Chewe Nkonde’s passion for agricultural science and food security was ignited during his undergraduate training at the University of Zambia. As a Soil Science major, he was exposed to laboratory work and field experiments for the first time, and became committed to raising the level of agricultural scientific research in Zambia. He currently on sabbatical from his position as a Lecturer at the University of Zambia and is working as a Graduate Research Assistant in the Department of Food and Resource Economics at Michigan State University. Mr. Nkonde believes that certain countries in Africa are experiencing a rise in large farms over the more traditional smallholder farms. There is a lot of communal land shared between small farmers, but large farms are are becoming more common. While they do have the potential to improve knowledge and promote innovation in the agricultural sector, as well as increasing overall production, they will most certainly have an impact on the smallholder farmers. He is interested in seeing what impact (if any) the larger agricultural complexes of Zambia will make on the smallholder farms and if there is anyway to mitigate potential negative effects.
Mr. Nkonde became a Borlaug LEAP Fellow in the Fall of 2014 based on his research titled: “Land Use Dynamics and Agricultural Mechanization in the Context of Rising Large Landholders: Implications for Agricultural Development in Zambia.” He has become increasingly frustrated with the farming issues and the land distribution practices emerging around the world, since he learned about them after attending a conference. This is also where he met his US mentor, Dr. Thomas Jayne, of Michigan State University. Following a short conversation, it became clear that he and Dr. Jayne had several overlapping interests, which has evolved into his current research on land distribution and the rise of emerging farming states in countries like Zambia. Dr. Jayne has mentored dozens of young African professionals in the past and has played a major role in building Michigan State’s partnerships with African research institutes. Mr. Nkonde also worked with Dr. Frank Place, currently at the International Food Policy and Research Institute (IFPRI). Dr. Place is a research scientist who has worked at the University of Wisconsin, as well as the World Bank, on issues relating to land tenure. Both mentors lent their insights and expertise to Mr. Nkonde’s qualitative research, data collection, and analysis. Mr. Nkonde expects to complete his research and earn his degree by the end of 2015.