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May 15, 2017

Researchers recognized for farm input subsidy work in sub-Saharan Africa

An international team of agricultural researchers led by a Michigan State University professor has been recognized for the quality of its work and its impacts on agricultural policy in Africa.

The Agricultural and Applied Economics Association has bestowed the Bruce Gardner Memorial Prize for Applied Policy Analysis on a team led by Thomas Jayne, professor in the MSU Department of Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics.

Other team members are William Burke, Eric Crawford, Saweda Liverpool-Tasie, Nicole Mason and David Mather, AFRE; Joshua Ariga, International Fertilizer Development Centre; Jacob Ricker-Gilbert, Purdue University; Shahid Rashid, International Food Policy Research Institute; and Charles Jumbe, Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Over the past five years, the multi-institutional team has carried out award-winning research and policy engagement activities that influenced the design, implementation and scale of input subsidy programs in several African countries and broadened thinking about these programs in the region, said Shenggen Fan, director general of the International Food Policy Research Institute. The team’s work has been utilized in the programming decisions of the World Bank, USAID and other strategic partners.

In addition, the team’s research has shaped the profession’s approach to studying input subsidy programs, said Derek Byerlee, professor at Georgetown University.

“Their research was cutting-edge in bringing new methods to the analysis of subsidy impacts, as reflected in the large number of extensively cited publications from their work,” he said. “In the face of considerable vested interests, their research results were a major influence on the reform of subsidy programs in both Zambia and Malawi.”

Jayne and his colleagues have tangibly influenced the design and implementation of such programs in Africa, said Bright Kumwembe, a representative of Malawi’s Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development.

“These research findings revealed new insights that have helped the Malawi government redesign the subsidy program to make it more profitable to farmers as well as recommendations on how to make it more sustainable,” he said.

In addition to the quality of their research and impacts, “The group exemplifies coordinated teamwork across multiple research organizations and effectiveness in conducting research in ways that have contributed to capacity building of African policy research institutions,” Jayne said.

The award is named after Bruce Gardner, a Distinguished University Professor of agricultural and resource economics at the University of Maryland, College Park, and a fellow and former president of the AAEA.  He helped shape U.S. farm policy over four decades, especially in two presidential administrations in which he served on the Council of Economic Advisers and as assistant secretary of agriculture for economics. Gardner was also involved in agricultural policy reforms in many developing countries through his work with the World Bank and USAID, among others.

The award ceremony will take place at the 2017 AAEA Annual Meeting on July 31 in Chicago.

By: Elisabeth Paymal

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