"EfD gave me a smooth transition to my home country after my studies in Europe", says Paul Maina Guthiga, research fellow of EfD in Kenya. He is currently focusing on the anticipated economics impacts of implementing Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) mitigation scheme, as well as ongoing forest reforms in Kenya.
Paul Maina Guthiga holds a PhD in Agricultural Economics from the University of Bonn in Germany, and was offered a post doc position there. Though, the focal areas of the Environment for Development initiative research matched his interests, and he chose to go back to Kenya when EfD Kenya offered him a post doc position. The Kenyan EfD Center is hosted by Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis (KIPPRA).
"Overall, as much as possible, highly trained people should be supported and encouraged to work in their home countries where their marginal contribution to their society is much higher compared to working in developed countries", says Guthiga.
"Though, I do not have one blanket view on this issue but rather two contrasting views; on one hand the opportunity to migrate and work abroad offers individuals an opportunity to earn income and develop careers that they might not have had in their home country. In addition, it enables them gain experience that would be useful to their countries should they choose to return back. On the other hand it is a real threat in many countries especially those that have limited number of highly trained manpower."
Guthiga says EfD provided him a springboard to launch into his career in natural resource and environmental economics. He likes the interaction within the wider EfD network in terms of exchange of ideas and building networks. EfD funding has enabled him to attend important international conferences and workshops to share his ideas and learn from the wider global research community.
"I have been enriched through my interactions with the wider EfD family. My perspective on environmental issues has been broadened, and I have formed a wider network of colleagues with interest in environmental economics", he says.
As with many professionals it was partly chance and partly choice that made Guthiga become an environmental economist. His first degree was in agriculture, but towards the end of his studies he developed interest in economics and specialised in agricultural economics. Consequently, he mastered in agricultural economics but later on he developed interest in natural resource and environmental economics.
What do you like the most with your profession?
"The opportunity to analyse complex, real-life natural resource and environmental problems, from an economic point of view and provide insights into how they can be addressed."
What is the worst part of it?
"As with most research, it tends to take most of my time, occasionally even important family time!" For the last one year Guthiga has been working as a post-doc researcher within the EfD Kenya. His broad areas of interest include economics of biodiversity conservation, environmental valuation, natural resource governance and economics of climate change. Within the international network of EfD researchers, Guthiga is now a theme leader for the theme "Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) and Land Use Change".
Generally environmental issues have not been very prominent in policy circles in the past, according to Dr Guthiga. But in 1999 the Kenyan parliament passed a law that coordinates all environmental issues in the country.
"Still, there are proportionately few Kenyan researchers in these very important areas, such as economic aspects of fisheries, forestry, climate change, and environmental policy. These research areas are being addressed by the EfD initiative, and we aim to make a contribution also to policy", says Guthiga.
It was through the KIPPRA website Paul Maina Guthiga come to know about EfD Kenya. Before leaving Kenya for his PhD studies, he worked briefly at KIPPRA as a research assistant. After leaving, he occasionally visited their website, and one day, found the advert of the Environment for Development initiative. Now, he intends to stay with EfD in the foreseeable future.
By Karin Backteman