MSc field research experiences in Uganda

Data collection in the woodlots

Why spending only one month on the actual fieldwork? Is it sufficient? Will you get adequate data? These were some of the many questions running through my mind.

In my MSc thesis, I want to investigate the decision-making of farm households on the establishment of woodlots in Uganda. With the data from a social survey, a so called agent-based model shall be developed whereby an agent is a household unit.

Two months prior to the actual fieldwork, I established as much contacts as possible. But, in the process of organizing my fieldwork, I realized that I did not have adequate funding for the field activities. Fortunately, my research could be integrated into the WoodCluster project, which was interested in utilizing the results for designing interventions for establishing woodlots in Uganda. As the project is in an early stage, the study sites were not finally selected. So, I elaborated a strict time plan and criteria for field site selection. My travel started in the end of February until end of March 2017.

With support from my co-supervisor and WoodCluster team in Uganda, I picked up enough courage and decided to travel to the field. In the field, I strategically made connections with the responsible authorities both at the district and village levels. I did this within two districts, with a plan that the second district would act as buffer in case of absence of the key characteristics needed for my study (“households with small woodlots”). I found the first option suitable for my study intentions and immediately commenced with the data collection process. I managed to sign up a field assistant and was able to finalize with the household surveys within the planned time with good memories.

During data collection, 98% of the household were hospitable and willingly provided information.  However, many households had questions on why numerous researchers carry out data collection but they do not see any results from their research.

Securing confidence from the respondents is the key to attaining appropriate information, and I promised to share my results with them. By observation, 99% of the household had the willingness to plant trees though the challenge was luck of seedlings and inadequate policy awareness.

Social survey

Using the collected survey data and being back in Germany, I have started developing my agent-based model using Netlogo. This model will reveal the impact of: changes in wood market price trends, household labor dynamics, increased policy awareness, increased technical knowledge on reducing wood scarcity and food security at the household level.

The major lessons from this experience are; always plan, consult and make on-ground connections in advance, follow your instincts, and most importantly, never give up.

Conducting this research was only possible through the support of the DAAD, WoodCluster project, my supervisors and advisor. Special thanks to them.

I wish all the best of luck for all those in the field….God bless you.

By Vianny Ahimbisibwe

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