Nabeela Farah

Researching the impact of cooking stove emissions on women's health in Punjab.

Nabeela Farah, UAF doctoral scholar in rural sociology.
Nabeela Farah, UAF doctoral scholar in rural sociology.

Nabeela Farah, UAF doctoral scholar in rural sociology.

Nabeela Farah, UAF doctoral scholar in rural sociology.

Nabeela Farah is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Rural Sociology at the University of Agriculture, Faisalabad. Her research centers on the exploration of biomass fuel emissions from cooking stoves and its implications on women’s health in rural Punjab.

While there has been some movement towards compressed gas stoves, most cooking stoves in rural Punjab are fueled by either wood or dried dung cakes. When burned, these fuels give off smoke emissions which degrade air quality and impact respiratory function of those in closest contact—the women who stoke and cook over the fires. Ms. Farah’s social research focuses on community knowledge about the ill health effects of smoke, identifying the hazardous effects of biomass emissions, investigating awareness and practices, and suggesting improvement measures.

Ms. Farah had already taken several steps in her investigation while at UAF. She had developed her contextual framework in early 2016, had constructed an interview schedule, and had collected data from various communities throughout Punjab in the fall of 2016. Her data sets still contained raw information when she boarded her flight to the U.S. in January of 2017.

When she arrived at UC Davis, she quickly realized that there was an entire body of work on cooking stoves emissions that she wasn’t able to access at UAF. Ms. Farah began an immediate review of additional literature on the topic and began refining her research questions. She also started taking in new perspectives from the academic activities around her, attending a multitude of seminars, conferences, symposia, and trainings.

“What I have done by attending all of these conferences and seminars is very unique for me,” stated Ms. Farah during her exit seminar. “In Pakistan, we attend meetings, but all of the participants are from the social sciences. But here, there are attendees from environmental sciences, animal sciences, every discipline… I’ve learned that we cannot bound our studies on a single point, or think that you’re restricted to certain areas of studies. Academic inquiry is open to everyone.”

One particular training that Ms. Farah attended was the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative, which trains researchers to work with human subjects and which impressed Ms. Farah greatly. “The CITI program is the U.S. regulations on human research. That is basically an ethical approach for the social scientist before conducting research. I have never seen such types of trainings in Pakistan.”

She also continued to analyze her own data from the field and apply her results to her research questions. When she began to run into trouble, she arranged for a qualitative analysis consultation with Cassie Hertzog from the Center for Regional Change and Dr. Deb Niemeier from the Deptment of Civil and Environmental Engineering. At their urging, Ms. Farah began to learn R, an analytical language for statistical computing.

During Ms. Farah’s exit seminar, her UC Davis mentor, Dr. Nancy Erbstein from the Department of Human Ecology, praised Nabeela’s hard work and willingness to question her own assumptions. “What Nabeela did was actually really challenging, because she came here and she questioned herself, questioned her own knowledge, and she took the step to review new literature and research which couldn’t be accessed in Pakistan. She took steps to learn new disciplines and new software, took some steps that are key to becoming a global scholar.”

When pressed by Dr. Jan Hopmans, Associate Dean of International Programs, about the one thing Ms. Farah would take back with her to UAF, she responded: “My comment would be: do not bound yourself in any one point. This is what makes Davis great, is that you are connecting your knowledge with one another and realize that it is interlinked.”

The U.S.-Pakistan Center for Advanced Studies (USPCAS) is educating and training the next generation of scientists, engineers, and policy makers through innovative academic programs crucial for Pakistan’s development in agriculture and food security. Through applied research, academia-industry collaboration, and policy formation, USPCAS enhances Pakistan’s economic growth and prosperity. USPCAS was made possible by support from the American people through United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

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Profile written by Levi McGarry.