Research

Both research projects below are centered around agriculture, food systems and nutrition; and are a part of my dissertation work.

UBALE, Malawi 

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UBALE, which means partnership in Chichewa and also stands for United in Building and Advancing Life Expectations, is a key element of USAID’s comprehensive development cooperation strategy in Malawi.

The project is implemented with local NGOs through existing government structures in three food-insecure, chronically malnourished and disaster-prone districts of Southern Malawi: Chikwawa, Nsanje, and rural Blantyre, where UBALE aims to reach all 284 communities totaling about 248,000 households with an integrated set of agricultural and nutritional interventions.

As the Program Coordinator of UBALE I work with graduate students to help guide improvements in two domains: Delivery of program interventions, and control of aflatoxin contamination. I am also a graduate researcher on the aflatoxin contamination investigation arm doing fieldwork on storage and willingness to pay for hermetic bags.

In 2018 Prof William Masters and I presented a poster summarizing results from the 2017 and 2018 data at the International Association of Agricultural Economists (IAAE) meeting in Vancuver August 2019; an earlier version was presented at The American Society for Nutrition (ASN) meeting in Boston June 2018 of only the 2017 data.

Willingness to Pay for Hermetic Grain Storage Bags in Malawi

 

Our primary aim in this study was to test whether farmers’ willingness to pay (WTP) for the hermetic storage bags had increased following the initial period of free distribution of bags and demonstration sessions, particularly whether WTP was higher among respondents who had attended a PICS bag ceremony.  We found that demand was much higher after the 2018 harvest than it had been in 2017, with the fraction of farmers willing to pay at or above the approximate market cost of the bags having risen from about 5 percent to about half of all respondents in 2018.   Having attended a PICS ceremony is significantly associated with the premium offered for the PICS bag over the woven plastic bag, especially among farmers with low levels of WTP, confirming that promotion efforts matter most to extend the reach a new technology among non-adopters who do not already have high demand for other reasons.  If farmers’ actual use of the bags provides positive reinforcement, there could be significant market sales and welfare gains from continued use of improved storage technology.

In January 2019 I’ll head back to Malawi for the final round of UBALE data collection.

Knowledge, Attitudes and Practices, Agricultural Inputs and Smallholders, Mexico 

Funded by the Mexican National Council on Science and Technology (Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología – CONACYT)

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In Mexcio, in addition to focusing on agriculture, food systems and nutrition, there is an emphasis on vulnerable populations (indigenous peoples, women, subsistence farmers).

As I explore the links between agriculture and nutrition, I am focusing on pathways that treat agriculture as a vehicle to improved nutrition and that look at how agriculture can directly and/or indirectly impact health. At this formative stage I am using IFPRI’s[1] pathway from agriculture to nutrition that include agriculture, food and health.

Testable hypotheses

  1. Appropriate knowledge of agricultural inputs/technology, local adoption of practices, and benefits to economic and health wellbeing can be achieved with agriculture extension interventions.

Aims:

  • Explore agricultural inputs used by smallholders with different crops and how use of inputs varies by crop and the role of agricultural extension in the selection of inputs
  • Examine food security of smallholders in relation to their agricultural technology choices and productivity/production/output
  • Examine relationships between use of agricultural inputs, agricultural outputs, food security and whether these are affected by gender
  1. Appropriate knowledge of differences among inputs and benefits can achieve an increased presence and use of (local Mexican) hybrid seeds

Aim:

  • Explore how the relationships in hypothesis 1 are affected by the choice to use local Mexican hybrid (improved) seed varieties as opposed to using imported hybrids on the one hand, or local unimproved seed varieties on the other.

[1] IFPRI http://a4nh.cgiar.org/2015/05/05/it-is-time-why-time-matters-in-agriculture-nutrition-pathways-2/

In 2019 I will head to Mexico City to collaboarte with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center CIMMYT, a partner in this research, to finalize the research questions.