Sara Gabrielsson

LUCID PhD Graduate



The interaction between human cultures and the environment has always fascinated me and my academic background reveals my interest in these processes. In my academic backpack I have a BA from University of Victoria, Canada in Anthropology and Environmental Studies, a Diploma in South Asian Studies, a MSc. in International Environmental Science and a PhD in Sustainability Science from Lund University, Sweden.

My academic career has enabled me to study socio-ecological-systems up close and personal in several places around the globe, especially in countries and regions of the global south, including India, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Kenya, and Tanzania in particular.

My doctoral thesis, “Uncertain futures – Adaptive capacities to climate variability and change in the lake Victoria Basin”, which I defended in May of 2012, focused on smallholder farmers in the Lake Victoria Basin and their adaptive capacities to climate variability and change. My research highlighted the efforts made by communities themselves, and particularly the more marginalized segments of these communities, such as widows, to deal with global environmental changes.

Uncertain Futures PhD Thesis- Sara Gabrielsson

Research interests

My research efforts focuses on highlighting the importance of social science research and practice in contributing to preventing and alleviating the consequences of some of the grand challenges that people are facing around the globe today, including: lack of water and sanitation, food insecurity and climate variability and change.

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Members of a village savings and loans group in Lumuli village, Tanzania posing in front of what is soon-to-be a toilet and bathroom for one family.

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Construction of the community water tank in Kibena village, Tanzania

In my on-going research project Water for Life and Dignity, I use social science research methods to uncover the challenges and opportunities of implementing community based water and sanitation systems in rural Tanzania.

A tangible outcome of this research project is the establishment of a partnership between LUCSUS and the Department of Water Resources Engineering at University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM). An affiliation that has now deepened further and resulted in the implementation of a SIDA funded inter-disciplinary capacity building program aimed at strengthening postgraduate training in integrated sanitation management. The program entitled  SUSTAIN – Sustainable Sanitation in Theory and Action runs between 2015-2020 and includes training of 4 PhD candidates and a minimum of 12 master students in integrated sanitation management at UDSM. It is the first PhD program focused on sanitation in Tanzania. SUSTAIN departs from a sustainability science approach, which utilizes both critical and problem solving research frameworks in an attempt to generate actionable knowledge, taking into account both the environmental aspects inherent in the water and waste cycle and the differing societal values and political interests of service and resource users.

A community-driven multipurpose sanitation centre in Kibera, Nairobi, Kenya.


A urine-diversion toilet in Keko, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

As co-coordinator for SUSTAIN I spend a lot of time in Tanzania where I teach, hold literature- research- and writing- seminars, and supervise master and PhD students at UDSM. I also facilitate the interaction between academia and sanitation practitioners in Tanzania and beyond, to enable the spread of sustainable sanitation from theory to action.


At  LUMES – Lund University Master’s Program in Environmental Studies and Sustainability Science I am involved both as a course coordinator, teacher and thesis supervisor.

Currently I am convening the LUMES elective course on Sustainability and Global Health, which is offered each fall during semester three of the LUMES program. The course provides global perspectives and local examples of the connections between development, environment and health by highlighting four key emerging and persistent global health challenges; a) the unavoidable health impacts of climate change, b) the prevailing sanitation crises, c) the global dietary paradox, d) the health externalities of global manufacturing and use of electronics.

At MISM – Master of Science Program in Integrated Sanitation Management offered by the Department of Water Resources Engineering at University of Dar es Salaam, I supervise thesis students and I am also course coordinator and teacher in three ISM courses;

  • Socio-economic aspects of Integrated Sanitation Management
  • WASH and Health Education
  • Qualitative Research Methodology

Papers and publications

Gabrielsson, S. et al (2016) “Reaching the sustainable development goal on sanitation in East Africa – is upscaling possible?”  In prep.

Gabrielsson, S. (2016) “The gender WASH trap – a case study from rural Tanzania” In prep.

Gabrielsson, S. (2014) “Gender Matters – Adaptive Capacities to Climate Variability and Change in the Lake Victoria Basin” chapter in Climate Change Adaptation and Development: Transforming Paradigms and Practices, O’Brien, K., Eriksen, S., Sygna L. and T-H Inderberg Eds. Routledge: London. To be published in November 2014.

Gabrielsson, S., Brogaard, S. and A. Jerneck (2013) ”Living without buffers – Illustrating climate vulnerability in the Lake Victoria basin” Sustainability Science, Volume 8, Issue 2: 143-157.

Andersson, E. and S. Gabrielsson (2012) ”Because of poverty we had to come together – Collective action as a pathway to improved food security in rural Kenya and Uganda” Journal of International Agricultural Sustainability Volume 10, Issue 3: 245-262. (Both authors contributed equally to this article)

Gabrielsson, S., V. Ramasar (2012) ”Widows: agents of change in a climate of water uncertainty” Journal of Cleaner Production, In Press. DOI: 10.1016/j.jclepro.2012.01.034

Punte, S., Repinski, P. and S. Gabrielsson (2007) “Improving Energy Efficiency in Asia’s Industry” in Greener Management International, Theme issue: China: The Challenges of Economic Growth and Environmental Sustainability, Issue 50, pp. 41-51. ISSN 0966-9671.

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