The Impact of U.S.- Africa Research Collaborations

Written by:

John Mburu, a Kenyan researcher, has secured a full scholarship to pursue a Master of Science in Agricultural and Applied Economics at Virginia Tech University, in the United States. Since 2021, John has been serving as a research assistant under the Feed the Future’s ALL-IN-funded study, implemented by the Tegemeo Institute of Agricultural Policy and Development at Egerton University. He finds this opportunity critical to advancing his passion in food security research.

“I believe that this study program will provide me with an excellent foundation in the theory and methods of economic analysis as well as experience in applied analysis of agricultural and/or resource economics problems such as food insecurity, malnutrition, low productivity, poverty, unemployment,” says John.

By design, ALL-IN builds on the successes and draws on the strength of U.S.-Africa research collaborations but inverts the traditional model. ALL-IN calls for researchers at African institutions to take the lead in defining priorities and works with American university research partners to supplement their own skills, talents, and ideas.

Virginia Tech is among the U.S.-based universities that are collaborating with ALL-IN to mentor researchers in Africa. Bradford Mills, professor of agricultural and applied economics at the university, serves as a mentor under the Impact of Agro-Weather and Market Information on Productivity and Resilience in Farming Communities in Kenya study implemented by Tegemeo and led by Dr. Mercy Kamau.

“It has been a joy to work with the Tegemeo team on this ALL-IN project. Dr. Kamau and the team have a well-defined research agenda, so my mentoring role has been to help them implement what they want to achieve. This type of mentoring role reflects the strong gains made in agricultural economic research capacity in African institutions make over the last few decades,” states Bradford.

John appreciates that studying at Virginia Tech will introduce him to new concepts such as economic modelling and analysis, which will broaden his knowledge and understanding of agriculture and applied economics. He notes, “The mentorship I have received from senior researchers at Tegemeo, led by Mercy, prepared me to take up this challenge. I also benefited from the mentorship of Prof. Bradford through the research work we were undertaking together under ALL-IN.”

“African researchers often have a good understanding of context, economic and policy challenges, and opportunities in agriculture and rural development in the region. Despite having excellent skills and great promise, the growth of many is curtailed by limitations in vital skills such as the framing of challenges in agricultural and rural development, economic modelling, and publishing in renown journals,” says Mercy.

Mercy further notes that the post-graduate program will greatly enhance John’s career in economic and policy analysis and enable him to contribute, in a greater way, to growth of the same in Kenya and the region.

“Through partnership with U.S. universities like Virginia Tech, ALL-IN is building a critical mass of researchers with capacity to advance locally led research to meet development challenges in the global south,” remarks Dr. David Ameyaw, president and CEO of the International Centre for Evaluation and Development (ICED).

Beyond ALL-IN, John has successfully led and coordinated field research activities for various projects across the region. For example, in Kenya, he was involved in the National Agricultural and Rural Inclusive Project and the Kenya Climate Smart Agriculture Project in 2020. In Uganda, John played a key role in the coordination of a survey under the International Initiative for Impact Evaluation project, in partnership with Wageningen University (Netherlands) and Makerere University (Uganda).

ALL-IN is a development research program that funds various research projects across six African countries (Kenya, Uganda, Malawi, Ethiopia, Ghana, and Nigeria). ALL-IN is implemented by the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Markets, Risk & Resilience, in collaboration with ICED.