Global Human Progress Dissertation Awards: Supporting Future Leaders

Farm laborers in Brazil

Students at the Pardee RAND Graduate School complete their dissertations and go on to work in the UN, in think tanks in Africa, and at the World Bank, the IMF, and the International Food Policy Research Institute. They work for USAID and the Millennium Challenge Corporation helping the U.S. government make strategic decisions about how to use scarce government resources in the most productive ways possible. All of this contributes to betterment of the global human condition.

As a result, the Pardee Initiative for Global Human Progress is pleased to help support students whose research focus shows particular promise, through dissertation awards.

Dissertation Award Recipients

Social Network and the Adoption of Environmentally Sound Practice in China

Chemical fertilizers play an important role in food production in China, currently the largest fertilizer producer and consumer in the world, yet their use has not significantly improved crop yields. In addition, excessive fertilizer use leads to serious food safety problems and environmental problems. Unfortunately, the adoption of environmentally sound agricultural practices, while important for sustainability, economic development, and environmental protection, has been slow in coming. Farmer Field Schools (FFS) in China have begun to disseminate essential knowledge on environmentally sound practice to farmers. Before disseminating knowledge, however, it is very important to understand the mechanism of social learning, such as the network pattern of farmers, who has large influence on others’ behavior, and what attributes can trigger larger scale of adoption and implementation of knowledge. This dissertation seeks to analyze how social learning may lead to a farmer’s initial decision to adopt environmentally sound practices and how the decisions of others in his social network could affect his choice.

Toward Improved Food Security for Arid Developing Countries

More than 870 million people worldwide are undernourished. The vast majority of these live in arid developing countries. Geographically, food insecurity is a chronic problem in Sub-Saharan Africa, and malnutrition and hunger are a danger in parts of South and Southeast Asia. This dissertation seeks to develop an innovative approach to help identify and design promising pathways to food security from which arid developing countries, especially in Africa and Asia, can benefit the most. The study will synthesize pertinent literature on food security policies suitable for arid nations—and their associated risks and tradeoffs—into a unified policy guide. It will then develop a user-friendly web-based decision analysis framework to model these options and facilitate decisionmaking vis-a-vis food policies under different future scenarios.