Brown School student gives firsthand account of rural life in drought-ridden Africa

Student part of team measuring effectiveness of water pump program

According to the United Nations, nearly 10 million people in Africa are experiencing one of the worst droughts in 60 years. Drought conditions are now leading to famine.

Michael Galvin, a second-year student at the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis, is in the east African countryside as part of a team testing the effectiveness of KickStart, a social enterprise selling low-cost technologies such as irrigation pumps to help alleviate poverty.

Galvin is blogging about the farmers and families he and team members are visiting through stories, video and photos ( ). His entries give a powerful look at how the drought is impacting lives.

A mother in Kenya weighing her baby as part of the KickStart evaluation.

“The people we are visiting are isolated,” Galvin says. “There are no grocery stores to go to when food runs out. Neighbors have to bail each other out. Their stories are tragically similar. It’s no longer a question of if they have a water-related problem; it’s now what kind of water-related problem does the family have.”

Lora Iannotti, PhD, public health expert and professor at the Brown School, says that drought conditions can lead to increases in enteric diseases if there is insufficient water for good hygiene and sanitation.

“People also do not have the water they need to grow their food leading to wasting and severe acute malnutrition,” she says.

Iannotti is part of the team conducting KickStart’s three-year independent impact evaluation. The study is done in conjunction with the International Food Policy Research Institute.

Galvin’s work in east Africa is partially funded by WUSTL’s Skandalaris Center for Entrepreneurial Studies.

Visit Galvin’s blog at