Miles, smiles and a lot of questions…

Safely back in the hustle and bustle of the big city Manado after our adventures around villages within the region, and what an enjoyable and most fruitful trip it has been! 🙂

After a mega-haggle session on the morning of leaving to purchase our new projector, we eventually set off, at a somewhat leisurely pace (our driver was very easy going!) beginning our 10 hour trundle down to the south of N. Sulawesi. We eventually arrived at Kombot, the first of 4 villages for this part of our survey, and despite it being late and us busting in on a funeral reception/party we were welcomed by the village head and provided food and accommodation whilst we explained our sweaty presence in their quiet village.

Let the surveys begin! Our team of 3 researchers set off around the quaint dusty streets, me in tow, popping into houses and gathering information primarily about the main earner, regarding their jobs, forest use, wild meat consumption, perceptions of change over time and attitudes to preserving the surrounding nature. After each questionnaire was complete we explained briefly the intentions of the project, the threats Yaki face and invited them to join us for more details later on. So once we had our fill of delicious information education materials were distributed – posters, books or an education presentation for the little ones, then we gave a general presentation to as many villagers as we could gather (not always so easy, especially in sheets of rain!). This was a chance to disseminate the results from our previous visit in 2007, describe the importance of the biodiversity in the region and our objectives. This was very well received with some stimulating questions and suggestions, generally giving an appearance of interest in our conservation work.

4 villages visited so far, a further 2 for our second trip next week and already quite a range of responses. 2 of the villages rarely visited the forest and consumed or sold very little, perhaps a rat or some firewood here or there. The other 2 by contrast appeared to rely heavily on forest resources, and consumed great variety of wild meat, most households ticking all the boxes for what they ate, including Yaki.

A moment that really struck me was a question which asked whether the respondent agreed, disagreed, uncertain etc., and stated that Yaki could feel sad, happy and scared. Some responded with a firm nod and chuff of agreement, whilst some individuals I observedreally had to think….fascinating to see their consideration of their lunch as a ‘little person’ with feelings.

I mixed my time up by peeling screaming children off my back (whilst promising them I would return with a horse for each) and entering the data from the questionnaires (less fun actually). I must say, my pale, bearded, incessantly smiling appearance in these villages caused quite a stir, as most aren’t often graced by such Western delights!

Some truly stunning landscapes, many endearing and welcoming individuals and a deepened insight into these people and their way of life have made this a marvellous experience, whilst bringing us closer to completing our dissemination and survey data set. Roll on the next trip!

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