Earth Clinic Seed Funding Competition Year 2011-2012

In order to help achieve the goals of the Earth Clinic, a competition for project seed money was held. The Earth Clinic Steering Committee received nine proposals. The proposals were reviewed by the Earth Clinic Steering Committee and four proposals were recommended for funding totaling $118,136. Information on the funded projects is below.

Contact: Macartan Humphreys, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science and the Center for the Study of Development Strategies
Title of Project:Social Cohesion and Development in the Liberia Millennium Village
Scope of Project: Evaluations of development projects usually focus on outcomes such as economic welfare, health and education, overlooking the relationship between development and social relations. Yet social relations contribute to a variety of development outcomes, especially in post-conflict communities, and the costs of not studying social impacts can be high in developmental and human terms. Macartan Humphreys and Elizabeth King, from the Center for the Study of Development Strategies, aim to address this gap by assessing the social cohesion impacts of the Millennium Villages Project (MVP) in Bong County, Liberia. The MVP has received much international attention. This project presents a commitment to measuring the program’s social impact.

Liberia experienced a violent 14-year intrastate conflict that ruptured pre-existing social cohesion. Facilitating economic development and rebuilding social relations are pressing tasks in Liberia, and the Millennium Villages Project (MVP) includes specific initiatives designed to address this post-conflict context. Humphreys and King’s study will compare social relations in the Millennium Villages of Kokoyah District in Bong County with similar villages that are not participating in the MVP. The research design is based on the comparison of outcomes for individuals in these villages. It will include quasi-experimental pre-project and post-project surveys, paired with a qualitative study that uses one-on-one interviews, focus groups and community observation. The goal is to encourage the adoption of new research questions and standards that include social relations in the Millennium Villages and to promote continued development monitoring and evaluation.

Contact: Derek Willis, Earth Institute Postdoctoral Fellow, Center for Research on Environmental Decisions, International Research Institute
Title of Project: A Web-based Decision Support System for Malaria Policymakers
Scope of Project: At present, health officials in many developing countries cannot easily access published research on malaria and lack the tools to translate this research into policy. Derek Willis and his team are developing a web-based decision support tool that will help health officials develop appropriate policy responses in malaria-affected countries. In order to provide health officials with easy access to published research on malaria, a beta version of a website (malarianetwork.net) has already been developed, but it is not sufficient to meet the needs of health officials working in malarious countries. Understaffed national malaria control programs in many affected countries lack personnel with the expertise necessary to engage with technical research in malaria control.

Willis and his team will add a decision-support tool to the malarianetwork.net site that will assist health officials in malarious countries in translating research on the site into appropriate anti-malaria programs for their countries. The project will develop a user interface for the decision-making framework known as Evolutionary Learning Through the Integrated Networking of Knowledge (ELINK) to be added to the malarianetwork.net site. In collaboration with the Columbia Center for New Media Teaching and Learning, Willis and his team will develop a beta version of ELINK and engage health officials from malarious countries to evaluate this new support tool and the beta interface. 

Contact: Generose Nziguheba, Associate Research Scientist, Tropical Agriculture and Rural Environment Program
Title of Project:Improving the Productivity of High-pH Soils Through the Use of Suitable Nitrogen Sources and Rates in Koraro Millennium Villages, Ethiopia
Scope of Project: Koraro, in the Tigray region of Northern Ethiopia, faces significant challenges with food security and malnutrition. In 2005, Koraro became part of the Millennium Villages Project (MVP), and has since experienced improved access to fertilizers and increased crop production. However, there is evidence to suggest that a different type of fertilizer better suited to the area could yield improved results. Generose Nziguheba, of the Earth Institute’s Topical Agriculture and Rural Environment Program, will conduct a study to evaluate the most effective fertilizer for this region. Unlike other parts of Ethiopia, Tigray is dominated by soils that range from alkaline to very-alkaline. Tailoring the type of fertilizer used more specifically to Koraro’s soils could further increase crop production, allowing an improved response to food security and nutrition issues in the area.

Nziguheba’s team, in conjunction with Mekele University and the Ethiopia Institute of Agricultural Research, will conduct studies in five major wheat-growing villages in Koraro, using two farmers’ fields from each of the villages. The goal is to determine the best nitrogen (N) fertilizers in high-pH areas of Koraro by comparing the widely used fertilizer—urea—with ammonium-based fertilizers. It also aims to determine the nitrogen rate that would result in the highest nitrogen use efficiency and maximize return on inputs. The study will use an experimental split-plot design with three replications, where fertilizer type will be assigned to the main plot, and the rate of N application to the subplot. The findings of this study will primarily benefit the farming communities in the Koraro area and other areas with similar high-pH soils.

Contact: Sally Findley, Professor of Clinical Sociomedical Sciences and Professor of Population and Family Health, Heilbrunn Department of Population and Family Health, Mailman School of Public Health
Title of Project: Development of a Season Smart Network
Scope of Project: Three seasonal illnesses—malaria, diarrhea and pneumonia—are the major contributors to the high infant and child mortality rates in many Sub-Saharan African nations. Increasing seasonal fluctuations due to climate variability may exacerbate the incidence of these diseases. To reduce this risk, Sally Findley and her team of collaborators, with seed funding from the Countess Moira Foundation, will pilot an application of the seasonal calendar for illnesses for the Community-based Health Planning and Services (CHPS) in Navrongo, Ghana. The team will adapt the Season Smart approach, which Findley developed over several years of research in Mali, for integration into Ghana CHPS. The team will train CHPS nurses, community health workers (CHWs) and community health committees in the test area to implement and track Season Smart for one year. A Season Smart reorganization of CHPS activities should result in a greater number of families undertaking preventive measures, and a reduction in incidences of and mortality from the three identified diseases. The impact of the pilot will be assessed based on participant feedback, health care impacts and behavior change, with the Navrongo Demographic Surveillance System (NDSS) tracking population and health impacts. A Season Smart Working Group Conduct will convene a mini-workshop in October 2012 to review the results, draft an NIH grant application and prepare other sites to test the Season Smart approach in their own IMCI programs.