About the Project

In many parts of Africa, the impacts of climate change on water availability are likely to forestall development and worsen insecurity and conflict. This is especially true in communities that depend upon rain-fed agriculture. The extent to which populations are vulnerable to climate-induced stress depends on their resources and adaptive capacities. Understanding the mechanisms that influence adaptive capacities, particularly in terms of food and water security, is thus necessary for the design of interventions to reduce vulnerability to climate change and mitigate the potential for social conflict. In order to study the relationship between climate change, resilience, and conflict, we propose a two-year study in the Ethiopian Rift Valley that examines the mechanisms by which households process information about risk and uncertainty regarding water availability, and how these translate into adaptive capacity. The Ethiopian Rift Valley is understudied, rural, already exposed to climate variability, and highly dependent on rainfall for subsistence agriculture. We will conduct two types of surveys: (1) household surveys aimed at understanding household dependence on water sources for drinking and agricultural purposes, which we will complement with field experiments eliciting risk and ambiguity preferences as well as the level of trust of decision makers; and (2) qualitative, semi-structured interviews with policy makers at the local, regional and national levels aimed at understanding the institutional context of water management and farming. This research will grant new insight into household and community resiliency to climate change.

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Broader Interdisciplinary Project Objectives:

  • To survey and map the quality and particularly distribution of arsenic and fluoride in water resources of the Main Ethiopian Rift;
  • To evaluate and model the mechanisms of mobilization of arsenic and fluoride from the Main Ethiopian Rift geological formations and determine the relationships between local geology, water quality, and environmental conditions that control the occurrence of contaminants in the Main Ethiopian Rift groundwater resource;
  • To evaluate the link between groundwater quality and population health by mapping contaminants’ “hot spots” and associated vulnerable health areas in the Main Ethiopian Rift;
  • To develop tools for a better policy assessment of safe groundwater areas and adequate and effective remediation technologies for contaminated groundwater.