"I started out as an economist but found a natural fit in working with smallholder farmers, especially women farmers."
April 6, 2017
By Abby Rubley
Mywish Maredia likes getting her hands dirty. It took her a while, though, to figure out that this would be her life’s work.
Maredia is a professor in the Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics. Born, raised and educated in India, Maredia began her career as an economist at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT). Her work wasn’t initially focused on food security issues in particular but more on the economics of wheat and maize production around the world. Her husband, Karim Maredia, was also working at CIMMYT with Norman Borlaug.
Borlaug was an American biologist and humanitarian who led worldwide initiatives that contributed to the extensive increases in agricultural production termed the Green Revolution. Borlaug was awarded multiple honors for his work, including the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. In 1989, the Maredias moved to Michigan State University and joined the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Maredia started her doctorate, while her husband took a faculty position in the college.
Once she completed her PhD, Maredia took a position with the Bean/Cowpea Collaborative Research Support Program (CRSP), now known as the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research on Grain Legumes. She was attracted to working at a land-grant university. “MSU is well aligned with the goals of the USAID funded labs, which complete the loop of discovery, learning and teaching,” says Maredia. “We bring the strength of these three together when we go into the developing world.”
It is in the field where things started to become a more natural fit for Maredia. She began working in the field alongside researchers on food security issues centered on legumes. It is where she is most comfortable getting her hands dirty, mentoring students and making a noticeable difference with smallholder farmers around the world.
Maredia soon moved into a management position with the Bean/Cowpea CRSP but missed being in the field. So back she went to working with farmers and students on food security issues, this time with the world-renowned Food Security Group (FSG) at MSU. After moving into a full-time position with the FSG at MSU she was afforded opportunities to travel around the world, finding Aleppo, Syria, her favorite place to visit. It also put her back in her comfort zone, mentoring students (her favorite part of the job) and working with smallholder farmers.
The Innovation Lab for Food Security Policy (Feed the Future Food Security Policy Lab) is responsible for helping U.S Agency for International Development (USAID)-supported countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America to fight hunger, reduce poverty and improve nutritional outcomes though better food policy.
More recently, an opportunity arose that gave her a chance to move back into management as the director of the Innovation Lab for Food Security Policy. And though this position means less travel and more oversight work, there are still perks. When asked what her favorite part of this job is, she didn’t hesitate to answer. “I got to meet President Obama and thank him for all that he has done. It was the highlight of my entire career.”
Food security, as defined by the United Nations’ Committee on World Food Security, is “the condition in which all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.”
MSU has been a leader in this work since the mid-1980s, having worked across the African continent with smallholder farmers, governments, universities, research institutes, and nonprofit organizations. Today many faculty and graduate students at MSU have been a part of this work over the years, today Maredia leads the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Food Security Policy at MSU.