Author Archives: Jesse Libra

About Jesse Libra

Jesse Libra is currently pursuing a dual graduate degrees in Global Policy and Energy and Earth Resources at the University of Texas at Austin. She graduated from the University of Iowa with a B.S. in Geoscience, with a focus on hydrogeology. Jesse interests focus on water resource management and policy, especially on the development and implementation of strategies to increase the adaptive capacity of less-developed communities to changing weather patterns. This summer, with help from the Crook Fellowship, she will be interning at Innovation for Poverty Action’s Zambia office, exploring the interaction between traditional gender norms and the adoption of various agricultural practices.

Gender and Agriculture with IPA-Z*

It’s been a little over five weeks since I moved to Lusaka to start my internship with Innovations for Poverty Action’s Zambia Office (IPA-Z), and those five weeks have been fantastic. I’ve seen hippos and crocs, crossed one of the world’s seven wonders off my list, and become conditioned to respond to ‘mzungu’ as if it were my god-given name. All that has been awesome, but the focus of this post is going to be my work at IPA.

First, a (very) short introduction to IPA. IPA is a non-profit research organization that evaluates the effectiveness of different development interventions, using randomized control trials as their primary tool. They then work with partner and government organizations to scale up interventions that have proven successful.

The IPA-Z Office

The IPA-Z Office

This is the Zambia office. It’s in a house about 20 minutes (busride/walk combo) from my apartment, and has a staff of about 10 full-timers. The entire office has been in constant chaos since baseline surveying began in late May for their Girls Negotiation project. In short, the project takes eight-grade girls and involves them in an after-school program that teaches them negotiation skills through the same methods used in the Harvard business school curriculum. The idea is to see if this kind of program significantly improves the girls’ abilities to negotiate for their futures, both in terms of continued education and personal health.

Surveyors Catherine and Martha handing out permissions slips for the Girls Negotiation Project

Surveyors Catherine and Martha handing out permissions slips for the Girls Negotiation Project

The office has a few other ongoing projects, including an Agroforestry project, a community health project, and my (solo) project, titled ambiguously “Gender and Agriculture”.

“Gender and Ag”—as it’s affectionately called—has been through a lot. It’s a project that, having not panned out in its original form, has been gutted and reworked over the course of the last year. It’s now an exploratory project, with the deliverable being a database of data pertaining to agricultural and cultural (especially gender-related) practices throughout Zambia, and a final report. Last week I finished with the data collection, and after it is sufficiently .do-ed, I’ll write a report showing all the fantastically interesting correlations with maps and graphs and other wonderful visuals.

Despite working tirelessly, I’ve had plenty of time to get out of the office. Over a recent four day weekend I had the opportunity to see Victoria Falls, go on safari in Chobe National Park, and discuss development challenges with the Prime Minister Stanley of Mukuni Village. For those interested, the major challenges he mentioned were poor road quality (impacting on both education and healthcare access) and water availability—the village only has four taps, which currently provide water to its 8,000 inhabitants.

*All views and opinions expressed in this blog post are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of IPA as an organization.

Top: me at Victoria Falls; Bottom Left: Elephants at Chobe National Park; Bottom Right: Mukuni Village

Top: me at Victoria Falls; Bottom Left: Elephants at Chobe National Park; Bottom Right: Mukuni Village