martes, 28 de junio de 2011

Like an idiot.

Yesterday I talked with one of my contacts here in Uganda. We discussed some of the projects we are working on. My contact asked me some questions that not only was unable to reply to but made me feel like an idiot because I did not know the answer.
Matooke truck

One example:

Contact: "So we are working right now with a very interesting new cooking practice"
Me:"How much does it cost?"
Contact:"24,000 for materials and another 24,000 for maintenance over the 10 year life time"
Me: "(Playing smart) So it would be around 1,000 UGX per year per person considering an average household of 5.4 (Stats Bs since there are no 0.4 of humans)" - Should have asked: "How do you know it lasts ten years if it is a new practice?"
Contact: "Yes, that is around 50 cents of a Dollar per year per person, the only issue is that the household has to put a large sum upfront, but after we did the demonstration it was a complete success", "It has to be done right after the harvesting season since farmers don't have ways to store their produce and wait until prices are higher"
Me: "(Aja - Show off time) You know in this area there has been developments of commodity storage provided to farmers, you pay a moderate sum of 7 USD per month to store your crops until the prices go up, it seems to be working great" (31% of the population in Uganda still live with less than 1.25 USD per year).
Biker like an icon
Contact: "Oh! Ya! And how many people actually used it last season?"
Me: "Huh? Well... Ahem, A very interesting question! (This answer was learned during my graduate education), I will have to comeback to you later" - (What an idiot!) - "You know what, I can see your experience in the field and perception to see through things by the nailing questions you make"
Contact:"Well I've been two years in the field and I have heard it all"
Me: "... (Thinking to myself) I wish I could develop that skill"

This is a great problem in the International Development industry, everyone says that this or that works and actually: no one really knows. Statistical methodologies like RCT (randomized control test), quasi-experiments and difference-in-difference tests are some of the preferred methods, but after reading study after study and critic after critic it seems that answering the question: "What does really work?" is quite complicated.

Houses in Uganda
Munzungu! Munzungu!
I had a dream, that with satellite imagery we could actually measure facts, not self-reported improvements or random surveys but real images. Problem right now is that access to data is limited. I have imagery from 2003, the project I am working on started in 2006. I can only measure the past, not the present, the future seems even more blurry. Any ideas?

I sometimes miss working for the car industry...

1 comentario:

  1. Stubi,
    ¡Qué bueno leerte!
    Usted no se me angustie; creo que con frecuencia, y sobre todo al principio de algo así, uno cree que tiene todas las respuestas y preguntas correctas y se da de topes con la realidad. Pero, confío también en que, poquito a poquito, los irás resolviendo. You know all this stuff. Hay una gran diferencia entre la teoría y la prática, pero no creo que sea insalvable. ¡Te mando hartos abrazos desde Chicagouuuu!