Field Notes: Evaluating cattle herding in Tanzania

NDIGD’s Monitoring and Evaluation Specialists travel to locations all around the world to assess the impact of development projects on local populations.  The projects that they evaluate vary drastically in focus area—from water cleanliness to reading assessments, the evaluations that they perform are diverse.

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When M&E specialist Danice Brown traveled to Tanzania to complete a baseline study as part of Project Concern International’s Satellite Assisted Pastoral Resource Management (SAPARM ) Tanzania project, her target population was Masai cattle herders. The project, funded by USAID’s Development Innovation Ventures, helps cattle herders to determine the best place to move their herds during dry seasons through the provision of satellite maps that identify ideal grazing areas in real time.  During the dry season, cattle herders typically rely on three sources of information for making decisions on when and where to migrate their herds: previous experience, sending scouts, or oral communication with other herders. Through provision of satellite-assisted maps that indicate up-to-date imagery depicting the areas with the most grazing, PCI hopes to provide a fourth source of information for the herders. PCI believes that provision of these maps will cause herders to change their migratory patterns, and will reduce livestock mortality rates. But in order to quantify a change in livestock mortality, PCI must understand these mortality rates prior to the provision of the maps. It is NDIGD’s responsibility to determine migratory patterns and mortality rates at baseline as accurately as possible.

How does Danice prepare for such a trip? As is the case with many of the projects that NDIGD evaluates, our specialists rely on  members of the local population in Tanzania to serve as enumerators. Local enumerators are essential for communication with the local population in local dialects. Enumerators are also vetted on their technical expertise—in this case, it is essential they not only know about cattle herding but that they are familiar with operating smart phones. They are responsible for inputting the cattle herder’s responses into forms in mobile phones. These forms are available off-line, so that the enumerators can complete them in the most remote areas, and then upload them to a server when they return to an area with wifi or cellular data. The NDIGD research team works in conjunction with PCI to establish an evaluation plan, including the content of the survey, and the method of selecting people to participate in the survey.  PCI provided technical support by transforming the surveys from paper to electronic form, and the PCI field office in Arusha, Tanzania recruited, hired and supervised the local enumerators.

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Once the tools were developed and the team of enumerators was hired, Danice left for Tanzania to oversee data collection. The first order of business was training the enumerators. Each enumerator reviewed the survey on paper to understand its components, and then was given a phone that contained blank forms in Commcare, a survey application. Enumerators were trained on operating the phone, and on opening, completing, and uploading a survey form. They were also carefully trained on how to create trust between the respondent and themselves, and how to ask each question in Swahili, the local language. Key words were also translated into Masai, the tribal dialect, as not all herders were fluent in Swahili. Many of the enumerators, being from the Masai region themselves, spoke both Swahili and Masai, so this was not difficult.

Finally, Danice oversaw the enumerators as they took to the field to conduct the interviews. Interviews were conducted across nearly 100 villages in two sub-districts where PCI will be providing the maps, and one sub-district that will serve as a comparison for the beneficiary group. All areas were located in the Arusha District. Villages were visited on the day before the team of enumerators were going to arrive, and village leaders were given a letter which described the research and instructed the leader to gather all members of the village who met the following criteria:  permanent residents of the village who own livestock, migrate with that livestock at least once a year, and make the decisions on when and where to migrate. This group of people was considered most likely to participate in the project.  The next day, the team of enumerators would meet the herders who had gathered and conducted the interviews.  Herders would gather to meet the team in various locations—government offices, schools, sometimes simply out in the field under a few trees.   

Even though Danice was visiting up to five villages each day to supervise data collection, she was able to enjoy time at the Masai market, and the occasional elephant sighting. She returned home with all of the data necessary to understand migratory patterns and livestock mortality at baseline, and communicate the findings to Project Concern International before they began project implementation.