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  • Writer's pictureJohnson C Onuoha

My field diary - Fieldwork on Open Defecation

Enyenaweh received a grant from the Initiative for Inclusive Dialogue in Nigeria (IIDN) from its " IIDN Environmental Actions Grant Program" for a research project titled "Behavioral factors that influence open defecation in Abuja municipal area council".

Open defecation is a common habit that can spread contagious illnesses, various kinds of infections, and respiratory illnesses. Additionally, it is to blame for worsening air and water pollution. When human faces are washed by lakes and rivers during the rainy seasons, it seriously threatens the water supply's safety. This is because people's drinking water is contaminated by bacteria and germs from human waste. If left unattended, it could have a huge impact on the populace.

Open defecation has become one of the significant challenges in Abuja and its environs. To examine the specific factors that influence people to defecate in the open space in Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC), I and my back-office research team planned and organized, and embarked on a four-day field research activity in 10 locations in AMAC viz: Sauka, Utako, Gwarinpa Village, Mpape, Gosa, Idu Gwagwa, Karimo Nyanya, And Kado-Biko, to undertake data a quantitative data collection process for the project to get firsthand data or information about the prevalent issues.

Johnson Onuoha of Enyenaweh conducting a Phone-based questionnaire interview

We administered online questionnaires to individuals across marketplaces, schools, and churches/mosques to aid this efficient data collection process. Interestingly, responses from the respondents were almost discouraging at some points. While some tried to give us a few minutes of their attention at the various locations to give answers to the questions provided in the questionnaire, many others tried to be a little hesitant because of obvious busy schedules, especially in the market places. We were at some points abruptly ignored by some of the individuals we met in the locations we visited and in some other cases, it was totally abortive. I however tried to be meticulous with the details of the organization that I was representing, and the reasons for the field research exercise, with my identity tag worn as evidence, and a little marketing skill I had learned at “Hiltrust Global Investment”, where I had earlier worked which made some respondents really give in.

During the course of this research exercise, a larger percentage of respondents sadly explained that people defecate in the open place not just because they just want to, but that most times their reasons for such actions are usually attributable to factors such as; the lack of available toilet facilities, poor hygiene of some of these available ones, and even distance. Poor condition of a public toilet facility.

Image by Victoria Abutu - Research Associate - Enyenaweh
Poor condition of one of the Public Toilets visited

This makes the issue of open defecation in Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC) and across Nigeria, an urgent public health challenge, and thus should be handled as a matter of urgent concern for health safety purposes.

One of the most important I lessons learned during this fieldwork was that; “while conducting your research it is important to evaluate the research question to have an idea of how you plan to collect and organize your data.” this reality revealed itself during the data collection when I and my team at some point would have to revisit the questionnaire for some adjustments to capture the main ideas of the research.

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