Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Data collection woes

Man Prefecture
I wanted to know if there was a comprehensive list of organizations that had been registered in Man. Organizations must first register their existence with the Prefecture, and when I went to ask about said list, the administrator said oh yes, thousands of organizations are registered here. Great, any way I can see a list? Oh no, there's no list, we just have all of the files (shows me to the above cabinet).

Prefecture de Bouak茅: Known locally as the "White House" this was the seat of the rebellion during the civil war. The post-2011 government did not want to set-up shop here, so established the Prefecture in a different location. In 2016, this new building was ransacked and destroyed by "young protesters". The prefecture re-established itself in the White House at the end of last year. 

In Bouak茅, we visited the Prefecture: "We used to have a full list. But when the Prefecture was ransacked last year, we lost everything. Hard copies of registration forms, our computers…everything."
Compiling the data I need for my dissertation, thus, will require a little creativity since these two anecdotes are more or less representative of other situations I found throughout the country: a lack of data in electronic format, destroyed documents during the crises, staff turnover resulting in lost or unfinished lists of organizations.

For Ivorian organizations, the loss of the lists is not the end of the world as they receive a receipt when they turn-in their paperwork at the Prefecture, and it is with this receipt that they are able to legally function - a lost file at the Prefecture does not mean they lose their right to work, thankfully. Nevertheless, a lack of a database with NGO registration information makes it difficult for a) the authorities to know who is working in the NGO sector in their department; b) the central state to know how many organizations work in a given sector; c) civil society organizations to know who else works in their domains; d) international donors and partners to know with whom to work; e) PhD researchers to collect comprehensive lists of organizations across the country 馃槙

Alas, this is fieldwork!

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Man: 18 Mountains, resiliency, and mysticism

In early November 2017, I went the farthest west I have been in C么te d'Ivoire. Man, the capital of the Montagnes district (formerly 18 Montagnes) is nestled amidst the tallest peaks in the country and dense rainforest. Its most western regions border Guinea and Liberia.

Clockwise: The highest peak in C么te d'Ivoire, la dent de Man; the view from the cathedral of Man; sunset; view from Dioulabouga neighborhood, Man
But this region, despite its beauty, was also the site of some of the worst violence the country witnessed during its two crises; it is even known as the "Wild West" because of the lawlessness and proliferation of various armed groups from C么te d'Ivoire and Liberia. Still today it remains a volatile area as the location of current land disputes that resulted in seven deaths and displaced 5000 people in October 2017.

The organizations I spoke with here focused largely on health outcomes: the region has the highest HIV rate in the country, with C么te d'Ivoire having the highest HIV prevalence rate in West Africa and this has had a particular effect on orphaned and vulnerable children; gender-based violence was rampant during and after the conflict; female genital cutting is widely practiced and organizations work to help local leaders understand the negative health impacts of such practices (such as fistulas). After health, social cohesion and poverty reduction were the next most active sectors for NGOs: integrating former combatants proves difficult when victims do not understand why those who hurt them are receiving aid to integrate, while the victims receive nothing. Encouraging groups who fought each other to get along on public good projects proves futile when citizens do not trust their neighbors. Nevertheless, there is a commitment to overcoming the intercommunal violence and develop the region: folks recounted stories of their entrepreneurial endeavors: creating ecotourism sites and developing a rice farming consultancy firm and women banding together to form a co-op to increase local transformation of agricultural products. I admire the resiliency of a population who suffered so greatly in the past and hope that the positive growth seen in recent years will reach these groups.

11/7/2017: Interview with a local health organization

11/8/2017: Interview with an organization that does programming related to orphans and vulnerable children 
11/8/2017: A women's co-op leader shows me the traditional press for removing liquid from cassava (they just recently purchased a more mechanized processing system)

11/8/2017: Attending an open air session hosted by magistrates and a local NGO on how to access the justice system.
In addition to conducting interviews, I still was able to play tourist: visiting a sacred forest full of tiny monkeys, hiking to the beautiful waterfalls, watching the Elephants lose their World Cup qualifying match, partaking in local alcohol products.

Clockwise: Palm wine in a Wob茅 village east of Man; feeding the monkeys in the Gb锚pleu sacred forest; the famous cascades of Man; rooting on the Elephants in a local bar with NGO folks
I also attended the 7th annual Mask Festival. Traditional masks from across the region and elsewhere made their way to the three-day festival: there were some masks who were aggressive and frightened onlookers, there were humorous masks that encouraged (for a fee) photo-taking, there were masks on stilts, and there was plenty of dancing and mask races. Attendance was high, with young people and old alike laughing and pointing, screaming and running (and then laughing), all trying to get a glimpse of the mystical beings. It was a compelling and intriguing cultural experience.

11/11/2017: Some of the masks we saw at the festival

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

A lot has changed, much remains the same

I am back (again) in Abidjan, but this time for dissertation fieldwork! It has been five years since I first came to C么te d'Ivoire, and the country has seen many changes in the interim. Here are a few highlights.

Infrastructure and growth

New highways! Ground broken for a cross-Abidjan metro system! Burger King! I discussed new infrastructure projects when I was here in 2015, but even more have been completed since and more put on the docket. Between 2011-2015, C么te d'Ivoire has experienced an economic growth rate of 9%, a huge feat for a post-conflict country. However, there are doubts about how sustainable this rate can be: even this year, price drops on cocoa have affected the growth forecast (and has led to widespread protest by cocoa farmers in the southwest). Further, the everyday citizen does not seem to have felt the effects of this growth rate: Afrobarometer round 7 (2017) results indicate that the self-reported unemployment rate has increased from 73% to 76%. Ivorian friends say they have seen the roads being built, but for them this does not translate to jobs and relief of economic insecurity for their families.


In 2012, when I arrived for the Fulbright, every few weeks or so there were attacks on police stations and barracks, with unknown assailants taking weapons and sometimes resulting in causalities. Police and military barricades were the norm as one traversed the city. In 2013, things started to look better – the President got rid of all of the barricades and the attacks became fewer and farther between. Fast forward to today: after two 2017 mutinies by former rebels now integrated into the army, security forces are much more on alert. There were two prison breaks in the past month. A few days before my arrival, a police depot was attacked in Abobo, a commune of Abidjan. The government accuses pro-Gbagbo individuals of fostering this insecurity. The mutineers are still rattling their sabers (literally), attempting to take over the mayor's residence in Bouak茅 on October 2, demanding back payments to the tune of $33,000 each.

Further, on October 10th, an aide of Guillaume Soro, former rebel leader, current president of the National Assembly, was arrested and accused of hiding weapons in his home that helped the mutiny. Abidjan friends and colleagues expressed concern that this arrest would lead to violent confrontations between Soro supporters and the government, but so far things have been calm.

To top it off, security is also high due to recent terrorist attacks in neighboring Mali and Burkina Faso. In 2016, C么te d'Ivoire was the site of an AQIM attack, only months after similar attacks in Mali and Burkina. Metal detectors and bag checks are the norm at shopping centers and hotels, with particular attention paid to locations frequented by foreigners.

In short, despite the economic growth and the semblance of stability, there are still many issues preventing the restoration of rule of law in the country.


Former president Gbagbo is still at the ICC facing charges of crimes against humanity. His trial started on January 28, 2016, a little under five years after his arrest. In late September, General Mangou, who served under Gbagbo during the crisis, dealt a striking blow to the defense's case: indeed, Gbagbo had established a parallel command structure, based on personal ties and dependent on relationships with Bl茅 Goud茅 (also on trial at the ICC) and Gbagbo's wife, Simone (charged but acquitted of crimes against humanity), with the goal of "maintaining control of power at any cost."  Gbagbo supporters do not seem fazed by this revelation: calling Mangou a liar, a traitor, and a double agent because he swore his allegiance to the Ouattara camp the day after Gbagbo was captured in 2011.

Political competition

A once promising coalition, the RHDP (which joined together the PDCI and the RDR) is crumbling. The RHDP is effectively why Ouattara was elected in 2010; former president B茅di茅 of the PDCI threw in his hat for Ouattara in the second round of voting, pushing Ouattara's vote share over the needed 50%. And yet, the coalition was always on shaky ground: 2012 legislation to change the head of household laws in the country to be more inclusive was met with strong opposition from the PDCI camp, despite RDR's support – this led to a shake-up in the cabinet where Ouattara effectively ousted disloyal PDCI folks. In the 2016 legislative elections, former PDCI candidates who had run and even been elected under the RHDP banner were not renominated, choosing instead to run as independents (and sometimes winning) against hand-selected, loyal RHDP candidates. There is also discontent regarding the successor to Ouattara in the 2020 presidential elections: those RDR loyalists want an RDR face to represent the party, while PDCI folks feel that their commitment to the coalition should be rewarded with their own candidate, and it is now their time to shine.

The opposition remains fragmented, with the FPI (Gbagbo's party) only holding three seats in the national assembly. Time will tell whether this party will disappear as many former ruling parties so often do in Africa.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Survey: Perceptions of NGOs and the electoral process in C么te d’Ivoire

One of the major components of my research project is carrying out a public opinion survey about the electoral process, perceptions of NGOs and democracy in general. Due to budget restraints, I decided to limit the survey to Abidjan only, but with a representative sample coming from the 13 communes. The team has finished the interviews and are now working on data entry. Here’s how it went down:

First, I had to find a survey firm to carry-out this work. I selected the Afrobarometer implementing partner, the Centre for Research and Training on Integrated Development (CREFDI). I chose them because they came with high accolades from other researchers, but also because they are very familiar with Afrobarometer’s sampling and interviewing protocols as they have been working with Afrobarometer for two rounds (2013 and 2014, rounds 5 and 6).
CREFDI staff, 4 June 2015
Second, I developed the survey (well, over the course of the year during my classes, specifically a survey design course) and with input from COSOPCI. I then had six Ivorian university students pilot the survey online, to help with the response suggestions and survey flow (special shout out to my husband as well who corrected my French).
Piloting the survey, 27 June 2015
Then it was onto training the enumerators. I worked with a great team of eight enumerators, two supervisors, two data entry folks, and of course the director of CREFDI. On training day we went through the survey question by question, responding to any problems or comprehension issues, and distributing the 520 questionnaires to the teams. The questionnaires were printed, because, although ideal, tablets or phone surveys were outside of my budget.
Enumerator training 3 July 2015

Me and the team 3 July 2015
The questionnaire was administered between July 5 and July 12. Each team of four was overseen by a supervisor, and divided up the 65 enumeration area between the two teams (at random). An enumeration area, ZD here, are determined geographically by the Statistics Institute (INS) in charge of carrying out the census. The ZD are comprised of 1,000 to 1,200 individuals on average. Following Afrobarometer protocol, 8 respondents would be interviewed per ZD, thus, I needed 65 ZD for this study in order to reach a 520 respondent sample. The distribution of the ZD was determined after the 13 communes of Abidjan were stratified based on population; thus Yopougon, the largest commune, was allotted 15 ZD, while Treichville and Plateau, the two smallest, were allotted one ZD each. The ZD were then selected at random by CREFDI. Each team, then, would complete 40 respondent interviews per day, meaning five ZD per day, 10 interviews per enumerator per day. Because the ZD were chosen at random within each commune, sometimes the teams would start in the north part of the commune and then have to take a Gbaka or Woro-Woro to get to the other side of the commune, especially in the two largest communes of Yopougon and Abobo.
Abidjan, Communes not included on this map: Anyama, Bingerville, and Songon.
I went out with each team for a day to see how things were going and to observe any difficulties they encountered. To determine which household to interview, the team followed the Afrobarometer sampling protocol: they would meet at a randomly selected intersection, one interviewer would walk East, another West, another North, and another South. They would select the fifth household that they encountered. If there was someone home (which was more often the case than not), they would give a brief recruitment speech explaining the purpose of their visit, show their CREFDI badge to demonstrate their credibility, and ask to make a list of the members of the household in order to randomly select the person to be interviewed. They alternated by household whether they would target a woman or a man for the interview (all respondents had to be over the age of 18). From the list they would have the member of the household draw a number, and that person was the person selected to be interviewed; if they were not home or if they refused, the enumerator was to leave the household and continue counting. If they agreed to participate, they had to give verbal consent, and the survey could commence.

Interview in Yopougon, 7 July 2015

Interview in Koumassi, 7 July 2015
From witnessing this process, I learned a few things:
  • A lot of people live in households in Abidjan; sometimes the people who lived there were uncertain about the number of people who were residing in a home. 
  • People do not particularly like divulging their age. It was the first question (because if they were not an adult, they could not complete the interview), and the enumerators were good at convincing people to give their age (“it’s so we can make sure you are of voting age”). People thought that asking age was not anonymous, which I still don’t completely understand. 
  • Most people like to talk, and one of the downsides of public opinion surveys with mostly closed questions is that their thoughts are not necessarily recorded. One respondent in Koumassi said he would not participate in the elections because he was afraid. The enumerator coded this response on the survey and continued onto the next question, but the man asked “wait, don’t you want to know why I am afraid?” and then told us stories of what had happened to him and his family in 2010-2011. 
  • On the other hand, there are some people who do not want to talk. Women in particular were reticent and often responded with I don’t know to many of the questions. 
At lunch with the first team, they asked me if in the U.S. there was a tradition about inviting someone into your home. I said no, not really, I mean I guess you could offer them something to drink? The enumerators were surprised: “if you don’t offer someone water and ask about the ‘nouvelles’ (news), it is clear to the visitor that they are not welcome.” They said that outside of Abidjan the welcoming experience varies, with some ethnic groups offering all you can drink liquor or Kola nut to guests in addition to water. At each interview, we were welcomed in, even before the household member agreed to participate, offered water and offered a seat. 
Discussing welcoming protocol over peanut sauce lunch, 3 July 2015
The data entry team is now busy at work inputting the responses from the 520 interviewees. I expect to be able to analyze the data, at least preliminary data, this weekend; I will hopefully give a dissemination presentation of the descriptive statistics to COSOPCI and CREFDI before my departure; two more weeks, so a lot of work to do!