School of Earth and Environment

Murat Okumah Murat Okumah

Postgraduate Researcher

Email address:
Room: 9.124

Affiliation: Sustainability Research Institute


I am a PhD Researcher 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 affect land managers' behaviour regarding diffuse pollution mitigation and whether/how behavioural changes affect 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.


  • September 2016

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

  • June 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 quality
  • Development Planning and policy
  • Sustainability indicators

Support duties

Assist with teaching Research Methods

Project details

Project title



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


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

Start date

1 October 2017

Project outline

Diffuse source water pollution from agriculture remains a major environmental ‘public bad’ causing eutrophication, human health problems and increased water treatment cost. (Hutchins, 2012, OECD., 2012., United Nations World Water Assessment Programme, 2015, Novotny, 2013). Agriculture is a major source of this (Skinner et al., 1997, Boesch et al., 2001, OECD, 2017). Given the recognition of the contribution of land management practices to diffuse pollution, understanding and influencing the behaviour of land managers towards the adoption of diffuse pollution mitigation measures is seen as key in helping to improve water quality (Blackstock et al., 2010; Dwyer et al., 2007). A few suggestions have been made as to how to achieve this: providing advice and raising land managers’ awareness regarding the problem and mitigation measures, ensuring clarity and consistency in messages, providing convincing scientific evidence and providing economic rewards in exchange of e.g., adopting diffuse pollution mitigation measures (Barnes et al., 2009, Morris et al., 2000, Merrilees and Duncan, 2005). Arguably, information provision and awareness raising is consistent with all the suggestions mentioned above (Blackstock et al., 2010). Moreover, more recently, evidence points to land managers’ lack of awareness and lack of ascription of responsibility to self as major factors responsible for diffuse pollution (through poor land management) which in turn affects water quality. For instance, some studies in Scotland have revealed that many farmers did not perceive themselves as being responsible for the pollution of rivers and their attitudes towards diffuse pollution management were negative (Barnes et al., 2009, Macgregor and Warren, 2006).

Recent policies introduced to improve water quality and meet the European Water Framework Directive (WFD) – the regulatory framework for water management in the European Union – have therefore focussed on providing information, working with land managers and raising awareness. For instance, the Catchment Sensitive Farming Delivery Initiative (ECSFDI) in England and the Priority Catchment Approach (PCA) in Scotland, were introduced as a means of providing advice to farmers on a one-to-one basis, through workshops, farmer meetings, farm walks and demonstration events (Environment Agency, 2011, Environment Agency, 2014, DPMAG, 2015). The use of this approach is not limited to policy makers but also involves other stakeholders such as water utilities e.g. Welsh Water and Scottish Water and has given rise to collaborative work aimed at reducing cost of treatment through catchment management measures. Working directly with land managers and providing them with the required advice is expected to make them part of the process, enhance their understanding, create trust, allow for knowledge exchange and co-construction, and hence likely to be more effective than top-down regulations and/or provision of general recommendations (Martin-Ortega and Holstead, 2013; Pike, 2008). All the outcomes mentioned above are expected to lead to changes in behaviour that would, in turn, lead to an improvement in water quality, thus, assuming the existence of a relatively straightforward pathway between awareness, behaviour and water quality.

To date, however, research examining whether/how these innovative awareness approaches indeed influence uptake of diffuse pollution mitigation measures and whether/how this results in water quality improvements remains relatively scarce. More importantly, there is no known study that explicitly tests the full awareness-behaviour-water quality pathway. Given the substantial financial commitments to addressing diffuse water pollution from agriculture (e.g. in England alone, the UK Government spent about £8 million to tackle diffuse pollution in 2008-2009 with over £140 million spent on water quality more broadly (OECD, 2017; NAO, 2010)), there is an urgent need for this knowledge to support policy and decision-makers in the design of their interventions to mitigate diffuse pollution and understand the effectiveness of their awareness oriented approaches. This knowledge will deepen our understanding of the problem (Giri and Qiu, 2016) and more broadly, contribute to our understanding of how policy best responds to environmental impacts of agricultural land use.

Following the background provided, this research project aims to contribute towards addressing the knowledge gap in the awareness-behaviour-water quality pathway, using an interdisciplinary approach to explore all aspects of this path. Specifically, the project has the following objectives:

1. To ascertain whether/how awareness of diffuse pollution and mitigation measures affect land managers’ behaviour regarding the uptake of diffuse pollution mitigation measures.

2. To ascertain whether/how uptake of diffuse pollution mitigation measures lead to an improvement in water quality.

3. To disentangle the complexities of the relationship between awareness-behaviour-water quality

4. To provide recommendations on how to reduce diffuse pollution from agriculture and improve water quality and more broadly, how policy best responds to environmental impacts of agricultural land use

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.


Papers presented at conferences:

Policy Reports: