5. How does the NFA ask?

5.1 Suggested interview techniques

Interviewing is very important for the NFA data collection, and it is not easy. Good interview techniques are achieved through experience, training and by following certain procedures. To provide NFA personnel with support in interviewing, this section suggests several methods and techniques. Paying attention to these methods seems especially important in situations where the interviewee is illiterate, not accustomed to formal surveys or is suspicious of the motives behind the interview. It is recommended that at least one of the members of the field team has extensive prior experience of conducting semi-structured interviews with rural people.

Text box: Recommended Interview Techniques

Building rapport: A good working relationship with the local people is easier to establish when the interviewer is well prepared, shows respect, and also remembers that it is the fieldworkers who are there to learn from the forest users on how they are using and benefiting from their local forest.

Taking notes: It is not always appropriate to take notes. Always ask the interviewee for permission. If permission is granted, explain clearly for what use the notes are and after an interview sum up what you have written. Never use official-looking questionnaire form but use a small notebook.

Rural women are often busy, and are sometimes shy with strangers, regardless of whether the stranger is a man or a woman. Fieldworkers should be sensitive to the constraints facing women when undertaking interviews. Preferably a woman should interview the women respecting the female space.

Using open-ended questioning style that seeks explanations and opinions rather that yes-or-no-answers. Ask, for example, ¿where do you collect fuel wood?¿ Rather than, ¿do you cut fuel wood from the government forest?¿(Jackson and Ingles, 1998). To relate it to the sample site, follow up with ¿Do you also collect in this part of the forest¿ (pointing on a map at the sample site).

Probing and the use of non-leading ¿helper questions¿: Probing is an art that is learned through careful practise and means asking several questions around a sub-topic to ensure understanding (both yours and the participants¿). Use such non-leading helper questions as: ¿Who?¿ ¿What?¿ ¿Where?¿ ¿When?¿ ¿Why?¿ ¿How?¿ ¿How many?¿ ¿How often?¿ and so forth (Messerschmidt 1995).

Giving interviewees a chance to ask you questions. At some point in the interview you might ask ¿Are there any questions that you would like to ask us?¿ This is likely to put the respondent(s) more at ease since the interview is not totally one-sided, and also provides an opportunity for the interviewee to clarify questions.

Use maps or aerial photographs to stimulate discussion about local forest use. When looking together at the aerial photos or maps it is natural to start to discuss aspects of access to the sample site, land use of the area of the sample site and the surroundings. It is also a chance to obtain information on landmarks, location and names, administrative boundaries, forest products and in what seasons they are available.

Community mapping: Local people draw their community and surroundings. A facilitator might help to start off the work by drawing one reference point, a road, etc. But during the rest of the exercise the people should draw their own map with as little interference as possible. Questions from the facilitator regarding ownership, what is harvested in different parts, etc. can be discussed with reference to the map.

Direct observation might seem obvious, but it is nevertheless very important. The field crew must be attentive and observe the sample site and surroundings noting the general land-use, facilities such as shops, schools and markets as well as housing and infrastructure. A good interviewer understands the local people¿s perspective and is able to identify with them.

Transect walk is a walk designed to follow a specific route, often along a contour line of different elevations and different ecological zones etc. Transect walks can help address a particular problem associated with the NFA interviews: the difficulty in linking interview information to the specific plot area where the trees have been measured. It is unlikely that valid user information will be acquired at the plot level unless each interview includes a transect walk with the interviewee.

Source: Branthomme, 2003

If the NFA field personnel are able to use methods properly, there is less of concern for the reliability of the final results. But even if the recommended methods are applied by most of the consultants, it is hard to estimate the degree of total uncertainty unless we test the quality of the NFA data. The next section defines three critical criteria for assessing the quality of NFA data.