Dr. Bikketi on Adapting to COVID-19 in Kenya | Includovate (2020)
Where Do You Live, and What Is the Government’s Response to COVID-19 in Kenya?
I live in Nairobi, Kenya. The government response to the COVID-19 pandemic is serious as they have enforced a mandatory 7PM to 5AM lockdown in the whole country. Our international borders have closed and movement in and out of counties is affected by the COVID-19 pandemic has ceased. There is a daily briefing by the cabinet Secretary of Health concerning the number of infections, recoveries, and so forth. It is now obligatory to wear a mask in public places or face prosecution. Information campaigns are everywhere, and hand sanitizers are now a regular part of our day.
What Is It Like Working From Home?
I worked from home before the pandemic, so the change is not too extreme for me. However, I remember that it was strange at first. Now I realize that working from home is cheaper, convenient, and uses fewer resources. Most times, all I need is a good ambiance, my laptop, and a stable internet connection. The difference since COVID-19 is my ambience has gone with my kids at home and I’m talking to clients, supervisors, and even the CEO more than ever before. Good, close communication is key during this period.
What Are You Working on at the Moment, and How Has It Been Affected by COVID-19 and Associated Restrictions?
I’m leading a study for CARE on collectives across five countries. Initially, the empirical phase aimed to conduct key informant interviews, focus group discussions, and validation workshops in-country offices. Changes were made to the methodology due to the pandemic to minimize social contact and ensure the safety of staff and participants. CARE and Includovate worked together to assess the nature and impact of the pandemic and the government responses in five of CARE’s country offices.
The following changes have been proposed since direct access to people, and other countries are restricted.
1. Country teams have completed an Excel sheet outlining who should be interviewed for which instrument, where they reside, what the restrictions are like in that area, and who has a mobile phone and who has a smartphone. We have asked them to identify information-rich individuals for us to interview. This has assisted with the planning of the redesign.
2. Use of in-country researchers. The study was always designed to be in local languages and use local researchers. However, an international researcher was going to accompany the data collection. This can’t happen now due to flight restrictions, and so we have to more carefully train national researchers to conduct the study without us being there. This means we train remotely and supervise more closely. For example, we call each day of the data collection and monitor a field diary reflecting upon their experiences. We’ve procured voice recorders and ask for transcriptions to be translated verbatim into English for us to code and analyze later. We ensure the researchers understand our ethics guidelines and how to use informed consent.
3. Sampling: This is a big challenge for us because we now have to purposely sample according to mobile phone access. While in some countries, mobility across domestic borders is allowed, in others, these domestic restrictions will not lift for a while. This means that our national researchers will have to conduct some interviews via the phone.
4. A virtual workshop on the Theory of Change (TOC) will be conducted with CARE’s project team members using Zoom’s break out room feature. An online survey with the key stakeholders (i.e. the project staff, and the partners in Food and Water Systems programming) will be administered via SoGo Survey.
5. Focus Group Discussions: these are a key data collection method in the original design. However, with social distancing measures in place in most countries, gatherings of more than five people are not allowed, and a focus group is usually eight or more participants. While focus groups can be held online, most of the farmers in this study do not have smartphones, and thus conducting an online focus group isn’t possible either.
6. Case study: To document case studies about what has worked according to key topic areas, and to reach those who may not be covered otherwise, the theory of change workshop will help to identify key success stories. The accessibility of those involved in the case study and those involved in triangulating this data will influence the way respondents are contacted. The respondents preferred method of communication will be used (Skype, Zoom, face to face, telephone, etc).
7. Validation workshop: Originally, this was going to be done in person at the country office level. We assessed different online platforms, and now this will be done via Zoom with break out groups and real-time polling using Poll Everywhere to see how many participants agree and to what extent, with the findings and recommendations.
As you can see, we are thinking creatively. We have to do a lot of things differently to complete the study on time for CARE.
How Do You Feel About the Future?
With reports of a vaccine being months away, it seems we will have to learn how to adapt and live this way for some time. This means that we have to devise ways to help the most vulnerable in society (underprivileged, persons with disability, women, and children) through collectives and also involve the relevant government authorities.
How Will Research Change Post-Covid-19?
Includovate research work will continue to adapt to the situation using virtual methods. The implications this will have for the quality of the data still needs to be worked through, and whether we resume with more face-to-face methods or continue remotely remains to be seen. Interestingly the ‘stay at home’ policy may give people more time to work on their research outputs, thus increasing the quality of the research post-COVID-19. It isn’t all bad; we just have to adapt and stay positive.
Anything Else to Add or Share?
The poor have to choose between staying at home and dying from malnutrition/starvation or going out for work and risk infection in the process. To address this situation, cash transfers should be a solution for people who don’t have food for their homes, along with food drops for when they cannot leave their house. An economic stimulus package by the government to such people would be ideal. Includovate is committed to assisting the poor and excluded during good and bad times. Thanks to COVID-19 in Kenya, this has given us a lot more work redesigning our research. We are determined to deliver quality research while maintaining equality. We can’t exclude the poor just because they are hard to reach.