STAAARS plus second cohort wraps up fellowships

The second cohort of the STAAARS plus fellowship has finished the rigorous training program and presented their final findings.

East Lansing, MI — The Structural Transformation of African and Asian Agriculture and Rural Spaces (STAAARS+) Fellowship, is proud to announce the successful completion of the second cohort. As part of the programmatic elements of the Innovation Lab for Food Security Research, Capacity, and Influence (PRCI) the STAAARS+ program builds the capacity of early career researcher teams from African and Asian research institutions. Participants presented their research findings at a virtual event on February 8th, 2023. The STAAARS+ program is built on the model of Cornell University’s STAARS fellowship program but, in keeping with PRCI’s focus, requires that fellows have a solid institutional affiliation and the support of their institutional leadership in doing the work of the fellowship.

Each team is competitively chosen to partner with two mentors in the process of developing a research paper on their chosen topic. The participants worked closely with their mentors, who provided guidance and support throughout the research process. The virtual event featured presentations by each of the Cohort 2 teams, providing an opportunity for them to share their research findings with a wider audience. The presentations were followed by a Q&A session, allowing the audience to engage with the researchers and learn more about their work.

In the presentation "Kitchen Garden, Nutrition and Food Security," the researchers Chitwan Lalji, Debayan Pakrashi and Sounak Thakur, along with mentors Carolina Castilla and Andaleeb Rahman, explored the effects of having a kitchen garden on food security. The researchers focused on a kitchen-garden focused intervention that provided information on micronutrients and how to raise a kitchen garden. The training emphasized the importance of knowing how to properly cultivate a kitchen garden. The study found that having a kitchen garden reduced food insecurity, improved dietary diversity, and increased micronutrient intake. Overall, the presentation highlighted the potential benefits of kitchen gardens as a tool for promoting food security and nutrition.

The presentation "Land Market responses to weather shocks: evidence from rural Uganda and Kenya" by researchers Rayner Tabetando and Djomo Choumbou Raoul Fani, with mentors Catherine Rasaga and Aleksandr Michuda, explores the impact of weather shocks on land markets and income in rural Uganda and Kenya. The researchers calculated the Standardized Precipitation-Evapotranspiration Index (SPEI) using a generator package that fits historical water balance records with a gamma distribution. They found that exposure to rainfall shock episodes had varying effects on land markets and income. In both countries, access to credit responded to rainfall shocks by acquiring more farmland through increased participation in the land rental and sales market. The presentation highlights the importance of understanding the impact of weather shocks on land markets and the need for policies that can help farmers adapt to these shocks.

The presentation titled "Measuring the Heterogeneous Effects of Input Subsidies on Household Outcomes: Evidence from Malawi" by researchers Christone Nyondo, Maggie Munthali, and Zephaniah Nyirenda, with mentors Dr. Brian Dillon and Sergio Puerto, aimed to determine the extent of youth participation in Malawi's fertilizer subsidy program (FISP) and its effects on productivity and income. The researchers found that there was no age difference between FISP beneficiaries and non-beneficiaries between 2010 and 2019. For those who were recruited into the program, a larger share of non-youth were more likely to receive coupons for the full program. The study suggests that there may be a need for policies that target youth participation in FISP to ensure equitable distribution of benefits. Additionally, the findings suggest that the effects of the subsidy program on household outcomes may depend on the age of the farmers who receive it.

Djomo Choumbou Raoul Fani from the University of Buea emphasizes that, “The STAAARS+ Fellowship Program gave me a deep understanding of how to properly write a research paper aligned with what is expected in a top ranking journal in agricultural economics and thrive through design thinking. The fellowship enables me to redesign my concept notes and enrich my data analysis skills. I also developed the following skills during the program: public speaking, task definition, use of information, critical thinking, communication, collaboration and independence.” 

Please view the recording of their presentations here:


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