Seid Nuru from Ethiopia received doctoral degree in Economics

January 09, 2008.  

Seid Nuru Ali from Ethiopia


Seid Nuru Ali from Ethiopia did his PhD study at ZEF from October 2004 until December 2007, when he received his doctoral degree from the University of Göttingen, Faculty of Economic Sciences. He wrote his dissertation on “Rural Livelihood, Migration, and Human Capital Formation: The Ethiopian Case”.





Q.: Why did you decide to come to ZEF to do your PhD?


A.: Well, I liked the interdisciplinary approach of the program at ZEF. I also had information from fellow Ethiopians that ZEF has an enabling environment for research. This impression was reinforced by my experience: Working in the interdisciplinary environment and the intercultural aspects were quite inspiring. Also, ZEF’s policy on conducting field research in developing countries, usually in the respective home countries, really is a pioneering thing that the center can be proud of. As for me, there is nothing more important than making both theory and practice possible for researchers.



Q.: Tell us something about your PhD research


A.: The overall outcome supports the importance of rural-urban linkages on the overall transformation process of developing counties from a predominantly agrarian subsistent economy to knowledge based modern economy. In particular, it shows the importance of location (proximity to urban centers) to facilitate the interaction of rural livelihood, migration, and human capital formation as pillars of rural transformation. In general, it has implications for sectorally balanced development strategy wherein rural based development endeavors that target on the supply side should be paralleled by efforts that augment the demand side, namely urban development. The need for decentralization of the seemingly amorphous cities in developing countries and townships are implied.


Q.: And how was your field work going?


A.: I did my field research in Ethiopia, my home country. The research focused on issues related to crop choice and rural income, rural-urban migration, and sustainable rural education. To collect data, I conducted a survey. Coordinating this survey was not that easy. We had to travel on foot on difficult terrain for almost three hours. It was a trying moment for most of the members of the team. It was a real experience. But the irony is that this is almost a daily routine for the villagers operating on their farm. I myself was born in one of the remotest villages covered by the study. What shocked me most was the fact that almost all the trees and bushes that existed some twenty years ago are no more there and the ever green land on which I used to keep cattle before I leave the place completely changed to something barren.


Q.: What was the most striking outcome of your research?


A.: Particularly interesting for me was the result on the education decision model. Traditionally, education is considered to be one of the driving forces of migration from rural areas to urban centers. After applying a series of econometric techniques on the data which we had collected from Ethiopian villages, we found that prospects of migration to urban areas induce individuals in the rural areas to invest in education. That means that when parents in rural areas decide to send their children to school in these areas they develop trust in education as a means of creating better opportunities for their children for finding a job outside of agriculture, preferably in urban centers. Thus, they don’t want their children to be educated for the sake of being an educated farmer, because they think that they know how to do agriculture anyway.


It is true that education induces rural-urban migration. But at the same time, the probability of success of the first cohort of students in finding attractive jobs in urban centers after graduation highly determines the decision of the next cohorts of students (through their parents) on investing in purposeful education. The implication is that pessimism in prospects of migration due to low urbanization and a deliberate policy intervention to discourage rural-urban migration could result in an under-investment in a critically needed human capital formation in rural areas.



Q.: So what are you going to do now you finished your PhD?


A.: I strongly believe that I have been fairly equipped with the necessary research toolkit during my stay at ZEF so far. The best and probably lifetime school awaits me yet. I am exactly at the turning point just focusing on which way I should go. I will be working at ZEF for a couple of months. And that will take me to the prelude of the next chapter of my life.



Q.: How would you summarize your experience at ZEF as a host institute and in Germany as a host country?


A.: Having looked at the international composition of students at ZF, and the kind of research topics the Center has been and is working on, I must say ZEF should be proud of being a partner of development endeavors, and of being a friend of the poor not just by handing out the fish but by equipping practitioners with the fishing net. I am sure that the Center will continue being a center of academic excellence and a powerhouse of development research.


For me, the best school to learn a great deal from was society itself. To that end, I believe that I learned a lot from German people in many aspects and I found those values most relevant to my country in her endeavors towards ensuring development and prosperity.


Finally, please allow me to take this opportunity to thank my supporters DAAD, GTZ, BMZ, and ZEF for having made my study and my stay in this wonderful, lovely and inspiring country possible. I am also grateful to the German taxpayers through these institutions.



Alma van der Veen