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AREU Synthesis Paper Series

Nangarhar, Ghazni and Nimroz. These provinces were purposefully selected for the contrast that their ethnic populations (Pashtun and Baluch) would provide against the majority Tajik areas in the first phase, and also for the added variable of insecurity. Nimroz was selected in particular for its remoteness from the centre, providing a direct comparison with those provinces near to Kabul or with their own large cities or trade routes.

A total of 120 interviews were conducted in the second phase—40 in each province, comprised primarily of individual interviews. More interviews were needed in the second phase to collect not only perspectives on democracy, but to get a sense of the specific context in which the interviews were taking place. In a further measure designed to increase understanding of the contexts as well as mitigating security risks, partner organisations were contracted to collect data in these areas using research staff native to each province.40 This allowed for valuable mid-project and final debriefing sessions in which the data gathered in interviews was checked against the knowledge of the research staff themselves. In each province, interviews were conducted in one urban and one rural (or “semi-urban” where security restricted travel to fully rural areas) location.

Respondents in the second phase were selected according to the same criteria as the first, and comprised a mixture of men and women, young and old, and rural and urban inhabitants. Teachers, students, religious elders, local leaders and government officials were interviewed along with shopkeepers, taxi drivers, housewives and farmers. A wide spectrum of educational levels was represented.

Methods of data collection

Research teams in both phases were entirely comprised of Afghan researchers. In the first phase, the AREU research team conducted the data collection themselves, and in the second phase this was done through partner organisations with AREU team members providing continuous feedback on transcripts. Staff from partner organisations were












Sustainable Development and Research (OSDR). In Nimroz, the partner

organisation was Relief International (RI).


trained in qualitative research methodologies by AREU research staff in Kabul both before data collection began and at a mid-point during the project. AREU research staff also visited the field sites (with the exception of Nimroz) during the data collection to assist and support the research teams.41

In phase one, qualitative semi-structured interviews were conducted as informal conversations with individuals, and FGDs were conducted as group discussions within similar demographic sectors (for example in classes of secondary school students). While these discussions were useful, it was felt that more substantive information was gained through individual conversation and thus in the second phase, interviews with individuals were prioritised with few FGDs conducted. In both phases, open- ended questions were used that began with the subject of the last elections, so as to draw on more concrete experiences to begin with.


The research made every effort to ensure that the methodology used for this project was sound and reliable. There remain some limitations, however, which are readily acknowledged:

  • 1.

    The data is not representative of Afghanistan as a whole. It merely reflects the views of a broad range of diverse opinions in six different provinces across the country.

  • 2.

    It was not possible to interview as many women as men, especially in rural areas. This was due to limited access and limited time to build enough trust among the communities that were not familiar with the research teams. Of a total of 209 interviews and FGDs, 82 were with women. Although not as numerous as the interviews with men, however, many of the conversations with women were longer and gathered more contextual information since they tended to take place inside the home and were thus more informal in nature.

  • 3.

    Due to security concerns, the districts selected in insecure provinces were not as remote as


A visit to Nimroz was planned, but cancelled due to the lack of air

travel available to the province following a plane crash in May 2010.

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