AFRE Helps Middle School Students Study International Development

AFRE and Food Security Group faculty members supplied their expertise to an eighth grade class in California.

At the request of Nueva Middle School in Hillsborough, California science teacher Tom McFadden, AFRE FSG faculty Veronique Theriault and Steven Haggblade offered their expertise on Mali food security policy and agricultural development to a group of eighth graders. The students had been organized in teams to conduct an interdisciplinary food security project in different countries. Each team identified food security needs, brainstormed solutions, and prepared a triple-bottom-line policy analysis of social-economic-environmental tradeoffs of different solutions.

The students were well-prepared, first by requesting and reading several PRePoSAM publications on Mali, to identify key issues. Then they interviewed Theriault and Haggblade to ask clarifying questions and get comments on potential solutions to mitigate climate-change risks faced by Malian smallholder farmers. They particularly studied three policies that involve diversification of farm activities, intra-regional trade of agricultural commodities, and water control. Their own research and thinking led them to conclude that water control solutions might be the most successful to achieve food security. The students prepared a paper on agricultural development options for Mali, and submitted it to PRePoSAM for review. 

It was quite exciting for Theriault and Haggblade to share their expertise and passion for their work with these students: “It was great to see how they were tackling complex problems and looking for real solutions. Each time they’d get an answer, they’d come up with a new question. It is gratifying to engage with youth on current issues regarding global food security,” says Theriault.

The students were also very grateful for the opportunity to interview top-notch experts on Mali food security policies, and expressed their gratitude in the following message: “Thank you so much again for taking the time to call with us! After researching so much about food security in Mali, it was really informative and interesting to speak with you all and get your feedback.”

Learn more about the Food Security Group's work in Mali.

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