Decision making about water resource management and development in rural Africa is often made at high levels, distant from those affected and without reliable data or consideration of future trends and scenarios. Given these challenges, an important question is how can visualization technologies be leveraged to integrate biophysical maps, water balance assessment through monitoring and modeling, and participatory mapping to create a decision-making platform that works for communities and decision-makers? While some available tools move towards this goal, none appear to combine the most current water data with community-based knowledge in a format that is accessible to local stakeholders for decision making. The creation of such a platform is the motivating force behind a highly interdisciplinary team of faculty from six colleges at Virginia Tech. This presentation will provide an update on progress that has been made following two fieldwork expeditions to Burkina Faso and Malawi in 2015, which were funded by Virginia Tech’s Institute for Society, Culture, and Environment (ISCE) and Global Education Office (GEO). The presentation will explore how the VT team is working to build relationships with international actors and local institutions and organizations in Africa, and how research and educational objectives are being combined in mutually reinforcing ways in the pursuit of resources to support the larger research endeavor.
Ralph Hall is an Assistant Professor of Urban Affairs and Planning in the School of Public and International Affairs at Virginia Tech. He has over a decade of academic and professional experience in applying the concept of sustainable development to infrastructure systems with a specific emphasis on transportation in developed nations, and water and sanitation in Africa, Latin America, and India. Dr. Hall is the co-author of two significant books on Technology, Globalization, and Sustainable Development and Sustainable Transportation.