Left to right: Alejandro Ramirez, Dagoberto Florez, Diana Lopez, Gloria Martinez
With just a week in each community, entering, gaining trust and identifying those of interest to the study is a challenging task. Local contacts and open relationships with the authorities are essential, emphasized researcher Alejandro Ramirez, "as otherwise you may put people in danger for participating." Key to the study was the promise of anonymity and an understanding that would be no material gain for participating.
The first stage begins with focus groups. The researchers set up gender-segregated groups of community members representing different levels of prosperity, with separate groups focusing on young people.
The next stage involved in-depth interviews with farmers seen as innovators in the community, and with people with life experience of moving in or out of poverty.
One farmer had improved his maize yields by using a technology provided by local extension works: a kind of fungi known as mycorrhizas that colonizes the roots of plants in a symbiotic relationship, drawing in nutrients from the soil. He did not care if others said the additive was bad for the soil; what mattered was the quality of the information he received. "They brought the mycorrhizas before," he said, "but they didn't tell people how to use it; they threw it on the ground like dust."