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As I pondered where I could intern this summer in order to best leverage my skills, time and interests, I decided to step outside my comfort zone and explore a completely new public policy issue. As a research intern with the Duke Center for Globalization, Governance and Competitiveness (CGGC) at Duke University in Durham, I am working with a team of core staffers and other Duke interns on the Minerva Research Initiative Project funded by the US Ministry of Defense. This project, in its third year of implementation, seeks to better understand the social, cultural, and political dynamics that shape regions of strategic interest around the world. At Duke, I am focused on researching the wheat value chain through a Global Value Chain (GVC) lens. More particularly, I am dissecting interdependencies among Russian wheat export participants (the private sector in particular) and food security in the Middle East and North African (MENA) region.

Food security has been a recurring issue on the radar of development organizations for decades and increasingly acute since the 2007/8 food crisis. Increasing demand for food along with a growing world population, make food insecurity a problem that expands beyond borders and national security. Spikes in food prices and food delivery, impose not only fiscal and institutional challenges on developing countries, but directly impact lives.

Wheat, growing in popularity as a staple food in the MENA region, is essential for the food diets of its citizen and is also the main imported commodity for a number of countries such as Egypt, Morocco and others. It is also a cereal, which the export is controlled by a limited number of countries, including Russia, currently the world’s fourth largest wheat exporter.┬áBy analyzing how the wheat market in Russia functions, what the interdependencies are between market participants and the state, we can better understand the impact mechanisms and policies in Russia related to food security, or rather insecurity, abroad.

The GVC framework, pioneered by Gary Gereffi, the CGGC Director, “provides both the conceptual and methodological tools for looking at global, regional, and local economies by using a top-down approach that examines the global lead firms that control trade, as well as a bottom-up approach that studies countries and regions, which are explored in terms of their economic, social and environmental upgrading or downgrading trajectories.” (Ahmed at al. 2013, Wheat Value Chains and Food Security in the Middle East and North Africa Region)

I feel very fortunate to contribute to the work of CGGC and learn from its talented research associates and staff. I am especially thankful for the guidance of Ghada Ahmed, a Master of Development in International Policy alumna and generous supervisor from whom I learn daily.

The Duke University Center on Globalization, Governance & Competitiveness (Duke CGGC) is affiliated with the Social Science Research Institute at Duke University. Duke CGGC is a center of excellence in the United States that uses a global value chains methodology to study the effects of globalization in terms of economic, social, and environmental upgrading, international competitiveness and innovation in the knowledge economy. Duke CGGC works with a network of researchers and scholars around the world in order to link the global with the local and to understand the effects of globalization on countries, companies and the full range of development stakeholders.


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