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Archive for October, 2010

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I’m now in the Assuit University guest house. The notice at the entrance made me smile; ‘Assiut University guest house wishes you to spend the Happiest times and the most Beautiful nights’. Unfortunately the notice was followed by a set of rules that make having the ‘Happiest times and most Beautiful nights’ a bit of a challenge…

I and 3 colleagues have been ‘on the road’ for about 10 days now and after a couple of near dead experiences I’ve learned a great deal about Egypt traffic rules (or the lack thereof). Overtaking can be done passing left or right and overtaking a car that is already overtaking another car is perfectly fine as long as you use your horn during the procedure. Driving while shouting to another driver in the car next to you using the other lane at a speed of about 100km/hour is ok too. Obviously none of this moves my Egyptian fellow passengers one bit so I’ve decided to do as the Egyptians and leave it all up to God. So I relax sit back and enjoy the ride. ‘Insha’Allah’ all will be ok.

We have been visiting 9 villages and will be visiting 15 more in Upper Egypt. We’re revisiting people that have participated in an FAO study in 2007 assessing the impact of bird flu on people’s livelihoods. We want to see what changes have occurred since 2007 in terms of the number of birds they keep, the importance of poultry for income and other services and changes in attitude and behaviour in relation to bird flu. It’s quite a challenge trying to locate all the respondents, some names have been lost in translation, some have moved away and one entire village could not be visited because of an armed conflict.

In all honesty this research has been quite frustrating for us for many different reasons. It takes great effort and a whole lot of patience to conduct the interviews. Not all people –understandably- want to tell us about their income, diets and behaviours. Others for whatever reason give very confusing and contradictory answers which makes the interviews unreliable, while others prefer to talk A LOT about other things. This however is part of most research. It gets more difficult and above all embarrassing when people tell you that they don’t need another study, they need food. If you could see some of these people it is blatantly obvious they have not been ‘able to provide a ‘normal’ meal for themselves and their family members in the past year’ as one of the questions in our questionnaire states … One widowed old lady with bad eyesight and hearing lives in a tiny clay house, sleeps on a hard bed and her toilet consists of a hole in the floor of her tiny house. All she owns is 4 chickens and the rest of her possessions are contained in a few plastic bags. She spends all her money on food and regularly will have only tea and dry bread for her meals. Try telling these people that this research could possibly contribute to changes in policy that might be of benefit to them in years to come.

In those moments I feel pretty hopeless and I feel like giving up on ‘development’ work and doing something entirely different. No matter how much I love working with farmers, learning from them and spending time with colleagues in the field it is difficult sometimes to see how it might be of benefit. I only wish to be of more help to others but don’t seem to have found the right place and the right way to do it YET… But I’m confident I will eventually!

All the photos posted on my blog are owned by me and they should not be used without my permission

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All the photos posted on my blog are owned by me and they should not be used without my permission

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