Masters of innovation – the Broker thesis project

Food Security07 Oct 2009The Broker

This is the first report of

the Broker thesis project

The Broker thesis project is a platform for masters-level research on development-related issues. Master graduates from around the world are invited to submit their theses for review by an international reading committee consisting of policy makers, journalists, politicians and academics. The reviewers will assess the theses on the basis of their originality, scientific quality and relevance to practitioners and policy makers in the field of international development.

This new section of The Broker will present reviews of the most outstanding theses submitted, offering insight into the wide range of research carried out by masters students from all continents. The full texts of the reviews and the theses can be found here.

Have you recently completed a masters thesis on a development-related issue such as energy, agriculture, health, conflict resolution, governance, innovation or sustainable development in general? If so, and you wish to participate in The Broker thesis project, visit the website for details, or email for further information.

. It highlights the theses submitted by four students from Africa. The theses have been reviewed by Meine Pieter van Dijk of the UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education, Delft, the Netherlands; George Essegbey, director of the Science and Technology Policy Research Institute and of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Ghana; and Rudy Rabbinge of Wageningen University, the Netherlands.

Agriculture remains one of the most important drivers for Africa’s economies. Research plays an essential role in the development of innovations that can help increase productivity in the sector. Four students from South Africa, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Tanzania have examined various aspects of agricultural development, each focusing on a different region, from a different perspective and using a different methodology. What binds these researchers is that they all have looked at innovations that could benefit farmers, processors and policy makers across Africa.

Al Harris

(University of KwaZulu Natal, South Africa) In ‘Development of a spatial sugarcane transport infrastructure planning model’, Harris investigates the potential of geographical information systems (GIS) to improve infrastructure planning for the sugar industry. In his study, Al Harris shows how the sugar industry could use GIS to significantly reduce transportation costs. According to the reviewer, ‘The findings are potentially very useful, and hopefully some of them will be applied in future policy’.

Gaudiose Mujawamariya

(Wageningen University, the Netherlands) In ‘Cooperatives in the development of coffee farming in Rwanda: Membership choice from a transaction cost economics perspective’, Mujawamariya focuses on Rwanda, whose economy depends on agriculture, especially coffee production for export. He examines coffee farmers and their membership of cooperatives, which play an important role in the production system. The findings, based on data from cooperatives, farmers and other key informants, will be useful for understanding this important social mechanism for enhancing productivity in the coffee sector. The reviewer described the study as ‘original and intellectually stimulating’.

Sinafikeh Asrat

(Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia) In ‘Economic analysis of farmers’ preferences for crop variety traits using a choice experiment approach: Lessons for on-farm conservation and technology adoption in Ethiopia’, Asrat uses a choice experiment method to reveal the preferences of farmers for particular crops. The findings reveal that the farmers’ preferences are based on the crops’ ability to withstand drought, rather than on the level of profit they could generate. Asrat then convincingly relates these crop preferences to a number of household characteristics. The reviewer commended this thesis as ‘a good example of creative thinking focused on the development of a sector that is important for many Ethiopians’.

Athumani Msalale Lupindu

(Wageningen University, the Netherlands) In ‘Pastoralists in Mbeya district of Tanzania and their perceptions of national livestock policy’, Lupindu presents a concise study of the process of change in Tanzania, where the government is encouraging pastoralists to make the transition from their traditional way of life to a modern livestock system in order to increase productivity and reduce environmental degradation. Lupindu’s research gives insights into the pastoralists’ perceptions of the policy, and how they are adapting to the new system. In his review, Rudy Rabbinge commented that ‘the findings on the long- and short-term impacts of the policy and its practical consequences will be helpful for policy makers’.