Kimetrica, Save the Children, and Technical Assistance to Non-Governmental Organizations (TANGO) International are working together to implement the Livelihoods for Resilience (L4R) learning activity in Ethiopia. L4R contributes to USAID’s Feed the Future (FtF) program to address the root causes of global hunger, as well as to USAID Ethiopia’s Development Objective 1 (DO1) aimed at increasing economic growth and resilience. In 2018, the team carried out a mixed-methods baseline study of the L4R Activity in Amhara, Tigray, Southern Nations, Nationalities, Peoples’ Region (SNNPR) and Oromia. The study included a large-scale survey of 3,520 households, 104 key informant interviews (KIIs), and 32 focus group discussions (FGDs).

To measure households’ real-time response to shocks and/or stressors, and inform L4R’s adaptation in 2019, the team began conducting quarterly, recurrent monitoring surveys (RMS) across the same regions. The RMS collects and analyzes high-frequency panel data regarding household shock exposure, responses, wellbeing outcomes, and changes in household resilience capacity. Mixed-method data is routinely collected from a subset of baseline respondents (900 HHs) and alternates between 32 KIIs and 16 FGDs to prevent respondent fatigue. Kimetrica’s Ethiopian research team manages all of the data collection logistics and staff costs.

Following the outbreak of COVID-19 in early 2020, the Government of Ethiopia imposed travel restrictions to reduce and curb the transmission of the virus. As a result, Kimetrica and its partners, in consultation with USAID/Ethiopia, rapidly and successfully transitioned the RMS from face-to-face to telephone-based data collection for its surveys and KIIs. This adaptive strategy addresses USAID/Ethiopia’s ongoing data needs and adheres to the rules and regulations of Ethiopia’s Federal and Regional Governments, avoiding the risk of virus transmission and safeguarding households, field workers, and staff.

The telephone-based surveys yielded a 98.1% response rate, which exceeded the RMS average response rate of 97% via face-to-face data collection. The successful transition to remote data collection was a result of: (1) interviewers’ persistence and ability to call respondents multiple times, as opposed to the limited ability to conduct call-backs with face-to-face interviews; (2) the interviewers’ rapport and familiarity with the households from the previous four rounds of face-to-face interviews; and (3) a sufficient amount of time and financing to make possible all of the necessary logistical and technical preparations for telephone-based data collection.

Sufficient planning was essential for success. This included making sure telephone networks were available in the planned survey areas; establishing a complete telephone directory for sample households (using available data and other sources, such as the local government); ensuring that households had functional telephones; finding out if there was electrical power or other sources of energy (e.g., solar) to charge phones; and assigning focal persons from within the sample-clusters communities (e.g., community leaders, elders, chiefs, etc.) to help fill in any gaps. Collaborating with the focal persons on the ground was particularly important as they helped the team identify the best locations for network connectivity and could facilitate the scheduling of phone appointments.

Though ethical approvals were secured at the beginning of the RMS work, the relevant authorities in the government offices were informed about the transition to a phone-based survey.

Kimetrica and its partners are proud to have been able to continue providing USAID/Ethiopia with the data collection and analytical services it needs to ensure the proper adaptation of the L4R learning activity to meet household HH needs, especially during this difficult time. These invaluable lessons will be used to inform future remote data collection efforts for L4R, as well as similar efforts for other clients around the world.