Abdelaziz Lawani joined the Borlaug LEAP Fellowship as a 2015 Spring Fellow while pursuing his PhD in Agricultural Economics at the University of Kentucky. He is interested in the social and economic impact of government institutions stockpiling food against future reduction in supply and increase in prices, focusing on the West African region. While government food storage is not a new concept, recent spikes in food prices have prompted sub-Saharan governments to being discussing the matter more seriously. Abdelaziz wants to investigate how large-scale government food storage will affect the people it is intended to help, focusing on rice in particular, given its enormous importance to much of the developing world. He hopes that his findings will help strengthen food security in the West African region and beyond, in line with Feed the Future’s goals for the region.
Abdelaziz has long held an interest in agricultural topics, stemming from his experiences in the school garden at his local high school and in the Global Learning and Observation to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) organization. While originally considering a career in medicine, he eventually decided on a career in agriculture as a way to help others. He earned a Fulbright Scholarship and a double Master’s in Rural Development and Agricultural Economics. Abdelaziz has also been active in working with local Beninese organizations, including the Beninese Center for Environmental, Economic and Social Development (CEBEDES). From his early high school projects to his last position with CEBEDES, his ability to be proactive and a willingness to search for a solution distinguished him as having leadership potential. Even as a teenager, people were drawn to his ability to work well with others while searching for creative solutions to problems. He hopes to use both what he has learned in the past, and will learn as a Borlaug LEAP Fellow, to mentor young people looking to work in the agricultural sector.
Abdelaziz had two mentors during his year as a Fellow, Dr. Michael Reed and Dr. Rose Fiamohe. Dr. Reed is a distinguished professor of Agricultural Economics and the Director of Graduate Studies at the University of Kentucky. He lent Abdelaziz his guidance in the area of commodity price determination and its impact on macro-economic policies. Dr. Fiamohe hails from Benin and is currently a researcher at the AfriceRice Center in Cotonou, Benin. She helped Abdelaziz focus his research on the economics of rice in sub-Saharan Africa and how it affects the small-holder farmer. He is expected to complete his PhD in 2017.