Inequity is often the cause of conflicts small and large, whether it is reflected in the denial of basic rights and privileges to marginalized populations or the lack of institutions and structures which prevent these groups from climbing up the socio-economic ladder.
As a child growing up in Raebareli, India, I often accompanied my mother to work. She worked with the state government for the implementation of development programs. I witnessed poverty and illiteracy that riddled the backward areas she visited. Through the experiences of my father, who is a farmer, I was exposed to the struggles of farmers in the country. Growing up, I realized how many of these issues were casualties of poor policies and government programs, and instilled in me a life-long interest in the role of badly designed public policy in propagating or reinforcing inequity.
I am particularly interested in agriculture, a sector which still employs more than half the working population of India. In India there are approximately 600 million people, 53% of the total population are engaged in agriculture. A large portion of them are either small and marginalized cultivators who have less than 3 acres of land or small producers engaged in other related activities. Deep rooted fissures in the society have given rise to numerous conflicts between urban and rural populations, between farmers and the state, and between different communities. Moreover, these conflicts are further exacerbated by the changing economic structure, expanding roles of the private sector, and the changing development discourse, and changing priorities of state. The situation of farmers is not very different in other parts of the world, especially in middle income and poor countries. According to the World Bank, two-thirds of the working population is engaged in agriculture, and approximately 750 million or two-thirds of the global poor work in agriculture. (World Bank Group n.d.)
Through my past experiences, I have come to understand that it is the policies and institutions which inhibit the growth of agriculture. Therefore, when I started my graduate studies at Duke University, I was very clear that I wanted to pursue my internship in an area of agriculture that focused on the legal framework, regulations and policies affecting agriculture. Through my research I found out that in 2013 the International Finance Corporation (IFC) of the World Bank Group published a report for ten countries which was based on the laws and regulations for sectors that affected agriculture like seed, mechanization, fertilizer, land, finance, markets etc. The report was published by a group at IFC called Enabling the Business of Agriculture (EBA). The idea behind starting EBA was to benchmark laws and regulations in agriculture across different countries in the world. Indicators were created for these sectoral areas of agriculture which were scored between 0-100 (0 being the lowest score and 100 being the highest score). Based on these indicators, each country was scored on each of these sectors, including seed, fertilizer, finance, mechanization, etc. These scores tell us how the laws and regulations are helping or impeding the growth of agriculture in a particular country. It also helps in formulating correct policies to promote the growth and development in the agriculture sector. I found the work performed by EBA relevant to my interests, therefore I applied and was accepted for the internship position for the summer at EBA.
In 2015, EBA expanded their research to 40 countries (the report can be found at: http://eba.worldbank.org/). This year they are benchmarking laws and regulations for around 60 countries from across the world and the findings will be published early next year. I mainly work on mechanization topics with the EBA group, but I have also helped other teams, focusing on fertilizer, seed and ICT (Information and communication Technology). Currently, I am involved in researching laws and regulations for India and many other countries in Africa. The next phase of my internship will involve scoring different indicators for various countries. Hopefully, I will get a chance to work on the report for next year as well before the end of my internship in August. It has been a very fulfilling and intellectually stimulating experience for me. I hope to continue to expand my knowledge about agriculture and the impact that laws and institutions have on its growth.
World Bank Group. n.d. Enabling the Business of Agriculture . Accessed June 19, 2016. http://eba.worldbank.org/about-us.