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

Amy Quandt

Isiolo, Kenya
May 18 – August 5

July 2, 2013

village BasaHello from Isiolo.  The last month has flown by so quickly!  The past several weeks have been very busy first preparing the climate-smart, ecosystem-friendly livelihoods survey and then visiting the communities and conducting both household interviews and focus group discussions.  I have been in Isiolo for 4 weeks now but have spent 3 of those weeks out in the field visiting with the Partners for Resilience (PfR) communities.  It has been great and I have seen a large part of Isiolo County. 

We began our surveys in a remote, dusty village called Basa.  Walking around the community was almost like being on another planet.  The dust sweeps through and everywhere you look you can only see domed shaped grass huts and dirt.  This pastoral community has been severely affected by climate change and community members are struggling to maintain their pastoral livelihoods and many people have lost all their livestock to drought.  With encouragement from PfR some of the vulnerable community members have turned to farming along the nearby Ewaso Nyiro River.  This has proved fairly successful and the farms are helping people survive in the face of drought and climate change.  However, floods are also problematic in the area and many people lose their farms when the river floods.  Basa serves as an interesting example of a community threatened by climate change and in desperate need of alternative livelihood options, which is what my survey hopes to provide. 

Amy and Antony at Ewaso Nyiro
 RiverAnother interesting community we visited was Gotu, which lies on a main road (at least it is a main for this part of Kenya) and right on the Ewaso Nyiro River.  Despite this, the community faces many challenges with insecurity and conflict being the biggest.  Lack of education is also a pressing issue in Gotu and not a single woman in the entire community of about 60 households knows how to read and write. Not one.  This proved difficult for conducting interviews so instead of having women from Gotu conduct the interviews I walked around the community with one woman who helped translate the questions into Kiborana verbally while I read them and wrote the answers.  We have definitely faced some unexpected challenges during the course of the livelihoods assessment.   

Most of the communities we are visiting are of the Borana tribe and with the help of a Kenya Red Cross Intern we were able to translate the survey into Kiborana, which has helped us be able to interview people who do not speak Kiswahili or English.  We have employed the help of  Red Cross volunteers fluent in Kiborana and Kiswahili to conduct the interviews while I have been conducting focus group discussions.  I am very grateful to have such a great team of volunteers and this research would not be possible without them.  Particularly my focal volunteer Antony has helped me throughout the assessment process from survey development to helping mobilize volunteers and inform communities about the livelihoods assessment.  I joke with him and tell him that he is really my boss and supervisor because he has truly been a great leader and without him I would not be able to conduct any of this very important research.  

Top photo: Village Basa
Bottom photo: Amy and her research assistant, Antony, at Ewaso Nyiro River