Michael Denney – Summer 2015

Michael Denney 2015 Summer Update

It has been a busy summer for me both here at UMass and away at my summer fellowship at Purdue University in Indiana. I started the summer off at Purdue as a fellow at the Borlaug Summer Institute on Global Food Security. Along with 39 other aspiring food security professionals, I attended dozens of lectures by food security luminaries from a host of disciplines. Over the course of two weeks we heard from soil scientists, crop breeders, agricultural economists, and professionals from USAID and other international development organizations.

The winning team of this year’s Borlaug Presentation Competition. Michael Denney from the UMass Boston IGERT Program is second from the right.

In addition to the lectures, the fellows were broken up into teams for a mock USAID grant competition. My team was tasked with writing a proposal for improving food security in Cambodia. On the last day of the Fellowship, all the teams presented their projects to a panel of professors, USAID employees, and fellow students. I am proud to say that my team’s proposal was voted Best Presentation. As a reward, my team members and I will attend this year’s World Food Prize award ceremony in Des Moines, Iowa in October.


After my Summer Fellowship, Professor Maria Ivanova, Paul Case, Alex Metzger, and I submitted an application for a second round of funding from the Global Resilience Partnership Project.

Gebesa Ejeta (UN Science Advisory Board), Gary Burniske (Managing Director of the Center for Global Food Security within Discovery Park at Purdue University), Michael Denney (UMass Boston IGERT Fellow), and Ambassador Kenneth Quinn (former U.S. Ambassador to the Kingdom of Cambodia and President of The World Food Prize Foundation. 

Back in the spring, we received an initial round of funding to flesh out a project proposal we submitted in November. Our project is titled “Integrated Land Management for Resilience in the Horn of Africa,” and it involves work across three landscapes: Djibouti, the Central Rift Valley in Ethiopia, and Laikipia in Kenya. The main aspects of resilience we address are changing environmental conditions, livelihood insecurities, institutional structures, and agriculture (more about the project and the IGERT fellows involvement can be found through this link.

On July 15th we submitted our “Solution Statement,” or how we plan to address the landscape resilience challenges we identified in our earlier submission. All of our plans are based off of field research we conducted in the three landscapes in April, May, and June. The project is very much grounded in reality, with our understandings of the challenges and the solutions based entirely off of conversations and group sessions with thought leaders, politicians, academics, and community leaders in each of the communities. The Global Resilience Partnership will inform applicants of their decision in early September.

Since that final hectic week of grant writing in mid July, I have been working on a paper with Professor Adugna Lemi of the Economics Department at UMass Boston. Using the longitudinal Ethiopian Rural Households Survey, Professor Lemi and I are analyzing the determinants of food expenditure in rural households in Ethiopia. Our work will contribute to the existing body of knowledge on how to target aid money and development projects for enhancing rural food security.

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