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

Looking back at the Horticulture Innovation Lab’s 2016 annual meeting

Another year, another annual meeting: Horticulture Innovation Lab partners gathered this time in Cambodia to share achievements, exchange ideas, and scheme about their next steps in advancing horticultural science and helping smallholder farmers in developing countries.

Exchanging horticultural ideas at lightning speed

Nearly 100 scientists, development practitioners, and other horticultural partners gathered for a Regional Horticulture Conference on the first day of the meeting.

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Sang Lee of USAID/Cambodia welcomes the conference participants to Cambodia with an introduction to USAID and Feed the Future impacts in the country.

Elizabeth Mitcham of the Horticulture Innovation Lab, Men Sarom of the Royal University of Agriculture, Sang Lee of USAID/Cambodia, and John Bowman of USAID’s Bureau for Food Security provided welcoming remarks to set the scene for the day and its priorities.

Lee highlighted the accomplishments of Feed the Future activities in Cambodia, including USAID’s continued investment in horticulture to increase incomes and nutrition through fruits and vegetables.

“It is estimated that 70 percent of vegetables are imported from neighboring countries,” she said. “Even if we can reduce that 70 percent marginally, I think that can make a big difference.”

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After a lightning talk by Kate Scow of UC Davis on irrigation innovation, these groups from projects in Uganda and Guatemala exchange ideas.

Much of the conference day was split into 5-minute lightning talks, with a total of 15 speakers sharing just the highlights of their recent horticultural work. After one hour of presentations, the speakers and participants circulated for follow-up questions and in-depth discussions sparked by the brief talks. (See slides from the lightning talks on our website, and watch for 5-minute video features of these talks in future blog posts.)

The day concluded with a lively Horticulture Expo, with hands-on Continue reading Looking back at the Horticulture Innovation Lab’s 2016 annual meeting

Following vegetables from field to market in Cambodia

portrait, Angelos Deltsidis
Angelos Deltsidis, UC Davis international postharvest specialist with the Horticulture Innovation Lab

While in Cambodia for the Horticulture Innovation Lab’s 2016 annual meeting, I arrived a few days early to visit a project that I have been advising remotely regarding postharvest practices. The project, led by Manny Reyes of North Carolina A&T State University, is working with women vegetable farmers who have been successfully practicing conservation agriculture in the Siem Reap region.

As a postharvest specialist, I was most interested in how the farmers are using some of the low-cost technologies that the Horticulture Innovation Lab is promoting around the world. Specifically, the project has built a cool room equipped with a CoolBot, as well as a grading table and a washing station in collaboration with Kasetsart University of Thailand and the World Vegetable Center (AVRDC). They are also working on a “tuktukbot,” which is a motorbike and trailer equipped with a cooled compartment to transport the produce for sale, maintaining the quality of the fresh produce during hot days.

During my visit I had the chance to meet the local project technicians Ren Ry and Sel Rechaney as well as local farmers. Together we explored farms, storage locations and different transportation vehicles, so I could monitor the trip of fresh gourds and chili peppers from harvest to grading, packing and storage in order to identify postharvest practices they could improve.

in trellised farm field, gropu kneeling holding banana leaves with crates of a fresh gourd on ground
From left, farmer Eang Chakriya and technician Sel Rechaney show UC Davis researcher Angelos Deltsidis how they harvest sponge gourd and wrap the vegetable in banana leaves to pack and transport.

The first stop was at the sponge gourd and chili pepper plot where Continue reading Following vegetables from field to market in Cambodia

CoolBots making news in Cambodia

While the Horticulture Innovation Lab team was recently in Cambodia for its 2016 annual meeting, reporter Jonathon Cox of the Khmer Times in Phnom Penh reached out to learn more about how farmers in Cambodia are using the CoolBot. He had heard about the device at the recent Cambodia Science & Engineering Festival.

The article Cox wrote, “Helping Farmers Keep Their Cool” was published in the newspaper this week.

For it, he interviewed Elizabeth Mitcham, director of the Horticulture Innovation Lab at UC Davis, about the program’s use of the CoolBot in Cambodia.

“I think that cooling is essential to develop a vibrant produce industry in Cambodia based on local products,” Mitcham said. Current estimates suggest Continue reading CoolBots making news in Cambodia