Researchers from the University of East Anglia are among the winners of the Economic and Social Research Council’s (ESRC) annual Celebrating Impact Prize awards, which recognise those whose work has made a difference to society and the economy.
During a digital ceremony Prof Arjan Verschoor and Prof Ben D’Exelle from the School of International Development won the Outstanding Business and Enterprise Impact category for their research into previously uninsurable Ugandan smallholder farmers.
Their research focussed on the issues faced by Ugandan farmers with investing in their livelihoods and gaining insurance, while dealing with challenges such as droughts, erratic rainfall due to climate change, locust attacks and counterfeit or damaged seed. Until recently, farmers did not trust insurance to cover these risks – with a one in six chance of not being able to pay back the loan.
The team looked into how almost 3,000 farmers coped with these risks and built a detailed picture of how they were evaluated by the farmers.
The project, which started in 2001, has led to the development of a new drought insurance scheme, subsidised by the Ugandan government. The scheme now protects more than 225,000 smallholder farmers against the risks to their livelihoods posed by drought, pests and poor-quality seed, and boosts productivity by providing smallholders with the confidence to invest in their farms.
Other benefits include insurance companies in Uganda introducing a range of new products to better meet farmer’s needs, and the development of mobile phone technology to make sign up and payments for farmers easier.
Watch the video to hear from those directly involved and find out more about the winning research:
Commenting on winning the award, Prof Verschoor said: "We are completely delighted to receive this award. We believe that we have learned important things through our research about how to provide farmers in developing countries with a safe way out of poverty and it is great that this has been taken up and recognised. Huge thanks are due to the UEA for its thoughtful approach to impact, never forcing it but very good at identifying and nurturing impact potential. We benefited enormously from the advice and support from many people in the university."
The competition, now in its eighth year, recognises and rewards ESRC-funded researchers who have achieved impact through outstanding research, knowledge exchange activities, collaborative partnerships and engagement with different communities.
Each winner receives a prize of £10,000 to be spent on furthering knowledge exchange, public engagement, or other communications activities to promote the economic and social impact of their research.
Prof Jennifer Rubin, ESRC Executive Chair, said: “The winners and finalists in this year’s ESRC Celebrating Impact Prize competition have very clearly demonstrated the impact of their work including its relevance and importance to improving lives.
“All of these outstanding researchers are already contributing to policy debates in their specialist areas and their influence will likely be felt for many years to come.”