Sunday, November 28, 2010

Training in Bukavu.

In total the evaluation consist out of four steps (A to D) and takes place in four provinces (Maniema, Sud Kivu, Haut Katanga and Tanganyika). Step A, B and C teams have been trained and in the field for over two months now. Yesterday we finished the training of the step D teams for Maniema and Sud Kivu.

For two weeks Raul and me trained 30 people of which in the end 24 were selected. How to conduct focus groups and general assemblies. How to audit a development project. How to conduct a myriad of different surveys. How to take GPS locations and use a PDA. Etc. It was much fun. The students are intelligent and very participatory; by default 1/3rd of the room had their hands raised.

Teaching 30 people.

A great group of students.

And many simulations to understand the survey's questions.

Step A, B and C teams visited during the training.
A, B, C and D: one big Tuungane evaluation team!

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Congo River.

In the previous post (or actually the previous 4 posts) something was missing. Something big. From October 28 to October 8 I was in Kindu; the capital of Maniema and a city build next to... the Congo River. Over the last years I have read so many books about this River. Books such as Conrad's Heart of Darkness, Crichton's Congo, Hochchild's King Leopold's Ghost, Butcher's (horribly bad) Blood River, Naipaul's A Bend in the River, Roberts' A Journal of a Tour in the Congo Free State, etc. had created an image in my mind of the Congo River - or "La Fleuve" ("The Source" as they call it in Kindu) as this big, mystical river. A river that in reality could never surpass the expectations I had of it. How wrong was I:

I flew with a MONUSCO plane from Bukavu to Kindu: only about a two
hour flight. After about an hour the rainforest started. I thought I knew what
to expect. When I finally saw a big river running like a snake through
the forest, I felt... nothing. Dissappointing! Was this what I read about.
Was this the magical Congo River?! But we kept on flying. After thirty more
minutes a new river could be seen snaking through the rainforest far
away. As we neared the River I got a chill on my back: This was the Congo River!
So beautiful and so big. On the picture: A first glimpse of "La Fleuve".

There is a reason why the people call the River "La Fleuve". First, Kindu
is completely isolated; a city hidden in the rainforest. Everything is either
flown in from Bukavu, or (mainly) brought from Kinsangani via the River: a
5-day trip in a piroque to get from Kindu to Kisangani (back to Kindu
takes longer as it is against the River's current). Second, people wash their
food, themselves, their clothes, etc. in the River. People use it as a big toilet
and use it as drinking water. On the picture: Close to Kindu there are not
too many crocodilles and hippos so children play in the River.

On the picture: As soon as the River stops. The rainforest starts.

The mode of transportation on the River is the
piroque. These are boats cut out from a tree (yes in
one piece) and can be as long as fifteen meter. They are
really impressive. On this picture: We often had to cross the
River with our motorbikes to reach a new village. Thus:
motorbikes in the piroque.

The Congo River is the deepest river in the world with depths in
excess of 230 meter and the second largest river in the world by
volume of water discharged (yes, Wikipedia). It is a river you do
not want to see angry. On the picture: This was shortly before a storm.
For one hour: strong winds, heavy rain and waves that made me think
I was in the Netherlands looking at the North Sea. One hour later
the sun was shining again as if nothing happened. So impressive!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Back. 1/4

Back. A very appropriate word. After weeks hereby another blogpost. After weeks I am also back from the field. The last month I spent my time throughout Sud Kivu: in piroques, on motorbikes, and many hours of walking. From end October I did the same in Congo's province Maniema. The first part of the evaluation has started and the teams are deployed. I arrived back in Bukavu a few days ago. A break? Definitely not. Tomorrow Raul and I start the training of the Sud Kivu and Maniema teams for the second part of the evaluation. Needless to say, there is so much to tell - I have had so many great experiences over the last weeks. Hereby four brief posts with several pictures to give at last some idea.

October 18. With the Sud Kivu team to the first village. In South Kivu
there are three teams of two for the first part of the evaluation. On this
picture: Because it is the first village we went all together: one car and
two motorbikes.

Most of the times villages are not reachable by road.
On the picture: walking for two hours to reach the
village. The views are gorgeous though.

One of the things the evaluation teams do in a village is to conduct a
large meeting with the villagers to inform them about Project RAPID. We
require that at least 25% of the villagers are present.
On the picture:
One of the team members conducting a general assembly.

On the picture: And the views! Amazing!

Because the teams work often for 2 days in a village
at arrival we ask whether there is a place where we
could sleep in the village. This is never a problem. On
this picture: In this village in Sud Kivu's territoire
Kalehe we were especially lucky. Not only was there
a hospital with beds (and no patients) where we could
sleep. In the evening the village offered us rice and a
living chicken. The chicken tasted great.

Back. 2/4

Heading towards another village. On the picture: the
provincial supervisor for Sud Kivu on the motorbike.
The road you see is a really really good road. Most
roads - if existant at all - are not doable by 4x4s and
often also not by motorbikes. The teams often walk
hours to reach a village.

Several of the villages that have to be visisted are on
islands. On the picture: our transport to the village.
These boats are piroques: boats often cut out of a tree.

On the picture: heading to the next village. The team together in a

The first few villages still need a lot of oversight. Thus, every evening
- even after a long day of work in the field - more work. On the
picture: debriefing of a trip to a village in Sud Kivu's terroire Kalehe.

On the picture: the tough life!

Back. 3/4

With the team in Sud Kivu's territoire of Walungu where we stayed in
in a paroish with nuns (who make amazing liquor from fruit). Important
when using motorbikes is maintenance. On the picture: At 6am in the
morning, before leaving to the next village, the team cleaning and
verifying the motorbikes.

Much time of the teams is spend on obtaining information: socio-
economic indicators, information on displacement and conflict, etc. On
the picture: interview with randomly selected villager.

Every evening the data collected that day has to be checked and
entered into PDAs. On the picture: Late in the evening by candelight
working with the teams.

The teams, including me, sleep most of the time in the villages where we
work: most of
the time in the house of the chief or in another house or
building in the village. On the picture: Beds are a rarity and most of the
times we
sleep on the ground.

Congo is a beautiful country. Plagued by povery and conflict, but
gorgeous. On the picture: The view when waking up early in the
morning. Try to beat that!

Back. 4/4

From October 28 to November 8 I was in Maniema to launch the
evaluation there. In Sud Kivu, Haut Katanga and Tanganyika we work with
the IRC. In Maniema we work with CARE International. On the picture:
briefing the CARE staff about the evaluation and introducing the
evaluation team (not on the picture).

The teams make very long days. During the day they introduce project
RAPID: conduct interviews, do general assemblies, focus groups, etc.
In the evening they verify the collected data and enter it into PDAs.
On the picture: In one of the village chef's house (where we all slept in
the evening on the ground) the team is filling out the PDAs.

In Maniema the security rules are substantially less
strict. It is, for example, allowed for me to drive a
motorbike and thus I made many many kilometers. Such
a sense of freedom. On the picture: My Yamaha bike,
sun going down and the Congo river. Truly amazing!

All decent buildings in Kindu (the capital of Maniema) are still from the
Belgian period. The building ares thus decades old but have not been
maintained. People do live there. On the picture: "La Roche" a former
Belgian dancing club.

On my flight back to Goma (where I would stay one evening to take the
boat to Bukavu the next day) I also landed in Punia and Kasongo. On
the picture: the awesome aiport of Punia. In the middle of the rainforest.