Though we’re enjoying the Christmas festivities and gathering of family members, our impending move to Africa is always in the back of my mind. Many of you have asked why we are going to Zambia. For over ten years Thom has been a “co-Principal Investigator” (that’s MSU jargon) of an MSU agricultural project called the Zambia Food Security Research Project. There is an established office in Lusaka of researchers, support staff, senior advisors, etc., supported by professors from the Food Security Group at Michigan State University. Their goal is to help the Government of Zambia implement food policies that support small-scale farmers and reduce poverty. Several professors have gone over to Africa for 2-3 year stints as researchers and/or advisors (to Zambia and other places like Mozambique and Mali) and it seems like the right time for Thom to do this now. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation also funds some of Thom’s work out there.
The formal description of their project (from their website: http://www.aec.msu.edu/fs2/zambia/index.htm) is as follows:
The Food Security Research Project (FSRP) is a collaborative partnership between key Zambian organizations working together in the Agricultural Consultative Forum (ACF), the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives (MACO), and Michigan State University’s Department of Agricultural Economics (MSU). The activities aim to improve the capacity for agricultural policy analysis in Zambia through in-service capacity building, applied research and analysis, and policy outreach. The FSRP is co-funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA).
It’s actually a quite exciting project, where the group is trying to set up a local think tank — think of a Zambian Brookings Institute — on agricultural policy and issues, so that government, donors, and private agencies can get neutral valuable information. It’ll be exciting!
As is the case for many “offices” in Africa, they are contained on old residential properties, as seen in these photos.
I’ll be the trailing spouse which means I can’t get a work visa (oh darn!) so I plan to garden, cook for all of our guests (you!), and really get into my glass art. In fact, on the property we’re renting there is a “servants’ quarters” that has a block brick wall around it. I told the owners that we wouldn’t be having servants and asked if they’d mind tearing down the wall and painting the inside so I can use it as an art studio and they agreed.
Imagine the building above without the blocks and with flower beds and bougainvilleas climbing the walls. I’ve shipped over all of my glass supplies and can’t wait to be an artist-in-residence!