On June 5, I headed to Sokodé, a town that is situated in the central region of Togo where I will be conducting my research this summer on the local population perception and attitude towards the national park of Fazao-Malfakassa.
I was up at 5 a.m. that Monday morning to get ready for my trip. The goal of the trip to Sokodé was to meet the government officials and to also conduct a focus group with a group of villagers. It was a five hour trip that was not boring at all because of the view.
I have been in contact with Mr. Goncalvez since I have been in Lomé. He was introduced to me by my internship supervisor. Goncalvez was an employee of the Foundation Franz-Weber, which was in charge of managing the Parc of Fazao-Malfakssa. The foundation had a contract of 25 years with the Togolese Government to manage the park that ended in 2015. After the foundation left, the park has been under the care of the Togolese government, which is in the process of developing a plan for the management of protected areas.
Goncalvez has been of a lot of help. He was able to secure an appointment with the regional director of the environment on Tuesday morning and also another appointment with a group of villagers in a village called Fazao for Wednesday morning for the focus group.
One thing I did not expect in Sokodé is how expensive life is. Everything is cheaper in Lomé, especially the food. It is due to the fact that most of the commodities in Sokodé are imported from Lomé. The housing, too, is very expensive. I first wanted to stay at a guest house and I quickly realized that it was too expensive, so I got a room that I rented out per week.
For my focus group, we drove from Sokodé to a village called Fazao, which was about 2 hours away and is located on the east side of the park. I was warmly welcomed by the village chief and his notable.
We then headed to the abandoned Fazao hotel where I was going to hold my focus group discussion. Nine people that showed up. Although I would have liked to have a gender diversity, they were all men. I was not expecting anything else, but I was hoping for some diversity. However, it did not change the fact that the focus group went very well. I took a survey class last semester and we did a project in class in which my group conducted a focus group, so I had a little bit of practice. But being in the field was a little different; the issues were more personal – the people talking to me had immediate issues that not only their life depended on but the whole town depended on. At the focus group, I heard about a lot of the issues that I learned in my community-based environmental management class that today I am glad that I took. The focus group ended well and I assured them I was going to come back to Fazao to conduct a household survey to get a better understanding of the issues.
I headed back to the Lomé that same day and I am going back in few days to settle to Sokodé for few weeks.