Broken Pumps and Promises

Evan Thomas, the Director of GlobalPDX, published a book last year about incentivizing impact in global public and environmental health. The book highlights some of the challenges in delivering effective environmental health interventions, and presents examples of emergent theories and case studies that can help close the gap between intent and impact. These include impact crediting systems, objective evidence gathering tools, and social businesses that service environmental health. The case studies presented cross disciplines, scales, organizational and national boundaries and can defy easy categorization. A water project may be designed for a health impact, but financed with a climate change tool, and leverage high tech cell phone sensors. A cookstove program may be primarily concerned with employment and capacity building, but balance environmental and health concerns.

Groundwater depletion embedded in international food trade

Recent hydrological modelling1 and Earth observations23 have located and quantified alarming rates of groundwater depletion worldwide. This depletion is primarily due to water withdrawals for irrigation124, but its connection with the main driver of irrigation, global food consumption, has not yet been explored. Here we show that approximately eleven per cent of non-renewable groundwater use for irrigation is embedded in international food trade, of which two-thirds are exported by Pakistan, the USA and India alone. Our quantification of groundwater depletion embedded in the world’s food trade is based on a combination of global, crop-specific estimates of non-renewable groundwater abstraction and international food trade data. A vast majority of the world’s population lives in countries sourcing nearly all their staple crop imports from partners who deplete groundwater to produce these crops, highlighting risks for global food and water security. Some countries, such as the USA, Mexico, Iran and China, are particularly exposed to these risks because they both produce and import food irrigated from rapidly depleting aquifers. Our results could help to improve the sustainability of global food production and groundwater resource management by identifying priority regions and agricultural products at risk as well as the end consumers of these products.

Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty

by Abhigit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflo

Why would a man in Morocco who doesn’t have enough to eat buy a television? Why is it so hard for children in poor areas to learn, even when they attend school? Does having lots of children actually make you poorer? Answering questions like these is critical if we want to have a chance to really make a dent against global poverty.

Process evaluation and assessment of use of a large scale water filter and cookstove program in Rwanda

In an effort to reduce the disease burden in rural Rwanda, decrease poverty associated with expenditures for fuel, and minimize the environmental impact on forests and greenhouse gases from inefficient combustion of biomass, the Rwanda Ministry of Health (MOH) partnered with DelAgua Health (DelAgua), a private social enterprise, to distribute and promote the use of improved cookstoves and advanced water filters to the poorest quarter of households (Ubudehe 1 and 2) nationally, beginning in Western Province under a program branded Tubeho Neza (“Live Well”). The project is privately financed and earns revenue from carbon credits under the United Nations Clean Development Mechanism.