Project Description: 

Adverse shocks to agricultural production can have lasting effects on affected households stemming from loss of output and income and from the coping mechanisms households take to try to deal with that loss. While many papers consider the long-term impacts of weather shocks such as drought, flooding, or irregular rainfall, few consider the impacts of agricultural pests. The desert locust is considered the world’s most dangerous and destructive migratory pest. Large parts of the Arabian Peninsula and the Horn of Africa remain under threat from a desert locust outbreak that began in 2018 and has threatened the food security of over 20 million people. This project combines data on predicted desert locust risk, actual desert locust monitoring observations, and country locust control activities to estimate causal impacts of desert locusts on agricultural production in the immediate term, and on broader economic outcomes such as migration, poverty, and conflict in the longer term. These estimates will be useful to inform policy on coordinating cross-country locust monitoring, prevention, and control efforts.

We are interested in analyzing locust outbreaks both as an important shock in their own right, but also as a less-studied form of general economic shock. In the first sense, estimates of the costs of locusts outbreaks will be useful in cost-benefit analyses of locust monitoring and prevention efforts. In the second sense, understanding the impacts of a large economic shock is important for broader policy-making around how to support vulnerable populations and support resilience and recovery.

Undergraduate's Role: 

The undergraduate researcher's role will be to assist in collecting, cleaning, and analyzing data, and to conduct literature reviews to inform the analysis. Key sources of data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Desert Locust Watch that the undergraduate researcher will help to prepare for analsis are historical bulletins documenting desert locust forecasts and a database of locust monitoring observations and control activities. In addition, the undergraduate researcher will assist in collecting and cleaning other data relevant to the project, including cross-country weather, conflict, and agricultural data. This could involve searching through household surveys, spatial data, and administrative datasets for relevant data, and retrieving and cleaning the data to put in a format that can be matched with the locusts data. Depending on the progress of the project and the undergraduate researcher's abilities, she/he will also contribute to visualizing and analyzing the data and discussing approaches for the analysis. There may be opportunities to tailor specific research tasks to the undergraduate researcher's skills and interests, as long as the primary project goals are met.

Undergraduate's Qualifications: 
  • Excellent organizational skills
  • Strong writing and communication skills
  • Familiarity with Excel or similar spreadsheet software for organizing and manipulating data
  • Coursework in econometrics and/or statistics
  • Coursework in economics or environmental science is a plus
  • Experience working with Python, R, GIS software, and/or Stata is desirable 
9-12 hours