Abdul-Rahim Abdulai’s research at Grenfell Campus has landed him a prestigious scholarship at the University of Guelph.
Mr. Abdulai, who hails from Tamale, Ghana, is one of four recipients of an Arrell Food Institute graduate scholarship, valued at $50,000. He will graduate this week from Grenfell’s master of arts in environmental policy. Upon graduation he will undertake a PhD in Guelph’s Department of Geography, Environment and Geomatics where he will examine the social disruptions of new and emerging agricultural technologies within food systems.
His research at Grenfell is titled Motivating the future farmers? Understanding farmer attraction and retention policy interventions in Newfoundland and Labrador’s agriculture.
“My research basically looks into how we can make more people in the province interested in taking up agriculture by understanding the motivations of those in the sector,” he said.
He notes that the number of farmers in this province is in decline, and those who do farm are older in age.
“My study aimed to understand the factors that influence the decision to farm, the reinforcements that keep people sustained in farming and how those link to issues of attraction and retention of farmers in the province.”
Mr. Abdulai drew his information from interviews with farmers and agricultural officials, as well as policy document reviews. His study showed the need for autonomy, competence and relatedness influence people’s interest to engage in agriculture. But also that even when people have a general interest and desire to farm, there are factors that are needed to “turn interest into action,”– a connection to the consumer, an active farming community and government support, just to name a few.
“If Newfoundland is ever going to meet its targets of doubling food production, as set out by the provincial government, then the west coast is going to be instrumental.”
The study, which he conducted under the supervision of Dr. Roza Tchoukaleyska and with committee members Dr. Gabriela Sabau and Dr. Daniel Nadolny, also found that the agricultural policy setting in Newfoundland and Labrador is hampered by structural issues which undermine farmer attraction and retention in the province.
Mr. Abdulai suggests a lack of policy attention to the diverse motivations of farmers and a general focus on large scale farmers are impediments to those who wish to experiment or work in less conventional farm settings.
He said his time at Memorial University’s Grenfell Campus presented him with opportunities both inside and outside the classroom that helped shaped his work and personal development. Studying on the west coast of Newfoundland played directly into the results of his research.
“If Newfoundland is ever going to meet its targets of doubling food production as set out by the provincial government, then the west coast is going to be instrumental in the process,” he said.
“Despite the limited support for agriculture by our soils, the west coast still remains one of the most viable agricultural regions in the province, and can become the agricultural hub for innovation that will spur food production. And this can partly be made possible by motivating people to take up farming in this region.”
Though he will leave shortly to travel to Ontario, Mr. Abdulai said he will always consider Grenfell as his home.
“I want to thank the Grenfell community for helping to make me a better person,” he said. “In fact, I have found a new home, and I am only moving away, but I will always have my one foot in this community.”
Mr. Abdulai crossed the stage at the Memorial’s fall session of convocation, which took place Oct. 4 at Arts and Culture Centre in Corner Brook.
Dr. Anne Martin-Matthews, a researcher in gerontology and aging, was awarded an honorary degree at that session. Dr. Martin-Matthews, who completed her bachelor of arts degree at Memorial University and her master’s and doctoral degrees at McMaster University, has been instrumental in the formation of research and policy on aging in Canada.