Staff Associate - Columbia World Projects
Closing: Open until Filled
Staff Associate position, Columbia World Project to Reduce Household Air Pollution in Ghana through Community-Level Transitions to Clean Cookstoves and Fuels
The successful candidate will join an exciting new project on household energy use in Ghana. The aim of the project is to support the transition of households away from polluting dirty forms of household energy (primarily biomass) toward cleaner, modern energy sources. The project will investigate (a) viable clean energy sources, (b) household adoption and use decisions and © the health impacts of cleaner fuels. Through an iterative research approach, beginning with a national-scale survey-based needs assessment, including a district-wide field experiment and finishing with the handover of a long-run indoor air pollution monitoring program, the project will bring new approaches and strategies to the challenge of household air pollution in Ghana.
The Challenge: Globally, nearly 3 billion people use traditional cookstoves and fuels, a practice which produces one-fifth of all black carbon emissions globally, and which leads to an estimated 4 million preventable pollution-related deaths per year, including half a million children under the age of 5 years who die from pneumonia. Women are also particularly impacted, both because of their exposure in the home and because the burden of collecting firewood and other fuels falls to them. In Ghana, about 70% of the population generates energy for cooking by burning biomass and other solid fuels in open fires. Air pollution ranks as the second highest risk factor of death and disability nationally and household air pollution specifically accounts for the annual loss of just over 450,000 disability-adjusted life years in Ghana. Recognizing the scale of this problem, governments and foundations have made significant investments in efforts to encourage use of clean cookstoves over the last decade, with a focus on delivering more efficient cookstoves or clean-fuel combinations to individual households. But despite this investment, studies to date have failed to demonstrate large benefits. In addition to the challenges associated with promoting the adoption of new, clean cookstoves, those households that have received even the cleanest fuels in carefully monitored health studies do not meet air quality targets.
The Project: This project, led by Dr. Darby Jack (Columbia Mailman) and Dr. Kelsey Jack (UCSB), who have considerable experience working on the challenge of clean cookstoves and household energy, would take a novel approach to this challenge, shifting the focus away from the household to the community, and deploying new research in behavior change alongside public health expertise, technological capacity, and new health communications tools to support a community-level adoption and sustained, exclusive use of clean household energy technologies. Key features of this novel approach include: (1) developing and integrating new – but evidence based – behavior change approaches that consider decision-making within the home and at the community level to encouraging exclusive, sustained use of clean cooking technologies and other clean fuel technologies; (2) developing a portfolio or stack of clean options (fuels, stoves, and practices) that together can fully displace traditional open fires and enable exclusive, sustained use of clean alternatives; (3) transitioning entire communities towards clean alternatives, rather than being focused on the number of households affected, in 1 order to achieve anticipated air-quality improvements; and (4) identifying broader energy system changes that will support and sustain household- and community-level transitions. If successful, this project would benefit nearly 30,000 individuals in the Brong-Ahafo Region of Ghana as a direct result of project activities and will lead to material improvements in public health, and also contribute to women’s empowerment, economic development, and improved environmental quality both in Ghana and throughout Africa.
When referencing households in this report, the intention is not to exclude businesses in targeted communities that would need to be a part of any community-wide transition to clean fuels. Specifically, the project would draw on an interdisciplinary team of academics and practitioners and aim to substantially reduce household air pollution in several communities in the Kintampo District of Ghana, which would serve as a pilot demonstrating the suite of technologies and behavior change tools that could enable a transition throughout the country to clean fuels. The project would first assess the household energy needs and the clean cooking technologies that can meet those needs, and the behavioral constraints and opportunities surrounding adoption and sustained use, while at the same time developing a household energy monitoring system for tracking not just household energy use but also air pollution exposure and health. The vetted technology would then be deployed in a manner that allows careful monitoring and evaluation. The project design also anticipates producing important new research about Ghana, clean cooking technologies and behavior change, and furthermore to highlight an approach that might usefully be applied in other countries working to facilitate clean energy transitions. The project will draw on research and scholarship at Columbia University that provides a basis for the approaches to be taken in trying to address the challenge that Ghana faces, including by faculty at the School of Public Health, School of Engineering and Applied Science, Columbia University Medical College and the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. Students throughout the University will have the opportunity to engage with the project, including on questions such as the monitoring and evaluation framework. Ghana was selected because it is a middle-income country with offshore energy resources, a stable democratic government, excellent research institutions, a strong commitment to utilizing clean cooking solutions, and existing relationships with Columbia University. The Kintampo Health Research Center, a long-time partner of Columbia, would serve as a key collaborator and the primary implementing partner for the project in the field. This project came out of the first Columbia World Projects Forum in February 2018.
Minimum Degree Required
BA in economics, public health, engineering, public policy or related fields (and 4 years related experience), MA in one of the aforementioned fields (and 2 years related experience) or PhD in one or the aforementioned fields by May 2019
- Knowledge of the economics, public health, and/or engineering literatures in household energy use or related topics, and interest in contributing to those literatures
- Strong data programming capabilities (e.g., R, python, MatLab, Stata, etc.)
- Experience with primary data collection, including one or more of the following: large scale household surveys, lab-in-the-field experiments, randomized controlled trials
- Interest in travel to Ghana
- Proficiency in econometrics or applied statistics
- Experience working with a team, ideally across countries
This position offers a competitive salary and excellent benefits, and some potential flexibility on location (New York or Santa Barbara).
Interested applicants should include a cover letter describing their interests and skills as they relate to the project, a CV, the contact information for three references, and an example of completed research.
Applications will be evaluated as they arrive.
Proposed Start Date: 1 July 2019
Columbia University is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action employer — Race/Gender/Disability/Veteran.