Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre Internship Program :: Center for Science and Technology Policy Research

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notes from the field

These field notes are personal views and do not necessarily reflect the views of Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre

Arielle Tozier de la Poterie

Soroti, Uganda
May 22 – August 11

June 26, 2013

Volunteers and community members in Katakwi practicing the seasonal calendar toolAs it turns out, I have not yet had a chance to investigate any of the questions I posed in my last post. Plans have changed a few times, and we decided to consolidate two VCA trainings into one, which we held last week in Katakwi, a small town an hour from Soroti. Consequently, my return to Karamoja was delayed, and I have been busy with other tasks.

Before the training, I spent a week in Kampala preparing training materials, meeting with facilitators, and attending meetings. I sat in on a meeting with the Ugandan Meteorological Department, where the team probed existing capacities and challenges to weather forecasting in Uganda, and established the basis for future collaboration. I also had the pleasure of meeting Pablo Suarez, a researcher and game development expert with the Climate Center. He conducted a session at Makerere University in which students played a game that simulates the pressures and challenges of humanitarian aid and the potential of forecasts to improve decision-making. Later in the week he previewed the same game for Ugandan Parliamentarians and DRR experts at the Red Cross offices in Kampala. In both sessions I was I impressed at how a relatively simple game can stimulate discussion and understanding of complicated humanitarian scenarios. It was a excellent opportunity to see an inspiring facilitator in action!

Practicing the hazard and resource mapping in the communityFrom Kampala, we transitioned to the training in Katakwi. It was an intensive one-week affair combining theoretical background and practical application of the 9 specific VCA tools that will be used to conduct the assessment. Approximately 30 volunteers from the project’s four principal districts (Kotdio, Abim, Katakwi, and Soroti) were in attendance, including a two local government representatives and a few students from Makerere University who will be helping with the data collection.

We were fortunate to have three seasoned Ugandan facilitators present at the training, including Isaac Bwire from the International Institute for Rural Reconstruction, and Aine Reuben and Peter Buyondo from the Ugandan Red Cross. It was great to have local experts as they could speak to the local context and culture and provide examples from their experiences working with communities around Uganda. Visiting a local village to allow volunteers to practice facilitating some of the tools was another highlight of the training. I will not be present for much of the fieldwork, so it was interesting to see the tools in action.

Pool at the bottom of the sliding rock in Kotido DistrictI led sessions on data systemization, on review of secondary sources and basic research, and on a new game from the Climate Center, Memory Strings, that has not yet been used in Uganda, but overall, the training was a great opportunity for me to learn more about participatory methods as well. The event required a lot of stamina and flexibility from both the staff and the volunteers, but we hope that it has prepared volunteers for the next few weeks of data collection.

I arrived in Kotido yesterday evening, and I will spend the next few days working with Patrick, Prisca, Elijah, Alfred, and Moses the amazing volunteers/staff that will be conducting the assessment in Kotido District. Last night the team took me to rock outside of town that the local children use as a natural slide. We amused ourselves at sliding down the rock, and they told me stories about local traditions and growing up in Karamoja. Their stories reinforced why it is important to have local volunteers interacting with the community, and I am happy to be working with such an enthusiastic and knowledgable group.

Sliding on the rock in KotidoWhile I am here, we will review the changes I made to the tools based upon feedback from the training, finalize their implementation plan, and begin the collection and review of secondary sources and reports from the region. An astonishing number of organizations have begun working in Karamoja since conflicts subsided in recent years, so there should be a wealth of information and lessons from other projects to draw from.

In the next two weeks, I will travel between Abim, Kotido, Katakwi, and Soroti field offices to support teams in the data collection process. In particular, I will ensure that the teams know how to use the tools, have the resources they need, and consolidate data for later analysis. Using this data, our team and the community will work together to identifying local needs and capacities and to develop community action plans that combine Red Cross and community resources. I look forward to seeing what kind of data we collect and the potential actions that come out of the process.

Participants in the VCA training in Katakwi

First photo: Volunteers and community members in Katakwi practicing the seasonal calendar tool
Second photo: Practicing the hazard and resource mapping in the community
Third photo: Pool at the bottom of the sliding rock in Kotido District
Fourth photo: Sliding on the rock in Kotido
Fifth photo: Participants in the VCA training in Katakwi