The MRC/Wits-Agincourt Unit has enjoyed the support of its host communities for over 25 years. Longitudinal community-based surveillance work rests on stable long-term relationships which need to be nurtured and fostered.
Primary relationships are between the Unit’s Public Engagement Office , the elected village Community Development Forums and the indunas of the 28 villages in the study site. The real public face of the Unit is it’s fieldworkers, who are trained to ensure that they are able to conduct informed consent and answer questions from potential participants with sensitivity.
An effective Public Engagement Office , working together with the public, service providers, researchers, fieldworkers, data section, administration section and research office enables effective and appropriate community engagement with research.
How does community governance work in the Agincourt HDSS study area?
The field site covers 28 administrative villages in the Bushbuckridge sub-district of the Ehlanzeni District of the Mpumalanga Province of South Africa. Administrative villages are defined by the municipality and the traditional authorities. For more information about why the numbers of villages has changed over the years, download this poster on why its so hard to answer the question how many villages are there in the study site. 13 of these villages fall under the Amashangana Traditional Council, 14 under the Jongilanga Traditional Council, and one under the Hoxane Traditional Council. Although the political power of the traditional councils has decreased considerably since 1994, they are still respected leaders in the community, and are consulted on most matters affecting development.
Local governance operates at three levels – Municipal, Ward and Community Development Forum (CDF). There are 8 municipal wards represented in the Agincourt HDSS study area, each of which has a ward councillor who is accountable to the municipal offices and to the CDF. Each village CDF is made up of two representatives from every Community Based Organisation in the village, and the Induna (Chief) as a representative of the Traditional Council. Before the CDF is formally recognised by the municipality, issues such as gender representation are investigated to ensure that it complies with government regulations concerning gender and disability representation. Approximately five villages as a ‘ward’ elects a paid ward councillor two years after every national election for a five year term (renewable three times). This ward councillor, together with the ward council (one person from each of the +/-5 CDFs) represents village concerns to the municipality. The Indunas of each village meet at their respective Traditional Council offices once or twice a week.
All the CDFs, Indunas. Ward Councillors and local Municipal Officers in the field site are well known to the PEO team, and there is a good working relationship between the team and village leadership. The PEO meets with the CDFs when required either at the regular CDF meetings, or at a special CDF meeting requested by the PEO or by the CDF. Bi annual meetings are held in the main MRC/Wits-Agincourt Unit field office with the CDFs, indunas, Community Advisory Board members and Community Development Workers. If the PEO wants to meet with a Traditional Council as whole, visits can be arranged on the day that all the Indunas have their regular joint meetings.
The PEO’s Interaction with the public, service providers and policy implementers
Routine interaction includes informing village leaders and communities of forthcoming census updates and research projects, well-prepared feedback and discussion of research findings at village meetings, village leadership meetings and clinics and regular production of village “fact sheets” to support local development initiatives. Example of a village fact sheet. Household fact sheets are also given to each household during the annual updates – click here for an example of the one for the whole HDSS. Each village also has their own household fact sheet. The most recent fact sheets for each village are to be found at the end of this page. Contributions from all research projects conducted in the site are an expectation. Example of a research project fact sheet. All village fact sheets and research project facts sheets are translated prior to circulation in the community.
Each research project has to be approved by the Wits Ethics Research Committee on Human Subjects, and also has to be approved by the Mpumalanga Province Health Dept Ethics Committee. These committees are particularly concerned with the consent forms that are used in each project, reasons for the research, and real and potential benefits to the community. Informed consent is either verbal or written, and the field workers are thoroughly trained in the implementation of informed consent prior to each project.
All research projects that are conducted in the field site have to ask formal permission to undertake the research activities from the CDF, the Induna and the community of the villages in which they want to work. We approach the CDF to ask them to call a community meeting at which the research will be presented to the community at large. The date and time of the meeting is set by the CDF. The research team explains the research question and methodology at the meeting, and time is allowed for the community to ask questions. The annual census is also introduced to the community every year, in the same manner.
Since 2007, a voluntary Community Advisory Board (CAB), with a representative from each village and each health committee in the study has been running. The CAB was responsible for reporting community based problems regarding that research project to the PEO, and assists greatly in calling village leadership and general village meetings.This CAB meets once a month, and its main role is to be the eyes and ears of the unit in the community, and represent community concerns to the unit. The CAB also gives comment in informed consents and questionnaires for any research project requiring such input.
Benefits of the Public Engagement Office (PEO) to the MRC/Wits-Agincourt Unit
The PEO supports the Agincourt HDSS and projects nested in the Agincourt HDSS through:
- Assisting in ensuring that socially responsible research occurs in the site
- Developing an effective research result feedback process on local, district and provincial levels
- Monitoring and evaluating the use of the data at these levels
- Ensuring that appropriate community entry is undertaken for all projects
Services offered to projects
- Advise on community entry
- Running community entry (after ethics approval)
- Community, local, district and provincial service provider feedback
- Assistance with dealing with ethics of practice issues arising during fieldwork
- Report on community entry and feedback
Services requested from projects
- Ethics certificates
- Community entry letter
- Fact sheets
- Answers to FAQs
All villages main-factsheet-2020
Croquetlawn B main-factsheet-2020
Cunningmore A main-factsheet-2020
Cunningmore B main-factsheet-2020
Dumphries A main-factsheet-2020
Dumphries B main-factsheet-2020
Dumphries C main-factsheet-2020
Ireagh A main-factsheet-2020
Ireagh B main-factsheet-2020
Ireagh C main-factsheet-2020
Justicia A main-factsheet-2020
Khaya Lami main-factsheet-2020
Kidare A main-factsheet-2020
Kildare B main-factsheet-2020
Lillydale A main-factsheet-2020
Lillydale B main-factsheet-2020
MP Stream main-factsheet-2020
Newington B main-factsheet-2020
Newington C main-factsheet-2020
Rolle C main-factsheet-2020
Somerset A main-factsheet-2020
Somerset C main-factsheet-2020