Updated: Jul 12, 2022
Text by Luz Bergersen, Oslo
Images by Aibee Rodriguez-Gaur, PhD
Welcoming to Roots & Wings Filipino-European "Galing Circle" of outstanding personalities a very unassuming lady, whose studies and work in her special fields of endeavour - Agriculture and Applied Economics, are highly relevant and in demand today.
Meet Divinia Gracia P. Rodriguez-Gaur, PhD in Agricultural and Applied Economics. Aibee holds a BS in Agriculture Economics (2001) cum laude, from the University of the Philippines at Los Banos. She has an MS in the same field at the Texas Tech University, USA and a PhD in Agriculture and Applied Economics (2014) from the University of Illinois USA.
Why specialize in Agricultural Economics?
«My involvement and experience in IRRI, and prior research work have strengthened my interest in agriculture and its role in delivering food security, environmental sustainabilty, and economic opportunities. This has made me further motivated to do research in these topics. It requires research that combines rigorous understanding of agriculture, economics, and policies. This has been the driving force behind my decision to pursue a PhD in Agricultural and Applied Economics at the Universirty of Illinois».
Aibee’s research work and interests are in the fields of Environmental and production economics, impact evaluation (applied econometrics), family and consumer economics, and development economics. Her expertise, extensive research work, and knowledge in this important field would surely be much in demand in the home country, the Philippines- where agricultural sufficiency is a major national concern.
IRRI In the Philippines, Aibee had stints as Agricultural and Applied Economist at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and as Research Associate at the UP Los Banos Department of Agriculture. She also worked as Team Leader in similar scientific studies in Cambodia and Vietnam.
Aibee’s academic awards, honours, acknowledgements, scholarships, include a Fulbright-Philippine Agricultural Scholarship Program Grant in 2004, Future Leaders Forum Student Scholarship Program, Association for International Agriculture and Rural Development in 2012 and Outstanding Masters Thesis Award, US Southern Agricultural Economics Association in 2017.
Love for teaching Aside from her research work, teaching economics has been an important part of Aibee’s graduate career.
«Teaching gives me an opportunity to enhance my knowledge and skills in economics, and my interaction with students give me more perspectives in my own research. I have almost four years of teaching experience as instructor at Texas Tech University, and as Teaching Assistant at the University of Illinois. I have taught undergraduate courses in introductory microeconomics, statistical methods, financial decision-making, and the world food economics and was ‘commended’ at the University of Illinois for teaching introductory microeconomics.»
Aside from her work in the Philippines and Norway, Aibee has research experience in Cambodia, Vietnam, Denmark, France, Greece, Romania, Ghana, Malawi, Senegal, India and the USA.
RICE is LIFE, a basic staple food. At a time when rice, staple food in the Philippines and Asia, is a major social and economic issue, I ask Aibee Rodriguez, Filipina agricultural economist, now working in Norway about her views and opinions.
Is it possible to lower the price of rice, to make it affordable to all consumers?
«It is not yet possible. Economists believe that the cost of production and price of rice affect farmer’s production decisions. Fertilizer prices have been rising globally. Reducing the price of rice would discourage our farmers to produce rice and threaten rice supplies. In fact, there are studies that show the declining rice production was partly due to lower rice prices.»
Is it economically feasible for farmers?
«While lower rice prices make rice more affordable for Filipino consumers, our rice farmers, especially the small rice producers, will suffer. The farmers’ goal is to maximise their profits. With higher fertilizer cost and lower price of rice, they will not get more money from their harvest. They will have very little profit or none at all. One way to lower rice prices possible is to reduce the cost of fertilizers. Many nations including the Philippines provide fertilizer subsidies to farmers to ensure the fertilizer availability and consumption. The increase in fertilizer costs also calls for effective fertilizer management.»
In Norway. Aibee currently works as researcher at the Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research (NIBIO). Aibee’s work as an instructor, researcher, author of articles and reviews printed in journal publications, are important and valuable contributions and references into this field and scientific work..
Dr Aibee’s long list of work continues. Her current projects include Optimal strategies to retain and re-use water and nutrients in small agricultural catchments across different soil-climatic regions in Europe (https://www.optain.eu); Stepping-up IPM decision support for crop protection (https://ipmdecisions.net/): Economic valuation of non-market goods and services; Empowering Small-scale Farmers towards Sustainable Development Goals through Participative, Innovative and Sustainable Livestock and Poultry Value Chains in Ghana, Kenya, and Senegal (https://sp3ar.eu/); Building Climate Resilience of Indian Smallholders through Sustainable Intensification and Agroecological Farming Systems to Strengthen Food and Nutrition Security (http://www.resilienceindia.org); Sino-European innovative green and smart cities in EU and China (https://www.siegreen.eu/); and Technological Innovation to support environmentally-friendly food production and food safety under a changing climate – opportunities and challenges for Norway-China cooperation (https://www.nibio.no/en/projects/sinograin-ii).
On the private front, Aibee is married to Dr. Namit Gaur, high achiever in his own right, with a PhD in Biomedical Engineering from Washington University at St Louis. They met in the USA while doing their graduate studies. They live in Ås, a district outside Oslo, and on weekends both enjoy walking in the forest and learning the Norwegian language.
Do you have a message to aspiring Filipinos in Norway, the Euro-Pinoy youth, and in particular anyone who aspires to follow a similar path?
«If anyone wants to pursue graduate studies, I would encourage them to explore different scholarship and funding opportunities out there. For example in the Philippines, check out the Philippine-American Educational Foundation, also known as the Fullbright Commission in the Philippines (https://fullbright.org.ph). Here in Norway, there are a lot of opportunities for those who want to pursue PhDs. They will also be employed full-time.»
You may reach Dr Aubee Rodriguez-Gaur here https://nibio.no/en/employees/divina-gracia-p.rodriguez