Saturday, July 17, 2010

Back in the Congo.

Finally my first post from the Congo. On July 8 we crossed the Rwanda - DRC border at Rusisi and have been busy since. We’re in Eastern Congo to evaluate TUUNGANE: one of the world’s largest community-based development programs. The evaluation itself is also one of the most ambitious in the world; the program has been set up as an RCT, we have an incredible behavioral measure, and it is big; very big. In upcoming weeks I will (of course) write much more on the details.

For now we are busy with (among others):

  • Piloting the behavioral measure that will be implemented in 560 villages;
  • Getting geo-locations of 7,000+ villages in Eastern Congo (40+ people are now in the field for this);
  • Cleaning the data from the 2007 baseline survey;
  • Preparing the final survey which will be conducted in 1,120 villages (expected to receive information on over 40,000 people);
  • Preparing databases and computer code for the evaluation;
  • Organizing a 4-day workshop to collect information on the 2007 baseline survey;
  • Organizing a 3-day conference with implementers and international academics to discuss the evaluation;
  • Hiring 60+ people for the evaluation;
  • Training these 60+ people;
  • Buying 16 motorbikes;
  • Preparing 60+ PDAs for data collection.

This of course next to tens of smaller things: contact with the implementers of TUUNGANE, contact with Caroline and Macartan (both are working from abroad but arrive beginning August), paperwork, socializing with locals and ex-pats, and I’m taking French classes three times a week (and after that Swahili). In other words: All awesome stuff!

Last Monday and Tuesday we were in the field. [1]

I am here with two colleagues from Columbia University forming the ultimate power team. Raul (third-year economics PhD, blog here) and Grant (incoming Political Science PhD, blog here). Grant will be here until mid-August; Raul and I will be here until January 2011.

[1] This picture is made in front of a Mai-Mai flag. Mai-Mai is a form of community-based militia group often formed to defend their local territory against other armed groups; mainly against invading Rwandan forces and Rwanda-affiliated Congolese rebel groups. These groups popped-up especially during the Second Congo War (1998-2003), but many are still around exploiting the country's instability for their own advantage to loot, rape, etc. The driver told us that this flag (which was planted next to one of the main roads in Sud Kivu's territoire Walungu) belongs to the Mai-Mai group of General Padiri; seen as the most powerful and well-organized Mai Mai groups.

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