Accurate and timely data collection is an essential part of mitigating crises in emerging markets with vulnerable populations. The United Nations characterizes the Sahel, which spans ten countries in north-central Africa, as an area with “abundant human, cultural and natural resources, offering tremendous potential for rapid growth.” However, environmental and political challenges threaten this prosperous future: The semi-arid climate of the Sahel is affected by severe droughts, creeping desertification, famine, poverty, and pockets of conflict.
Data collection in the Sahel can help international and humanitarian organizations understand the repercussions of climate or political changes in the region and mitigate the impact on the people of the Sahel. Additionally, access to accurate on-the-ground data is a proven part of early warning systems. GeoPoll has extensive experience conducting research in vulnerable areas through mobile-based methodologies, and below we review the challenges and opportunities for conducting research in the Sahel.
The need for accurate data collection in the Sahel
Accurate data collection is an essential part of monitoring and predicting problems as well as providing quick and targeted aid. Families in the Sahel are vulnerable to food insecurity and malnutrition, worsened by the region’s history of droughts and climate change. USAID, in collaboration with Save the Children, has demonstrated the value of a data-based early warning system in the Sahel. Since 2013, these organizations have been conducting a Household Economy Analysis (HEA) on food security. Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Senegal have all used the data to help crisis or conflict-affected families. In 2015, HEA data allowed more than 14.8 million people to be provided with support like seasonal safety nets or livelihoods, demonstrating how data collection in the Sahel can build resilience within the region.
Challenges of data collection in the Sahel
While conducting research in the Sahel is essential, it can be challenging because of the infrastructure, conflict, and cultural context. Some challenges of conducting research in Africa and specifically the Sahel include:
- Infrastructure: The Sahel has infrastructure challenges such as unmapped areas, inadequate roads, unreliable energy services or lack of access to clean water that can make data collection in the Sahel a challenge. Face-to-face research is particularly affected by infrastructure, which is why GeoPoll often uses alternative methodologies to reach respondents.
- Violence and Conflict: Some countries in the Sahel experience conflict, social disruption, or are vulnerable to violent extremism and terrorist attacks. This not only makes fact-to-face research dangerous, but disrupts the lives, internet access, and location of populations.
- Number of languages and Cultural Context: Because the Sahel spans ten different countries, this region requires specialized experience with language and understanding of each local culture. GeoPoll’s voice call interviewers are carefully selected for their geographic location, language skills, and local knowledge.
- Low Population Concentration: Many areas in the Sahel have very low population density – the desert areas of Mali and Niger, for example, experience populations of just 20 people per square meter. In addition to the infrastructure challenges mentioned above, this contributes to the difficulty of conducting in-person research efficiently.
How to conduct CATI research in the Sahel
Collecting data in the Sahel can be challenging, but GeoPoll has had success with using the Computer Assisted Telephone Interview (CATI) research method for remote data collection in multiple locations. GeoPoll has extensive experience launching CATI centers and quickly training interviewers who represent a variety of backgrounds and languages.
We currently operate call centers throughout Africa, including those in the Sahel countries of Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Mali, Niger, and Nigeria. Additional call centers are located in Botswana, Central African Republic, Cote D’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya (from which we conduct interviews in Somalia), Liberia, Namibia, and South Africa. By using CATI, GeoPoll has been able to overcome the challenges of collecting data in areas where displacement and conflict are common, and infrastructure and other factors prohibit in-person research.
Benefits of Conducting CATI Research with GeoPoll
GeoPoll can recruit interviewers and launch call centers in just weeks. Our proprietary CATI application allows us to manage the survey process from end-to-end, with features including:
- Full control over question scripting, including multiple logic questions, skip logic, and randomization that allows for complex and customized surveys
- Questions displayed via a simple interface that streamlines the survey process.
- Secure data storage and offline capabilities
- Immediate access to results
- Survey progress tracked in real time to ensure high-quality data
GeoPoll is currently collecting data in the Sahel region and can set up any research project quickly. Contact us to request more information on our capabilities in the Sahel.