Economist boosts outcomes of African development projects with community-based initiatives

Nathan Fiala

Northern Uganda has endured protracted conflict and social unrest for decades. This has left communities in poverty and lacking crucial resources to expedite economic development in the region. In 2009, the World Bank supported funding for a massive development program, the Second Northern Uganda Social Action Project Fund (NUSAF2), to improve conditions in the region. With a loan of $133 million, the Ugandan government implemented thousands of small-scale and community-focused initiatives to bolster the building of critical infrastructure and advancement of projects in order to progress development in the region and improve socio-economic services and opportunities for its citizens. Nathan Fiala, an assistant professor in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, has been working in Uganda since 2007. He suggested ways to improve the success of projects through citizen accountability. He tested his recommendations by conducting a large-scale experiment in over six hundred communities across the north of the country.

“I’ve spent two and a half years in Uganda over the last decade,” says Fiala. “I work directly with the Ugandan government, World Bank, the Department of International Development [DFID] and NGOs [non-government organizations] doing impact evaluation. This means that the government or organization running a program wants to know how it affects their participants and the reasons behind those outcomes. I’ve done this elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, but most of my work has been in Uganda and specifically focused on alleviating poverty. When I studied NUSAF, there were problems that I felt could be addressed.”

Despite its overall success in improving the quality of life for Ugandans, there were reports of government corruption and mismanagement under NUSAF, including embezzlement and inaction. Fiala suggested the government implement a social accountability training program that utilized citizen participation to mitigate malfeasance and enhance the return on investment for future projects. When the second iteration of the NUSAF program, NUSAF2, was launched by the Ugandan government, it presented Fiala an opportunity to conduct a study of the initiatives he suggested and determine the impact of his proposed measures.

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CAHNR in the news

newsprintConnecticut Woodlands printed an article by Associate Extension Professor Tom Worthley about the building of a wheelchair accessible bridge on the Nipmuck Trail. Also mentioned in the piece was the Fenton Tract of the UConn Forest, the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment (NRE), a graduate of NRE, the UConn Forest crew and the Natural Resources Conservation Academy.

UConn Today included two photos that depicted CAHNR student and animal science major Michelle Martinez practicing fencing at UConn’s Fencing Club meeting.

Shape magazine quoted graduate student Luke Belval in an article about the importance of endurance runners staying hydrated. Continue reading

Meet alumna Gianna Roma

Gianna Roma
Gianna Roma

Nutritional sciences graduate Gianna Roma suggests that current students seize and create opportunities for themselves. Roma is putting that into practice in her own life. While working as an inpatient clinical dietitian, she finds time to assist the New England Patriots dietitian, studies to become a certified exercise physiologist and is active on social media helping others with their nutrition. Here is what she said in an interview.

What was your major in the College? When did you graduate? With what degree? My major was nutritional sciences with a focus in sports nutrition. I graduated in May 2015.

What CAHNR class was most useful to you? Medical Nutrition Therapy was most useful for my internship and also my current role as a clinical dietitian. It helped introduce me to the basics of clinical nutrition.

I also found Nutrition for Exercise and Sport very helpful. This class provided the basics for efficacy, safety and regulations of dietary supplements and health promoting foods. This class gave me applicable information I could apply to my life as part of the UConn women’s soccer team for four years. Continue reading