Sumire Doi

MPS '22, Global Development
  • Hometown: I grew up in many places!
  • Colleges attended and degree earned: Middlebury College: B.A. Theatre and Political Science joint major; French and African Studies double minor
What are the big challenges you want to tackle in the world?

I hope I can contribute to achieving the world with zero hunger, where farmers can produce food with pride and dignity, by formulating and implementing policies to increase food security and to trigger inclusive economic growth.

What were you doing before the MPS program?

I was the Head of Agriculture and Rural Development Team at Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) Senegal Office. I led a team of five to formulate new technical and financial cooperation projects, to monitor and evaluate ongoing/past projects, and to maintain relations with the government and donor/private sector partners in the Gambia and the agriculture and rural development sector of Senegal.

A highlight of this work was overseeing 3 ongoing technical cooperation projects: rice production, horticulture marketing, and resilience building equivalent to 23.5 million USD in total. Particular focus was placed on the management of rice project which aims to increase production in Northern Senegal through capacity development in cultivation techniques and irrigation infrastructure maintenance, and service improvement of machine operators and rice millers. Responsibilities included monitoring of progress through site visits and reports from experts on the ground, and discussions with government officials and experts to resolve project issues. One notable achievement of the project is the approval of Rice Production Masterplan in Northern Senegal by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Equipment.

What does global development mean to you?

In an increasingly interconnected world, your happiness is my happiness; your problem is my problem. I see global development as the local and international effort to solve global challenges through economic transformations and human development, which often requires a paradigm shift. It is important for me that the global development process is human-centered and ensures self-determination of the stakeholder individuals and states. At a personal level, it is about keeping the passion alive to bring into reality what an idealistic 8-year-old me had imagined how the world would be by the time I become an adult.

What has been the most memorable or impactful experience of your career so far?

When I was in charge of a financial cooperation project in Peru to close 18 existing open-dumping sites across the country using environmentally-conscious technology and livelihood improvement measures, I interviewed a waste picker in one of the sites. A father of four had been picking waste at the site for years to support his family, and he had just been briefed by a government official that he will be getting a job at the hygenic recycling sorting site once the open-dumping site closes. When I asked him about his hopes for the new job, he responded “Nothing. No change is better.” I was shocked by the powerlessness in his words. No resident seminars or monetary compensation or words of reassurance would be enough to make people feel secure, because desire for change is not inherent in human beings. All the organizational protocols for environmental and social considerations I learned in Tokyo was useless for a man who already felt completely voiceless. I sometimes get disillusioned by my job from constant paper pushing across the globe, but when I saw not only the economic impact but the emotional impact a project could have on the stakeholders, I realized that I had the power and the responsibility to improve the system to become more human-centric to cater to the needs of the weakest.

How do you envision your MPS degree contributing to your career?

My long-term career goal is to become an agenda-setter — I want to have a strong voice backed by knowledge and experience on development issues, create innovative programs, urge multiple stakeholders to take action, and ultimately build a movement in the development industry. This MPS degree at Cornell would enable me to gain core knowledge in agriculture, a holistic view of development, and a network of partners that will empower me to tackle diverse challenges that I may face in achieving my career goals.

Do you have any aspirations for what you’d like to focus on in your MPS problem-solving project?

I am interested in how the government can encourage and regulate the process of agricultural development. For my capstone project, I am thinking of devising a recommendation for intervention by comparing different governmental extension systems and policies in several countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, perhaps focusing on technology adoption for rice production.

Tell us a fun fact about you.

I like reading safety instructions in airplane seat pockets to laugh at the terrible drawings and to simulate survival strategy in case of a crash.

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