One of the primary tasks of Ramani Huria is to assess flood extent across Dar es Salaam – and community engagement is at the heart of this activity. It is through this engagement that we have access to well-informed local knowledge, adding a level of depth to our identification of flood-prone areas that can only offered by the community itself.
Using information gathered out in the field, we are further able to create a time series – advancing the possibility of identifying historical trends of Dar es Salaam’s flood extent. Through this method, we are able to assess how the flooding situation may have changed over the years, and student-community member interactions are essential to its productivity and scalability. Future completion of the surveys will be based upon links formed between community members through this project.
How it works:
After consulting with the appropriate subward leaders, students go door-to-door and explain the project to community members. If the citizens are interested, the students will then show them how to operate the Opendatakit Collect (ODK) app and ask them to fill out the survey form accordingly. Scratch cards and cash incentives are provided to those who carry out surveys, as a source of motivation for community involvement in working with us.
New community members are brought down to the river by the students and directed through the app. From their point on the river, the community members are instructed to walk directly away from the river to survey houses along the way – identifying whether or not they are hit by flooding. The student accompanies the community member for 1 or 2 houses and then leaves the trainee to continue on solo to complete the survey. This serves as a transect-like data collection methodology.
A student explaining to community member how the work is done
Once the community members return from their mission, the team then supervises the exchange of knowledge between the communitymembers themselves. The returning community members thus become teachers and help to recruit more citizens to the activity.
This activity is, of course, not without some challenges. The misinterpretation of survey question wording was identified as an issue early on – eg. for ‘have you experienced flooding?’, some members were answering about experiencing flooding at a previous address. Rewording and clarifying has been imparted upon all community members and students conducting further training.
Some community members have additionally been reluctant to cooperate due to distrust of / lack of recognition of the student surveyors. This is an issue that we have worked to address by providing introductory letters regarding the project.
Other community members have moved house due to flooding events and exposure, so some GPS points cannot be attached to recollections of flooding. It could be an interesting exercise to find out how many people have moved in response to flooding to see how flooding events have impacted the community demographics.
Despite challenges, the numbers of surveys reached is far beyond what we hypothesized to be realistically possible. The growth in survey numbers per day has been striking – beginning with just about one hundred surveys in one day to as many as 840 in one day, growth that took place within just 8 days. This not only proves how fruitful community engagement can be, but how quickly we can secure progress. Any initial hesitations about the project’s ambition have been overridden by the climbing survey figures, suggesting that an even larger scale will be achievable. Until now, we have more than 9000 surveys complete.
With growing support from community members, we brought 8 of them (from Hananasif and Kawawa) to Mkunguni ‘A’ sub-ward to observe how we interact with the subward leaders. Following the methodology set by the students in the first wards visited, community members actively engaged with subward leaders, inquiring about the subward boundaries and posing questions about the area. We then arranged a meeting with community members and ward officers, as we are aware that it is through the forging of these relationships that the project will achieve sustainability.
Meeting with Sub-ward leaders.
In the process, it has been discovered that poor and/or disrupted drainage systems are being identified as contributory factors to flooding in areas relatively far away from the river itself. These factors have been identified through the active engagement of community members by student surveyors – after looking at the data and collectively identifying points where flooding seems unlikely. This is why addressing flooding is a very complex issue that needs wide collaboration among respective actors, the Ramani Huria team being among them.