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Rural electrification and structural transformation: A guar(anteed) bet? Guest post by Faraz Usmani

Development Impact Guest Blogger's picture

This is the sixth in this year's series of posts by PhD students on the job market.
What connects smallholder farmers in the semi-arid tracts of northwest India to the oil and gas barons of Texas and Oklahoma? A little green bean called guar! The seeds of this humble legume yield a potent thickening agent that greatly enhances the effectiveness of fracking fluid. As the fracking boom started in the United States, demand for guar skyrocketed, resulting in windfall gains for farmers across northwest India, the epicenter of global guar cultivation. Nearly simultaneously, India began rolling out its massive national rural electrification scheme, which prioritized certain villages based on a strict population-based eligibility criterion. In my job market paper, my coauthor Rob Fetter and I combine these two “natural experiments” to show that large-scale grid electrification can dramatically increase non-agricultural employment in rural economies when economic opportunity complements infrastructure—but if these complementary economic conditions are lacking, the grid may scarcely make a dent.

Maybe Money does Grow on Trees

Arianna Legovini's picture
Environmental degradation puts livelihoods at risk and the Ghanaian government is determined to fight it. Planting trees is one approach to address soil erosion, topsoil quality and overgrowth of weeds and grass that lead to wildfire. This is why the World Bank’s Sustainable Land and Water Management Project (SLWMP) offers free seedlings to farmers to plant trees at a cost of about $100 per farmer. The question researchers asked at the time of project design was, would free seedlings be enough?

How has our rising palm oil consumption affected the communities where it comes from? Guest post by Ryan Edwards

Development Impact Guest Blogger's picture

This is the seventh in our series of posts by Ph.D. students on the job market this year
The tripling of area planted with tropical oil crops since the 1990s represents the largest transformation of global food and agricultural systems since the Green Revolution. The area planted for oil crops since the 1970s has expanded by over 150 million hectares, three times that of all cereal crops in the same period (Byerlee, Falcon, and Naylor, 2016). Tropical oil crops feature in most agricultural and food policy debates: genetically modified organisms, food versus biofuels, small farmers versus agribusiness, mono- versus inter-cropping, land grabs, and the environmental footprint of food consumption. The most prominent debates concern clearing forests across the tropics to plant oil crops, particularly oil palm, and the haze that regularly blankets Southeast Asia. Palm oil is the world’s most consumed vegetable oil—ubiquitous in everyday products from food and drink to soap and cosmetics—and one of the world’s most socially contested industries.

A new global data network on population and environment

Jed Friedman's picture

Co-authors and I are soon to complete (fingers crossed) some new work on climatic shocks and neo-natal mortality. But our findings are not the topic of this post. Rather I want to discuss the necessary behind-the-scenes data construction work that had to take place before the first regression could be estimated. The work involved the aggregation of fifty plus national level microdata sets (from Demographic and Health Surveys) and then a merger with geo-coded historical weather data (from NOAA).