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Alice Pell

Alice Pell


115 Day Hall
(607) 255-7993

Many of my activities are related to the Cornell International Institute for Food, Agriculture and Development (CIIFAD), Cornell`s program for poverty alleviation and sustainable rural development for developing countries which I direct. Most of my research focuses on tropical farming systems, with an emphasis on Africa and Asia. The centerpiece of my research is an interdisciplinary project on the relationship between poverty and environmental degradation in the densely populated Kenyan highlands. This project is funded by the National Science Foundation`s Biocomplexity program for Coupled Natural and Human Systems. We have been working with a team of economists, soil scientists and rural sociologists to develop a dynamic bioeconomic model of smallholder crop-livestock systems. Understanding how farmers respond to decreases in soil fertility resulting in reduced crop and animal productivity is an important step in poverty reduction. Our collaborators on this project are the Kenyan Agricultural Research Institute and the International Center for Research in Agroforestry. We have been involved in the development of the livestock component of the model and have been exploring the roles of animals in nutrient cycling and maintenance of soil fertility in areas with severe soil degradation. In addition, I have been involved in the West Africa Water Initiative (Mali, Niger and Ghana) that includes an interdisciplinary approach to improving water quality and the efficiency with which water is used. This project represents a novel collaboration between NGOs, foundations, industrial trade associations, universities and a service club. We are working on community forestry projects and university strengthening in Afghanistan. CIIFAD also has initiated an M.P.S. project in International Agriculture and Rural Development in integrated watershed management for twenty Ethiopian students in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia. For more details on these projects, see the CIIFAD website (

Research Focus

My research program currently includes two elements: modeling, and nutrition with considerable emphasis on African crop-livestock systems. Our National Science Foundation Biocomplexity project on “Homeostasis and Degradation in Fragile Tropical Agroecosystems” has required considerable attention. This 5-year, interdisciplinary project involves study of the relationship between poverty dynamics and environmental degradation at two densely populated sites in the Kenyan highlands. We are conducting empirical research in disciplines as diverse as sociology, molecular microbial ecology, development economics, soil science and animal nutrition. These data will be used to develop a dynamic model to characterize interactions between smallholder farmers and their environment. Three projects are underway in Afghanistan: 1) a community forestry project with Global Partners for Afghanistan funded by USAID, 2) a project with the University of California-Davis and Purdue University to strengthen the capacity of the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock to develop extension programs, and 3) participation in a consortium with Purdue University to strengthen Afghan universities. I envision that integrative research in Africa will remain a strong focus of my research program.

Outreach and Extension Focus

International outreach is part of my responsibility as director of CIIFAD. This involves both field-based presentations based on data from on-going research in Kenya and elsewhere and reports on other research and training programs of use to our target population. For example, this year I have given talks in both Afghanistan and Zambia to students and farm groups. In Zambia, I worked with a veterinary student to develop a training manual for a goat program that reached ~5,000 farmers. I also have given presentations to several groups in the United States including Catholic Relief Services, Partners in Health and St. Michael’s College on CIIFAD’s teaching, research and outreach projects. Our international projects in Ghana, Niger, Mali, Kenya, Ethiopia, South Africa and Afghanistan all involve important outreach activities for farmers and educators

Selected Publications

Journal Publications