HSE to Develop Agricultural Research
The Institute for Agrarian Studies was founded in October 2018 as a research department at HSE. It carries out research and expert analysis, as well as provides consulting services, in regards to agrarian economics and policy, and the development of agricultural markets and rural areas. It also aims to train highly qualified agriculture analysts. Evgenia Serova, HSE’s Director for Agricultural Policy and the head of the Institute describes below its research scope and development strategy.
Our key priorities today are to help the Russian government with respect to two key strategies: sustainable development of rural areas, and state support of agricultural exports. In addition, we provide support to the Russian Ministry of Agriculture, which strives to foster innovation in agriculture, as this is a priority for the Russian economy.
In addition, we are going to launch graduate level educational programmes within two or three years - a Master’s and a doctoral programme in Agricultural Economics. Besides, we have plans to launch continuing education, professional retraining and online programmes. To do all this, we have created a unit of educational programmes at our Institute and Professor Ulrich Koester from Kiel University has kindly accepted our offer to head this project. As part of his cooperation with HSE, Professor Koester recently delivered a lecture on ‘The Importance of Institutions and Organizations for Agriculture’.
Professor Koester has been instrumental in educating several generations of agricultural experts in Germany, all of whom have become world class researchers. His rich experience will be invaluable in developing an effective approach to agricultural education in Russia. It’s our hope the Professor Koester will not only help us shape the curriculum for our Master’s and doctoral programmes in Agricultural Economics, but also assist in the promotion of reform in agricultural education that has been undertaken by the Russian Ministry of Agriculture.
In Professor Kestner’s opinion, ‘good research in agricultural economics has to be relevant. Hence, researchers and students should have close contacts with farmers and agribusiness leaders as well as with the law makers and those who have to enforce the law. Young students get interested if they become aware that the way of economic thinking can help to improve the welfare of the economy and their own.’
Scope of Research
The Institute is focused on four key areas:
- Agricultural policy – focusing on the key internal and external challenges for the sector’s development; the scope of governmental support in the sector; the effectiveness of key programmes aimed at this sector; regional policies; state statistical monitoring of the sector’s development; the economics of agricultural policy; developing scientifically grounded recommendations for legislative and executive institutions at various levels;
- Development of agricultural markets – ongoing state and development forecasting for agro-food markets; analysis of market structures; production factors; prospects for Russian agro-food production on global markets; diversification of the Russian agricultural sector; food inflation; food chain inclusion; losses of agricultural products in food chains;
- Economics of innovation in agriculture – investment in agricultural research and technologies; social and ecological outcomes of innovative activities; innovation as a factor in improving labour performance in agriculture; training experts for the agriculture sector; effective use of innovative development;
- Rural development – reducing the disproportion in rural socio-economic development; eliminating rural poverty; diversifying employment opportunities for rural residents; preserving traditional forms of agriculture with a view to technological modernization; optimization of resettlement; effective land use and development.
Researchers at the Institute for Agrarian Studies have strong ties with the global community of experts in agricultural research. These ties were ‘inherited’ by our Institute. For example, before coming to HSE, I spent 11 years working at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and, accordingly, the Institute is continuing its cooperation with this reputable organization. Another leading research and educational centre in agriculture is Wageningen University ( the Netherlands). Our colleagues recently visited this university, and now we are actively establishing cooperation in several areas.
We also cooperate with the OECD’s Trade and Agriculture Directorate and participate in several of their programmes. We are going to strengthen partnerships with our colleagues from USA and Germany, as well as several post-Soviet countries. In addition, the Institute plans to work together with several international professors. We’ve already mentioned Professor Koester, but there also is Professor Swinnen, a globally renowned agrarian economist from KU Leuven (Belgium), who will be working at our Agricultural Policy Unit; and Professor Ferenczi, one of Hungary’s leading agrarian economists, who will be collaborating with our Agricultural Market Unit.
Together with FAO and the Russian Ministry of Agriculture, we are preparing for a major joint conference on innovative agricultural development. As part of Interpack exhibition, which takes place in Moscow in January 2019, we will be holding a Workshop on Food Waste and Agricultural Losses.
The Institute’s staff are also taking part in a major project on digitizing soil collection processes at the Williams Soil Museum (Timiryazev Agricultural Academy) and in an international expert group on agricultural trade. In partnership with the OECD, we are also involved in agrarian policy monitoring, in terms of evaluating the level of state support for agriculture, assessing agricultural manufacturers’ productivity, and various other issues.
With Wageningen University, we plan to cooperate, in particular, in regards to rural development and agrarian education reform. We have a lot of plans for future partnerships. As we were founded only three months ago, the future still has a lot in store for us!