wutich_nsf - Amber Wutich Funded Research Proposal to the...

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Amber Wutich Funded Research Proposal to the National Science Foundation Dissertation Development Grant Competition Submitted, December 20, 2002 Title: The Effects of Water Scarcity on Reciprocity and Sociability in Bolivia Statement of the Problem Reports on the state of freshwater reserves warn that severe local shortages are imminent, and predict that violent conflicts will emerge in water-scarce regions (Ohlsson 1995, Elhance 1999). Water scarcity has been shown to cause civil conflict, particularly when accompanied by high population density, poverty, and income inequality (Homer-Dixon 1994, 1996, Hauge and Ellingsen 1998). Urban migrant communities, where ethnic, religious, and class differences can exacerbate tensions, and community-wide patterns of adaptation to environmental scarcities are not well-formed, may be particularly vulnerable to water conflicts (Moench 2002). To better understand how conflicts develop in water-scarce regions, research is needed on the social and economic factors that mediate cooperation and conflict (Ronnfeldt 1997). I propose to do an in-depth study of Villa Israel, a barrio of Cochabamba, Bolivia, where conflict over water is an established part of life. Every winter, seasonal water shortages threaten the lives of the people of Villa Israel, forcing them to make choices in how they use their economic and social resources. One factor that mitigates the incidence and intensity of conflicts is the existence of cooperative ties within a community (Ross 1993). In marginal urban settings, poverty and mutual assistance foster social support networks (Low 1996) that strengthen community ties. However, Laughlin and Brady’s model (1978) of adaptation to environmental stress predicts that, in times of severe resource scarcity, individuals will withdraw from the generalized reciprocal exchange relationships and social relationships that characterize urban social support networks. The proposed research in Villa Israel will test the Laughlin and Brady model to determine if severe water scarcity erodes reciprocal exchange and social relationships. Research Objectives The overall objective is to understand how severe water scarcity affects reciprocal exchange relationships and social relationships in a marginal urban setting. The five specific objectives are: 1. to document the incidence of water scarcity in the research community. This involves the development and testing of a scale to assess water consumption, as well as conducting interviews to document variation of water use in a sample of households. 2. to determine how water scarcity affects the frequency and quality of reciprocal exchanges between households. This involves documenting the reciprocal exchanges that a sample of households engages in over a nine-month period.
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3. to determine how water scarcity affects the frequency and quality of social interactions between households. This involves documenting the social interactions that a sample of households engages in over a nine-month period. 4.
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wutich_nsf - Amber Wutich Funded Research Proposal to the...

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