The Anglo-Ethiopian Society
Lecture - Piped water in rural Ethiopia - does it automatically improve well-being?
Saturday 3rd October 2015
2:00pm, Room B102 Brunei Gallery, SOAS, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG - Public lecture (all welcome)
Across the developing world, labour-saving technologies are designed and introduced specifically to improve community health and well-being; however, long-term anthropological fieldwork in rural Ethiopia has revealed some unintended demographic consequences.
In rural Oromiya, the installation of village tap stands has dramatically reduced the time and effort women spend collecting and carrying water. Based on predictions from evolutionary life history theory we have identified that, in the absence of contraception, the arrival of taps has led directly to an increase in birth rates. Energy has, in effect, been diverted away from the task of collecting water and towards increased reproductive function (an adaptive and flexible response in human fecundity).
Over a period of 15 years, this research has revealed that higher birth rates, combined with increases in child survival due to improved water supply has led to larger family sizes, but also biases in education have emerged as families struggle to care for additional children. In this presentation Mhairi Gibson will discuss the relevance of these findings for policy-makers and practitioners, as well as the potential for future applied research using similar evolutionary frameworks.