Fieldwork in the Comoros archipelago

Published on April 5, 2018 Updated on April 18, 2019

Cerdi in the Field


The Comoros archipelago is a geographic ensemble of four islands located in the Mozambique Channel, near Madagascar. Three islands (Grande Comore or Ngazidja in local language, Anjouan or Ndzwani, and Mohéli or Mwali) belong to the Union of Comoros (Comoros henceforth), a poor country populated by 760’000 inhabitants. The remaining island, Mayotte, is French.

Impact evaluation of the Social Safety Net Project (SSNP) in Comoros

Despite high needs, Comoros has no formal social protection system. Against this backdrop the government of Comoros and the World Bank launched the Social Safety Net Project (SSNP) in 2016 with the aim to improve poor communities’ access to safety net and nutrition services. The SSNP provides cash to targeted poor families in exchange for their participation in cash-for-work activities.

My job is to field a randomized control trial to assess the effects of the SSNP on socio-economic outcomes and welfare of households. This work involves frequent, extensive field work in collaboration with two local institutions: ANACEP, the semi-public organisation that implements the SSNP, and the Comorian national institute of statistics (known as INSEED), the main partner for data collection operations. I am working with economists from the World Bank and the University of Oxford. Between 2016 and 2017, I spent more than 12 months in Comoros to coordinate randomization activities conducted by ANACEP and implement the baseline survey with INSEED. The survey included 2,906 households distributed across 69 villages in the three Comorian islands. This summer, I will return to Comoros to launch the second wave of data collection and complete the impact evaluation.

Understanding illegal migration in the Comoros archipelago

As a by product, the data collected during the baseline survey provide an interesting image of the emigration of Comorians toward Mayotte. Mayotte is located about 70 kilometres to the south east of Comoros. Following important efforts deployed by the French governement to regulate imigration to Mayotte, illegal sea routes have emerged (see Figure 1), and flows of Comorian migrants remain uncontrolled. In 2016, a series of violent evictions of migrants by anti-migrant groups erupted in several municipalities of Mayotte and left many Comorians in city squares.

Despite growing social and political tensions, the academic literature on illegal migration in the Comoros archipelago is scarse. In particular, little is known on the conditions in which Comorians live in their home country and the reasons that push many of them to risk their lives to migrate to Mayotte. The data collected during the baseline survey offer an opportunity to study this migration phenomenon and generate crucial evidence on its root causes. The findings will inform policy decisions, and indicate how development programs may tackle this issue.

For updates on my research, follow me on twitter @JulesGazeaud.