New Federal Grant Will Support Project on Climate and Water in Ethiopia

October 1, 2012

Tim Lucas, 919-613-8084,

DURHAM, NC – A Duke University research initiative to help understand how communities in rural Ethiopia are able to respond to uncertainty over water and climate, in the face of historic droughts and climatic variability, has received a $149,000 grant from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Erika Weinthal, associate professor of environmental policy at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment, co-leads the initiative with Marc Jeuland, assistant professor of public policy and global health, and Marc Bellemare, assistant professor of public policy and economics, both at the Sanford School of Public Policy.

The initiative was first funded through seed grants from Provost Peter Lange’s Problem-Focused Interdisciplinary Research-Scholarship Teams (PFIRST) program.  

PFIRST, now in its second year, provides early funding to help jumpstart new and promising faculty-led collaborations in areas of critical importance.   Weinthal and her colleagues received PFIRST seed grants in both 2011 and 2012.  

“As a result of our PFIRST grants, we were able to provide important leveraging funds for the work described in the proposal we submitted to USAID, which made us even more competitive,” Weinthal says.

Through their initiative, “Responses to Uncertainty about Climate and Water Availability in Rural Ethiopia: Implications for Social Resilience and Activity,” the Duke team will work with local Ethiopian communities to learn how their ability to access safe and productive water supplies and cope with climate variability can be enhanced. A key focus will be to explore potential strategies to prevent or resolve conflicts between community members.

“Some of the most exciting collaborative research ideas from faculty have come to our attention through the PFIRST competition,” says Susan Roth, vice provost for interdisciplinary studies, who oversees the competition.  “Nurturing and growing these collaborations is a high priority for Duke.”

Other members of the grant-winning team are Avner Vengosh, professor of geochemistry and water quality at the Nicholas School, and Tewodros Rango, a postdoctoral researcher in his lab; Julia Kravchenko, research scientist at the Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center; Wenhong Li, assistant professor of earth and ocean sciences at the Nicholas School; Courtney Harrison, water policy associate at the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions; and Chris Paul, a PhD student at the Nicholas School and  doctoral scholar at the Duke Global Heath Institute.