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  • Department of Global Development
  • Agriculture
  • Digital Agriculture
  • Global Development
The intersection between agriculture and technology drove Elena Setiadarma ’21 to explore innovative ways to take her passion for issues of gender and income inequality and transform her ideas into reality. A double major in International Agriculture and Rural Development (IARD) and Information Science, Elena talks to us about her work in global development – in the classroom, and out in the field. 

What are the big challenges you want to tackle in the world?

As a woman and a student from Indonesia, I care about a variety of social issues affecting my country and similar developing economies – particularly challenges related to gender and income inequality. Recognizing that not many of my fellow Indonesians are able to study abroad, I feel grateful to have the opportunity to study at Cornell and am in the process of developing a stronger understanding of how I can personally address these issues. Through this learning process, I hope to mobilize greater opportunities for my friends at home and members of the greater global community who are equally deserving of this life-changing experience.

Experiential learning is a big part of what Global Development is all about. Where did your learning opportunities take you, and how did those experiences help you grow?

In the summer of 2019 I had the exciting opportunity to work as a TCI Global Fellow – a position made available by the Tata-Cornell Institute for Agriculture and Nutrition and the CALS Global Fellows program. In my line of work, I was responsible for studying key constraints that prevented fair market access and crop pricing for smallholder tomato farmers in Andhra Pradesh, a state on India’s east coast along the Bay of Bengal with a population larger than Spain.

While this was not my first time in India, my summer field experience gave me the opportunity to witness first-hand the vast socioeconomic inequalities that exist among different stakeholders across the country’s agricultural value chain. As one farmer exclaimed: “When we sell [our tomatoes] to the market, the commission agent gets profit from us. We, the farmers, have to accept whatever price they give – good or bad – and return to the farm.” I found this to be a common response in conversations with different tomato farmers across the Madanapalle region.

Learning about the difference in bargaining power between farmers and market stakeholders and how it has personally impacted the lives of people in rural communities provided context to the theoretical knowledge I’ve cultivated at Cornell. What I learned in the field reinforced my understanding of how my skills, experiences, and interests fit in the world of agricultural development.

Fieldwork in a foreign country can be unpredictable and challenging, but getting outside my comfort zone gave me the space to grow. Conducting global research means overcoming language barriers, practicing how to ask thoughtful questions, and presenting and consolidating findings from the field. My experience not only strengthened my qualitative research skills, but provided a once-in-a-lifetime learning opportunity. Global Development gave me the courage to tackle new challenges.

About Elena
Hometown: Jakarta, Indonesia
Majors: International Agriculture and Rural Development; Information Science
Fave study spot: Mann Library

How did you think your friends would describe you in three words?

Compassionate, driven, and hard-working.

How has your time here at Cornell CALS has changed you?

Cornell CALS has offered me multiple learning opportunities to grow as a student and realize my responsibilities as a global citizen. From conducting field-based research as a CALS Global Fellow with the Tata-Cornell Institute for Agriculture and Development to serving as a teaching assistant for Professor Chris Barrett’s AEM 2000 Contemporary Controversies in the Global Economy course, CALS helped contextualize my interests in global development. The flexibility to pursue a double major gave me a chance to explore the intersection of agriculture and technology and think through ways to advance rural development. These opportunities made available through CALS reinforced how much I enjoy the process of ideating, designing and implementing ways to enforce sustainable impact across a wide range of issues I care about. This inherent desire to think beyond borders and transform ideas into reality is what continues to shape my actions and decisions today.

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