Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Elafweyn Field Trip 5th to 11th October, 2011

Elafweyn is the second largest town in Sanaag Province and is located 95km Southwest of Erigavo, the capital city of Sanaag Province in Somaliland. First settled in 1940, it became a town in 1972 and officially recognized as a district in 1974. The town has 1600 households and it is estimated each household has an average of 6 people, whichmakes the town's population 9600.

Projects for SMS testing:
I met with beneficiaries of the roof water catchment (tanks), schools and the Community Development Committee.  
  1. Roof water catchment – Second phase of tanks for 20 families were completed in May, 2011 and first phase of tank for 20 families were completed in mid 2009.
  2. High School - 2 rooms, 90 students
  3. Community Development Committee (CDC) – 11 members
Household beneficiaries:
40 families x 6 = 240
+5 (neighbouring families) x 6 (family members) x 40 (household with tanks) = 1200
1200 + 240 = Total of direct beneficiaries 1440

1440 people are direct beneficiaries from water catchment from rain but when there is no rain and tank owners sell water from commercial suppliers, only 240 people from the 40 tank owning families benefit directly and others buy water for affordable price. In latter case, the beneficiaries include all the town residents.

I met with 25 representatives of the 40 water tank beneficiaries, all the students and 8 of the 11 CDC members. The school Headmaster is the only person who is a member of both CDC and water tank beneficiaries and as such, an ideal person to work closely with to monitor the SMS feedbacks. I met the water tank beneficiaries twice, on the 5th and 12th October, 2011. On the 5th, I met with 8 families but I didn’t have the SMS feedback number and the meeting was informal, just to get an idea of the project, the beneficiaries and how they managed the tanks.

Women are in charge of the everyday management of the tanks and most of them are illiterate. They are used to getting staff to sit down with them to collect their feedback and therefore were keen to talk more than to write an SMS with the detailed feedback we are asking. The level of informality helped me get honest responses from the women, as I went on my own without any formal introduction. One of the beneficiariesconfided that she was keen to participate but can’t write or read! Luckily, her teenage son was in the room and offered to help.

This led to the idea to partner parents and children to collaborate on SMS sending. Parents can ensure the messages have been sent by waiting for an automated reply confirming the SMS is received. Both the parents and children seemed happy with this idea so I incorporated it into my next communication to the beneficiaries in the villages.

In the following days I visited 4 villages, Godcaanood, Kalsheikh, Beerweeson and Gal & Qac, and explained the project and how the SMS works to beneficiaries, Community Development Committees, Village Committee, women beneficiaries (where I felt men were dominating the discussion), school children and school Headmasters. 
The school children and women showed more enthusiasm for the SMS feedback idea more than the men I had met. They seemed happy to be involved in the project and especially to be asked of their opinion.
Lessons from this trip:
  1. Writing a concrete message explaining the aim of the project and how the SMS works was not enough. I had to spend considerable amount of time with each group explaining verbally and in detail.
  2. As I met more groups, I realized I had to improve my verbal communication and even got one of my colleagues from the Elafweyn office to come along and help with the wording, given the north vs south dialect difference. I felt together we did a better job.
  3. With each meeting, communication got easier and clearer. For that reason, I decided to revisit some groups in Elafweyn town to drive the message a bit deeper.
  4. To make sure all beneficiaries participate in the project, we have to include students to help illiterate parents and consider voice SMS option.

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