FAR-LeaF research fellow Dr Nkechi Owoo was one of three women researchers from Ghana and Nigeria who won the Environment for Development (EfD) Initiative’s 2022 Peter Berck’s Best Discussion Paper Award. The team was recognized for their research on the role of social networks in the diffusion and adoption of soil conservation practices over space and time in Nigeria.

Dr Owoo, a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Economics at the University of Ghana, was the lead investigator of the team. She said engaging with several stakeholders in Nigeria’s agricultural and natural resources space was an important element of the project. It ensured that the contributions of non-academic actors and practitioners in the country were taken into consideration and incorporated into the research.

She acknowledged the EfD Initiative for the technical and financial support, which she described as critical to the success of this study.

The results can be useful for targeting necessary interventions and the study is expected to feed into the knowledge base for directing actions and programs to promote soil conservation in Nigeria.

Dr Owoo states, that a lot of the social and economic phenomena that we observe have strong locational effects but are often ignored in the usual empirical analyses. The importance of these effects is particularly relevant in farming communities where there is likely to be frequent interactions and influence among farmers on shared/common farming practices. This paper showcases the strength of neighbourhood effects in explaining farmers' adoption of soil conservation practices in Nigeria.

Soil erosion is a common challenge that is faced by many Nigerian farmers – indeed, the issue is common among farmers across communities in developing countries, generally. Research has shown that characteristics like education, wealth, and gender, among others, are important determinants of soil conservation practices among farmers in Nigeria. More recently, there has been an emphasis on spatial effects in influencing these adoption behaviours as well.

" In our research, we combine what we know about spatial and temporal influences to examine whether neighbourhood effects in an earlier period have implications for farmers’ conservation behaviours in the present period.

“We involved relevant stakeholders in the agricultural space in Nigeria, for example, the Federal Ministries of Agriculture and Environment, the Nigerian Agricultural Insurance Corporation, the Nigeria Institute of Soil Science and the Economic Social and Cultural Council of the African Union (AU-ECOSOCC). Stakeholder engagement was important for seeking input from these important actors and validating the results of the research. Following the completion of the research, we translated what we had learnt into different formats for our different audiences. These included a one-page research brief on the main motivations, methodology and findings from the research; a four-page policy brief which focused on the policy messages we hoped to convey, following the empirical study; and finally, an academic, more technical, working paper.”

The findings suggest that conservation behaviours between farming neighbours are correlated both over time and across space. This provides a basis for policies to promote the most effective information diffusion methods among farmers. The results are also useful for the appropriate targeting of necessary interventions. The study is expected to feed into the knowledge base for directing actions and programmes to promote soil conservation in Nigeria.


 What would her advice to young researchers be?

“The exploration of research ideas, the discovery of new knowledge, and the opportunity to communicate findings to audiences are exhilarating for me. The entire process can seem a little intimidating at first but can be rewarding when done properly. I cannot say that it is any less nerve-wracking over time, but one learns to manage a few anxieties and the feeling of having made a useful contribution, however small, is well worth it. I think the ‘magic mix’ is to enjoy what you do and do it well.

“I see this award as a recognition of the research effort and a job well done. It is a validation and an endorsement of a researcher's contributions to a field of study, and perhaps, sometimes, a communication of appreciation by funding bodies.”

Dr Owoo shares her award with fellow researchers Dr Monica Lambon-Quayefio from Ghana and Dr Ebele Amaechina from Nigeria.

 

Dr Nketchi Owoo

Senior Lecturer
Department of Economics
University of Ghana
Ghana


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Prof Stephanie Burton

Prof Stephanie Burton

Research and Postgraduate Education
FAR-LeaF Program Director
University of Pretoria
South Africa

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“I see this award as a recognition of the research effort and a job well done. It is a validation and an endorsement of a researcher's contributions to a field of study, and perhaps, sometimes, a communication of appreciation by funding bodies.”

 

 

The Future Africa Research Leader Fellowship (FAR-LeaF) is a fellowship programme, focussed on developing transdisciplinary research and leadership skills, to address the complex, inter-linked challenges of health, well-being, and environmental risks in Africa.