May 24, 2023

Five Questions with Amaka Nnaji

The Evans School welcomes Amaka Nnaji as a new postdoctoral scholar with the Evans School Policy Analysis and Research Group (EPAR). Dr. Nnaji received her Ph.D. in Development Economics from Lincoln University in New Zealand. She has served as a research fellow for several organizations focused on development economics in Nigeria. Before completing her doctoral work, Amaka received a master’s degree in Agricultural Development Economics from the University of Reading in England.

Arriving at EPAR in April 2023, the Evans School caught up with Amaka to talk about her research in development economics. 

Evans: Congratulations on your postdoctoral research position at EPAR! Your professional path has focused on a host of economic and environmental topics within Nigeria. What were some formative experiences early on that helped you identify this particular policy research path? 

Amaka: Thank you for the warm welcome. My interest in agricultural development economics, particularly in the gender-conflict nexus, comes from my experience growing up in Nigeria where smallholder farmers make up about 35% of the workforce with women contributing the most to crop agronomy with the least remuneration from farm proceeds. Also, the unprecedented impacts of drought and the resulting desertification of available arable land further worsen the situation. The obvious lack of gender-disaggregated and transformative research invariably resulting in the enactment of poor-functioning and ineffective policies further motivated me to pursue this research path. 

Evans: Your dissertation and recent publications have focused on farmer-herder conflicts in rural Nigeria. Why is this such a critical issue in sub-Saharan Africa? 

Amaka: Farmer-herder conflict is a critical problem in most sub-Saharan African Countries due to rapid population growth and the escalating effects of climate change. Rising temperatures and subsequent drought and desertification have reduced the availability of pasture for nomadic herders to graze their animals. Also, rising population growth has signaled increased crop production which sometimes results in the conversion of grazing reserves to farmland. As a result, sometimes herders graze their animals on farmer’s cropland resulting in a loss of crop yield and income. Some farmers may maim the animals or pursue herders out of their farmlands, herders retaliate, and the vicious cycle of farmer-herder conflicts ensues. Considering the negative impacts of climate change are not stopping anytime soon, there is a need to provide evidence to engender the enactment of suitable policies that enhance adaptation to the adverse conditions increasing the occurrence of these conflicts.  

Evans: What are some of the biggest challenges you encounter when conducting research in rural communities and regions? 

Amaka: Some challenges I have experienced conducting research in rural regions is a dearth of reliable secondary data on community population, number of farmers and farm size. Also, when carrying out surveys, the lack of efficient internet connectivity and unreliable transportation options through poorly maintained access roads are major problems. For my thesis, I had to collect data from remote conflict-affected regions, and these were the main issues faced by the field team.    

Evans: Your published research focuses on many important areas for policy action – climate change, household consumption and food security, land use and farming practice – what are some immediate policy recommendations that stand out from your recent work?  

Amaka: Some of my most recent work show that female farmers are more likely to be food secure when given more access to productive resources like land. This demonstrates the need for more gender-transformative policies to bridge the persistent gender gap in access to productive resources. Also, empirical evidence of both direct and indirect negative impacts of climate change induced farmer-herder conflicts on agricultural productivity shows the need for policies to facilitate the migration to more sustainable farming systems like ranching and paddock grazing in developing countries. 

Evans: How do you see your research program evolving in the next few years? 

Amaka: I have always been passionate about using academic research to support and influence public policymaking. In the next couple of years, I am looking forward to using spatial modelling techniques to facilitate the development of sustainable livestock production systems in developing countries. Also, working with the amazing team of researchers in the Evans School will enable me to contribute to research with clear social and political development relevance, that produces valuable evidence for the academic community, policymakers and non-governmental stakeholders in the continued fight for global gender equity, women’s empowerment, poverty reduction and inclusive growth.

Evans:  We are lucky to have you join our community – welcome! 

Amaka:  Thank you!