UNK Associate Professor Laurence Becker and student Chuck Rowling of Kearney will examine various aspects of rice production first hand in the Ivory Coast through a prestigious National Science Foundation grant. The grant was awarded from NSF for Becker’s project titled, “Processes of Change in Agricultural Systems: Impacts of Interventions in Ivorian Rice Cropping.”

Becker will travel to the Ivory Coast in January and Rowling will join him in the summer of 2002 to examine agriculture in western Africa. The main focus of the project will be the production and marketing of rice in the Ivory Coast. Together with a team of scientists from an international agricultural research institute and an Ivorian university, Becker will examine the social, technical, and environmental aspects of rice production.

The investigation will be conducted through a two-step process. First, national level data on rice growing areas and yields will be collected. Second, ethnographic studies and detailed surveys will follow rice from field to urban markets to better understand both the agroecological conditions of rice growing and the transformation of the crop into a commodity.

The collected data will show the rice grower responses to agricultural policies. The positive responses are central in liberalizing the Ivory Coast economy. The liberalization of the economy could aid in improving food security and reducing poverty.

The grant will provide a unique learning opportunity for some students. UNK has a national reputation for involving undergraduates in research, and faculty regularly include students in grant proposals. Dr. Becker announced that Chuck Rowling will travel to Ivory Coast next summer to work on this project, combining his French language, political science, and agricultural knowledge in a meaningful setting. Rowling is a junior from Kearney who is majoring in political science and history.

“This will be a great experience for Chuck,” Becker said. “This is important research, and UNK has an opportunity to make a valuable contribution in this field.”

The grant, valued at $124,908, was awarded from the Geography and Regional Science and Subsaharan African Programs, National Science Foundation. The National Science Foundation is an independent agency of the United States Government. Its main goal is to promote science and engineering programs.