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Liu Scholars receive highly competitive IDRC Doctoral Research Awards
Reza Kowsari, Arvind Saraswat, Beth Stewart
In the recent International Development Research Centre (IDRC) Doctoral Research Awards competition, Liu Scholars won three of 21 grants awarded across Canada.

IDRC Doctoral Research Awards provide support for students to undertake thesis research in developing countries. The awards are intended to promote the growth of Canadian and developing-country capacity in research on sustainable and equitable development from an international perspective.

Congratulations to Liu Scholars Reza Kowsari, Arvind Saraswat and Beth Stewart!

Read more on each of the Scholars' field research below.


Reza Kowsari

Energy poverty has been considered as a major problem facing rural development in many developing countries. Traditional biofuel is a significant component of rural energy mix.  Improving the energy situation for rural households is a key component to reducing poverty and improving welfare. Commercial usage of biomass for local energy supply holds the promise of increased efficiencies through improved cook stoves, the ability to provide additional energy services (e.g. electricity through biomass gasification), increased farmer income, and contribution to rural development. While this is a growing global trend, the viability of biomass supply for these commercial ventures, the impact of this new source of demand on rural households (both users and non-users of the new biomass energy system) and the related consequences of diverting some biomass from other uses (e.g. fertilization) have been understudied. 

Reza's research aims to fill this gap by exploring how local biofuel markets are created and function and their impacts on household welfare and rural development. To do this, Reza will undertake a case study in India of two different commercial energy suppliers that use residues from farms to produce cookstove pellets in one case and electricity through gasification in the other. This study will a) survey the farmers and landless households, b) interview the commercial energy suppliers, and c) conduct a material flow analysis. The insights generated will provide critical input to strategies for addressing the challenge of energy poverty in the rural regions of developing world.


Arvind Saraswat

Air pollution levels in Indian cities including the capital New Delhi are among the worst in the world. This has significant health consequences since air pollution from fine particulate matter (with aerodynamic diameter less than 2.5 micron or PM2.5) has been conclusively linked to adverse health effects. Combustion processes including vehicular traffic, household burning of biomass and industries are major sources of PM2.5 in New Delhi. Individuals belonging to lower socioeconomic status groups are likely exposed to higher indoor and outdoor levels of PM2.5. For example, women and children belonging to lower socioeconomic status groups are also more likely to be exposed to high levels of PM2.5 from the combustion of solid fuels for indoor use.

Arvind's research will determine the variation of PM2.5 exposure by gender and socioeconomic status in New Delhi. The results of the proposed study will determine whether and how the health burden of urban air pollution is borne disproportionately by lower socioeconomic status groups and women. The results will help facilitate the formulation of corrective policy measures to address the inequity.


Beth Stewart

The tens of thousands of children born in the past decade of wartime sexual violence often face severe discrimination, yet this injustice remains grossly under researched. After 20 years of civil war in Northern Uganda, preliminary accounts reveal that children born into the captivity of the rebel group the Lordís Resistance Army (LRA) encounter rejection by their communities. Children face not only stigma of being born in the bush, but also of having no paternal clan to support them through key life stages (education, marriage). Literature on youth and armed conflict notes that the most likely participants in war today are marginalized youth. This is not just a social justice issue then, it is also a security one.

Bethís research will contribute to the current documentation of the life histories of 25 former wives of senior LRA commanders by the Justice and Reconciliation Project by focusing on their demand to explore their childrenís reintegration challenges.  In Gulu town (Northern Uganda), Beth will compare the reintegration experiences of eight children, male and female, aged 10-18.  With assistance from the leaders of the life histories project, she will help the mothers and the children document and reflect upon their stories.  This research will deepen understanding about inequality and security and, by communicating the outcomes and social policy recommendations, it will contribute to development and reconstruction in post-conflict communities. Most importantly, however, this project will give these children an opportunity to have their stories documented and heard.



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