Short Interviews – Christopher Cheupe on Relationality

Here we present a series of short interviews with some of those involved in the project during which we discuss their perspectives on the relational approach that is at the core of the project. We talk about how it has influenced, influences and/or will influence their work. With these interviews, we investigate whether relationality might allow us to cross academic barriers and even the frontier between research (work) and the daily and personal lives of those who start to think from this perspective.

Christopher Cheupe – FoRel project research Assistant, Kenya. He has been working with the Wildlife Conservation Society in a project called SPACES, where they used theatre to share the results for the community involved. The SPACES project has Tim Daw as a PI. Tim is also a member of the FoRel Team. Chris has conducted his fieldwork in Msambweni, during July and October 2020.   

1- What can you say about your fieldwork, what impressed you most about your fieldwork?
“There are so many things that impressed me during the fieldwork, especially when we arrived in Msambweni, where we collected our data. I was impressed about the beach management Unit officials, they are very new to the office because the election was done last year, so they are still new to the office, but they do very well. They were very ready to help us in organizing our work so we could conduct our fieldwork in a peaceful environment, so the BMU officials were ready to work with us. Secondly, the community members also impressed me, because after introducing the project to them, we had a meeting with the community leaders, for them to later share the meeting deliberations and FoRel project information to the members of the community. So, I was impressed with them too, because they were happy and ready to participate in the project so that it can realize its objectives. Another thing I was impressed was… for most of the respondents was their first time to participate in the research project. They have never been engaged in any kind of research; thus their first time sharing their new ideas. So, I was surprised, because having a new project, having new BMU Officials and new ideas coming to them and from the participants. Participants could effectively share their perceptions. So, these are the things that really impressed me throughout the fieldwork.”

2- What was the surprising factor for you in the fieldwork, something that surprised you?
“What surprised me was the issue of the community members, their willingness to participate. Everyone we came across was ready to take part in the interview […] we could have interviewed everyone if time and money could allow us, everybody was ready to do the interview and share information without fear. The information they gave us is very, very, very rich. Another surprise was the issue of climate change, for example, the issue of sea-level rise, which was clear, and the participants were able to perceive that change happening in that community.”

2.1 Maybe you have already mentioned, but could you tell us what did you not expect to find but found?
“One thing we collected our data during the period of the COVID19 which affected everyone. The movement from one region to another region was restricted by the government, from Mombasa especially, because it was the hotspot from the COVID19. So, we thought that maybe the participants would not want to participate in the interview with us because we were from Mombasa, and there were a lot of cases of COVID19… Then, we thought that it would be a little bit difficult, but on the contrary, they were ready, they were eager to take part in the project. We also followed all the COVID19 government guidelines of the preventive measures and the WCS COVID 19 protocols, so we were ready to give them face masks during the interviews and also manage to respect the social distance. […]”

I see, the COVID19 situation was not expected and you faced it during the fieldwork, but also, on the other hand, the response of the participants and their willingness to participate in the research was something that you even did not expect to find there and you found! So, there is a double way to see it, something you expect to find, their resistance and did not find! And it can be a very nice example to observe how the participants can play a fundamental role when it comes to finding solutions in the field!

3- I would like to ask you about the relational perspective. What did you think was different about doing fieldwork with a relational perspective?
“For this is the aspect of interviewing people in the same assemblage and understanding the changes the people in the community perceive… Unlike other research that I have been doing, the socio-ecological aspect, the ecological network with social makes this project unique. So, I am happy to see this connection between man and nature in this relational approach and this in this project is what makes it unique than other projects.”

4- Do you like to share some thoughts or if would you like to add something now is the time!
“Ok! Maybe I could just say something, it is just one observation about the fieldwork, the community or the participants really like this project, and they are eagerly waiting for the feedback, especially the theatre part. All the participants that we interview are willing to be part of the feedback meeting and the theatre that we are going to share the information that we receive from them. So, they are very willing to become part of it and to act. And I believe that they are in a better position to do it well because they are ones who understand better about their problem and they are in a better position to suggest also the so-called solutions for their problems. So, those who do not want to participate in the community theatre they want to participate as an audience, but this audience will also become actors! From me is this, it is what I want to say… The majority wants to be involved in the research, and they are very happy to be part and see the new management of the bay, so it is a plus to the community this project, and I believe that at the end of this project the community will be at another level.”

Thank you!

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