School of Earth and Environment

Murat Okumah Murat Okumah

Postgraduate Researcher

Email address: ee15sa@leeds.ac.uk
Room: 9.124

Affiliation: Sustainability Research Institute

Biography

I am a Ph.D. student at the Sustainability Research Institute (SRI), School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds. I take an interdisciplinary approach to my research, using behavioural and catchment science to assess whether/how environmental awareness affects land managers'/farmers’ behaviour regarding diffuse pollution mitigation and whether/how behavioural changes affect land management and water quality. My interest in and motivation for this doctoral research and environment-development issues in general was derived from my undergraduate studies (BSc. Development Planning), graduate studies (MSc. Environment and Development) and experiences; intern at the Global Environment Facility (GEF) – United Nations Development Programme, Teaching and Research Assistant at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) and the University of Leeds. I have acquired a considerable amount of experience, skills and interest in policy-facing and end-user focused research with particular interest in ecosystems, water resources, rural livelihoods and development planning. I am a postgraduate research member of the water@leeds Doctoral Research and Training Centre, one of the largest interdisciplinary centres for water research in any university in the world, encompassing expertise from across the physical, biological, chemical, social and economic sciences and engineering as well as the arts.

Qualifications

  • September 2015 – September 2016

Master of Science degree in Environment and Development from the University of Leeds – Distinction

  • August 2010 – May 2014

Bachelor of Science (Hons) degree in Development Planning from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) – 1st Class Honours

Research Interests

  • Rural livelihoods
  • Agri-environmental schemes
  • Water/river quality
  • Development Planning and policy
  • Sustainability indicators

Support duties

Assist with teaching Research Methods

Project details

Project title

Effects of land managers'/farmers’ awareness on water quality improvements: an interdisciplinary approach using behavioural and catchment science

Supervisors

Dr Julia Martin-Ortega (School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds), Professor Pippa Chapman (School of Geography, University of Leeds) and Dr Paula Novo (Scotland’s Rural College https://www.sruc.ac.uk/pnovo)

Funding

Leeds International Doctoral Scholarship (LIDS), session 2017/2018:

This is a fully funded doctoral scholarship offered by the University of Leeds. Successful applicants receive payment to cover their University tuition fees up to three years, along with a maintenance grant matching the Research Council UK rate. For further information please visit www.leeds.ac.uk/doctoralscholarships

Start date

1 October 2017

Project outline

Diffuse pollution remains a major global problem threatening the health and resilience of social-ecological systems. Over the last 50 years, the use of phosphate and nitrate (the major water resources pollutants from agriculture) has increased significantly, with nitrogen fertilisers increasing by 600%. As a result, the quality of water resources continue to decrease across the globe though at varying magnitudes. In Europe, the World Water Development Report estimates that 38% of the water bodies of the European Union are substantially affected by diffuse pollution from rural areas particularly from agriculture, resulting in eutrophication, loss of biodiversity and human health problems. This poses a major challenge to all stakeholders managing and/or affected by diffuse pollution, including communities, governments, non-governmental organisations and international agencies.

The pronounced impacts of diffuse pollution have led to the development of different policy actions accompanied by enormous financial commitments to mitigate the problem. For example, in England alone, the UK Government spent around £8 million to tackle diffuse pollution in 2008-2009 with over £140 million spent on water quality more broadly. These efforts have failed to make significant improvement in reducing diffuse pollution due to the complex nature of the problem. Literature suggests that unlike previous strategies that were disjointed, non-specific and punitive in nature, recent strategies are integrative, context-specific and represent a transition from ‘punitive’ to an ‘advice centred’ approach aimed at raising awareness, influencing land managers’ behaviour, reducing diffuse pollution and improving water quality.

However, to date, research examining whether awareness influences land managers’ behaviour and whether/how this translates into water quality improvement remains relatively scarce, thus the need to explore these complexes for the development of effective policies. This is particularly important as agricultural activities and land manger behaviour are a major means through which ground and surface waters become contaminated, and also, because the influence of land manager behaviour on water quality may not be direct – suggesting numerous pathways.

As a result, this doctoral research project takes an essentially interdisciplinary approach, combining social science research (behavioural science) and natural science research (catchment science) to respond to the following questions:

  1. Does land manager awareness affect behaviour regarding uptake of diffuse pollution mitigation measures?
  2. What factors and how does information provision and awareness regarding diffuse pollution affect land managers’ behaviour in relation to mitigation measures?
  3. Does behavioural changes translate into an improvement in water quality at the catchment level?
  4. How can this knowledge be applied to other water issues such as improving drinking water from catchment measures?

The field work for this research will take place in the United Kingdom where diffuse pollution is a major environmental issue affecting the quality of water resources and accounting for a significant proportion of the river basin’s poor quality. At the same time, some parts of the UK (e.g. Scotland) have employed relatively new and novel approaches that represent a transition from ‘punitive’ to ‘advice-centred’ strategies to mitigating rural diffuse pollution and improving water quality thus providing a relevant ground for understanding these complex relationships.

Publications

Papers presented at conferences:

Policy Reports: