Past events

RAI Research Seminar: Mhairi Gibson
Wednesday 01 October 2014, 05:30pm - 07:30pm
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Evolutionary life history theory and the demographic consequences of rural development intervention in Ethiopia.

Dr Mhairi Gibson, Bristol University

Wednesday 1 October at 5.30 pm

Across the developing world labour-saving technologies are designed and introduced specifically to improve community health and well-being; however long-term anthropological fieldwork in rural Ethiopia has revealed some unintended demographic consequences. In rural Oromiya the installation of village tap stands has dramatically reduced the time and effort women spend collecting and carrying water. Based on predictions from evolutionary life history theory we have identified that in the absence of contraception, the arrival of taps has led directly to an increase in birth rates. Energy has in effect been diverted away from work collecting water and towards increased reproductive function (an adaptive and flexible response in human fecundity). Over a period of 15 years this research has revealed that higher birth rates, combined with increases in child survival due to improved water supply has led to larger family sizes, but also biases in education have emerged as families struggle to care for additional children. In this paper, I will discuss the relevance of these findings for policy-makers and practitioners, as well as the potential for future applied research using similar evolutionary frameworks.

This event is free, but tickets must be booked. To book tickets please go to

Location 3