Rajul Pandya-Lorch, chief of staff at IFPRI presenting at the Summer Institute, June 2016.
Source: Center for Global Food Security at Purdue University
Developing future leaders for agriculture research and development is key for capacity strengthening activity for reducing hunger, malnutrition, poverty, gender inequality, and practicing climate smart agriculture. Translating theoretical knowledge learned through academic courses into practical problem-solving skills is a part of capacity strengthening strategies to meet the policy and programmatic needs for economic and agricultural development. One program that develops such skills among young and upcoming leaders in the food, agriculture, and natural resource spheres is Purdue University’s U.S. Borlaug Fellows Program*.
For the past six years, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) has collaborated with the Borlaug Summer Institute to strengthen capacity for leadership in research and analysis of food security issues, presenting IFPRI’s research to young professionals and addressing challenges that impact global food security. Past presenters from IFPRI include Shenggen Fan (Director General), Rajul Pandya-Lorch (Chief of Staff), Suresh Babu (Head of the Capacity Strengthening Program). Appreciating this collaboration, professor Gebisa Ejeta, Director of Center for Global Food Security at Purdue University, said: “It has been so wonderful and invaluable to these future global leaders who attend the Summer Institute—they learn and appreciate the range of current food policy research and development results from IFPRI. Every year, students have rated the presentation from IFPRI as one of the most informative and educational sessions.”
This year Dr. Suresh Babu represented IFPRI at the Summer Institute** focused on emerging global food security challenges, especially those posed by urbanization. The presentation highlighted issues facing the urban poor, including dependence on informal markets, vulnerability to income and price shocks, and limited access to basic services, and their implications for food and nutrition security. Rapid urbanization, particularly in developing countries, and rising overall population have increased pressure on the global food system. However, agriculture remains the key for development and urbanization presents opportunities for ending hunger and malnutrition. Strengthening capacity at the system, institutional, and individual levels is fundamental for development and sustainable growth. Angela Bastidas, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Nebraska, said: “This presentation provided a global perspective on the past and future challenges of hunger, poverty, and food security.”
This collaboration provides opportunity for IFPRI staff to further interact and mentor participants. For example, Mary Adjepong, a Ph.D. student from Ghana pursuing her degree in nutrition at Michigan State University, attended IFPRI’s presentation in 2015 and later worked as a Borlaug LEAP fellow with Dr. Babu as her CGIAR mentor. Mary said: “IFPRI’s presentation contributed to my knowledge and experience in the multidisciplinary nature of nutrition policy research.” Mary’s dissertation focuses on the importance of essential fatty acids (EFA) in growth and cognitive function in Ghanaian children. IFPRI’s expertise in capacity strengthening of food policy systems and policy processes provided Mary with a better understanding of the constraints of policy making process in Ghana and helped her design her project.
IFPRI’s presentations and lectures contribute to the Borlaug Fellows Program and strengthen capacities of young professionals for undertaking evidence-based food policy analysis and communicating it. Fally Masambuka-Kanchewa, a Ph.D. candidate studying agriculture communication at Ohio State University, said: “It has energized me to conduct more research, especially in development communication and how it contributes towards agricultural development.” The program enhances students’ capacity to find innovative and practical solutions to the challenges of reducing hunger and malnutrition. Alexandria Schmall, who is pursuing a Master’s in Public Health at Johns Hopkins University, said: “The presentation challenged me to think about the complex nature of achieving global food security.”
IFPRI’s collaboration with universities in the North, such as Purdue, has proven to be useful for both sides of each partnership. The discussions with students and faculties of the universities on global food security issues open up opportunities for joint research and outreach activities in the future. Further, such collaborations allow IFPRI to directly engage with the next generation of leaders and to improve their thematic and analytical skills to understand food policy issues. Grounded in theory and practical insights, IFPRI’s research provides the course a unique perspective, with the aim to provide future leaders with tools and knowledge they require to end hunger, malnutrition, and poverty.
*The U.S Borlaug Fellows program is a part of Center for Global Food Security at Purdue University, headed by Professor Gebisa Ejita and funded by U.S. Government’s Feed the Future Initiative.
** on June 12, 2017.