Report of Anthropology Students' Nicaragua Research Module 2009 Faculty Development Grant for Faculty and Students in Karata and Bilwi, Nicaragua
Submitted by Dr. Emmanuel Babatunde Chair, Department of Sociology & Anthropology Lincoln University, Pa. 19352
The funds released by the 2009 Faculty Development Grant to train students in ethnographic research skills and data collection to implement the Anthropology Research Module for the joint use of Human Services and Anthropology majors provided the opportunity for Drs. Pat Joseph, Emmanuel Babatunde and two students Ms. Qill Tomine Smith and Ms. Leslie Jefferson to carry out their assignments. The trip, which was limited by the amount of resources provided, took place in the week of April 22nd to 29th, 2009. It continued the exposure of Lincoln University Students to skills training in trans-hemispheric work on food security and poverty reduction through the use of micro-credit and nutritional literacy programs.
Micro-Credit and Research Skills Enrichment
One thousand dollars ($1000) provided as seed money by the grant represented the foundation resources for the micro-credit. Fifteen rural people in the ratio of twelve women and three rural men in Karata were selected. The first activity was to open a bank account for each of these selected participants so that they could learn the process of keeping their money away for a rainy day. American students and faculty went to the bank in Bilwi, Nicaragua to discuss the steps that must be taken to open an account in Nicaragua. This provided Lincoln University students, who are so used to the ease with which these activities are done in the United States, to have first hand experience as to how difficult and tortuously slow these same activities such as money transfer, collection and opening of an account can take in Third World Countries. After three working days spent on collecting forms for rural women, most of whom do not read or write, American students on the trip began to appreciate how the lack of education, absence of technology and cumbersome policies further made life difficult for the already marginalized rural women.
Finally, a trip was arranged to Karata, the village where the rural women resided. I took forty minutes on a fast propelled boat to travel one way to the village. The return journey from Puerto Cabezas, Bilwi to Karata cost a total of $100 plus the gas to fill the motor propelled engine. The team of Professors and students spent the day in Karata on a health literacy and education on banking requirements so that the right documents could be obtained for the selected candidates to open an account. The logistics of micro-credit principles were fully discussed with the villagers who then provided the most important document, their identity card particulars for onward transmission to the bank.
These full day class sessions on the benefits of banking money provided Lincoln University Students a chance to learn skills in cultural competence and watch their professors in Human Services and Anthropology work together to collect new data about poverty and poor nutrition as major causes of disparity in health among women in rural communities. They also saw how simple application of multidisciplinary efforts such as the micro-credit that the grant provided went a long way to stimulate autarkic development among rural women. Lincoln University students were able to observe and participate in efforts to organize rural women and some representative men into dynamic groups, whose efforts focused on the problem-solving of issues related to wealth generation in order to deal with the poverty brought by a monolithic occupation like fishing, which is an unpredictable source of resource generation. Students were made to appreciate the importance of nutrition as the foundation of development and thriving of children in rural communities whose nutrient intakes were limited to the monotony of scarce resources in their environment.
Cultural Competence Skills
Since a major requirement for long time employment in today's global environment was the acquisition of cultural competence, effort was made to alert students to be attentive to the degree to which cultural nuances, beliefs and meanings affected business among village members. The students were particularly thrilled in finding the similarities in the rural life of women both in this country and in Nicaragua. Since this grant effort was a planned trans-hemispheric study among women of African descent in Nigeria, Nicaragua (Garifuna and Creoles) and North America, a new generation of students has become excited about the importance of Anthropology to global dynamics. This new generation of Anthropology majors is already taking interest in anthropology studies further by comparing data collected from Nicaragua to those collected by the faculty and students in rural Nigeria.
African American students engaged in this longitudinal trans-hemispheric study in cultural competence have reconnected with earlier generations of Lincoln University graduates who began the project. Ms. Jefferson and Ms. Qill Tomine Smith, recipients of the 2009 Ethnographic educational trip to Nicaragua, contacted Ms. Renee Dixon and Ms. Tenne Thrower, recipients of the 2008 Ethnographic trip who began the project and who are now in graduate school. An enduring interest among these two groups of Anthropology students, the fieldwork research revealed, was to finding out, through the acquisition of cultural competence methodology and its application to different groupings of people of African descent, in three different areas of the World - Africa, Latin America and North America - what African cultural retentions continue in African Diasporic culture and why.
Students Skills Enrichment
Ms. Smith and Jefferson gave presentations to different groups of students taking courses in Anthropology. As a direct result of ethnographic skills gained during these trips, Ms. Jefferson has taken two unprecedented steps. Firstly, she has applied to different Summer Fieldwork internships on her own volition to enrich her skills in ethnographic data gathering as well as maintain a competitive edge with her colleagues from other universities, so as to increase her likelihood of getting into good graduate programs. Secondly, as a child of parents who are engaged in active military service, she has chosen to turn her ethnographic skills on the plight of children of service persons during times of war.
Teaching and Research Enrichment
The number of Anthropology majors has risen to 14, the highest number since the inception of Lincoln University. In addition, students are challenged to turn their acquired skills in cultural competence and ethnographic fieldwork to create data set on Lincoln University itself. In the Spring 2010 semester 10 students in the Independent Class on Ethnography the Science of Fieldwork - Soc. 495 -are focusing on the "Ethnographic Mapping of Lincoln University in 2010" a data set on employment in terms of such categories as the level of education, type of job, ethnicity, race, gender and time of employment. Presentations on Ethnographic Research Dr. Pat Joseph and Dr. Babatunde have made presentations on the Cultural Competence Module in each other's classes. Members of the Ethnographic trip developed a multi-media presentation that is currently used for education and recruitment. This module is available upon request. Dr. Babatunde has also presented on the research gained in the study related to religion as a cultural behavior to Dr. Leaman's Class. This has enriched learning across the population of Lincoln University students.