February 6, 2006

Cornell Funds Poverty Projects

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Cornell’s Strategies and Analysis for Growth and Access will fund four to six poverty research projects in Uganda with its first annual Call for Proposals competition. The projects, funded through USAID, will receive $4,000 each.

Prof. Stephen Younger, nutrition, expects applicants to be Ugandan graduate students or – since 10 percent of Uganda’s GDP is from foreign aid – from non-governmental organizations and aid agencies like the World Bank and the Food and Agriculture Organization.

SAGA works with the Economic Policy Research Center, a think tank in Uganda and the Ugandan Ministry of Finance, Planning, & Economic Development to conduct poverty research in Africa. Representatives from all three organizations will decide on the winners of the competition.

“SAGA doesn’t just do research; it aims to be responsive to policy makers’ needs,” Younger said.

Younger said that the idea for the project grew out of one of the poverty workshops SAGA conducted in Uganda. Margaret Kakande of the Ugandan Ministry approached Younger and John Okidi of the Research Center about the competition.

“Kakande made it clear she did not only want funding, but technical assistance for the researchers, too,” Younger said. “SAGA tries to fund – but more importantly – to help researchers.”

SAGA has many projects throughout African countries including Ghana, Senegal, South Africa, Madagascar, Kenya and until the recent war, the Ivory Coast.

“What’s unusual about Uganda– what’s interesting and encouraging – is that the government is interested in using research,” Younger said. “While most decisions get made for political reasons, [in Uganda] they’re technocrats.”

The projects must support the Ugandan government’s 2004 Research Guide: Supporting the Eradication of Poverty in Uganda and must focus on one of five topics: fiscal efficiency, labor market dynamics, land tenure and utilization, educational attainment and HIV/AIDS and Poverty.

Younger finds the labor market situation in Uganda most interesting. The country experienced a major economic downturn in the 1970s and Tanzania wanted to depose the government. During this time, Uganda basically had a subsistence economy. Since then, Uganda has grown rapidly. Now there’s a major division between the formal sectors of the labor market, including industry, and informal sectors, such as farming.

Younger said that there’s already a huge amount of research on HIV in Uganda, but the disease is in no way over-researched.

He does not expect there to be a lot of new proposals for HIV/AIDS research.

“Any new research on HIV would probably require new information and more money,” Younger said. “There’s nothing easy to do on HIV.”

Archived article by Jessica DiNapoli
Sun Staff Writer