Six ACES graduate students receive 2015 Borlaug Fellowships for work in developing countries

The six ACES graduate students named as 2015 U.S. Borlaug Fellows in Global Food Security were awarded an opportunity of a lifetime to develop their graduate research in developing countries.

“The fact that students from the University of Illinois College of ACES won four of these 22 prestigious awards in the fall and two of the 14 awards in the spring, picked from applicants across the United States, is a testament to the strength of the work we are doing in the area of food security,” said Alex Winter-Nelson, director of the ACES Office of International Programs.

You may view all of the Bourlaug Fellows here:

For Anna Fairbairn, a M.S. student in agricultural and consumer economics advised by Dr. Hope Michelson, the Bourlaug Fellowship helped fund her work in Tanzania to study the implications of mineral fertilizer quality on markets and small farmers.

For nearly two years, Fairbairn has worked long days in Tanzania conducting surveys and collecting samples.

“We surveyed 225 agro-dealers and collected 370 samples of fertilizer. Of the eight districts in Morogoro region where we surveyed and collected fertilizer, we re-visited all of the agro-dealers and purchased additional samples of fertilizer. We have just started a survey with farmers and will also collect fertilizer samples from them,” she said. 

From this work, she has developed evidence on the quality of fertilizers for sale. Her resulting research is the first assessment of market-available fertilizer quality in Sub-Saharan Africa linked with details about the fertilizer supply chain, as well as the first analysis of relationships between actual quality and purchase quantities. The results will be fundamental to designing effective policy to increase agricultural production and food security in the region.  

Seth Morgan, a M.S. student in agricultural and consumer economics advised by Dr. Kathy Baylis, traveled to western Kenya over spring break to begin studying the impacts of agroforestry on soil health and farmer livelihoods. The project is collaboration between Illinois and The International Centre for Research in Agroforestry in Kenya. He will return to Kenya in June to finalize a survey and conduct the data collection.

“Our study uses remote sensing data to identify tree cover, erosion and soil organic carbon impacts due to agroforestry implementation, which is a great opportunity for me to learn spatial analysis methods along with survey data analysis,” said Morgan.

Thanks to the Bourlaug Fellowship, Liana Acevedo-Siaca, a Ph.D. student in Crop Science/Plant Breeding and Genetics advised by Dr. Steve Long, will be taking her experience working on the Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency (RIPE) project to the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) based in Los Baños, Philippines. 

Going to IRRI will give Acevedo-Siaca the freedom to cultivate rice in more ideal conditions than Illinois and allow her to work with leaders in rice research.

Marlee Labroo, a M.S. student in Crop Sciences-Plant Breeding, will also be working in The Philippines as part of her Bourlaug Fellowship.

Another Bourlaug fellow, Elizabeth Sloffer, a Ph.D. in Food Science advised by Dr. Juan Andrade, will be in Honduras from June through December to study linkages among gender, nutrition, and agriculture. Using a combination of surveys, interviews, and biomedical data, she will work towards understanding the Honduran woman’s role as a food utilizer. Specifically she will look at how participating in extension services at the Horticulture Innovation Lab Regional Center at Zamorano University contributes to performing that role.

Marshaun Montgomery, M.S. in Agricultural and Applied Economics advised by Dr. Kathy Baylis, traveled to Zambia in February to meet with local partners and government officials to lay the groundwork for household and market to be conducted in June. The goal of his Bourlaug fellowship is improve drought risk by understanding cross-scale interactions of trade and food policy.

“The Government of Zambia has been a great partner in providing extensive secondary data, spatial shapefiles, and logistical support. We are working directly with the Zambian Agricultural Research Institute to ensure that our research is in-line with the national agricultural and economic development agenda with input from local stakeholders,” said Montgomery.

The U.S. Borlaug Fellows in Global Food Security Program awards are awarded each semester through the Center for Global Food Security at Purdue University. The awards are funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to expand the pool of U.S. food security professionals who have the scientific base needed to effectively study and manage the global landscapes in support of sustainable food systems. For more information and posting dates, visit:




Article submitted by Leslie Myrick, 217-244-5373

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