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Mozambique to Chile to Hawai'i: Collaborating Locally

Three stories of E-IPER students conducting research in close collaboration with local people, universities, and organizations.

Mozambique to Chile to Hawai'i

Household water in Maputo, Mozambique... Salmon farming in ChiloƩ, Chile... Resource management in Ha'ena, Kaua'i... Each tells the story of an E-IPER student conducting research in close collaboration with local people, universities, and organizations. By immersing themselves deeply into the community and taking advantage of local knowledge and connections, E-IPER students can identify and pursue the most salient research questions and apply the most culturally-appropriate methods. And they contribute to the community directly by training local people to participate actively in the research and by assisting local leaders and organizations to apply the research findings to address community concerns.

In Maputo, Valentina Zuin (PhD 2nd year), advised by Jenna Davis and Len Ortolano in Civil and Environmental Engineering, is investigating the impact of a new policy allowing residents with access to a piped water supply to sell water to their neighbors who lack a piped connection. This policy, which will be tested on an experimental level in three neighborhoods of Maputo (where about 100,000 people live), is expected to reduce the price and time people spend and the distance they walk in order to fetch water, and to increase the quantity of water available to consumers. Can water resale by neighbors improve water access in a more cost-effective and efficient way than current infrastructure investments in peri-urban areas? To answer this question, Valentina's team is collaborating with an interdisciplinary group of students from Eduardo Mondlane University and colleagues from the Water and Sanitation Program of the World Bank to survey 1200 Maputo households. The Water
Regulatory Council and the Municipal Council of Maputo will use the study's results to decide whether to expand the policy throughout Maputo.

Across the southern oceans, Andy Gerhart (PhD, 4th year) is on the island of ChiloƩ, southern Chile, conducting interviews of salmon filleters, algae harvesters, pig farmers, truck drivers, and grandmothers in an effort to document how daily life changed as a result of the rapid growth of the salmon farming industry from the perspective of local people. This effort follows a large survey his Woods Institute for the Environment funded team, led by History professor ZephyrFrank with Roz Naylor (Environmental Earth System Science), Richard White (History), and Meg Caldwell (Law, Center for Ocean Solutions), conducted last year. In collaboration with the Chilean nongovernmental organization, The Latin American Center for Rural Development (Rimisp), the team carried out 856 household surveys on the changes brought about in the industry's historical center. Combining these varied sources with documentary evidence, Andy is piecing together the environmental history of the industry to better understand the social impacts of industrial aquaculture development.

Further north in the Pacific Ocean, Mehana Blaich Vaughan, also a 4th year doctoral student, is deeply immersed in the community where she grew up on the Hawaiian island of Kaua'i, studying the management of local watersheds and an in-shore fishery. Similar to Valentina, Mehana is investigating a new resource management law, studying the implementation process and the emerging local ecological and social impacts. The law allows members of a rural fishing community, also a highly visited tourist destination, to develop their own local level rules to manage the fishery in partnership with The Hawai'i State Division of Aquatic Resources. Mehana and her team, including lead advisors Peter Vitousek (Biology) and Buzz Thompson (Law, Woods Institute) want to understand how the new rules differ from and reflect current state law and traditional fishing practices indigenous to the area. She is also working with community members to understand thediversity of users along the coast today, and how different groups understandtheir responsibilities to help care for the area. She is interested in how partnerships between community groups and government might enable local Hawaiian knowledge and traditional practices to contribute to the long-term sustainability of the natural resources that are a source of sustenance - physical, spiritual, and cultural - to many in Hawai'i.