For the blog series titled “FEDU field researchers”, I introduce some of the FEDU field researchers as they share their field stories. For the third of the series, I interviewed Amollo Agatha a field researcher based in Tororo eastern Uganda.
Agatha graduated with a diploma in development studies from Nsamizi Training Institute, Central Uganda in 2014. After graduating, she didn’t instantly get a job, so she started a small boutique business in the local town in January of 2015. She continued her search for employment opportunities that aligned more with her academic qualifications and made an effort to apply for different jobs but with little success.
However, in December 2015 running the boutique business became untenable and she had to close it. This year she was still actively searching for employment and kept submitting applications to different organizations though still with no success despite being invited for a number of interviews. “Some call you, you do the interview but you don’t hear from them again. There was always tight competition”.
This was until she got the opportunity of working with L-IFT as a field researcher in September of this year. “I really wanted to get something which aligns with my profession”. To get skills to make me a more competitive candidate and that is what I am getting now. Agatha expressed her passion for work that involves community advancement and this, she states, was the main motivator for selecting development studies as a career path and hopes the current work she is doing with L-IFT will be a platform to carve out a career in this field.
Below is a transcript of my interview with Agatha
How would you describe your experience of working with the FEDU project So far?
I just liked the job. It has related to some of the areas I had studied while at school. Development studies are all about working in the community and we had a course unit in research. I have always loved to work in the community; during my education one aspect I really enjoyed was the community placement. We could be assigned to different communities, in most cases rural communities to sensitize them about HIV/AIDS, etc. The experience is quite similar and the research is also intended to understand the status and behaviors regarding finance and energy, which is also an area I am interested in. It has been a learning experience for me.
What skills do you think you have acquired during your work as a field researcher? How do you think the skills you have acquired will be of help to you in the future?
I think there is quite a lot I have learned from my work as a field researcher, I will highlight a few of them. I was someone who previously was very shy. Approaching someone was really hard for me but now I can approach any kind of person and tell them this and that. I have no problem now communicating. I was someone who was always at home but now I am used to different kinds of people, especially my respondents. Even after the interview, I can engage the respondents in other discussions they might bring up. I have been able to meet and engage with different people.
I have also got some knowledge on how research works, including the diaries methodology which is used for the current research. The work I do is basically data collection, so recruiting and maintaining the participants as part of the research involves a lot of persuasions especially in ensuring that you collect authentic data. A lot of challenges come up here and there and I have to look for creative solutions on the spot. The use of the smartphone for data collection is also something I have learned.
Another thing is that the work involves interacting with people of diverse backgrounds and mannerisms. I have got new friends at L-IFT and I have learned to work with different people from different communities and social statuses. This has taught me the importance of flexibility and patience. Especially when scheduling for interviews, there are a number of cases where people don’t keep appointments but I still have to either wait or reschedule for another time. Finally, a totally different and unexpected benefit has been physical fitness. It has really made me physically fit, the distant walks in the field have had an effect.
Any challenges you have experienced during your work as a field researcher?
The respondents have high expectations from their participation in the study. Some have not had prior exposure to research and expect the research to come along with gifts/money. This was a recurrent issue at the start of the research but now less so, though I still get those expectations once in a while. So I have to continually remind respondents that there is no direct payment of any form for participating in the study and explain why the research findings can still be important for them and the community.
In a few cases, I met respondents who couldn’t appreciate why they had to answer the same questions over and over again which is the main feature of the diaries methodology. Other challenges like the long distances to the homesteads and extreme weather while at the field – especially now that there is too much sunshine. Tororo can be very hot.
What did you think of the training which was provided before the baseline and the data collection?
I attended the second training only as I wasn’t around for the first training. I joined the project in September. In addition to the presentations from the facilitators about the research process, financial inclusion, and energy use, the experiences the other researchers shared were quite helpful to me as I started the fieldwork. It gave me an idea of what I was to expect in the field and I haven’t been surprised so far especially regarding the challenges, as most had been shared by the other researchers during the training. The presentations by SolarNow and Friends Consulting were quite good also. They talked about some of the expectations they have from prospective employees and some of the opportunities they have.
How do you think your research area differs from other research areas?
The difference I think is mainly between urban and rural settings. My area is mainly urban. I get a feeling that people in rural areas are more readily available and less likely to move from one place to another. Which is quite different from towns where most people rent and you find when some of the respondents have moved. It seems rural communities are also more enthusiastic about volunteering in research and giving you time.
INTERVIEW BY SIMON YESHO
RESEARCH INTERN FEDU PROJECT