Julia Tatham
Julia Tatham got the award for the best master's thesis.
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Meet the winner of Gunnar Köhlin’s Award


The Gunnar Köhlin’s Best Master’s Thesis Award goes in 2021 to Julia Tatham. Her interest in energy poverty and the impact of indoor air pollution on people’s health awoke already in her early teens. The title of her thesis is The impact of solid cooking fuels on the health of rural South Africans”.

Julia Tatham is currently working at the Environmental-Economics Policy Research Institute. She intends to continue researching energy poverty and a just transition to a green economy. Getting the Best Master’s Thesis Award will hopefully open some interesting doors in that direction.

An enormous problem in developing countries

Julia Tatham’s father was in the business of selling LPG (Liquefied Petroleum Gas) to low-income households and talked to her often about the importance of clean fuels. That made her interested in environmental economics in general and energy economics in particular when she was only about 14 years old. As a master's student at Cape Town University, it was a no-brainer what topic to choose for her thesis.

“I wanted to study the issue of indoor air pollution and its effect on acute respirational illnesses because it is an enormous problem in so many developing countries, not just South Africa,” says Julia Tatham.

Increases the risk of illness

Her study evaluates the impact of using solid cooking fuels on various health outcomes of residents in rural South Africa, using the nationally representative General Household Survey 2018. She found that the use of solid fuels significantly increases the risk of suffering from acute respiratory illnesses as well as increasing the risk of residents reporting a poor health status.

She also found that further research is needed with better data, to understand the magnitude of the use of dirty fuels on the health and well-being of South Africans, specifically women, and children.

What does this award mean to you?

“I’m in shock and deeply honored that my work is being recognized EfD. I’m also happy for the attention this may bring to my thesis.”  

Criteria for the Gunnar Köhlin’s Best Master’s Thesis Award


  • Rigour in the application of environmental economics,
  • Relevance in affecting policy to reduce poverty and increasing sustainability,
  • The clarity in writing makes the text easily accessible and fun to read.