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Humans of Field Work

Florence Kondylis's picture

Enumerators play a crucial role in the success of field-based impact evaluations. Despite the central role they play in the research process, enumerators are rarely in the spotlight. We recently interviewed a few Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) enumerators working with us on a high-frequency market survey in Rwanda in the context of a rural feeder road upgrading project.

We hand-picked three of these interviews for this post. We were particularly keen on learning how they came to survey work, the extent to which this job may have changed their lives, and where they see their future. [All three interviews were conducted in Kinyarwanda and translated into English.]

 

Beatrice, the landlord

Florence/Leonardo/Lysca/Roshni: How long have you been an enumerator?
Beatrice: I have been an enumerator with IPA for two years.

FLLR: What did you do before? How did you get into survey work?
B: This is actually my first job! I saw an advertisement on a Rwanda-based online job portal and thought it might be worth taking a chance. There were many open positions but I felt like this one was the best fit for me.

FLLR: How has this job affected your life?
B: My IPA earnings have drastically changed my living standards. Before I started in this role, my husband was the sole breadwinner in the family and we were entirely dependent on him. All our income was devoted to running the house and went to urgent needs. Since I started at IPA, we have been able to save money and even rented a piece of land where we cultivate Irish potatoes. As a result, we save a lot of money – just the thought of this makes me very happy! I have a 3-year-old child with a disability; I am proud that I can pay for his treatment using the savings that come from my new job.

FLLR: What elements of the job do you like and dislike the most?
B: There are many elements of my job that I like a lot! I learn a lot - my work has opened my mind about how markets function and how agricultural traders do their job. An added bonus is that I have also made friends at the markets I visit! Many of the older women in those markets greet me with a smile when I come to see them. Despite having grown up in the same area where I conduct my surveys, I have discovered so many new parts! I don’t really dislike any aspect of the job, although working on rainy days isn’t very easy! 

FLLR: Have you noticed any changes in the field since you started enumerating these markets?
B: Yes, absolutely! In the Nyagahinga Market in Burera District, businesses were severely affected by unpredictable electricity. Over time, the situation has improved. This market is close to a feeder road that has been recently rehabilitated and many traders tell me this has improved their lives substantially.

FLLR: How do you see your future?
B: My husband and I spend a lot of time thinking about this. The revenue from my job is large and has allowed us to open a savings account in which I credit all my earnings. Our dream is to save up enough of the rental income we get from our newly acquired land in Musanze to construct a new house; and then rent that out too!
 
Epilogue: Beatrice is back from her maternity leave, and was able to hit the ground running on her own schedule
FLLR: How are you managing being a new mom and doing this work? How about childcare?
B: It has not been hard for me - I have been able ease myself back into work, and work around the monthly visits to the markets. This gives me enough time off to care of my baby. On other days, I have a babysitter who I pay for with the money from my work.
 

Serge, the wholesaler veterinarian

Florence/Leonardo/Lysca/Roshni: How long have you been an enumerator?
Serge: It is coming up on 9 months. 

FLLR: What did you do before? How did you get into survey work?
S: I am a trained veterinarian. Before joining IPA, I was a volunteer at the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project. When I saw IPA’s job-posting for an enumerator on a Rwanda-based online job portal I jumped on the opportunity! I feel lucky to have gotten the job.

FLLR: You worked with Gorillas? That’s exciting! How did you move from volunteering as a veterinarian to working as an enumerator?
S: While I really enjoyed my previous role, I was a volunteer and I knew that it was time to earn money. I am still passionate about veterinary issues, but my job at IPA is important for my long-term goals.

FLLR: How has this job affected your life?
S: It has provided me with capital to operate businesses in my village—I am a pig farmer and a veterinarian. Another business I started after becoming an enumerator is to supply hotels or restaurants with produce. As an enumerator, I collect data on the price and availability of several commodities across multiple local markets. I used this information to open a food-supply and arbitrage business. I recently got an offer to supply fruits and vegetables to a local hotel. 
 
Unfortunately, my involvement in this new line of work means that I can no longer devote myself to my pig rearing and veterinarian job. Sometimes I have to delegate this to a friend or family member, and I worry that they may not take care of the animals like I would.

FLLR: What elements of the job do you like and dislike the most?
S: I really enjoy spending time in the field – I feel comfortable talking to people and hearing their point of view. The most challenging part of fieldwork is collecting data during the rainy season. For example, last Monday, we were driving down a dirt road and it was raining really hard! We fell off the moto [motorcycle taxi - a regular mode of transport in Rwanda] three times. We had to walk quite some distance to get to the market.

FLLR: How do you see your future?
S: Being an enumerator is helping me save. In due time, I plan to stop working as an enumerator and focus on my own business. Enumerator contracts are very short: no more than three months at a time. Having my own business allows me to have a continuous stream of income. My plan is to work full time as a pig farmer.

FLLR: [after some exchanges in English] Your English is perfect—where did you learn it?
S: All of my early schooling was in English. I also studied animal science and food safety at Chonbuk National University, a public university in South Korea, for 2 months where we had to converse regularly in English.
 
Epilogue: Serge has stopped his job as an IPA enumerator. 
FLLR: What are you doing now? 
S: I left IPA in December, I am now a full-time, paid consultant (not volunteering) at the Gorilla Veterinary Project. I am very happy!
 

Christian, the moto driver

Florence/Leonardo/Lysca/Roshni: How long have you been an enumerator?
Christian: I have been working as an enumerator for a year now.

FLLR: What did you do before? How did you get into survey work? 
C: I was a full-time moto rider. I prefer my current role as an enumerator: every day, I get opportunities to learn new things. When I am not working as an enumerator, I go back to riding my moto.

FLLR: How has this job affected your life?
C: My living standards have improved. I use my enumerator earnings to pay for tuition fees for my kids and income from my part-time moto business for other households needs. In a little while [midday], I will be done with field work, and can ride my moto for the rest of the day.

FLLR: What elements of the job do you like and dislike the most?
C: Having worked as a full-time moto rider I am used to being on the move. This part of the enumerator job comes naturally! When it is raining, travelling to distant markets is challenging. Visiting these markets, I have begun to make new friends. This trader [points at man nearby] is my friend. As a cool bonus, I am getting to know my country a lot more!

FLLR: Do you have any interesting travel stories?
C: So many! When I was at Rubagabaga in Ngororero District, a bridge used to cross a shallow stream was broken. Someone helped carry me and my moto across the bridge on their shoulders. This is the type of things I would never experience in other jobs!

FLLR: Have you noticed any changes in the field since you started enumerating these markets?
C: I see big differences in markets where the road has been rehabilitated, not so much in the other ones. When the road gets upgraded, things change a lot! More products become available, the volume of goods coming to the market increases, and the and prices decrease. It is a win-win!

FLLR: How do you see your future?
C: I want to be a good father, and take care of my family. On the job front, I want to continue working in data collection and field research. If I continue to build experience, IPA has opportunities for promotion. I hope to be a Field Manager someday. This way, I will be able to educate my children and buy a nice house. 
 
All three enumerators provided signed consent to use the interviews and pictures for this post, and the post has been shared with them. This research project receives generous funding from the EU and UK Aid.