We had one ‘day off’ during our digging jaunt in La Laguna. And on that day it was decided that White Water Rafting was the perfect activity for our tired limbs…yeah! After 5 days of continuous digging my muscles ached, my feet were covered in blisters and legs swollen with mosquito bites. Nevertheless, we were up at the break of dawn to shove some oatmeal chocolate drink and bread rolls down our chops and off to meet the group on our mini bus.
Preparing for white water rafting

The day was spent wearing the most inviting outfit I have ever worn and getting thrown around rapids in a dinghy. It was lots of fun, but unfortunately for me I sustained a shoulder injury in the process. It was not too serious but it did hamper my abilities to dig the trenches the following week, which was quite sad given that I had just found my digging mojo.

White Water Rafting (I’m seated back left of raft)

As someone who hates to stand around feeling useless I decided to utilise some of my other skills, namely researching and talking to people. Putting my Master’s training to good use, I designed a short questionnaire to record some details about a random selection of villagers from La Laguna.

I began with mapping the village, marking each house on my sketch. It was interesting to slowly walk through the village (a walk I had been doing twice daily to the site and back) as I was able to properly appreciate the different types of homes in La Laguna. Even in a village as remote and poor as this, there were still noticeable differences in affluence amongst households.
With the help of Julian and then Leo, who both speak wonderfully fluent Spanish, I began conducting household interviews. I choose to do a random sampling of the village, picking every 5th house. There are about 80 houses in La Laguna so the primary aim was to get at least 14 interviews to provide some insight into the lives and livelihoods of the villagers.
Leo and I conducting research

It was an absolutely fascinating experience and the conversations with the research participants were incredibly insightful. I was able to understand more about how difficult it was not to have access to clean and safe water, and how excited they were to soon have running water in their homes. The level of enthusiasm about our presence was great, and I was constantly trying to find a polite way to leave each house we visited – they never wanted us to leave. One man even asked if we would come back next year to build them a road!

I discovered some interesting diversification of livelihood activities and that most households do grow some of their own food in their gardens – primarily plantain, green bananas and yuka. I also started to gain insight into the complexities of kinship relations and how land is distributed but further study would really be necessary to fully understand this.

Research participant carrying water from nearby stream
One of the participant’s homes
The primary aim of this expedition was to dig and lay pipes for the water project, and I did feel terrible about letting my team down. But whilst I missed out on some of the camaraderie of the digging I felt like I was adding context to our work. By giving some of these villagers a chance to talk to us we were giving them a voice, and every single person we asked was eager to talk to us. This was testament to the warm and welcoming nature of the community in La Laguna. Furthermore, I feel that this small research project could provide some use in the future should the organisations involved (Green & Black’s, Raleigh International, Conacado) want to use it as baseline data to measure the effectiveness of their input. Personally, I would be keen to see some follow up – monitoring and evaluating community development is an important facet of international development as a whole. I only wish I had had the opportunity to talk to all of the families in the village, as I am sure there are more fascinating stories and insights to learn from. But alas, time was short and there was a beach waiting for us…
(Photo credits: 1 – Nicole McCann, 2 – Oli Rieche, 3 – Leo Melena)
  1. M&E is such an important part of the process (I think) so glad that you were at least able to start the process and provide some background, context to the projects that you're doing. Shame about your shoulder though and not being able to reclaim your mojo for digging

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