Elisabeth graduated from her Bachelor of Applied Science (Environmental Management) in 2012 and her Master of Science (Geography) in 2014, both of which were undertaken at the University of Otago, New Zealand. While an undergraduate, Elisabeth developed a strong interest in the interaction between the natural environment and the impacts of this on livelihoods in developing nations. From this stemmed her Masters research, in which she looked at the spatial variability of surface water and groundwater quality in Ndola, Zambia, and the impact of these variations on community wellbeing. Here she witnessed the complexities and challenges that lie within the system that is water provision sub-Saharan Africa, realising that the challenges behind groundwater provision are not simply technical, but rather social, financial and institutional factors also play important roles in determining whether individuals receive safe and adequate quantities of drinking water.
A key issue within this system is water point failure, this being the system that Elisabeth now aims to analyse within her PhD. Failure rates have remained stubbornly high in sub-Saharan Africa for the past 40 years, and while multiple reasons for failure are known, there is a lack of viable solutions to holistically address these failures. Moving away from linear thinking of cause and effect, Elisabeth’s PhD is looking at the feedback mechanisms within the system of water point construction and management, focusing on the causal links between the technical, social, financial and institutional factors within this system. Her PhD aims to identify the areas within this that have the greatest control over water point functionality, thus those that offer the highest points of leverage in future policy decisions, all with the aim of reducing the rate of borehole failure within sub-Saharan Africa.
Elisabeth is jointly funded by the Rutherford Foundation of New Zealand and the Cambridge Trust.