Historical Milestones of AFRE International Involvement in Teaching, Research, Outreach and Capacity/Institution Building Activities

Co-Principal Investigators:
  • Selected AEC/AFRE Tenure Track and Fixed-Term Faculty

Project end date: April 28, 2015

Historical Milestones of AFRE International Involvement in  Teaching, Research, Outreach and Capacity/Institution Building Activities

Draft May 2, 2015.  By Michael T. Weber, Professor Emeritus  (Click here to download a pdf version of this document)

The history of agricultural economics and related international activities in AEC/AFRE has roots all the way back to faculty activity in the early 1920’s and 1930’s in the agricultural economics section of the Economics Department, and in the Department of Farm Management in the College of Agriculture.  When the standalone Department of Agricultural Economics (AEC) (now called Agriculture, Food, and Resource Economics (AFRE) was formed in 1949 by joining these two groups, activities began to increase with new staff interests, resources and changing international problems and opportunities.  From the outset, AEC/AFRE tenure-stream as well as fixed-term faculty, graduate students and host-country research collaborators have been instrumental in carrying out high-quality and relationship-building outputs, and in gaining resources for these efforts.  Periodically, faculty have undertaken forward planning exercises to try to guide priorities for program and staffing needs, and Departmental leadership over the years has also been instrumental to creating productive and rewarding opportunities for a wide range of involvement in international activities (See Annex 1).  One of the recent (Food Security Co-Directors 2007, p3) forward planning efforts by the Food Security Group in AFRE identified four main attributes that have helped lead to success in their work in Africa.  As will be discussed further below, many of the patterns reflected in these four features can be traced back to some of the standard operating procedures used by faculty in the earliest international programs of the Department.  

  • A thematic, scholarly approach, developed in partnership with African colleagues and the funding agencies. 
  • Integrating research, outreach, capacity building and institutional strengthening
  • An emphasis on real-world problems
  • A team-oriented approach

As discussed below, throughout its history the AEC/AFRE Department has been remarkably successful in competing for and winning many small as well as very large international grants and contracts.  The important roles played by faculty, students and host-country collaborators will be discussed in detail. However, also central to this story over the years has been the daily implementation contributions of a large number of dedicated administrative and financial support staff in the Department, and as well as in host-country locations.  Indeed, the successful implementation of small as well as large international programs has strengthened the Department’s reputation and greatly enhanced its competitive position.   Helping with financial duties over the years have been: Bud Doane, Burt Polaski, Elenor Noonan, Janet Munn, Nancy Fair, Rosie Kelly, Kay Barber, Scott Frump and April Stellard.  There has been an even larger number of administrative support staff who has made fundamental contributions to actually getting the work done.  To mention a few: Julia McKay, Judy Pardee, Lucy Wells, Pat Eisele, Josie Keel, Jean Schueller, Cathy Snyder, Xiao Zhen Li, Ann Robison and Taylor Logan.  Long-term in-country technical as well as administrative collaborators are identified in many of the outputs linked further below. During the Food Security program phases are identified at: Mali, Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Thailand, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Kenya, Malawi and Burma.  At MSU, help with project documentation came from prior AEC Department reference librarians, Sondag and Dow, and currently from Longabaugh in maintaining the Food Security Group website and carrying out other project documentation/support, among other contributions.

Another of the strategic patterns of the long international history derives from the feature that the faculty in the Department has sought to consistently link graduate teaching, research and policy outreach to international projects.  As revealed by the number and content of PhD and MS research, the international focus grew very quickly after the initial start-up of the Department, with international topics reaching nearly one-third of all student’s work during the 1960’s and then growing quickly to over 50 percent by the 1980’s and 1990’s (Table 1).  The total number of both PhD and MS students has decreased significantly since those high points, but the total number of students is still significant, and the relative importance of international has remained between 50 and 60 percent to the present (Table 1).

Key events and people involved over AEC/AFRE’s enduring international history are highlighted further below, with activities grouped roughly by 10 year periods:

Table 1. Analysis of the Relative Importance of the Focus on International Economic and Agricultural Development and Trade in the AEC/AFRE Department Over Selected Periods as Revealed in Topics of PhD and MS Level Dissertations/Theses Completed


PhD Dissertations

International PhD
Topics per Period


MS Degrees
(Plan A and B)

International MS
Degree Focus

Yearly Average
Per Period

% of  All
Per Period

Yearly Average
Per Period

 % of All
MS Degrees
Per Period


4.1 4.3 % 10.7 2.7 %


11.6 30 % 9.5 27 %


14.5 47 % 15 82 %


11.1 56 % 20 62 %


8.4 63 % 11.3 52 %


5.5 56 % 12.3 53 %


8.7 56 % 11.5 50 %

*International Development/Trade are broadly defined to include research done by both US and international students in AEC/AFRE whose research focused on any international related topic related to the analysis of economic development or trade in areas of food, agriculture and environmental economics.  Not included in this definition are all dissertations and theses that focus exclusively on economic analysis of US domestic food, agriculture and environment topics regardless of geographical origin of the student.  Souce: AFRE Dissertation/Thesis Data Base.  Analysis by M. T. Weber – April 2015

Key Activities In Historical Periods of AEC/AFRE International Programs

 1933 - 1948.  In the mid-1930’s Hill & Berg (Dept Farm Management) and Ulrey (Econ Dept, Ag Econ Section) travel in Northern European countries.  Ulrey also does study tours in England, Scandanavia and Germany studying cooperative farm organization.  In 1939 Hill serves 1 year as advisor to Puerto Rico Ag. Experiment Station.  By the time the standalone AEC Department was established in 1949, 6 MS and 2 PhD degrees had already been granted in the Economics Department focusing on international development and trade related issues. Patton, Ulrey, Hardin and Witt were important advisors, among others.

1949 - 1960.  With the formal establishment of  AEC Department, teaching, research and outreach activities, and faculty are greatly increasd. Boger, Brown, Hathaway, Johnson, Larzelere, Mauch, McBride, Riley, Sorenson, Shaffer, Ulrey, Witt, Wright, and Vincent were among the pioneer AEC faculty who began combining domestic with international activities focusing on trade, rural and agricultural development, and recovery in Europe through the Marshall Plan.  Many of these served abroad in the US Armed Forces in WW II and brought to their subject matter and problem solving work in AEC this international exposure and interest. Half-way through this period, AEC longer-term international outreach and institutional development projects begin:  Witt to Brazil, Ulrey to University of Peshawar and later to India Ranchi Ag. College, Behar, Brown to OECD, Kyle and Wood take up long-term assignments with the first Colombia project, Wright to University of Ryukyus Project, Okinawa, Mauch goes to the Far East to study the use of PL 480 funds and agricultural trade expansion prospects.  Witt, Hathaway, and others begin seeking funds from Ford Foundation, FAS of USDA, and others for international trade, PL 480 and related policy work.  AEC receives a five-year grant from the Ford Foundation to support development of AEC international programs.   Witt also undertakes a special assignment at MSU as temporary Director of Studies for International Programs at MSU, and in 1959 edits from numerous committee documents a major report “Towards an International Dimension at MSU”.

1961 - 1970.  The big take off period: Witt, Riley, Johnson, Eicher, Hathway, Sorenson and Stevens increase significantly international activities. Five NDEA fellowships in international development are awarded to AEC. Riley and Wheeler go 2 years to work on the Colombia project, 3 PhD students approved for research in Colombia with Ford Foundation funding, Hathway and Sorenson take long-term assignments in Western Europe related to trade issues and the common market. McBride takes long-term assignment in West Pakistan with Academy for Rural Development under a Ford Foundation grant. Wright takes 3-month assignment in Taiwan under a MSU/USAID Project.  Stevens goes to Academy for Rural Development for 5 month assignment.  In 1964 Witt and Eicher edit a first ever text book for the AEC graduate class (and for wide use elsewhere) they have begun teaching “Agriculture in Economic Development”.  Vincent also edits a basic graduate agricultural economics book with contributions from 12 AEC colleagues drawing on domestic as well as emerging international development and trade experiences “Economics and Management in Agriculture”. 

One of the early strategies to increase international contacts and linkages was to participate in periodic meetings of the International Association of Agricultural Economists (IAAE).   By 1964 one or more AEC faculty had attended 9 of the first 12 IAAE meetings (which started in 1929), with AEC Professor Karl Wright attending the 1949 meetings in Stressa, Italy, on a mission to extend an invitation for MSU to host the next IAAE meeting in 1952 in East Lansing which was accepted and held on-campus with support of the Kellogg Foundation.  Johnson, Bonnen, and Eicher, among others in the Department continued interactions with the IAAE over their careers.

In the mid-1960’s Johnson, Eicher, Liedholm, and Vincent take up assignments with the University of Nigeria – Nsukka project with USAID, Ford Foundation, Carnegie Corporation, Rockefeller Foundation, and other funding.  Johnson is also named Director and Dike Deputy-Director of the Nigerian Consortium Project, Hathway and Sorenson receive a USDA grant to study the impact of European Market on U.S. Agriculture, and Witt receives a USDA grant to study Food for Peace and trade. Riley, Shaffer, and others compete for and start a large USAID grant to study Latin American food markets and food systems (LAMP).  This work is undertaken jointly with the Marketing and Transportation Department of the MSU School of Business (Slater). Riley begins teaching a graduate course on food and agricultural marketing using insights from the food systems work in Latin America and Sorenson edits a book with chapters from various AEC faculty for use in teaching domestic and international area “Agricultural Market Analysis: Development, Performance, Process”. Johnson uses domestic as well as international materials in the graduate course he teaches on production economics and farm management.  Over their careers at MSU interacting with both domestic as well as international students, Johnson advises 93, Shaffer 58, Riley 54, Witt 57, Eicher 56, Manderscheid 52, and Schmid 52 graduate students as major professor.

This is also a period of significant increase in the size of the AEC graduate program with an emphasis on both domestic and international agriculture, see Table 1.  In all of these early AEC relatively large international projects, funds were included for MS and PhD graduate students from the US and from host-countries to be given important research, outreach and implementation duties both on-campus and in-country, beginning a model that many other AEC projects would utilize all the way to current international project involvement.  Since the early 1960’s, and continuing to the present, many returning Peace Corps Volunteers with international interests were attracted to graduate work in agricultural economics. Given the importance of in-country collaborative empirical field data collection and analysis in most of these efforts, there was an indispensable role for young scholars with applied research tools and interests. Following degree work in AEC/AFRE many of these now experienced young professionals found (find) important domestic and international positions with universities, governments, research organizations and consulting firms. 

From early-on, fixed term faculty are also involved with graduate students and have as well played an important role in most of the related in-country research and outreach activities. Many fixed-term faculty are also authorized to be major professors for graduate students and make significant contributions to these dimensions of international programs of the Department.

1971 - 1980.  Johnson, Riley and Eicher extend work started earlier into a series of new related projects.  Johnson and Byerlee (who joined AEC on a tenure-track position) began project work in Nigeria on agricultural sector analysis and simulation, and with a large number of AEC faculty (especially Rossmiller, Ferris, and Wright) and with MSU System Science colleagues who together extended this effort into multiple related projects on sector analysis and simulation in Korea.  Riley, Shaffer, and Harrison (who joined AEC on a tenure-track position in )continue marketing system related work of the LAMP project and Weber joins AEC to work on new projects in Costa Rica and Colombia.   Later Fienup and Weber participate as long-term university advisors/teachers on the MSU Brazil project, and Fienup also coordinated a large MSU institution building project with the Nepal Institute of Agriculture and Animal Sciences, IAAS.  Riley and Fienup also take up a project on Latin America Agricultural Sector Planning and Policy, and the AAEA contracts Riley and Fienup to conduct an assessment on “Training Agricultural  Economists for  Work in International Development”. 

Following assignments in Nigeria, Eicher and Liedholm (Economics Dept.), joined now by Byerlee began additional long-term work in Africa, starting a large new research and institution building project “African Rural Employment/Development Network” and extend this with the help of Byerlee, Sorenson and Vincent into a 2nd phase in multiple African countries .  They also work with Spencer and Matlon on a poor rural household technical change and income project in Nigeria and Sierra Leone.   Given the success of this work,  a focus of new activities also begins in Sahel West Africa with the assistance of Zalla, Bingen and Manderscheid, also cooperating with the MSU Library and the African Studies Center through the Sahel Secretariat/Documentation Center, and the Sahel Master’s Degree training program.  As part of this Africa focus, mid-way through this period, the Department also took on a major institution building project through the Integrated Rural Development, Eastern ORD, Upper Volta (Burkina Faso).  Following a lot of visibility for successful efforts in Africa, in 1977 Eicher and a series of AEC and other MSU faculty (Weber obtains an AEC tenure-track position, and joined this group around 1979 after returning from Brazil, and Crawford also joined AEC on a tenure-track appointment around this time), take advantage of a new USAID competitively bid and longer-term funding mechanism, and compete for a grant and begin work on the Alternative Rural Development Strategies Cooperative Agreement, with focus in selected counties of Africa as well as Latin America and the Caribbean, and Asia.  

At about this same time Liedholm with Mead (who joined AEC in 1979 on a fixed-term appointment), Kriesel, Vincent, Shaffer, Weber and Fisseha from MSU African Studies, began using the same USAID mechanism to compete for and begin a large new Cooperative Agreement project on Off-Farm Employment - Rural Small Scale Industries, focusing on research and outreach in Bangladesh, Thailand (implemented jointly with the MSU Alternative Rural Development Strategies Project and Ohio State University Agricultural Finance Project), Jamaica, Honduras, Sierra Leone, Bolivia, and Egypt.  

1981 - 1990.  Eicher, Crawford, Fienup, Manderscheid and Bingen (Department of Resource Development, now Community Sustainability) begin a 11 year USAID-funded institution building project in Senegal (Senegal Agricultural Research Projects I and II).  Liedholm (Economics) and Mead with many colleagues and AEC graduate students extend their prior focus for an additional 8 years, implementing an additional small/micro enterprise and employment projects under the Cooperative Agreement mechanism, (Small Enterprise Approaches to Employment), An additional component of this work was done through collaboration with Strassman (Econmics) on Small Enterprise Approaches to Employment/Housing). In the period 1985-1989 this group became subcontractors with Harvard University on a project, (Employment and Enterprises). 

Eicher and Weber work with USAID in 1984 to amend the “Alternative Rural Development Strategies Cooperative Agreement) to extend its life to 1992 and to alter its focus to concentrate on issues of Food Security in Africa (FSA)Staatz, Bernsten, and later Reardon join AEC in tenure-track positions to work partially on this activity.  Jayne, Tschirley, as new AEC fixed-term appointments in 1990, and Shaffer become involved over the life of this project, and a large number of AEC graduate students and host country collaborators worked on the campus-based core agreement tasks and in-country through a series of project add-ons in Senegal, Mali, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Somalia, Tanzania, Zimbabwe/Southern Africa, Sahel West Africa/Regional, and on topics of nutrition and agricultural technology assessment.   

Crawford and Fienup work with the MSU Farming Systems Project, and Bernsten and Weber cooperate with the MSU Crop and Soil Science Department Project, (Microcomputer Statistical Package (MSTAT).  Riley and Fienup begin implementing the Kellogg International Fellows Program in Food Systems – KIFP/FS project with Kellogg Foundation support.  Riley, Tschirley, Robinson and Weber begin working on an Ecuador marketing research and policy analysis project via a subcontract with Sigma One Corporation.   Bernsten develops a new AEC graduate course on data collection and analysis, and Staatz begins teaching the AEC food system organization and performance course with Weber adding a section on marketing in developing countries.  Eicher and Staatz update the text book on “Agricultural Development in the Third World”, and Staatz also begins teaching the AEC graduate international development course. Myers joins AEC in 1986 on a tenure-track appointment on research and teaching in the area of commodity market analysis and agricultural policy, and gradually becomes an important contributor and advisor on domestic as well as many international projects.  In 1990 an important new focus for the food security work begins on technology assessment studies lead by Ohemke and Crawford. The number of AEC MS and PhD degree completions with international focus continues at a high level in this period, with about half or more of AEC graduate students working in this area (Table 1).

1991 - 2000.   Liedholm and Mead compete in 1994 for their last large small enterprise project that began in 1989 (Growth and Equity Through Microenterprise Investments and Institutions – GEMINI). This was a USAID funded activity but MSU was a subcontractor to the consulting firm Development Alternatives Incorporated.  Various external reviews of the contributions from the off-farm and micro enterprise, as well as the market system and food policy work at MSU, have documented the fundamental empirical and conceptual contributions made by over 25 years of efforts of AEC faculty, students and host country collaborators.  Strauss was hired via a joint Econ/AEC Department tenure-track appointment, strengthening development and household modeling courses and research advising for AEC graduate students.  The USAID-funded Food Security II Cooperative Agreement project begins in 1992 as follow-on to the earlier Food Security in Africa project with a focus on food security and food system development in Africa.  Long-term work continued in some of the African countries where FSA had worked, and additional country-level work is taken up. In 1993-94, Kelly and Howard, and in 1999 Donovan, join AEC via fixed-term appointments to work on FS II Projects.

The new focus begun under the Food Security in Africa FSA on technology assessment continues in the FS II period, lead by Ohemke,Crawford, Kelly and Howard.  Starting around 1999 a number of AFRE faculty (Bernsten, Swinton, Kelly, and Crawford also begin work on agricultural technology development and transfer issues, especially factors affecting farm-level demand for new technology, in Latin America cooperating with the Bean and Cowpea Collaborative Research Support Program headquartered at MSU. In 1999 Reardon, Weatherspoon and Allen also become involved in the Partnership for Food Industry Development Project –Fruits and Vegetables (PFID-FV) implemented by the MSU Institute for International Development. This work focused on rapid restructuring of the food system in many developing countries in Asia, Latin America and Africa, and implications for small-farmer participation in emerging profitable markets.  Staatz, Weber and other involved faculty also lead Food Security Project outreach efforts to assist MSU President McPherson, and other US and African leaders, to help establish the Partnership to Cut Hunger and Poverty in Africa.

2001 - 2010.  Under Staatz’s and Weber’s Co-Directorship, AFRE competes for and wins a new Food Security III Cooperative Agreement Leader with Associate Award (FS III).  Earlier FS II work started in Mali, Sahel Regional, Mozambique, Zambia and Kenya continued, and new country-level work is started in Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, Malawi and Southern Africa via COMESA and CAADP.  In 2010 an FS III associate award project was also undertaken with the Bureau for Food Security on climate change under the leadership of Crawford and Olson (MSU Dept. of Telecommunications, Information Studies and Media).

Jayne led a AFRE/Food Security Group effort to compete for and wins a new grant from Gates Foundation ( Guiding Investments in Sustainable Agricultural Intensification in Africa - GISAMA. ). PFID-FV is completed.  In 2007 Jin joined AFRE in a tenure-system appointment with interests in the broad areas of microeconomics of international agricultural development. He is cooperating with a number of other AFRE/FSG faculty on impact assessment projects.  Reardon began work on food systems in Asia in cooperation with IFPRI and others, implements a project on value chains in Bangladesh (Value Chains in Bangladesh ), and culminates much of this work with an important book published by IFPRI (The Quiet Revolution in Staple Food Value Chains - Enter the Dragon, the Elephant, and the Tiger).  

In 2008 Maredia joins AFRE in a fixed-term appointment, and helps develop a number of technology impact evaluation projects.  Importantly during this period, there is a leadership transition with Boughton and Crawford taking over as FS III Co-Directors, and a Food Security Group model is adopted as a strategy to more effectively attract new funding and to share management responsibilities more broadly.

2011 - 2015.  The Food Security III Leader agreement terminated in 2012, although FS III was able to continue on-going associate awards funded for longer periods in selected countries (Mali, Mozambique and Zambia).  In 2012 Haggblade and Tschirley began a stand-alone project with IFAD funding on Modernizing African Food Systems (MAFS).  Staatz, Haggblade and Thériault also begin an IFAD funded project (Improving the Inclusiveness of Agricultural Value Chains in West Africa: The Role of Market Segmentation and Emerging Sub-Channels).  Dillon joins AFRE in a tenure-track position, and begins teaching the data collection graduate course, and develops projects on technology impact assessment.  Saweda Liverpool-Tasie also joins AFRE in a tenure-track position, and later begins cooperating with the GISAIA project.  In 2013 Maredia and Boughton start a CGIAR-funded project to strengthen project impact assessment ( Strengthening Impact Assessment in the CGIAR System - SIAC).  

Importantly, in 2013 the Food Security Group in AFRE competes for and wins a new USAID funded Food Security Policy Innovation Laboratory Project to be implemented jointly with IFPRI, with a world-wide focus (Feed The Future Innovation Lab For Food Security Policy). AFRE/FSG also begins new associate awards in  Malawi and Burma under this agreement.   Jayne and others receive a second Gates Foundation grant - Guiding Investments in Sustainable Agricultural Intensification in Africa - GISAIA.  Ortega and Mason join AFRE in 2013 in tenure-track positions. Mason begins cooperation with the Food Security Group and works on projects in Zambia and Kenya.  Crawford, Tschirley, Reardon and Ortega take up roles helping implement a MSU Global Center for Food Systems Innovation - AFRE Collaboration project.  During this period, Zhao (Econ), Wu (Food Science) and Nakasone are joint AFRE and other Departmental tenure-system faculty appointments who have potential to collaborate with AFRE international program activities.  There are also a number of other AFRE fixed-term faculty who work on-campus or in-country on  the set of AFRE international projects (Chamberlin, Cunguara, Diallo, Mather, Minde, Muyanga, Porter, Sitko, Smale, Chukuka Tasie, Temé, Thériault, Uaiene, and Yeboah).  All current AFRE international projects are listed on the AFRE Website under the following subcategories:

Annex 1. International Program Leadership Notes and Background Documents: 

Since the early years of international activities at Michigan State University, faculty in the Department of Agricultural Economics/Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics have been called upon periodically by Departmental, College and University leaders to guide the establishment and operations of international activities.  These were sometimes group as well as individual stocktaking and forward looking exercises, always aimed at keeping international activities alive, growing and producing meaningful as well as integrated contributions to the Departments, as well as to the College and University teaching, research and outreach portfolios.  

A number of milestone guidance documents and other support efforts are listed below starting as early as 1959 and have continued to the present. These were all directed towards the challenge of helping inform the question of how AEC/AFRE’s and broader MSU’s international involvement could grow and best contribute to a wide range of domestic and international stakeholders.  Since AEC/AFRE was formally established in 1949 until to 2015 there have been 8 different Department Chairpersons and 3 section heads/acting leaders who have each helped guide and support Departmental faculty during their respective tenures.  Four of the first five Chairpersons were each active participants in implementing and shaping international activities (Boger, Hathaway, Riley and Manderscheid) before taking on Departmental leadership duties.  In more recent times, Connor, Hamm and Hanson have grown into taking important international as well as domestic leadership roles but coming primarily with domestic agriculture experiences.  Connor’s summary insights (10 commandments) on international dimensions of the Department have been of lasting value.

Historical Contributions of AEC/AFRE Faculty to Guidance on Depatmental and MSU International Programs