Addressing Hunger through International Development

A conversation with MIB alumnus Daiki Tajima
Daiki Tajima poses in front of a banner for the United Nations World Food Programme

For Daiki Tajima MIB18, pursuing a career in international development was a profound passion that he never abandoned, even as he was frequently pulled towards the private sector early in his career. Today, as a graduate of The Fletcher School's MIB program, he serves as a budget and programming officer at the United Nations World Food Programme's Regional Bureau in Bangkok.

In line with WFP’s overall objective to end hunger in the world, one of UN’s Sustainability Development Goals (SDG), the primary task for Tajima (or Taji) is to oversee resource management and analyze the shortfalls between necessary food requirements and available resources, especially in Asia’s emerging economies.

During his undergraduate studies in economics, Taji was deeply moved by his visits to orphanages in Mongolia, which fueled his desire to pursue a career in international development. However, his path in the field was not straightforward. Despite his passion, he was left with limited opportunities in international development, particularly after the global financial crisis in 2008, which affected many sectors for several years. Nevertheless, his spirit was resilient, and he continued to volunteer with an NGO supporting microfinance institutions in Cambodia and the Philippines while working with a commercial bank in Japan. He later worked at an accounting firm in India and volunteered with an NGO supporting children with disabilities.

“My original passion was international development, but my background was mostly in the private sector. Volunteering with NGOs was a way to bridge the gap, as I wanted to move to development related work,” he said. 

His passion for international development was further strengthened during his time at Fletcher. While interning in Rwanda as part of the MIB program, he interacted with refugees and was inspired to pursue a career at the intersection of international development and supporting sustainable businesses. This also gave him an opportunity to utilize his skills in the private sector; his knowledge in finance and his accounting experience proved to be useful in supporting refugee entrepreneurs.

According to Taji, the problems of hunger or food scarcity had been viewed as the exclusive responsibility of the development sector. However, he notes that this has since expanded to include the private sector.

“The private sector is a huge part of the food system, from procuring food to reaching out to consumers,” he said. He added that the role of the private sector in the food security ecosystem is also significant, and that the public and private sectors should consider approaches to reducing food waste together. Taji advocates for more private sector participation to improve food security and achieve sustainability in the long term.

“After joining WFP, I realized that over 90 percent of the resources for WFP’s operations in food assistance come from governments, while less than 10 percent are contributed by the private sector, foundations, and individuals. This needs to change,” Taji said. He elaborated that while the number of people suffering from hunger is rising globally, it is only NGOs and governments that are actively participating in the process to solve the issue. “The private sector can contribute not only by providing funding but also by bringing expertise in technology and innovation to achieve zero hunger.”

Today, Taji’s position at WFP is a fusion of his passion, the skills he acquired in the private sector, and his experiences in the development sector. He credited his studies at Fletcher in honing those skills and providing the interdisciplinary perspective required in his current role at WFP. According to him, his knowledge in finance and economics, understanding of the global political landscape, and expertise in cross-cultural communications proved invaluable in executing his duties. Courses like Development Economics taught by Professor Jenny Aker and Development Economics - Policy Analysis as well as Econometrics with Professor Julie Schaffner provided him with structured learning and the necessary insights to apply his experiences from the private sector into development related work. According to him, Professor Alnoor Ebrahim’s courses on leadership have also been useful his current job, which involves a considerable amount of interacting with people and working in teams across cultures and communities.

“I learned a lot about communication, leadership, and teamwork through that course. So, I’m really utilizing those insights today on a multicultural team with tight deadlines,” he said.

Apart from his academic studies, some of Taji’s favorite moments at Fletcher came from his time spent with Ambassachords, a choir group on campus; the various culture nights; and organizing the Fletcher Japan Trek.

“Apart from studying business and international affairs, I was also passionate about music and cultural exchange. I like singing and learning about other cultures. I also enjoyed the Asia and Africa culture nights,” he said.

His passion for music and singing continued even after his time at Fletcher. He participated in the UN Choir team after joining the World Food Programme.

"I think The Fletcher School is an excellent place to pursue your interests and passions while gaining a broader world view through your studies," he said.

Read more about Fletcher’s MIB degree program.