Meet Elizabeth Chishimba-Musonda, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics (AAEC).

Her research interest is at the intersection of food and the environment, development, and applied econometrics.

In addition to her academics, Elizabeth believes in making the most of her graduate school experience. She is an active member of the student body at Virginia Tech and has served as Secretary General for the African Graduate Student Organization (AGSO) and Social Chair for the AAEC Graduate Student Association. She is also a member of the Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Related Sciences (MANRRS).

Wildflowers with bees
Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Chishimba-Musonda.


As a 2022 Sadie Research Scholar, Elizabeth had the opportunity to share her research titled “Does a Nutrition Sensitive Agricultural Program Improve Women Nutrition Status: Evidence from the Feed the Future Initiative in Eastern Zambia” at the Sadie Collective held in February 2022 with the aim of using economic research to promote livelihoods.

Elizabeth is a Fulbright Alumni. Her Fulbright scholarship was at The University of Arizona, where she pursued her master's in Agricultural and Resource Economics from 2016 to 2018.


She is part of an interdisciplinary research team at Virginia Tech working on the bee-friendly beef project. The objective of this project is to create biodiverse grazing systems by integrating wildflowers and/or native grasses into tall fescue-dominated grazing systems, especially in the Southeastern United States. Some of the advantages of wildflower and/or native grass-enhanced grazing systems is that they promote the restoration of pollinator populations, which have been declining in recent years.

However, establishing and maintaining wildflowers and/or native grass pasture systems is costly and more management intensive than conventional grazing systems. Thus, incentives must be created for beef cattle producers to adopt these systems. Elizabeth's role is to conduct economic analyses to aid the identification of incentives that can be used to encourage beef producers to contribute to the restoration of pollinator populations by adopting and maintaining wildflower and native grass-enhanced pastures on their ranches.

She is currently studying consumers' willingness to pay for beef with pollinator-friendly attributes. Preliminary results from a nationwide choice experiment show that on average, consumers are willing to pay $1.06 more per pound for ground beef with pollinator-friendly attributes.

On the producer level, they are in the process of evaluating the willingness to adopt and profitability of biodiverse grasslands among beef cattle producers in Virginia.

This research is conducted in collaboration with her advisor Catherine Larochelle, AAEC associate professor. Elizabeth says it has been an honor to receive mentorship from Larochelle as she continues to work on her research.

"Elizabeth is a meticulous and hardworking researcher. It is a pleasure working with her. She has led the design and implementation of the consumer willingness to pay for bee-friendly beef research. She completed the IRB, designed the choice experiment, conducted focus groups, and oversaw the data collection process. She has made good progress with data analysis and manuscript write-up. She presented her research findings at the 2022 Agricultural and Applied Economics Annual Meeting," said  Larochelle


Elizabeth would like to continue research on food production systems that are environmentally friendly as well as improving nutrition outcomes for individuals in high and low-income countries.

She hopes for a career that gives her the opportunity to conduct research and contribute to human development and skill building. Elizabeth would also like to leverage her experience in developmental research from Tango International and Palms Associates to conduct policy-relevant research that helps to address some of the challenges faced by communities. Her analytical skills would enable her to contribute meaningfully to the industry as well.