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Jennifer Burney's National Geographic Interview about her Work on Solar Irrigation

Explorer of the Week: Jennifer Burney

09/20/2012
Amy Bucci, News Watch, National Geographic

Jennifer Burney, named a National Geographic Emerging Explorer in 2011, continues her work on agricultural solutions for struggling farmers. She observes, for example, that “as great as local organic food may be in my own kitchen, we’ll never feed the whole world that way. Like it or not, ‘Big Agriculture’ is why we’ve been able to sustain a hungry planet; and thanks to investments in technology, significant climate impact has been mitigated.” One key contribution she made was introducing solar irrigation to farmers in Benin, Africa.

What project are you working on now?
I’m working on a few different things. First, I’m looking at different kinds of irrigation systems for smallholder farmers in dry climates around the world. Do they help farmers and their families earn income and escape poverty permanently? Do they help communities adapt to climate change? Can these systems be environmentally sustainable? Second, I’m looking at the ways air pollution affects our ability to grow food and trying to quantify the agricultural benefits of cleaning up our air. Finally, I’m working to understand and quantify all the different ways energy is used in food production, processing, and consumption. I’m interested in helping chart a realistic pathway for greening the global food system.

Click here to read the full interview.


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Jennifer Burney is currently Assistant Professor at IR/PS. She is also an affiliate of Stanford University's Program on Food Security and the Environment (FSE), where she was previously a postdoctoral researcher. Jennifer is a physicist by training whose research focuses on simultaneously achieving global food security and mitigating climate change. She designs, implements, and evaluates technologies for poverty alleviation and agricultural adaptation, and she studies the links between energy poverty and food and nutrition security, the mechanisms by which energy services can help alleviate poverty, and the environmental impacts of food production and consumption.