TakePart photo essay explores climate resilience with farmers in Guatemala

Photojournalist Martin do Nascimento recently traveled to Guatemala’s Western Highlands to explore the Horticulture Innovation Lab’s new project helping farmers use climate-smart agricultural practices for growing vegetables.

His photo essay was published in the digital magazine TakePart, called “See the Simple Way These Farmers Are Outsmarting Climate Change.”

The essay shows us this story in beautiful, sweeping photos. Here is how Nascimento introduces his story:

“For many, the term ‘climate change’ brings to mind the image of a polar bear on a shrinking sheet of ice somewhere far off in the Arctic.

“Consider another image: A tired farmer looks out fearfully over a craggy field and wonders how he’ll grow the crops to keep his family fed.

“Pedro Esteban is that farmer, and to him, climate change is no abstraction. Continue reading TakePart photo essay explores climate resilience with farmers in Guatemala

MásRiego project starts in Guatemala

Expanding irrigation and climate-smart farming to Guatemala

An international team led by UC Davis is working to connect 9,000 rural households in Guatemala with improved water management and climate-smart agriculture strategies, to increase food security and reduce poverty.

Called MásRiego (“more irrigation”), the project aims to increase farmers’ incomes and their use of climate-smart strategies, including drip irrigation, rainwater harvesting, reduced tillage, mulch use and diverse crop rotation. To enable farmers to adopt these new practices, the team will not only provide trainings but also build partnerships to increase farmers’ access to needed microcredit financing and irrigation equipment.

“The opportunity to impact so many farmers’ lives on this scale is exciting,” said Beth Mitcham, director of the Horticulture Innovation Lab. “We’re taking lessons learned from our previous research — in Guatemala, Honduras and Cambodia — and building a team to help more small-scale farmers apply our findings and successfully use these innovative practices.”

The new project is part of the U.S. government’s Feed the Future initiative. It represents an additional $3.4 million investment in the UC Davis-led Horticulture Innovation Lab by the U.S. Agency for International Development’s mission in Guatemala.

Partnering with UC Davis is an international team with representatives from Centro de Paz Bárbara Ford in Guatemala; Universidad Rafael Landívar in Guatemala; the Panamerican Agricultural School, Zamorano, in Honduras; Kansas State University; and North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. Continue reading MásRiego project starts in Guatemala

Guatemala: Building partnerships for new irrigation project

In late August, I was part of the Horticulture Innovation Lab team who traveled to the Western Highlands of Guatemala to finalize plans for an upcoming project called MásRiego (“more irrigation” in Spanish). We will officially announce and describe this project at a later time, but I would like to tell you about our trip and the things we learned.

The Feed the Future zone of influence in Guatemala lies in the Western Highlands where water is scarce and farming is done on steep slopes. Several USAID partners work in this region in a concerted effort to reduce poverty and rates of stunting. We traveled to this region to learn about the USAID partners’ strategies and look for synergies for MásRiego. Our team consisted of Manny Reyes and Ruth McDaniel of North Carolina A&T State University, and Britta Hansen accompanied me (Amanda Crump) from the Horticulture Innovation Lab at UC Davis. We spent a lot of time with the projects of Save the Children, Catholic Relief Services, Counterpart International, and the Guatemalan Exporters’ Association (AGEXPORT).

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From right: Carlos Cardenas, Save the Children’s Guatemala Country Director, and Rodrigo Arias, Save the Children’s Food Security Chief of Party, explain their demonstration farm to Britta Hansen, Manny Reyes, and Ruth McDaniel.

Save the Children’s PAISANO project works with families to improve homestead food production and nutrition. Part of their strategy is to develop Continue reading Guatemala: Building partnerships for new irrigation project

Reducing drudgery while improving soil for Cambodian vegetable farmers

A version of this article originally appeared in the Feed the Future newsletter.

Most commonly used with field crops, conservation agriculture combines three practices that help farmers invest in soil health, specifically:

  1. minimal soil disturbance (“no till”),
  2. continuous mulch cover, and
  3. rotating diverse crops.

These practices can also reduce labor and reduce water evaporation from the soil.

Manuel Reyes, professor at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, has helped farmers in many countries improve their soil and use water efficiently. In doing so, he has also partnered with three Feed the Future Innovation Labs, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Beginning in 2010, Reyes started working with farmers in Cambodia on conservation agriculture for field crops, with an international team supported by the SANREM Innovation Lab. Two year later, the team worked with 56 households over 149 hectares to use conservation agriculture principles.

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Women farmers in Cambodia are combining drip irrigation with conservation agriculture to grow vegetables with less drudgery, while improving soil health. (Photo by Manuel Reyes, NC A&T)

After testing conservation agriculture practices with vegetable crops in the United States, Reyes expanded his conservation agriculture work in Cambodia to focus on vegetable farmers. Now with additional funding from the Horticulture Innovation Lab, he added drip irrigation to conservation agriculture practices for vegetable farmers. This research sought to find whether combining these practices could reduce labor needs, increase yield, increase income and ultimately receive support from vegetable farmers.

For field trials in Cambodia, women farmers grew a variety of vegetables, including string beans, cucumber, Chinese cabbage, kale, tomatoes and eggplant. Continue reading Reducing drudgery while improving soil for Cambodian vegetable farmers

14 steps to growing vegetables with conservation agriculture and drip irrigation

Manny Reyes, NC A&T
Manuel Reyes, professor, North Carolina A&T State University

As told by Manuel Reyes, professor in Biological Engineering at North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University:

  1. Manually till and weed a small plot of land (no more than 200 square meters).
  2. Make vegetable beds.
  3. Find a source of mulch for your site. Mulch should not contain seeds and not grow vegetatively.
  4. Cut mulch and let it dry.
  5. Install drip irrigation on the site.
  6. Put dried mulch on the entire area including the furrows between the vegetable beds. Mulch should be at least 2.5 inches thick. Continue reading 14 steps to growing vegetables with conservation agriculture and drip irrigation