A RIFA fellow conducting a baseline survey for a biofortification project in The Gambia.
Halie Kampman is an Environmental Studies PhD student from UC Santa Cruz and a RIFA fellow at United Purpose in The Gambia. At Santa Cruz, Halie studies food systems and nutrition in West Africa and during her three months in the Gambia she is conducting a baseline survey for a United Purpose project on biofortication for improved nutrition. Halie’s goal is to understand farmers’ planting and consumption patterns for orange and white sweet potatoes, biofortifiied millet, and African leafy vegetables, as well as the perceptions and barriers which shape these patterns.
Arriving in Senegal in July, Halie traveled to Serrekunda, a Gambian city on the Atlantic Coast, to begin planning her project survey. Preparation activities included collaborating with the NGO staff to refine the sampling strategy, and designing and testing questionnaires and interview guides. She initially ran into a challenge in designing the sampling strategy because the project beneficiaries are vast, covering all five regions of the country. Once Halie chose these targets, her planning commenced and she was able to finalize her data collection materials.
In three weeks of field work, Halie and her team, including local NGO partners, were able to complete 100 surveys and 45 interviews in their target villages. Some of the questions included production details and consumption patterns for millet, sweet potatoes and leafy vegetables as well as labor and marketing challenges. Using local NGOs as partners was vital for identifying farmers to survey, with most informants being members of women’s gardens or millet farmers. Halie also used snowball sampling to find more farmers for data collection. For each village or group of farmers sampled within the project area, a control group that will not be targeted in the project was also sampled. Two major challenges during sampling were accessing the target villages during the rainy season and selecting the control groups, as the criteria for selection was difficult to determine. Halie was able to complete the data collection and has begun analyze the interviews and surveys.
Halie has most enjoyed leaving Serrekunda to travel and do field work. A particularly pleasant field excursion took her to the village of Njawara, where she spend some afternoons with a partner NGO’s crop coordinator underneath a tree chatting and drinking the strong sweet green tea, “attaya”, that is popular in the region. Through her in-country travels, her favorite dish has been a sauce called “plasas”, made from sweet potato leaves, leafy greens, palm oil, smoked fish and spices, which is eaten over white rice. She also favors the juice from Baobab fruit, which is best mixed with sugar and water and served cold. Perhaps Halie’s most enjoyable experience in The Gambia thus far was an evening church fundraiser in Serrekunda, where a red carpet was rolled out for attendees and the crowd enjoyed Indian dance and music performances before the dance floor opened and everyone was dancing!
Profile written by Kate Wilkins.