|Community Assessment of Natural Food Sources of Vitamin A, Guidelines for an Ethnographic Protocol (International Nutrition Foundation for Developing Countries - INFDC, 1997, 141 pages)|
As noted earlier in this manual, the field data-gathering team consists of at least three persons: the team leader and two research assistants. On the other hand, some groups who field tested these procedures found it advisable to have more research assistants, in order to avoid researcher fatigue and to expedite the completion of the data-gathering within the available time. With five, or even six, persons in the field work, the entire process outlined in the manual can be accomplished perhaps in four weeks instead of six. Decisions about the composition of the field team will of course depend on available funding, availability of suitable persons, and other factors.
Ideally, the team leader should be a person who has university training In some kind of community oriented social science. One obvious type of person for this task would be someone with a background in community nutrition, but many other types of persons would also be suitable. Obviously, the team leader should have a knowledge of food and good organizational skills, including the ability to direct and supervise the work of the assistants.
In the five sites where this manual has been used thus far, there have been two main types of team leaders. In some cases, such as Niger, the team leader was the principal investigator, a complete outsider to the local area, but with good fluency in two of the local languages (Hausa and French). She had extensive experience in the area of vitamin A programs, as well as other research in Niger. On the other hand, in the field study in Peru, the research supervisor was from Lima, but the team leader was from the local area, with a background in nursing. The assistants also had nursing training.
Criteria for selection of the assistants should put special emphasis on their familiarity with the local region, and its food culture, and socioeconomic system as well as their ability to establish good working relationships with people in the community to be studied.
The following selection criteria are to be considered when you put together the field data-gathering team:
i. All the team members should be persons who have good ability to develop friendly social relationships with the community people. Be especially wary of selecting persons who maintain social distance from villagers by use of more educated speaking style, manner of dress, and other symbols. In the same vein, team members should be persons who are non-judgmental concerning current cultural practices in the area. Thus, persons with healthcare and/or nutritional training and other service backgrounds, are usually willing and able to suspend judgment about food habits, hygienic practices, and other local behaviors during the course of this research.
ii. Of course all team members need to be available for the duration of the project. (Either persons who can take a leave of absence from their current duties or are currently unemployed.) If persons are selected who have other work and obligations, get a clear commitment concerning the numbers of hours and days per week the individual is available for data-gathering activities. iii. All members of the team need sufficient literacy levels so they can use the manual effectively and can write clear fieldnotes (see Appendix 5).
iv. Familiarity with the local language and culture is an especially important criterion, particularly in the case of the field assistants.
v. Persons with previous experience in community-based projects in the region would be likely to have better understanding at the outset, concerning the basics of data-gathering.
vi. Care should be taken that local persons are not seen as associated with a particular faction, especially political faction, within the community.
vii. The team members must be willing and able to visit all the different households in the study community. In some areas this can require walking in difficult, hilly terrain. In other communities there may be social difficulties for some people in going to households on the other side of the village.
In some areas you may find it very difficult to recruit educated persons for your data-gathering team. Here is an example from a rural area in Niger:
No college-educated persons were available, but the researcher, Lauren Blum, was able to hire one local woman with a high school education, and another who had not finished high school, but had a good level of literacy. The more educated woman was in her early thirties, an experienced mother, and fluent in French, Hausa, and Djerma, the three local languages. Her knowledge of the community and ability to develop good social relationships with all the people, more than offset her lack of special training in social sciences. The younger assistant, who was unmarried and childless, was somewhat less able to develop social relationships with the women in the household sample.