Bridging the Gap between Environmental Research and Rural People’s Knowledge: A Transition to Sustainability

EPA Grant Number: F6C30869
Title: Bridging the Gap between Environmental Research and Rural People’s Knowledge: A Transition to Sustainability
Investigators: Toomey, Anne
Institution: American University
EPA Project Officer: Lee, Sonja
Project Period: August 1, 2006 through July 1, 2007
Project Amount: $74,172
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2006) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships , Environmental Justice , Fellowship - Environmental


The proposed project will encompass field research and structured academic study in order to gain insight into the causes of environmental degradation in the rural community of El Arenal, Nicaragua, and identify and analyze available options for a transition to sustainable development.

The objective of my research project is to identify and examine possible pathways to sustainability in an impoverished village in a third world setting through the merging of environmental research with the perceptions, opinions, knowledge and solutions of the local community.


The project will consist of three parts, the first of which will encompass a broad technical assessment of the environmental situation within the village. The focus here will be on practical issues such as waste management, water systems, energy use, the acquisition and/or production of food, subsistence and cash crop farming techniques and transportation, among other issues. The second part of the research will involve the enactment of a participatory methodology in order to understand how the members of the community perceive the sustainability or lack thereof of their village and surrounding environment and to provide opportunities for the sharing of opinions, knowledge and solutions. Both Relaxed Rural Appraisement (RRA) and Participatory Rural Appraisement (PRA) research methodologies will be employed, and strategies and methods pertaining to these models will be implemented for the successful completion of this stage. The final stage of the project will examine the differences encountered between the findings of the technical assessment and the perceptions and solutions expressed during the participatory appraisement in order to determine the best means of bridging that “gap” for a transition to sustainability.

Expected Results:

The intended result of this research is to obtain a holistic understanding of the causes and attitudes that lead to environmental degradation in a rural and impoverished third world setting, in addition to the viable options that exist for a transition to environmentally sustainable economic and social development.

Supplemental Keywords:

sustainable development, participatory rural appraisement, community development, environmental sustainability,, RFA, Scientific Discipline, Geographic Area, Sustainable Industry/Business, POLLUTION PREVENTION, Sustainable Environment, Energy, Technology for Sustainable Environment, Civil/Environmental Engineering, Ecology and Ecosystems, International, energy conservation, clean energy, sustainable development, sustainable water use, education, environmental sustainability, ecological design, conservation, sustainable transportation, alternative energy source, waste management, environmental education, Nicaragua

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final