UC Davis and USAID Launch New Research Program to Study Rural Poverty Worldwide

In western Kenya, a UC Davis research team explains the benefits of more productive maize seeds to small-scale farming families.
In western Kenya, a UC Davis research team explains the benefits of more productive maize seeds to small-scale farming families. (Emilia Tjernstrom)

Program Aims to Find Solutions to Root Causes of Poverty and Food Insecurity

By Alex Russell, UC Davis

"The University of California, Davis, will lead a new global research program to build and test ways to overcome some of the biggest remaining challenges for lifting and keeping rural families out of poverty in developing countries. 

The Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Markets, Risk and Resilience, or MRR, established with a five-year USAID grant of up to $30 million, will study the root causes of poverty and food insecurity with an emphasis on risk from disasters like drought, flood or conflict. The research will help U.S. investments in development to have a lasting impact despite these recurring risks.

“As global development efforts continue to improve, we still see humanitarian disasters that strip rural families and communities of hard-won gains,” said Michael Carter, director of the MRR Innovation Lab and professor of agricultural and resource economics at UC Davis. “We will provide needed evidence on how to accelerate those gains and to ensure they stick.”

Focus on resilience for rural families

Research from emerging economies has shown that disasters like drought, flood or war are leading drivers of poverty. The risk of these disasters also keeps families poor by discouraging them from investing in profitable crops or businesses. These challenges are incredibly difficult to overcome.

“The MRR Innovation Lab will test new and promising ways to take agricultural and financial innovations from the lab to the field,” said Tara Chiu, associate director of the MRR Innovation Lab. “Every family should have the ability to take control of their future.”

The MRR team at UC Davis will manage a portfolio of innovative projects that field-test potential solutions to the complex challenges of rural poverty and risk. The result will be scalable programs and proven approaches that national governments and development agencies like USAID can use to keep more families from falling into poverty while building a ladder up for families who are already poor.

This approach to development focuses on building resilience — the ability of people and systems to mitigate, adapt to and recover from shocks and stresses. Resilience has recently been made a primary focus within USAID and is central to the agency’s recent reorganization. This approach brings value to the U.S., both through innovations that make their way back to U.S. farms as well as by reducing the need for long-term spending on foreign aid."

Read the full story at UC Davis News