Monday, December 6, 2010

After the first KI

After the KIIs in Chachoengsao, we thought that we could already start the surveys over there by 1 Dec. However we could not get confirmations with farmers and the questionnaires and notes had to be checked again with the just received final draft, i.e. with the last item allowed to be changed/added. As these documents need to be in Thai so they can be used in the field, it was necessary to really check them that what is meant in English is captured when translated into Thai. There are many things to be considered when trying to do this, and our team had gone through a process of translating it into Thai, then translating what was translated back into English, asking what they meant, how the RAs would ask the question, how the farmers would perceive them, what terms would a lay person use so questions could be easily understood, even going to search for popular terms being used by farmers and the media today.

Thus we had to follow all the time whenever there are changes in the English draft. The corresponding translation into Thai have to be done. We also showed these drafts to the social science, gender and economics experts in our team so they could also contribute and help out especially with the translation and the use of better terminologies.

So I think until last week there were still trickles of changes and additions to the questionnaire and the corresponding notes. So this week we are ready to print them out. We might need to add more sets to the picture cards if more teams will be formed. We are running out of time but what can we do? With all the delays, the earliest start of the survey is 11 Dec. That's almost 1 1/2 months late from the original target start date of 1 Nov. Having more people in the team may or may not help, because it all depends on farmer availability. We have the randomised list of respondents and we could not just interview anyone we meet along the way who has a farm. We are following the statistically derived list to maintain randomness and avoid biases. Although the other way could have made our lives easier. But we are researchers and our work should be robust statistically and based on the agreed methodology of the project.

As key informant interviews are an important part of the research process we are also spending considerable time on them. Next up will be the KI visits to Chantaburi, Nakhon Pathom, Suphanburi and Petchburi. We had done preliminary contacts with them by phone. For Surat Thani, due to distance and time constraint, we have conducted the KIIs by phone and email.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Key informant interviews

Bangpakong River
Last 25-26 November our team went to Chachoengsao to conduct key information interviews in the three subdistricts which were randomly chosen as clusters for our survey. The objectives of the KIIs were:

1. to obtain information on the shrimp farming profile of the area, esp according to the scales drawn up by SEAT (business ownership, labour relations, management, no. of ponds)
2. to match the randomly selected farms (which only have the following info: location at subdistrict level, no. of ponds, total area and the like) with the existing farms in the area (to know farmer names and contact info)
3. to obtain names and contact info of shrimp farmers in the area if they could not be matched with the list in #2

There were 9 of us and we divided ourselves into 3 teams. Each team was assigned a subdistrict to visit. A couple of days before going the field, we contacted the KIs especially the fisheries officers and the heads of the subdistricts to make appointments with them. Thus on Thursday, we went to our respective subdistricts to meet with the KIs.
With the kamnan of the subdistrict
Our team went to the Provincial Fisheries Office but unfortunately they could not give us the list of farmer names as per regulation regarding confidentiality. The KI there gave us several pointers on what to consider when conducting a survey. He then directed us to the District Fisheries Office (next door), but he was also not sure if we can get information from there. The DFO was in a meeting but fortunately the meeting was over when we passed by the city hall and so we were able to meet him, and obtained some valuable information. He was also so kind to drive us to our next appointment (with the Subdistrict Office staff), which was in the subdistrict itself, about 15 km from the city center. We appreciated his kindness as there were no public transport available going to that place.
With the subdistrict office staff
The Subdistrict Office staff was so helpful as well. We spent the whole afternoon in her office. For the subdistrict, we were able to match the randomised list with farmer names available in the office. However according to the KI, those selected under medium scale are not hiring any labour so we have to consider them now as small scale. We then asked the KI to tell us which of the farms in the area are hiring labour and she came up with 19 farms. She said farms with more than 10 ponds will usually hire workers, while those with less than 10 ponds can manage the farm by themselves. We will randomize the new lists to come up with names to be interviewed.

After the visit, we were wondering how we could get back to town. Fortunately another staff was driving to town to pick up his daughter from school which is near our hotel. So we hitched a ride with him and he dropped us off our hotel. We are thankful to the kindness of strangers.

The other two teams were not able to match their lists so they asked the KIs and went to the village heads to ask about the farms and move around the villages to come up with new lists. These will be subjected again to randomization to come up with the list of farmers to be interviewed.

While in town, we also were able to look around for another hotel where we would stay during the survey itself. We also asked around for information on local transport to be used during the survey, which we target to start on 1 Dec.

Monday, November 22, 2010

update 6-21 nov 2010

Our team had been busy with the survey preparation and instruments, specifically on:

1. understanding the questions more
2. deliberating on the correct terms from English to Thai as well as the approaches in asking questions so that they will be understood by our respondents; one of the experts commented that it seems the survey is for foreign farmers not Thai farmers with the questions being asked
3. going through the survey notes, again and again and ... also translating the codes esp.
4. refining sample design and randomization of samples from tambon to farms
5. conducting key informant interviews on the selected tambons to get an overview of the area in relation to our survey (esp regarding farm scales as per SEAT definition)
6. generating randomized farmer lists for shrimp and referring them to respective KIs
7. meetings (face to face, virtual by skype)
8. continuous training of field staff, soon and very soon they will be masters of this (hope hope)
9. we have also been busy getting confused with some issues related to the above
10. still waiting for the ACCESS database file so concerned staff can start getting familiar with it
11. this am finally received the final draft of the questionnaire and notes ... ooooppppss hold it ... tonight when I opened my email, some additional stuff on the final draft due to comments from another country when is the final final really? will there be more once the other teams get to read the final draft?(how can it be final when it is still a draft?)

I think this me blog here will suffice for updates about our work here.

Friday, November 5, 2010

SEAT-KU this week

I missed to blog about SEAT-KU activities in October. It just shows that we have been so busy working on project activities including staff recruitment, which took a lot of our time. Now it is November. And this week, 1-5 Nov have also been hectic. In fact the week is not finished yet because we are still gonna work  tomorrow, Saturday. And Sunday even if there are still things we need to do. This week the team from U of Stirling and the WP8 Coordinator from U of Bergen are here with us. We are still at the stage of preparing for the baseline survey which should have started on 3rd Nov. However since the survey instruments were not finalised yet, we could not start the survey. The schedule for this week looked like this:

1 Nov - meeting at KU-Fish among UoS (Francis, Lynn, Lynne, Richard), UiB (Matthias) and KU teams regarding latest draft of questionnaire and survey notes, introduction of team members, preparation of picture cards on values and of common tilapia and shrimp diseases in Thailand. Before the European team arrived in the morning, the Thai team had a meeting together with our faculty experts in Social Science, Gender and Economics. The major thing we talked about was the type of pictures to use for the values question. The experts helped a lot in giving inputs and ideas so the staff can work on them as we only had 1 day to prepare. Two staff were assigned to work on them and show the results in the afternoon. Also we discussed about the diseases picture cards. Again another 2 staff were assigned to work on them, summarizing the info and scanning the pictures from posters and books, to be presented in the afternoon.

It was a heavy day of discussions about the survey, questionnaire and codings. The meeting finished late and we still had to rush for the printing of materials. It is good that we know of a big printing shop at Future Park which closes at 9pm. So it was nearly 630 pm when we finally had all the files to be printed - draft 6 of questionnaires and survey notes, and the powerpoint files of the pictures. These materials would be used for the following day's piloting work among tilapia farmers. There were 14 of us for piloting so we made 14 sets of questionnaires and survey notes. For the pictures, 4 sets of coloured pictures were printed to be used by 4 teams. So one can imagine how much paper was used to print them all, and to think they are just drafts. Well as a consolation we can use the back side for another printing. We reached the shop at around 730pm and thankfully we were able to print them all ...

2 Nov - we went to Chachoengsao to pilot test the questionnaire among tilapia farmers. Three farmers were interviewed. One group took a long time to finish and by the time we left the area it was already past 4pm. We arrived back to KU at nearly 7pm.

3 Nov - at the office to discuss piloting results, observations and suggestions to improve the questionnaire and notes. Another long day of meetings. Added more pictures for the production system question. Again we had to wait for the revised survey draft and the production system questions to be finished, and as the other day, rushed down to the mall to print a new set of revised questionnaires and the pictures to be used the following day for piloting of shrimp farms.

4 Nov - we went to Chachoengsao to pilot test the questionnaire among shrimp farmers. Four farmers were interviewed.  This time we were better at time management. We left earlier than the other day and arrived back at KU at around 6pm. Jesper from UCPH and Dr Kulapa from Fac of Econ-KU joined today.

5 Nov - at the office to discuss piloting results and more suggestions to improve the questionnaire and notes, and additional codings. As well, we talked about the Access database which is being developed by UoS team. We will use this to enter all the data collected from the field.

Sample frame, design, sizes and related topics will be discussed tomorrow, Saturday, including the codes/notes and finalisation of questionnaire (hope hope hope!). We hope to be able to finalise this part so we can start to verify our information and know who to interview during the actual surveys. As it stands, our survey schedule has been pushed to 2 weeks later. Maybe more if more things need to be done prior to survey.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

LCA Training & Research Workshop

I was in Pattaya during the last 10 days to attend a 5-day training on Life Cycle Assessment and another 5 days before and after the training for a research workshop with the SEAT research project team.

LCA is one of the work packages in our interdisciplinary research project. The training was given by the LCA experts from CML, University of Leiden, who are one of our project partners. There were about 30 participants from project partner organisations, namely Bangladesh Agricultural University, University of Bergen-Belgium, Shanghai Ocean University-China, University of Copenhagen-Denmark, WorldFish Center-Malaysia, Wageningen University-Netherlands, Kasetsart University-Thailand, University of Stirling-Scotland UK, and Cantho University-Vietnam.

The research workshop before the training was more on the refining of our first paper as part of the requirements for the PhD programme at U of Stirling, and thinking of the second paper, as well as the framework of our research for the coming years. During the training period itself I was spending 4-5 hours/night to also work on this, especially on the comments of my supervisors for paper revision. And I am still working on it. I just got too tired and too sleepy at the end of the week that I had to really get some sleep or else I would have collapsed.  Thank God for His strength and provision of Bio C and Intra!

The other research workshop after the training was more on the baseline survey which the whole project would be conducting in each country (Bangladesh, China, Thailand, Vietnam) on October to November. There are still many issues related to the joint questionnaire, as all the work packages had to incorporate their questions, thus there is a need to go through the questions to make sure they are relevant, sensible, realistic, and of good quality. We had exercises on translating them into the local languages, then translating them back into English, to ensure understanding. We also practiced working on the Access database to familiarise ourselves with data handling once survey work has started.

All in all, it was a very interesting time for me, I hope for everyone as well, learning new things from both the training and the workshop. It was also a challenging time, trying to think of how the tools learned can be integrated with my background in aquaculture, at the same time how I can specifically incorporate the tools learned in my own research.

Some members of the SEAT Research Team (Photo: by Pich)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Paper1 draft submitted

Whewww! What a relief! I thank God that today I finally submitted the first draft (actually 5th draft for me but 1st for my supervisors) of my first paper. I had to really isolate myself just so I could concentrate. I had all the papers spread around me as I review and refer to them. The first draft was the first cut. Once my supervisors are through reading it, I know more work is required. So I have to prepare myself. Tonight I did not bring my work home. I also left my work computer in the office as I plan to just relax. Now I am using my pinky netbook to check emails, write this blog and surf a bit before going to bed. I did bring a print out of my draft just in case I feel like I want to read it.

Starting tomorrow it's for other things to do such as the technical and financial report of my project, preparing poster for a conference next month, and more data analysis and reading. It never stops.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Paper deadline

Last post was in obviously this means that I have been busy. Sort of. I just did not have time to post here ... what with my other blogs + FB + work ... and writing up. So now I have a deadline for my first paper. I was supposed to finish it earlier but since the deadline was moved to a later date, well I had more time to work on it - analysing, reading, writing, thinking. Also have other stuff to think about so that takes a lot of my time too. It's good to be communicating with others who are in the same boat as I am so we can share and encourage one another.

I have yet to decide which journal I should submit my paper to. So gotta start looking at them. One of the things to look at will be the impact factor of the journal. The higher the impact factor the more preferred. But maybe it is more difficult to get accepted there? Well, that depends on the quality of the paper submitted. So I hope and pray I can write a really good paper so it gets accepted easily by very good journals.

My wishlist:
1. To finish my paper and have it approved by supervisor
2. My paper to be accepted by a journal with high impact factor

Hands together in prayer ...

Saturday, June 19, 2010

So wazzup?

Typical ... as a graduate research student there are times (oh just so many!) that I can say I am PHD (Piled Higher and Deeper). So this blog has not been updated for months! Lots have happened since the last post. I had done my initial field work...going to a number of provinces and meeting different stakeholders. It was a scoping exercise so there was no massive surveys. I just had a checklist of questions so the information I collected was not that massive. The detailed surveys will be done in the next phase, towards the end of the year. I am analysing the information I collected, and for the site visits I am also writing them up in report format. So far I had submitted 2 abstracts from these data, to be presented as posters in 2 conferences. I am also drafting my first paper to be submitted for publication by August. There are so many things to do, varied things, so life is never boring. And with the World Cup 2010 going on, there is a need to balance my time. I watch the matches as well especially if my favorite teams are playing. Even at 130 am here, finishing at 330 am. This also adds excitement to life here.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Blog back log

More than 3 months of back log to be blogged. But where is the time to do it? This is probably one of the things PhD students face. How to manage the time efficiently so that all things in the to do list could be ticked as done. So far in my list there are some items that have not been ticked yet, i.e. not yet done. One of them is to update my fishful existence blog. Since I came back from Stirling last mid- Dec I have been swamped with lots of work to be done. The major one in relation to my project was the preparation for the Inception Workshop in January. A 4 day workshop which entailed months of preparation ... finally it's over! But the work has just begun. Right after, trips to farms and the like. And the preparation sampling frame, timetable, contacting people, etc. Attending meetings as well where most of the stakeholders for my project were present. For the past weeks I've been listening about and looking at shrimps, tilapia, prawns, striped catfish, ponds, cages, exports, etc. Gathering information along the way. Trying to make sense of these information, in a way that they could be written later. Hmm not really later later, I know gotta write them soon. I promised my supervisors to send them regular reports of my field activities. I still have my research notebook to be filled in with my notes. I have a smaller notepad to bring to the field, and then the notes will be written on this huge research notebook. Getting into the habit of recording everything. Yes, that's right, writing by hand and not typing them into the computer.

These are tilapia swim-up fry ready to be transferred from trays (in the hatchery) to hapas in pond for the sex-reversal process. They are nursed in the hapas for 21 days, after which they reach 2-3 cm and ready to be sold to grow-out farmers.

Red tilapia grown in hapas in pond. They will be ready to be processed into fillets in a few weeks' time. Tilapia fillets are mainly exported, although some are also sold locally. I like red tilapia (pla taptim) deep fried!

Pacific white shrimp grown extensively in ponds where the cages containing tilapia are set-up. White shrimp can be grown in polyculture with river prawns in this kind of system. Feed is given to the tilapia in hapas while the shrimps and prawns in the pond survive on natural food.