Field Exigencies: Weather
Field work planning is an oxymoron- things will and do go awry.
You cannot anticipate all challenges or pre-empt hurdles. As a development sector practitioner who loves going on field missions would say - it's Murphy's law.
A variable completely outside of our control and yet one we must always consider is what the weather conditions would be before starting. The summer scorch can be harsh whilst working in Rajasthan or Gujarat, with the hot temperature making one weak in the knees. In such moments, the sun is bright and respondents hard to find on the kaccha roads in the afternoon loo.
An important piece of advice passed to colleagues and field staff is to cover their heads. Some of the more common strategies also explained is the importance of staying hydrated with water and local natural drinks and finding shade post completing each survey. Taking regular breaks also makes fieldwork easier over the course of a day.
If the luxury of taking a car is an option, a backpack with fruit and glucose (anything sugar-y) often proves useful.
The rain doesn’t make it any simpler. From rural muddy pathways getting waterlogged to potholes of unknown depths and routes simply closed off from being washed away are all common happenings in the phenomenon called the Indian monsoon. Whilst working in Bihar during one such season, the project called for visits to schools which dealt with weather and resulted in schools with waist deep water. As tired as the field team was, these are all aspects of project execution.
Winters bring with them shorter days and longer evenings. At such times, using public transport with the chilly winds of Uttarakhand or traversing through foggy roads in the hills, are not the most preferred time of gathering data. This requires extensive planning for operational safety, keeping in mind starting/wrapping up early and at the same time avoiding travel at night.
Weather, in conclusion, may not be the best of friends for the field worker. A fact to be kept in mind to ensure smooth execution of projects and evaluation assignments. This process becomes smoother with community partners assisting with the grass root knowledge. As is always the case with good work, being well prepared is the best tool.