Friday, November 25, 2011

Interviewing the (Assistant) Chief

Sorry to steal your blog post day Joseph, but I’ve forgotten yesterday and the week before that, so I figure I’d better just get it out now.
Today was our last day of data collection for our directed research. I got Environmental Policy, which was my last choice, but I am so happy I got it. The other two groups are in a bit of a mess compared to us (all the people in my group are awesome and work really hard) and it is probably the most beneficial studies as it goes for wildlife conservation. Our research topic (which is completely different from our individual studies- we collect a bunch of data on the topic and then we all focus on a different portion for our individual studies) is on land tenure, land use, livelihoods, and how all this relates to human-wildlife conflicts.
It is with both great excitement and great sadness that this was the last day of data collection. The past seven days (seven days excluding thanksgiving, of course) we have everyday gotten interviews from 8 different households in either Kimana Group Ranch, Kuku Group Ranch, or the Kilimanjaro Foothills. I was nervous for this at first but I’m really going to miss it. Even though we have to speak through interpreters it’s amazing just to talk to people, to gain knowledge from them and hear all their stories. The guides are awesome too, and I’m sad I’m not going to be seeing much of them now. The other groups give us a hard time because they have to follow animals or trek through a forest by the river, but I think that our work was equally difficult, just in a not as physical way. Today we split our group into two and split up the interviews. We were interviewing a Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) assistant manager of Amboseli National Park, the Loitokitok District Senior Chief, Livestock Officer, and Agricultural Officer, and the Kimana Assistant Chief. Unfortunately, KWS pulled a “you have to fill out this paperwork etc. etc.” before we could interview them (which they had never done in previous years) and the Loitokitok District Senior Chief never showed up, so we couldn’t get those interviews, but I was at the interview with the Kimana Assistant Chief (the other half of the group did the Loitokitok District Livestock Officer and Agricultural Officer interviews). It was enlightening and discouraging. Talking to Kilelo, the Assistant Chief of 17 years and counting, we learned a lot of how little dialogue there is between the local government and KWS/central government. We also saw how the local government didn’t really do anything. It operates by just being open most of the time and people can walk in, but in the guest book (which we signed) there were only 5-10 people in the last 6 months. We also asked him what were the three biggest projects on their agenda (and gave examples, such as hospitals, roads, fencing) and he wasn't able to name a single thing. The discouragement from this only compounded the discouragement I had felt on the 22, when my friend Alyx and I were interviewing. At the end of our questions we always ask if they have any questions or comments, and that day they had a really good question. They told us that every single year they were questioned by SFS students but there had been no change for them. That was a really hard question to answer, and only thing we could say was along the lines of we’re going to do our best, this is just a study where the findings will be sent to government organizations and NGOs. I didn’t expect my findings to have any serious change in governmental structure or anything like that, but I was hoping for something, some benefit to the area, and seeing that it probably won’t, that all these studies, at least 2-3 times a year for over a decade, has resulted in no change for the people and the area is just heart-breaking. I am back up from the discouragement some, though. Today in the car (on the way to the Senior Chief-who-never-showed-up’s office) we were talking about the interview with Kilelo and how we didn’t see how we couldn’t really change anything pretty much no matter what we found in our studies. Then Rainer, one of the members of our EP group, pointed out that for serious change, as seen in many movements, it takes at least 50 years from its conception before actual change occurs. This gives me some hope, at least, as does many of the interviews which I have had with people who have already started to make changes to help change the degradation of their lands.

1 comment:

  1. Don't be discouraged! Lots of studies that have a direct impact only do so because the researchers screwed up royally. Even if your research doesn't have an immediate effect, it will contribute to an academic climate that can change things over time.