Rensselaer Research Review Fall 2010
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Water Resources in the Land of a Thousand HIlls
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* Data collection in Rwanda

The research team learns to use the hand-held data collection device. From left: Theophile Benda, head of the Department of Agriculture, Livestock, Infrastructure and Natural Resources, Etienne Rusagara, the sector’s fontainier (plumber), and Jean Bosco Gatanazi, university students from Generation Rwanda and Michael J. Mascarenhas. Photo Credit: Michael J. Mascarenhas

From the end of August through mid-September, Michael J. Mascarenhas traveled the remote and dusty roads of Rwanda to interview villagers on their drinking water sources and sanitary systems. The eventual goal was to create a methodology that would eventually enable the people of the District of Rulindo to develop their own water resource management plan.

His travels are recounted in his blog for the New York Times as part of their "Scientists at Work: Notes From the Field" series.

As a sociologist and assistant professor of Science & Technology Studies at Rensselaer, Mascarenhas' research is driven by his firm belief that sanitation and access to safe drinking water are unequally available to the poor around the world. He points to a recent United Nations Human Development Report suggesting that "power, poverty, and inequality are at the heart of today’s global water crisis."

Mascarenhas and his entourage of researchers, translators from Generation Rwanda, a nonprofit organization that supports post-secondary education for orphans of the Rwandan genocide, and government officials went from district to district accumulating first hand data that would become a baseline report.

The researchers surveyed three of the 17 sectors (Burega, Cyinzuzi and Ntarabana) in the District of Rulindo, in the Northern Province of Rwanda. Over the two week survey period the team interviewed 48 households, and surveyed 378 households in the three sectors.

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“Into Africa: Water Resources
in the Land of a Thousand Hills”
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