The first woman to be awarded a Ph.D. in agricultural economics by Cornell University. Uma Lele is President Elect of the International Association of Agricultural Economists (IAAE) since July 2018. Since leaving services of the World Bank she has operated as an independent scholar and development economist and is affiliated with the Institute of Economic Growth, Delhi. She has five decades of experience in research, operations, policy analysis, and evaluation in the World Bank, universities and international organizations. Among her notable works are Food Grain Marketing in India: Private Performance and Public Policy (1973), The Design of Rural Development: Lessons from Africa (1976), Managing Agricultural Development in Africa (1991), Transitions in Development: From Aid to Capital Flows (1991), Intellectual Property Rights in Agriculture: The World Bank’s Role in Assisting Borrower and Member Countries (1999), and Managing a Global Resource: Challenges of Forest Conservation and Development (2002). She has also written papers on Agricultural Productivity Growth and Structural Transformation, and on the changing roles of forests and water in the course of economic development. As Senior Advisor in the World Bank’s Operations Evaluation Department (now called the Independent Evaluation Group), she led evaluations of the World Bank’s Forest Strategy (2002), the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) (2003), and the World Bank’s approach to global programs (2005).
She co-chaired an International Taskforce of the China Council on Environment and Development on Forests and Grasslands (2000-2002), served on the panel for the independent external evaluation of the Food and Agriculture Organization (2007), and led a team which co-authored a theme paper for the first Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD 1) leading to the formation of a Roadmap. She has served on numerous advisory, expert and award panels in international organizations including on the Sasakawa 2000 Program (1992-94), the World Food Prize (1987-94) and the MacArthur Foundation (1991-95). She was a Graduate Research Professor (1991-1995) and Director of International Studies (1992-93) at the University of Florida, co-chaired an international taskforce on Global Research on the Environmental and Agricultural Nexus (GREAN) (1992-95), and established and directed the Global Development Initiative of the Carter Center and the Carnegie Corporation (1992-93). She was on the founding board of the CGIAR’s Centre for International Policy Research (1993) and a member of the CGIAR’s Technical Advisory Committee (1994-95). She served, among other roles, on the Technical Advisory Committee of the Global Water Partnership and on the Board of Commissioners of 3IE. She serves on the external advisory panel of the Robert D. Daugherty Institute of Water for Food in Nebraska. She is Fellow of the American Agricultural and Applied Economic Association and of India’s National Academy of Agricultural Sciences, the Indian Society of Agricultural Economics conferred Fellowship of ISAE in 2014 and the Agricultural Economics Research Association in 2018 for her lifetime contribution to the field of Agricultural Economics and Rural Development. She was awarded the B.P. Pal Award (2015-2017), the M.S. Swaminathan Award (2017), and the Clifton Wharton Award (2018). In 2011 she established an award for Best Research on Gender in Agriculture at the International Agricultural Economic Association, and in 2013 she established the Uma Lele Mentorship Program for students from developing countries at the American Agricultural Economic Association.