Land is one of the few productive assets owned by the rural poor, and almost all households engage in some form of agriculture. Over 2000-2010 the rural poor on degrading agricultural land increased in low-income countries, and in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Although degradation threatens the livelihoods of the poor, this interaction is complex and conditioned by key economic, social and environmental factors. These factors also limit the poverty-reducing impacts of economic growth and economy-wide reforms. A comprehensive development strategy requires investments that improve the livelihoods of affected populations and regions and facilitate outmigration in severely impacted areas.
Our latest article now published in JEEM and available online!
Waterborne diseases, often arising from freshwater pollution, are a leading cause of mortality in developing countries. However, data limitations inhibit our understanding of the extent of damage arising from freshwater pollution. We employ a novel hydrological approach combined with village census data to study the effect of upstream polluting behavior on downstream health in Indonesia. We find that upstream use of rivers for bathing and associated sanitary practices can explain as many as 7.5% of all diarrhea-related deaths annually. We also find suggestive evidence for differential avoidance behavior in response to different pollutants. Our approach relies on publicly available satellite data, open source hydrological models, and coarse village census data allowing us to estimate health externalities from river pollution in particularly vulnerable and data poor environments.
We have now scanned over 8,000 private groundwater well and contractor drilling log records in 4 successful visits to Pender, Duplin, Sampson and Bladen counties. We will be returning to Pender once more and finishing our water quality data collection in Cumberland and Harnett counties.
Our team is working hard to digitize and georeference these data to better understand the landscape of water quality, human health and agricultural runoff in the Lower Cape Fear Basin. Once our data collection is complete, we will share and maintain our digital databases and maps with the environmental health managers in each of our study area's counties.
A long-standing collaboration with Teevrat Garg (UCSD) and Evan Kresch (Oberlin College), as well as our remote-sensing colleagues Stu Hamilton (Salisbury University) and John Talbot, to be published soon in the Journal of Environmental Economics and Management.
The first draft of this paper is over 5 years old reminding us that integrative work can be slow but rewarding and deliver important policy messages.