On February 9th, 2012, Michigan State University’s (MSU) Food Security Research project, the project Thom had been a principal investigator on for some 12 years, transformed into a new, independent, Zambian-based and -managed institute called the Indaba Agricultural Policy Research Institute(IAPRI). Indaba has its own executive board composed of private and public sector stakeholders and is home to 9 research fellows (all Zambian).
The goal of Indaba is to act as an independent and impartial policy analysis research group for agricultural and food security issues. Their role is to provide evidence-based information to the government, private firms, and international donors. (Think the Brookings Institute or the Rand Corporation.)
Michigan State University’s new role is to provide training and technical support for research and outreach activities. MSU also is helping to build institutional capacity in the areas of financial management systems/processes and fundraising. As time goes on MSU will fade more and more into the history books as Indaba develops its capacity to conduct all activities independently.
Thom’s already worked on a similar project in Kenya, where he helped in the development of the Tegemeo Institute. At this point Tegemeo is completely independent and generates its own funding. Some MSU professors still collaborate with Tegemeo staff on various research projects, just as an MSU professor might collaborate with someone from Cornell University on a specific project. They share resources, skills and knowledge.
The launch was a BIG DEAL. Ministry officials, the U.S. and Swedish ambassadors, and various other dignitaries came for the launch. They had Zambian dancers greeting the guests.
Dignitaries gave speeches, followed by the formal hand-off of the project from MSU (by the esteemed Professor Jayne) to the Chairman of the Board of the Indaba Institute, Dr. Mick Mwala, Dean of the Faculty of Agriculture, University of Zambia.