In this interview, Cleo Roberts introduces herself and her work with Africa RISING. It is one of a series of portraits of key people in the program.
Cleo Roberts is working on monitoring and evaluation as a senior research assistant in the Environment Production Technology Division (EPTD) of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). She has been involved in Africa RISING since July 2013.
What is your background?
I have a Masters of Arts (MA) degree in international development with focus on development economics, from the American University. In my previous position I coordinated an impact evaluation of heating stove subsidies in Mongolia; before that I was working on my MA thesis – an exploratory investigation of beer production in Eastern Uganda, looking at which benefits go to barley smallholders supplying malt to international breweries.
What do you do in your current position?
I’m split in two projects: Harvest Choice and Africa RISING. Many of the activities for Africa RISING fall under Harvest Choice within IFPRI. For Harvest Choice, we do spatial analysis of agriculture, including mapping and descriptive analysis: e.g. where the poor are, how to reach them, what kind of farming system they are using, what opportunities there are to improve their situation. My work entails assembling some data, doing some cleaning, descriptive analysis etc. also doing some coordination of the data collection…
I like working with data – I like working with difficult things, it’s like holding a puzzle up side down and at the end you get to flip it over – and I like the fact that I get to learn so much about data analysis, about some programming (which I didn’t anticipate) and making some maps, which I had never done before.
What are your goals in Africa RISING?
Right now we are still collecting data and we have only started doing the cleaning. It’s not yet possible to do the analysis but soon we’ll have more advanced statistical analysis, possibly regression, maybe some propensity score matching – it depends on what the data tells us.
I’m pretty sure we’ll write several papers based on the data, which will take at least a year if not more.
Further data collection is scheduled for 2016 so until then we will focus on writing papers and providing more information to our project partners.
What are the biggest Africa RISING challenges and how do we deal with them?
The actual data collection! We wanted to have enough data to draw conclusion about the effects of Africa RISING to show causality, so we wanted to collect a lot of data which means we had a lot of questions to ask and we had a very unwieldy instrument. Training people to use that instrument, and to use it electronically has been a big challenge but we’ve dealt pretty well with that now. My role has been to go to the field, train people and monitor what’s going in the field.
Anything else you want to share?
The most beautiful place I’ve been sent to so far has been Bukova, situated on the shores of Lake Victoria, the food is amazing, the foliage is beautiful and the sun is shining all the time… I missed two snow storms in Washington on that trip!