The School of Public and International Affairs (SPIA) has course offerings and research activities that consider the challenges in cities in developing countries around the world. Finding creative solutions to these requires the kind of diverse expertise found in SPIA, including planning, policy administration, and economics.

SPIA Professor Kris Wernstedt is studying one challenge in particular, household trash collection, during a 10-month posting in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

Wernstedt’s work is supported by an award from the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program. This competitive grants program promotes international educational exchanges of Americans and people from other countries. It aims both to increase mutual understanding and to galvanize real-world solutions to shared concerns.

Wernstedt’s research centers on Dar es Salaam’s unplanned urban settlements, which house more than two-thirds of the city’s people. The local government lacks the resources to reliably collect and dispose of trash in these areas, so he is looking at incentive-based approaches to improve the situation.

“While dumping trash in waterways and on vacant land might have caused just an aesthetic blight 20 years ago, with 5 million residents today, Dar faces a crazy predicament,” he said. “The city has more people and higher living standards means each person produces more trash. It needs some creative ideas.”

Professor Wernstedt works out of Tanzania’s Ardhi University, which has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Virginia Tech to collaborate on research, training, and teaching. Learn along with him during his time at Ardhi through his blog.