A Mixed-Methods Approach to Fieldwork in Sub-Saharan Africa: Studying Agricultural Policy and Its Impacts in Cameroon


This case study presents insights into the design and implementation of a complex research project in Central Africa. The study investigated agricultural governance and its effects on rural livelihoods with a specific focus on Cameroon’s palm oil sector. Fieldwork took place over a period of 6 months from October 2014 to April 2015, during the annual dry season. The research was grounded in a mixed-methods approach that acknowledges the complementary strengths of qualitative and quantitative research tactics. It relied on the principle of methodological triangulation by combining three research instruments: 32 semi-structured key-informant interviews, four focus group discussions, and a survey of 400 rural households. Participants ranged from high-level political elites in federal ministries to inhabitants of remote rural farming communities. Apart from detailing three distinct but complementary data collection instruments, the case study highlights four points of particular relevance in developing country contexts: (1) the necessity of affiliating with local institutions and obtaining research consent from public and customary dignitaries, (2) environmental and cultural considerations specific to working in Central Africa, (3) the benefits and challenges of working with local research assistants, and (4) the need to prepare for unexpected setbacks.

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