Wetenschap - 26 januari 1995

Agrarian Economics Tool Bag Handy for Home Country

Agrarian Economics Tool Bag Handy for Home Country

On January 26th the first batch of students from the MSc programme Agrarian Economics and Marketing will graduate. Out of a group of eight students which started the programme in September 1993, three will graduate on schedule, two students from Ethiopia and one from Tanzania.


Daniel Molla from Ethiopia is happy with his choice of study and the fruits of his efforts in Wageningen. I worked for four years in the Ministry of Planning and Economic Development in Ethiopia before coming to do my MSc in Wageningen. My first degree was in agricultural economics. I certainly know a lot more now than I did when I began."

One particular aspect of economics which Daniel admits he had not previously taken into account is the role of gender. I had never really considered the issue of gender while creating long term economic plans. Here I have become more aware that while planning to help certain groups in society, we may be hurting others." Daniel explained that he feels that the onus is on him to match his academic training to the situations which he will face at home. He believes that he is adequately prepared to face any problem which may come his way once he returns to Ethiopia.

It is important to remember that most economics is based upon theories which don't always match up to reality - not even in western countries. How can you expect them to fit the situation in a country like Ethiopia? A simple solution is rarely the answer to complex problems. Luckily our course has stressed the importance of being prepared for the transition between the abstract and the practical situation."

Tassew Woldhanna Kahsay, also from Ethiopia, is graduating with a feeling of satisfaction. He intends to put practical experience and theory to work in Ethiopia, where he will take on a new position as lecturer and researcher at the Alemaya University of Agriculture. I can use the theory for my academic future and the practical side of our instruction will help me to conduct my research. I consider my thesis an attempt to bridge the gap between theory and practice."

Predictions

Using a model which takes environmental effects on the economy into account, Tassew came up with a number of predictions for the future of Ethiopia's forests. The Ethiopian economy is weak, due largely to the fact that the country has virtually nothing to export which could earn hard currency. This puts it in a position of being unable to import fuel. The primary energy source in the country is wood from the country's trees, which is being used up at an alarming rate. It is predicted that if the current trend continues all Ethiopia's forest will have disappeared within 40 years.

Applying the model he studied while in Wageningen, Tassew concluded that if measures are taken to reduce both the population growth rate and per capita wood consumption then a reforestation planting rate of 3.3% per year will save Ethiopia's forests. If no measures are taken then a massive annual 8.5% reforestation planting will have to take place - an impossible task.

Kimmanbo Emrode Elia, from Tanzania, worked at a cooperative college before coming to Wageningen. When he returns after graduation he intends to put his acquired knowledge to the test. My focus has been development economics. This is important for our college where we teach small farmers how to market their produce. Many things I have learned here will come in handy, such as the adaptive strategies for small farmers and agricultural modelling, as well as cost benefit analysis. I can see myself using these things when I evaluate projects proposed by the college."

Improvement

Despite the praise which the three graduating students have for their programme, they unanimously agree that there is room for improvement. There needs to be some reorganization in the course timetabling. As Tassew explains, Some of the most difficult courses come at the end of the last term, and we feel this should be changed. It would be better if they were scheduled for the third term." Daniel adds, It would really help us if we had time at the end to concentrate solely on the thesis, rather than the situation now where we have a heavy course load together with the research paper."

Kimmanbo, agreeing with his colleagues mentions another point which points to a difference between the study and its practical applications. Agricultural modelling could certainly be useful in Tanzania, but I am afraid that it will be difficult for us to be able to afford the wonderful technology we have learnt about here, such as the SAS software package for generating models. At any rate I will be able to apply some of the ideas behind the modelling."

Programme director Dr. Heijman expects the remaining five students to finish soon. He is enthusiastic about the maiden voyage of the MSc in Agrarian Economics and Marketing, describing it as an opportunity to build up a well equipped tool bag." He hopes that every student will go home with knowledge of a variety of ways to address economic problems.

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