Q&A with ARN Researcher Khadijat Amolegbe

Tell us about yourself

My name is Khadijat, I’m a senior lecturer at University of Ilorin, Nigeria, at the Department of Agricultural Economics and Farm Management. I received my Ph.D. from the same university, which I completed in 2019. My hope for the future is to work on more interesting research around my areas of interest in agricultural economics, attend postdocs, work with multi-nationals and broaden my horizon just to gain more experience.

I studied agriculture in my undergraduate. Immediately after, I went for an internship which is a compulsory programme, by the National Youth Service Corps in Nigeria. I was posted to the Central Bank of Nigeria in the Development Finance Department.  My role involved working on government projects at the national stage, including commercial agricultural credit scheme. I also had the opportunity to meet people who were involved in the design of NIRSAL. Afterward I went for my masters in Agricultural Economics and later my Ph.D. My interest has always been on agriculture and agricultural challenges in Nigeria and sub-Saharan Africa as a whole.

 If I wasn’t studying Agricultural Economics, I would focus on engineering as I have a passion for numbers and computers. I hadn’t really been exposed to Agricultural Economics, so through the internship program, I learnt a lot and given that math is something I enjoy, it was a great combination!

Research Interests

I am passionate in agricultural development issues, around the themes on food security, climate change, poverty, inequality and women’s empowerment. On projects, I’m currently involved in  the ALL-IN project looking at the link between digital literacy and farmers’ access to output markets. In addition to that, there is the PEP (Partnership for Economic Policy) project looking at the gendered effect of climate shock and crop diversification on food security in Nigeria.

Aside from my previous published papers, at the moment I am working on a paper that is really focusing on the effects of COVID-19 shock. Moving forward, I’m looking to work and broaden my horizon and work with people beyond SSA and learn more.

Research Findings

The ALL-IN work is at the preliminary stage. It’s an interesting project that I’m very passionate about because I haven’t done something of this magnitude before. We have completed the phase which involves identifying the communities across three states and more than 250 eligible communities (with internet access) for the research. We’ve collected baseline information on these communities. We are now collecting the household baseline data and that is when we will have interesting results.

We also carried out qualitative research where we interviewed farmers and other stakeholders. This helped us to design our intervention. Our interest was focusing on the effect of digital literacy in terms of training and giving farmers access to a digital directory.  Some of our findings revealed that the direction might not be relevant to farmers, so we had to switch to agents. This led to an interest in looking at how local agents will help farmers in listing their products on the digital platform. We are looking to have three groups of treated communities where we will train farmers, another where we will train only local agents and lastly a community that will have both trainings. Excited to see what this research will bring forth, as it is of key interest to me.

Other than ALL-IN, my recent publication which was funded under the STAARS project in collaboration with Cornell University looking at the effect of price shock on food security status, whereby we focused on local and imported rice. Rice is one of the most widely consumed food items in Nigeria, so it’s an interesting topic, and a key finding was that the price of imported rice drives the price of the local rice. This is interesting because the initial policy in Nigeria, at the time, before they opened the border, was that the government restricted import of rice from foreign markets. This was to try and develop the local rice industry. Another interesting finding on this research was that, due to the high demand for imported rice, the price went up at the same time domestic rice prices went up. The key finding that is relevant for policy, is that with increase in the price of rice food security falls.

Industry Challenges

There are a lot of challenges working in this field in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The key challenges we faced in our ALL-IN project, are logistical challenges. This is mainly getting enumerators in the field, having them conduct the interview without any security threat, and getting farmers to respond to the questions. Farmers believe the enumerators are coming from the government. Due to lack of trust in the government, we have to convince them that we are there to primarily do research. It takes a lot of convincing, and after giving them an understanding, they are now interested in the project, and want to learn how to use digital tools. The skepticism still lurks, given their history with past project managers.

Another challenge we face in this space is getting to connect with policy makers. One solution to that would be to have frequent networking events where we engage the research community and the policy makers.

Time management is another challenge. In particular for women, especially carving out the time for travel, events, sometimes we just have to be selective on what events to attend due to time. While in this field, one needs to network and travel, so you are at a loss for staying back and staying in your corner.

In the past we encountered funding issues, but now with initiatives like ALL-IN, there is grant support to local researchers, which is very encouraging. Many were leaving the academia sector in Nigeria because they were not encouraged to stay for similar reasons. When there are funding opportunities for researchers, we are willing to work twice as hard.

As a local researcher, with a full background education in Nigeria, it usually takes a lot to convince people you are relevant. You have to work twice as hard to prove your worth compared to those carrying international credentials. There are also issues with traveling visas and restrictions, in particular in Nigeria.

Promising/Exciting

The industry is exciting and promising now, as there are more funding opportunities in Africa, to African researchers. This comes with the necessary support to help us manage the funding and manage the activities. Other than funding opportunities, there are also so many events now that are recognizing, local researchers in Africa, and strengthening capacity. One would want to be part of such an event.

The dynamic nature of the industry, is also interesting. There are a lot of changes now, and all are a learning experience. There are new interdisciplinary fields merging to the agricultural economics and development economics sector.  Working and collaborating with people across various sectors and not limited to researchers.

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