2010-2011 Fellows

Rachel Nalepa

Degree Sought : Ph.D. in Geography
Research Focus: Distributional impacts of large-scale land concessions in developing countries

School Name : Pierce School, Brookline
Teaching Partner: Tracy Bare
Rachel's Project GLACIER Site

The last few years have marked a trend of increased foreign direct investment flowing into the agricultural sectors of developing countries not only for profit, but to ensure energy and food security in the investor’s country of origin. The hope is that incoming resources will also contribute to host countries’ long-term growth and development, but weak governance and poorly defined property rights leave many small-scale farmers, pastoralists and other landholders vulnerable to displacement without adequate compensation when the value of land increases. By integrating biophysical, socio-economic, and cadastral data to examine spatial patterns in large-scale land transfers in Ethiopia, I hope to create new meso-scale functional units that characterize high-risk zones for rural communities.

An example of how my research is integrated into my GK-12 experience: One of our first activities as a classroom was to test company claims regarding the biodegradability and compostability of new eco-friendly plastic products. Test products and controls were buried with compost to be unearthed in the spring and to share results. One very large driver of climate change is the consumptive habits of developed countries. In the context of understanding the earth as a closed system, we talked about consumer products from the “cradle to grave” perspective and how each stage from mining to disposal affects biogeochemical cycles on earth. The students got a chance to link science to the broader social impacts of their choices. I want them to understand that their consumer choices have far-reaching impacts that influence how policy-makers appropriate our scarce natural resources including water, minerals, forests, and of course, arable land.
Sponsored by the NSF GK-12 Program