Distributing a Precious Resource

Precious resource.

Aaron Krolikowski, BA, BS ’09, went to Tanzania to study agricultural development on his study-abroad trip funded in part by UB donors. But, as a resident of the Great Lakes region, he ended up finding water issues more interesting and relevant to his own life.

When he was in Africa, he helped set up a co-op that provided farmers with emissions-free water pumps for watering fields. And he began to understand the political forces at play with this precious resource.

"I remember—I can still see it—a very small, makeshift dam the farmers were using. It was made of sticks and leaves and just a trickle of water was coming through. Seeing all the livestock and people trying to get water from this limited source got me interested in the politics of water: who gets it, how to distribute it."

And he was amazed by the emergence of mobile communication technologies in even remote villages. Since 2007, mobile has been transforming economic and human development across Africa.

Aaron’s first trip to Tanzania included a layover in London. This gave him the chance to take a peek at the city, which inspired him to apply to British universities for grad school. He’s finishing up a PhD at Oxford now; his dissertation looks at how mobile payment options influence water provision in urban areas. 

"Going abroad has given me a new perspective on almost every issue we face in Western New York," says Aaron. "I'm hoping to apply mobile innovations from East Africa and ideas from leading Oxford thinkers to challenges in Buffalo. The world holds the solutions to Buffalo’s 21st-century problems. We just have to go out and find them."