A school principal working wonders in difficult circumstances

5 Oct 2017 - 10:45

By Birgit Ottermann, ASSAR communications officer

Samuel Mutabari is the headmaster of a primary school in the small village of Kachiuru in Kenya. He is highly regarded in the village and provides a vital service to the community. He is also instrumental in facilitating all of the different types of research the ASSAR East Africa team has undertaken in the village.

According to Mark Tebboth, ASSAR senior research associate from the University of East Anglia (UEA), Mutabari has helped with all of the research the team has carried out in Kachiuru over the past two to three years.

He first met the school principal when he worked in Kachiuru in 2015: “Samuel is a very friendly and amicable person who works wonders in very difficult circumstances. He has been instrumental in supporting all the research that I have done in the village of Kachiuru. Without him, I don’t think the research would have been anywhere near as insightful as it has been.”

Initially, Mutabari supported the ASSAR team’s Rapid Rural Appraisal work when they first started working in the village. This was followed by the school principal helping the team to enumerate their household survey; assisting Tebboth in interviewing people about migration under the Small Opportunities Grant; and playing an important role in the success of the Participatory Scenario Analysis (PSA) workshop in the village.”

Mutabari still remembers the day he met the ASSAR East Africa team for the first time: “When the ASSAR personnel came to Kachiuru, they needed someone who could assist them with their research. The area being very remote; they could not get someone in the village with the right education to assist them. A villager directed them to the school for assistance. When they came to my office, they introduced themselves and their mission. After a lengthy discussion, I agreed to assist them without compromising my job and also the quality of the research. We agreed on a schedule.”

According to Mutabari, the negative impact of climate change is felt in the region with a marked decrease in rains. "Community members report that they used to get enough rains. But lately there is very little or sometimes no rain for long periods of time, which has made the area become almost like a desert. Additionally, most of the people in the area depend on trees as a livelihood source, which has led to most trees being cut down.”

Recently, Mutabari also worked with UEA researchers Nitya Rao and Jennifer Leavy to interview people for the intra-household research sub-project. Rao echoes Tebboth’s praise for Mutabari’s invaluable support:

“Samuel was a tremendous help for us. For one, being the school-teacher, and living in the village, he knows everybody there and was able to introduce us to whoever we wanted. While perhaps knowing too much to be a researcher himself, it was very helpful to use him as a sounding board and cross-checking stories that people told us. One woman, for instance, gave us a long and complex interview, which was contradicted by almost every other person in the village. Ultimately, we turned to Samuel to get clarity on the relationships that were being spoken about. In this sense, he was an invaluable support to our research team – facilitating, introducing and verifying, when required.”

Mutabari says that working with ASSAR has given him the opportunity to learn more about the carrying out of research, and about climate change and its impact on people's lives. He adds that it has also given him the opportunity to interact, share and make friends with new people both locally and internationally.

“I am greatly humbled to work with the ASSAR team and hope that their research findings will help the Kachiuru community to adapt better to the effects of climate change in the region.”