West African native returns home to field questions

As a young woman growing up in Cote d'Ivoire, Ramziath Adjao, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics (AFRE), often visualized herself on a career path in international development.

August 27, 2013

As a young woman growing up in Cote d’Ivoire, Ramziath Adjao, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics (AFRE), often visualized herself on a career path in international development.

She packed her bags for East Lansing, worked her way through a bachelor’s degree in agribusiness management with a specialization in crop and soil sciences, a master’s degree and a full set of completed Ph.D. qualifying exams. After she completed her coursework in the AFRE program and began to think through a topic for her Ph.D. dissertation, she found herself at an educational crossroad. She decided to take a sabbatical from her studies to pursue a one-year internship in 2012 with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), a United Nations agency based in Rome, Italy.

“The internship with IFAD worked out well because I needed a topic for my dissertation and was not certain what I wanted to do,” Adjao said. “The idea was to gain some concrete experience in the field while getting more familiar with current issues in the region (West and Central Africa).”

Adjao insisted that she did not want to write her dissertation on just any topic but rather wanted it to be timely and useful. 

While at IFAD, Adjao worked as a junior economist and regional strategy officer for the West and Central Africa Regional Support Team (WCARST). As a member of WCARST, she helped to revise the division’s strategic priorities, working in close collaboration with country program managers. She was involved in the design, implementation and supervision of projects to reduce poverty, hunger and malnutrition of the rural poor. She conducted a performance evaluation of all IFAD projects in the West and Central Africa portfolio.

Though most of her work was conducted from Rome, Adjao had the opportunity to travel to Benin, Sao Tome and Principe, and Cape Verde.  

“Everything moves slower in the field, but you get used to that,” she said with a smile.

Adjao found that learning about operations in very different natural, socioeconomic and cultural environments was an enjoyable but challenging experience. Working in the field allowed her to interact with stakeholders ranging from government officials to farmers in remote villages.

The experience let her balance her academic training in how to analyze project impacts with involvement in operations allowing her to see how a project made a difference in people’s lives.

Adjao said that this experience gave more meaning to her work and reinforced her desire to continue this type of work once she completes her doctoral degree. This internship allowed Adjao to fully understand how to bridge her research work to operations. In Adjao’s words, “The challenge is to take the concepts we learn through months and months of research, and then apply them in real life.”

-- Mark Meyer

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