OIP supports ACES graduate students in work towards reducing postharvest losses

As part of the international graduate student grant program, the Office of International Programs (OIP) provided funding for two ACES students, Marin Skidmore and Hemant Pullabhotla, to gather information on postharvest losses through a farm household survey in Bihar, India.  Their research aims to reduce postharvest losses and increase farmers’ returns in this region, where most farmers live in extreme poverty.

Skidmore, a MS student, and Pullabhotla, a PhD student, traveled to Bihar twice during 2015 along with Pallavi Shulka, another graduate student. All three are working under the supervision of Dr. Kathy Baylis, associate professor in the Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics. 

“Our first trip was in March when we established connections with our partner universities and discussed our plan going forward. We returned in May to field test the surveys and train the enumerators who conducted the surveys. It was interesting because the homes we visited each had a room full of grain with flies buzzing around it. So we imagined this would result in some quality losses if not quantity losses. However, the home is generally the best place they have for storage, and it didn’t seem to concern them,” Skidmore said. 

The enumerators who the students trained have completed the surveying process, conducting surveys in 50 households in each of 64 villages in Bihar, and are now sending the results to the three students, who are busy interpreting the information. Each student is focused on a different component of the survey: Skidmore is looking at what is happening with traders; Pullabhotla is looking at peoples’ preferences for technology; and Shukla is looking at opportunities for alternate crops. 

The information will give Baylis and her team a complete picture of the region’s grain economies so they can suggest ways to mitigate postharvest losses in this region.

Pullabhotla said, “As a grad student hoping to build a career in development economics, I couldn't have asked for a better opportunity. Engaging rigorously with the design, implementation and management of the data collection effort has been an exciting, and hugely challenging process. This experience complements the theoretical understanding I picked up in the classroom, and gave me a more nuanced appreciation for the realities of everyday life amongst the rural poor in India. The OIP grant made this amazing experience possible.”

Read more about this project here.

Article submitted by Leslie Myrick, 217-244-5373

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