So I have been manually typing up all the farmer registrations we have been doing for the past two weeks. It is 700+ pages of information that is all being shoved into an excel spreadsheet. Which if you know me, you know that the previous statement is like candy for me. I love excel. I love if statements. I love concatenation. I love vlookups. I love it all.
It dawned on me that what I was doing was essentially a census of farmers. We needed to collect information from everyone in the Union. An actual population! Oh boy did my heart start to sing. Excel + population = statistics heaven. The possibilities seem endless for the amount of fun I could have playing with the data.
At first I started with a simple gender analysis of the what I have entered so far. It is now up to 245 people I have input into the spreadsheet. You know, what is the gender breakdown for each zone. Alright, hold up. Explanation time. Prepare to be explained to.
The Union is made up of 10 zones. Each zone is made up of multiple associations from different villages. Each village has it’s own association/society that falls under a zonal co-operative. That co-operative is responsible to the union. So there, from both angles. Each level has an executive board. The secretary is the person who really runs the show. The chairman is like the president, mainly for leadership and a voice. The treasurer is supposed to be for looking after dues. Executive board roles are all theoretical. Most people just do what they want. The secretary of the union though is my counterpart. It is like a big cashew tree and I am sitting on a ladder next to the top of the tree observing the quality of the fruit and if the fruit at the bottom is getting enough sunlight. Yeah, that’s exactly how it is actually. Anyway, back to the excel.
So we were talking about gender breakdown. I broke it down by zone. Then I was curious about the average age (and median) for men and women in each zone. So I did that too. Then I was really curious about acreage – how many acres on average do women have in each zone. What about the men? What about total? So I start to pivot table this spreadsheet up like it was no one’s business. Pivot table here. Pivot table there. PIVOT PIVOT PIVOT. I love pivot tables. Thanks Microsoft for making my life wonderful and full of pivot table happiness. So what’s a girl to do with so much data in a table. MAKE CHARTS. Oh, now there is a visual representation of the data. Now we are cooking. (I am doing this all while still having the flu and honestly, working on excel is the best I have felt so far. Cure for the flu?! Give me the Nobel Prize if someone researches that. You heard the idea here first.)
So I am fascinated by what the data is showing me. Granted I still have another 500+ data points to enter, oh excuse me, farmers. I remember while doing the registrations that I was really surprised at how many women turned up. I thought cashew farming was a man’s world. I honestly didn’t even think about women being cashew farmers. I think there is a gender book somewhere in my house that I need to read. The acreage analysis is also interesting but I think I need to compare the average to more things like max, min, median, mean, and maybe more. So, the age analysis really surprised me too. What do you think the average age of a cashew farmer is? Well that’s a trick question because the cashew farmer doesn’t know their own age. HA. Well, we can get close. So far with the data I have entered it is 54 (and the median is 53)! The crazy part is how many people are still in their 70s and 80s farming cashew. Oooo, I should do a quartile analysis! Anyway. And what else is interesting is how much older the women tend to be on average – about 5 years older than the men (average for each zone).
As you can tell I think this is all extremely fascinating. I am excited to compile all of it into an executive summary (once everything is entered and all data is included). Lest we forget, I did one last analysis. I must say, I am very proud of myself for this one. I did an analysis of the cell phone numbers. Lucky for me, Ghana uses 4 main companies for cell networks. Each network has its own two numbers that signify the network at the start of the phone number, for example, MTN is 024 or 054. So using that information I split the phone numbers into just the first 3 numbers. Then I made a table so I could do a vlookup, and translated those numbers into the network name. Then I associated the gender with the phone number. Mind you all of this took some serious if statement imbedding to get the data the way I wanted it. Then I made a pivot table and voila! Zonal breakdown of cell phone networks by gender, combining the networks with more than one network designator, see MTN. At this point I was positively beaming with excitement.
There is nothing more thrilling than being able to use your education on a project for cashew farmers in Ghana. Seriously, how awesome is that? I learned vlookups in my freshman year of college. I took two stat classes my junior year. My marketing classes taught me the importance of data and how to use it. My last job, I used excel to make everyone’s life easier. At least I hope so. It is truly amazing how I am using everything I have learned from various experiences, college, work, tinkering in excel as a kid, here in Ghana. I truly hope that the information I discover from this data will help shed more light on the union. I know that having this information gives us power to make more informed decisions, target trainings and strategies, and reach out to underserved groups. For example, in some communities, only a few people had cell phone numbers. The text message project we are working on obviously relies on cell phones. Knowing which communities are cell phoneless can help us determine different types of trainings.
How did I get paired with such a perfect job? Of all the countries Peace Corps goes, of all the communities in Ghana, I got placed in the perfect community for me. I love my town, I love the people, I get to speak German, Twi, and English, I am working on a very important project, and I get to use excel. I feel like the Peace Corps is the intersection of my life. Everything I have ever learned is all colliding at this intersection in Wenchi (it is actually a roundabout.) (I know that it isn’t always going to be so peachy and I will have bad days, like having the flu! – but I am so grateful for what I have been given.) It really does feel like all the stars have aligned. This is the perfect moment in my life to be a Peace Corps volunteer, doing what I am doing. I don’t really believe in it, but it sure seems like fate.
Side note: you know I have this really bad guilt complex. I always feel the need to give back for amazing opportunities that I have been given. I joined the Peace Corps to give back for the opportunities I have been afforded. Now I feel like I have to give back for this amazing Peace Corps opportunity. It is a very vicious cycle, pretty sure the government will just end up owning my soul at the end of two years. New life goal – become Ambassador to Ghana. That would solve this cycle, maybe.