Malawi study abroad course II

This was the second year for our Malawi study abroad course.  We continued the same partnership with Mzuzu University in Malawi and Virginia Tech students and faculty members.  The first week of the course was spent on learning about the water and development context in Malawi and preparing students for the fieldwork.  Our research project was structured around an evaluation of Marion Medical Mission’s shallow well building program.  This program has installed more than 15,000, locally manufactured and highly affordable wells in Malawi over the last 30 years. Our goal was to assess the household and community impacts of the program and look at different aspects of sustainability and governance.   Students from the University of Denver, Virginia Tech and Mzuzu University worked collaboratively to conduct household interviews, key informant interviews, water quality tests, water committee focus groups, and technical assessments.  Our research took us to 20 rural communities and students had the opportunity to see the reality of rural water access and interact with community members, public health workers, district water officials, and community leaders.  Please see photos below.

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“My Neighbor Drinks Clean Water While I Continue to Suffer”…

An article Ralph Hall, Eric Vance and Marcos Carzolio and I collaborated on has just been published in the Journal of Development Studies.  The article titled, “My Neighbour Drinks Clean Water, While I Continue To Suffer’: An Analysis of the Intra-Community Impacts of a Rural Water Supply Project in Mozambique,” uses mixed methods to reveal the intra-community impacts of a rural water project in northern Mozambique.  The article is relevant for anyone thinking about rural water decision making, the measurement of sub-national inequalities, the uneven impacts of rural water supply programs, and the unintended social consequences of development.

The abstract is copied below.

Rural water planners assume the positive impacts of community water projects are spread evenly across the population. We test this assumption by looking at the distribution of benefits within communities that received handpumps in rural Mozambique. Using survey and qualitative data we analyse the characteristics of those groups who benefited from the handpumps and also explore household decision-making processes.  Handpump use was determined by distance, availability of other sources, perceptions of water quality, political affiliation, and wealth. We argue that the handpumps reinforced existing social divisions related to income and political affiliation and created new geographic divisions within communities.

The full paper can be accessed at:

For anyone without access to this journal the first 50 downloads are free at this link:

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Water and sanitation study abroad course in Malawi

I have just returned from teaching a three week study abroad course in Malawi.  The course focused on water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and aimed to introduce students to the realities of water and sanitation challenges in developing countries, provide opportunities for cross-cultural exchange, and develop applied field research skills. Nine graduate students from the University of Denver participated in the course, along with six students from Virginia Tech (under the supervision of Dr. Hall) and eight students from Mzuzu University (under the supervision of Dr. Tembo and Dr. Holm).

During the course we worked in partnership with Mzuzu University students and faculty at the Center for Excellence in Water and Sanitation. The Center works on on applied research and practical applications of research findings and is connected to the faculty of Environmental Sciences at Mzuzu University, the Malawi government, and several NGO’s focusing on sustainable development issues.

The course approached WASH from an interdisciplinary perspective and integrated community development, public health, engineering, environmental science, and planning approaches. Three structured research projects allowed students to get “out in the field” to understand WASH issues in different settings. These projects are discussed in greater detail in Dr. Hall’s blog post.

As part of these three projects students were involved in research design, field work, data analysis, report writing, and sharing the results with groups at different levels. These research projects responded to local needs and contributed critical knowledge that will have an impact on WASH approaches and services.   Please see the final presentations which were presented to local stakeholders and development agencies during the final day of our course.  These presentations are the basis for developing future informational flyers, policy briefs and journal articles that will be led by the students.

Overall the trip was a very positive experience.  Everyone learned a lot and had fun.  We look forward to offering the same course next year.

Please enjoy some photos from the course below.

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New article published!

I have just published the article, “’A Good Wife Brings Her Husband Bath Water’: Gender Roles and Water Practices in Nampula, Mozambique” in Society and Natural Resources.  This article is based on my dissertation research in Nampula.  Please see the abstract below and if you are interested in reading more, the first 50 downloads are free at:


In the Global South, gender roles and relations are closely connected to water collection and use. The aim of this article is to move beyond the simple development associations linking improved water access with women’s empowerment by showing how gender roles, marital relations, and the division of labor are connected to everyday water practices. Ethnographic research took place in five communities in Nampula, Mozambique, during a year when residents endured seasonal dry months and later received a water supply project. This research explores how gender roles and relations are impacted by changes in community water resources, and how these impacts are understood from local perspectives. In rural Mozambique, water collection and use are not only gendered activities, but also practices that shape marital relations and cultural notions of a good wife and mother.


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Mzuzu library burned down

A fruitful and exciting week in Malawi (see previous blog post), came to an extremely unfortunate end when a fire  burned down the entire Mzuzu University library, including the internet servers.  Please see Ralph Hall’s blog that describes this incident in more detail.

We are working to help coordinate a strategy to rebuild the library.  If you are interested in contributing to this effort please find the instructions on Ralph Hall’s blog.

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