IEE Newsletter

MADM: Online Field Research in Zambia

MADM student Janar Chynbaeva tells us about her online field research in Zambia.

A warm and calm evening in a sub-Saharan African country. The red sun sets on the horizon to the sounds of cicadas. Three people sit in the backyard of a simple lodging place and share a late dinner. They chat and exchange their impressions after the long workday, where they walked from one field to another and interviewed farmers. Sometimes, they rode on the bicycle of local farmers to move from one location to the next, sometimes they just walked on dusty countryside roads in hot Zambian weather. And everywhere, the farmers welcomed this small team of three interviewers.

Janar 1
Lodging place in Mkushi District, Zambia

These are pictures in my head when I imagine how it would have been if I were physically in the research country. The major difference to the described imaginary picture is, however, that I conducted my study virtually due to travel restrictions amid the corona-pandemic. I could not physically be there. However, enumerators shared pictures and short videos, as well as their impressions and experiences from the field, helping me get some insight into the, for me,  new field of research. Besides, I had a few short video introductions to the respondents, where I could talk to them and get their feedback on the conducted training. All these details are important for further analysis.

What is my research about?

The field research for my master thesis was conducted in the Central province of Zambia in September – October 2021. I am evaluating the impact of Farmers Business Game training on financial literacy and financial behavior of small-scale farmers. This research project is supported by the host organization of the German Sparkassenstiftung for International Cooperation, providing access to the field, reports, and other information. Moreover, it assisted in the survey financially as well as administratively. Additionally, the research stay was financed out of the PROMOS DAAD RUB scholarship.

The evaluation of Farmers Business Game training can help optimize the monitoring and evaluation system of the regional project of the Sparkassenstiftung. Besides, the analysis will shed light on the efficiency of the conducted training seeks to understand whether or not the livelihood of smallholders has improved due to the intervention.

How did my online research go?

Conducting my research online was a necessary adaptation to the new global reality. It offered opportunities, but also brought some challenges. The major opportunity was certainly the possibility to survey in unfavorable corona-situation. Moreover, with the support of the host organization, I could hire two committed and qualified enumerators who gathered the data through face-to-face interviews. Especially helpful was that the openness and friendliness of the respondents. Besides that, the support from the colleagues in the project in Lusaka smoothened the research stay.

Before the field works started, multiple preparation steps of alignment on the process and research design, as well as organizational issues, were undertaken. In the course of the field study, we regularly held online follow-ups with the enumerators. During these meetings, we discussed the progress of interviews, as well as plans for the next steps. I also joined the introductory meetings with farmers via video in research locations. Altogether, we covered 6 districts in the Central province. We finished the data collection as planned; However, there is still much more work to be done. The next steps include data entry and analysis.

Besides the opportunities, we faced several challenges in the field. The major obstacle was the weak internet connection in the rural areas of Zambia, which hindered my distant coordination. In combination with regular power cuts, communication with enumerators was even more difficult. Additionally, the lack of a phone network in remote areas of the Central province impeded the communication with interviewees. This and other factors made some farmers unavailable for interviews. Moreover, the weak transportation system in the regions disrupted the mobility of interviewers. Nevertheless, the enumerators managed to overcome these challenges.

Overall, my first and unique experience with an online research stay went well. The data was successfully gathered. I got an initial, though limited, glimpse into the local culture and everyday life of farmers in Zambia, although unfortunately completely missing the intercultural experience. Generally, I think the future of research should not entirely lie in an online format as it overlooks many important aspects and insights for analysis.

Janar 2Road, leading to the farms in Kabwe District, Zambia Janar 3
Potato field in Kabwe District, Zambia

ChynbaevaJanar Chynbaeva
MADM Student

Institute Navigation


You can subscribe to our newsletter via this link:

IEE Newsletter Subscription

Or have a look at our current Newsletter first.