For the past 20 years, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) has been working with the University of Maryland (UMD) to strengthen the capacity for research and analysis of food security issues - both locally and globally. This capacity strengthening activity helps in improving the analytical skills of students in understanding food policy issues as part of their course curriculum. A senior researcher from IFPRI presents a set of lectures on food security and food policy issues in the course offered by UMD.
As part of this capacity strengthening effort, undergraduate students in the Environmental Science and Technology Department at the University of Maryland are taught tools to analyze food security and agricultural policies. This effort is part of a core course for students taking ‘International Crop Production – Issues and Challenges of 21st century’ in the Environmental Science and Technology Department.
One of the pedagogical approaches used by IFPRI for teaching food policy analysis involves the social entrepreneurship (SE) approach. Social entrepreneurs provide new approaches to hasten the process of reducing poverty and hunger by combining innovative ideas from individuals and investments from public, private, and civil society organizations (Anderson, 2015*; Anderson and Babu, 2007**). The SE approach is needed to build the capacity for addressing food policy issues at various levels in public, private, and NGO sectors. During the course, each week, an expert presents on various themes, such as, soil degradation, environment, productivity, and nutrition. This gives students a well-rounded perspective on food security issues. While learning the SE approach students are made to identify policy problems and develop solutions in context specific scenarios. Each student is assigned a country for which they identify the key food security challenges, mapped against national income, population, and demographics. Students also prepare Food Balance Sheets and identify the key constraints in increasing food security. With students from multiple disciplines, the class allows an exchange of ideas on food security from various perspectives, such as, engineering, economics, public policy, political economy, and sociology. In the middle of the course, students present the progress on how they are analyzing constraints and challenges facing the country. Finally, students present a strategy paper for the country of their choice, applying the concepts learnt during the course. The student with the best presentation and report is recognized.
Grounded in theory and practical insights, the course provides a unique perspective to students - who are future social entrepreneurs. It develops their capacity to find innovative and practical solutions to challenges food systems face in resource constrained environments. Further, the course also helps students to understand how ideas can be executed and implemented in dynamic policy contexts, considering the interests of multiple stakeholders. With an aim to help students become problem solvers and social entrepreneurs, this CS activity is an example of the social entrepreneurship approach to capacity strengthening used by IFPRI. For more information on this capacity strengthening activity please contact Suresh Babu (firstname.lastname@example.org).
*Pinstrup-Andersen, P. ed., 2015. Food price policy in an era of market instability: a political economy analysis. Oxford University Press, USA.
**Pinstrup-Andersen, P. and Babu, S., 2007. Social innovation and entrepreneurship: Developing capacity to reduce poverty and hunger. About IFPRI and the 2020 Vision Initiative, p.54