Monday, May 5, 2014

Surveys with Farmer Communities in Batticaloa

Greetings Batticaloa lagoon and fort - a pleasant sight each morning while crossing the Kallady bridge, Batticaloa town. From May 1st, the SSHRC Sri Lankan Research Team spent 3 days in the Batticaloa District. We had to balance our work under the heat and humidity and the afternoon heavy thunder showers.

The core team comprised myself from LIRNEasia and Chandana (WUSL/LIRNEasia), Chandana was leading a team of students affiliated with the Wayamba University of Sri Lanka ICT Centre that combined with a team of local community members affiliated with Janathakshan. The Janathakshan members were facilitating and interpreting between the enumerators and the farmers. The teams surveyed the Verugal and Kathirveilli villages in Batticaloa District (neighbouring the Trincomalee District boarder). Both villages were quite devastated  by the ethnic conflict that ended in 2009.

The survey is designed to collect a baseline understanding of the farmer house use of ICTs. The survey was an adoption of LIRNEasia's 2012 Telliuse at BOP survey. The project introduced Tablet PCs and the FuidSurvey application for digitzing the data. However, poor Cellular Internet connectivity was effecting the data collection efficiencies. Web pages were slow in refreshing. Therefore, the enumerators decided to use paper and digitize later.

Answers from the farmers to the 50+ administered questions would provide insights as to how farmers may use mobile phones in their farming practices. The survey results are also a measure to understand the potential take up of technology by those communities after the short campaigns.

Janathakshana, in a previous project, has registered 300 Kathirveilli farmer households. The stratification was simply kathirveilli farmers; thus, giving us a random sample size of 75 households. Over two sessions, morning and afternoon, the team captured over 50 responses.Kathirveilli is a new village that was developed to rellocate beach resident fisher folk in land, following the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami destruction. Now they are taking up agriculture. Interestingly, in Kathirveilli we found several households to not own any kind of telephone. They would use the neighbours or their relatives' at the time of need. The farmers were no more than 1 KM from the main road, 2 KM from the nearest market, and 30 KM from the nearest town of Valachenni.

Comparatively, Verugal farmers who travelled to their plots across the Verugal river, all had a phones. Moreover, they were quite comfortable with using the phone.Janathakshan has registered 100 farmers in that community. There were 22 surveys recorded for that campaign community.

A common trait between the two villages were that each household had their own home gardens and, additionally, the Government had allocated plots on a long term lease. Non-governmental Organizations, such as janathakshan, are supplying resources to build farming infrastructure. Each family earns less than Rs. 100,000 per year. They sell more than 50% of their harvest from the leased and owned lands.