Introducing the testimonies

Introducing the testimonies

Listening to the rural poor is essential if we are to understand the changing experience of rural poverty and identify appropriate and effective solutions to overcome it. Throughout the Rural Poverty Report 2011 you will find first-hand accounts from men and women living in rural areas in six countries around the world: China, Egypt, Madagascar, Pakistan, Peru and Senegal.  

Panos London – an NGO which promotes the participation of poor and marginalized people in international development debates through media and communication projects – coordinated the testimony collection. The majority of interviews were carried out between November 2009 and January 2010. Some additional interviews with young people were carried out in Peru, Madagascar, Pakistan and Senegal in April and May 2010.

Panos London identified a partner organization working with rural communities in each country, which it then supported to carry out focus group discussions, individual interviews, and source accompanying photography.  

Together with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), Panos London developed a specific set of guidelines covering interview relationships and ethics, recording, transcription and translation, and a guide to the topics to be covered in the interviews. These guidelines were translated and shared with each partner organization.

In total 30 interviews, with 15 men and 15 women between the ages of 15 and 82, were recorded. They provide a glimpse into the reality of rural poverty today, and of the rural poor's hopes and aspirations for their children's future.

A total of 126 people (64 men and 62 women), including some of the narrators, were also consulted through focus group discussions in the same locations.

The first-hand accounts presented here are not intended to be representative of rural poverty in any particular country. They do, however, help us to appreciate how these individuals have been affected by poverty and to see the strategies they have developed to try and overcome it.

The summaries and transcripts
Summaries of each of the 30 interviews have been prepared for this website. These summaries include quotes from the transcripts, and provide an introduction to the individual and an overview of the key themes related to rural poverty that are covered in their interview.

Throughout the transcripts and summaries, local words are presented in italics with a definition in English appearing immediately afterwards in round brackets. The definition is presented only the first time the word appears. Square brackets indicate where words have been inserted by the editor to make the meaning clearer for the reader. Square brackets are also used to represent observations by the interviewer, in italics, for example [she laughs]. Further information from the partners and background to the content can be found in end notes within the transcripts.

The transcripts presented here are English translations of the tape-recorded interviews. Translation was managed by each partner organization, rather than by a single professional translation service, because some of the interviews were recorded in local, minority languages. For example, the translator of the interviews from southern Madagascar is possibly the only individual with sufficient skills in both Antrandroy and English to enable this translation. 

Panos London, together with the partner organizations, arranged for photographs to be taken of those interviewed; a selection of these are presented together with the summaries. The quality and quantity of photographs vary between countries.

Interviewers and the interviews
The interviewers were men and women working for the partner organizations, and were not professional or academic researchers. They had an existing relationship with the communities where they conducted interviews, and were able to carry out the interviews directly in the language of the narrators.

It was not possible to provide interviewers with specialist face-to-face training. Instead they received a set of comprehensive interview guidelines, which were translated as necessary. These guidelines were based on Panos London's well-established oral testimony approach, in which local interviewers from the community or a partner organization are trained and supported to record in-depth, open-ended, individual interviews with people who experience development challenges on a daily basis. Read more about Panos London's oral testimony approach and projects.

The quality and length of the interviews is therefore variable: in Madagascar, the partner organization had worked with Panos London on a previous oral testimony project and so the interviewers had already received a week's training in open-ended interviewing; in Senegal the interviewers relied on the guidelines alone and their experience of carrying out short interviews for radio.  

Community grants
Four of the six partner organizations took up the option of receiving a small community grant (£500–£750) to contribute to ongoing development efforts in the communities where the interviews and focus groups were carried out. Details of how these community grants were used are included in the background information on each country.

Each of the partner organizations and all of the narrators have been sent copies of the Rural Poverty Report 2011.