GFS PhD students research activities: From investment games with rice farmers to ‘milking’ data from dairy farm households

Global Food Studies PhD students Rio Lawas Maligalig and Camilo Esparza Garcia spent their end of the year period with some exciting research activities. Here are their stories.

Rio Lawas Maligalig: Experiments to elicit rice farmers’ preference

I attended last November 20-21, 2014 the Breeders’ Expert Elicitation Workshop in Laguna, Philippines. The workshop was done under the Transforming Rice Breeding (TRB) project, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF). The objective of the workshop was to gather senior rice breeders from the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and the National Agricultural Research Systems (NARS) partners in India and Bangladesh to estimate cost functions for breeding of different varietal trait improvements. The workshop was organized and facilitated by IRRI’s Market Research Team.

Participants of the workshop

Attending the workshop is useful as I move forward in my research. My PhD research is on developing an experimental methodology based on investment games to elicit farmers’ preference trade-offs in rice varietal trait improvements, under the supervision of Associate Professor Wendy Umberger and Dr Matty Demont from IRRI. In the investment games, farmers will be requested to consider their preferences and needs and will be asked to allocate an amount of money they’ll be endowed across several trait improvements. Through this, farmers will be given the chance to be shareholders in the rice breeding process by enabling them to “invest” in variety trait improvements that matter most to them. Information that will be gathered can then guide rice breeders in efficient allocation of research resources among different variety trait improvement activities.

Rio (seated at the left) with Matty Demont (standing), her External Supervisor from IRRI. Also in the picture are Claire Custodio and Donald Villanueva, also from IRRI.

Through the workshop, I was able to learn more on the methodology of costing breeding activities. This will be valuable in my research as the costs of breeding are needed in the investment games. The cost functions estimated by the rice breeders from IRRI and NARS partners will also be useful as I will either use them to do a more refined model of cost function or they can serve as a guide in modelling a different multi-trait cost function.

Camilo Esparza Garcia: Milking the data in West Java, Indonesia

I conducted a dairy farm household survey between 15th of Dec til the 31st of Dec 2014. The survey was part of my PhD project on “Assessment of the Barriers to Technology Adoption by Dairy Smallholders in Indonesia”. My PhD project is supervised by Associate Professor Wendy Umberger, Dr Risti Permani and Dr Arief Daryanto.

The objective of the trip was to collect data about smallholder dairy farmers in West Java. We involved 16 experienced enumerators and interviewed 242 farmers and asked them about a wide range of topics from household assets to risk awareness. The survey was a collaborative work between Global Food Studies and Business School at Bogor Agricultural University, under the leadership of Dr Arief Daryanto.

I’m very passionate about dairying and saw in this project a great opportunity to refresh my dairy knowledge from my Animal Science degree in Colombia and to help smallholder farmers in Indonesia to reach their goals and overcome the barriers that are stopping them from becoming more commercialized and improve their livelihoods.

Collecting data overseas is very challenging but very rewarding once you’ve achieved it. We started our data collection during rainy season and one of the busiest times of the year, despite the traffic jams and the long rainy sessions, everyone was always willing to help and very friendly.  The learnings from this project will help us to understand the current state of dairy in 4 different sub-districts in West Java and characterise the different types of farmers and their relationships with their buyers and institutions.

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