UC Davis

Announcing the 2011-12 Poverty Alleviation through Sustainable Solutions (PASS) Grant Awards

In 2011-12, $30,000 in seed grant funds through the Blum Center's Poverty Alleviation through Sustainable Solutions (PASS) grants program were given to six faculty/graduate student for projects in Rwanda, Zambia, Central Uganda, Ethiopia, and Kenya.


For additional awards: 2010-11, 2012-13

Business Development for Micro-grid Power

Rural Rwanda

Paul Erickson, UC Davis Mechanical Engineering; Kyle Gaiser, graduate student in Mechanical Engineering, and Joshua Milburn, Brown & Caldwell

This project is an entrepreneurial renewable energy technology venture providing training and jobs to young Rwandan professionals and fostering greater economic independence and energy access in rural Rwanda. The grant will provide engineering entrepreneurial instruction to recent Rwandan college graduates, assess rural communities for micro-grid power generation, and strengthen business partnerships with Rwandan technical professionals, community members, and local government stakeholders to lay the groundwork for a future pilot project with the UC Davis D-Lab. The long-term goal of this venture is to develop a sustainable, repeatable energy generation and delivery business that provides educational opportunities for Rwandan engineers and inexpensive, reliable energy to rural communities. For more, see Grantee Profile.

Providing Low-Cost Solar Powered Lighting in Peri-urban Areas


Kurt Kornbluth (PI), Program for International Energy Technologies/D-Lab; Bryan Pon, graduate student in Geography, and Edward Silva, undergraduate student in International Agricultural Development

For most of the 1.6 billion people worldwide that live without access to electricity, fuel-based lighting is the only affordable option. The economic, health, and environmental costs of using kerosene, candles, and other traditional fuels are well-documented and are widely seen as key barriers to overcome in the cycle of poverty. Using a $200,000 award from the World Bank Lighting Africa program, the UC Davis Program for International Energy Technologies has designed and developed the “SMART Light,” an affordable, solar-powered light intended to provide an alternative to kerosene and candles in Zambia. This project would build on that work by launching a distribution pilot in Zambia with the current inventory of 1,500 SMART Lights. The pilot would implement a model of distribution, micro-consignment, that provides income-generation opportunity for entrepreneurs without the risk of taking on debt. This project would evaluate the effectiveness of this distribution model in Zambia, studying the impact on entrepreneurs as well as on households that purchase the lights. For more, see Grantee Profile.

Sustainable Vegetable Production Intensification

Central Uganda

Kate Scow (PI) UC Davis Department of Land, Air and Water Resources and Lauren Pincus, graduate student in Horticulture and Agronomy

Food security efforts must recognize the importance of both the quantity and the quality of food available to a population. Research into nutrient-rich vegetable crops is lagging behind that of staple foods such as maize, which are heavily investigated by global researchers. While valuable, this effort is only sufficient to improve the caloric intake of a population. The proposed study will fill this research gap by determining the environmental, nutritional and economic impacts associated with commonly grown indigenous and exotic leafy green vegetables in central Uganda. This research, conducted in collaboration with a USAID-funded HortCRSP project promoting indigenous greens for nutrition and wealth creation, will examine five indigenous and exotic leafy green vegetables to compare their soil nutrient-use efficiencies, nutritional output, and economic returns. The study will be conducted as a randomized controlled block design in three field sites within central Uganda. Research results will help determine the role of vegetable production in maximizing agricultural output while reducing negative environmental impacts to promote food security and poverty alleviation.


Visualizing Needs in an Informal Settlement

Mathare Settlement, Kenya

James H. Smith (PI), Department of Anthropology and Jamie Lundine, Kenya

In recent years, Kenya has seen a marked increase in the number of non-governmental projects that promote digital technologies as a means to alleviate poverty. These projects have acknowledged that culturally entrenched practices of political patronage and a dependency on foreign aid has rendered the Kenyan government inept at adequately providing for its citizens. While such technologies are widely used by NGOs (nongovernmental organizations) for data analysis and evaluation, however, preliminary research indicates that they have little direct impact on marginalized communities, which lack access to high-speed Internet and technical know-how. This proposed project starts from the premise that new technological solutions can be crucial tools, but on their own are insufficient to improve socio-economic conditions. Building upon two years of research and hands-on experience in community development and digital mapping in Kenya, this project harnesses the expertise of low-income residents in the informal settlement of Mathare to create a multimedia platform that addresses community needs by directly linking residents with potential development partners. In doing so, it capitalizes upon technology to help impoverished residents, and closes the gap between “outside experts” and the communities they attempt to serve. Through comprehensively representing the needs of a community on digital maps, this project employs technology not only to present information (e.g., a water supply shortage), but also to produce concrete action (e.g. building water pipes to remedy the shortage). In doing so, it will improve living conditions for the neighborhood as a whole, generate income for a subset of residents who have been trained as Community Data Collectors and increase demand for locally available resources.

Improving Health Information Access and Sharing Among Field Workers and Providers Via Mobile Communications: A Needs Assessment

Sabana Grande, Nicaragua

Michael Wilkes (PI), UC Davis Medical School and Haley McDermott, graduate student researcher with co-investigators George Barnett, Robert Bell, Dr. Patricia Conrad, and Woutrina Miller

Healthcare delivery can be greatly augmented through social networks that connect field workers, health care providers and the people they serve. In the communities of developing nations, information sharing in such networks is often impeded by limited social contact and communication technologies. One such community is Sabana Grande, Nicaragua. Sabana  Grande is a rural, resource-poor community with limited access to healthcare. The human health of the community is largely in the hands of community healthcare workers, whose ability to provide care is hindered by limited access to valuable external health resources. Furthermore, the community’s livelihood is threatened by a lack of consistent veterinary knowledge and expertise. It is the goal of this project to conduct a needs assessment to determine which social and communication barriers interfere with human and veterinary healthcare delivery within the community. This is the next step in implementing a cell phone based healthcare network to improve healthcare outcomes in the Sabana Grande region, and to serve as a model system for other rural areas. See short video about community here.