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

Huffington Post on hidden hunger and Cambodian farmers

A pregnant farmer growing nutritious vegetables in 100 degree heat was the impetus for an article on the Huffington Post last week about hidden hunger, Cambodian farmers, and the Horticulture Innovation Lab’s work.

Amy Beaudreault, nutrition and health director for the UC Davis World Food Center, wrote the article after attending the Horticulture Innovation Lab’s recent annual meeting in Cambodia. Continue reading Huffington Post on hidden hunger and Cambodian farmers

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

Visiting Cambodia: Conservation agriculture and marketing by motorbike

Editor’s note: As our management team members visit Horticulture Innovation Lab partners and research sites in developing countries, we are sharing with you glimpses into their visits, with travel updates and photos.

As director of the Horticulture Innovation Lab, I traveled to Cambodia with Manuel Reyes of North Carolina A&T State University to launch a spin-off project related to his earlier research in Cambodia on conservation agriculture and drip irrigation for women vegetable farmers. We visited with several women vegetable farmer groups who have been successfully practicing conservation agriculture in Siem Reap.

photo: team members discuss project

Manny Reyes, right, and two of his team members in Cambodia, Rechaney (left) and Rain (center), discuss progress in the conservation agriculture plots during a meeting with a group of women farmers.

group photo in field in Cambodia

Here is one of the women farmer groups we visited, standing in their conservation agriculture plot and showing the water tank for the drip irrigation system in the background. The farmers needed less labor to manage the conservation agriculture plots due to reduced weeding and watering. Continue reading Visiting Cambodia: Conservation agriculture and marketing by motorbike

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