Simon gives memorial lecture at University of Minnesota

James Simon, professor at Rutgers University and a partner of the Horticulture Innovation Lab, recently presented a memorial lecture at the University of Minnesota.

Approximately 100 people attended the talk Simon gave April 13 as the invited speaker for the Kermit A. Olson Memorial Lecture to the University of Minnesota’s Department of Horticultural Science. Continue reading Simon gives memorial lecture at University of Minnesota

Chicago Council highlights market-driven horticulture projects in Zambia

With more than 2 million visitors per year, Victoria Falls World Heritage Site and luxury hotels near Livingstone, Zambia, offer an extraordinary market opportunity for local farmers — one that was highlighted recently by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs blog.

This guest commentary written by Ann Steensland and Margaret Zeigler (of Global Harvest Initiative) focuses on the market-driven approach of Horticulture Innovation Lab partners who are supporting small-scale farmers near Livingstone with training and technologies at multiple points along the horticultural value chain.

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Nsongwe women farmers weigh a bag of butternut squash for a buyer from a Livingstone hotel.

The post is about a series of Horticulture Innovation Lab projects that are ongoing in Zambia, with leadership from James Simon of Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. The current project is focused on “Improving nutrition with African indigenous vegetables” and includes partners from Purdue University, AgriSmart Zambia, the University of Zambia, and the World Vegetable Center (AVRDC).

One of the blog writers, Ann Steensland, visited farmers in Kizuni village who were trained by this team and now grow high-value vegetable seedlings in high tunnels. Among their seedling customers are the nearby Nsongwe Women’s group, also participants in the project, who in turn grow vegetables year-round to sell to Livingstone’s hotels.

Last year the Horticulture Innovation Lab’s advisory board and evaluation team visited the same project sites (see photos of the visits, fields, and farmers) as part of the program’s 2015 annual meeting. Continue reading Chicago Council highlights market-driven horticulture projects in Zambia

Symposium on Horticultural Science: Highlights from Cambodia’s premier agricultural university

Approximately 175 participants attended a Symposium on Horticultural Science, held March 18 at the Royal University of Agriculture campus in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The event was presented by the Royal University of Agriculture in collaboration with the Horticulture Innovation Lab.

The rector of the Royal University of Agriculture, Ngo Bunthan attended the technical sessions. He also offered welcoming remarks about the importance of horticulture in Cambodia and the increasing demand for Cambodian-grown fresh produce.

“The Royal Government of Cambodia has set a high priority on the agriculture sector for sustainable growth because of its leading contribution to the country’s economy,” Bunthan said. “More than 70 percent of the population work in rural cultivation. However, Cambodia’s horticulture [sector]… is not self-sufficient yet, and the country relies heavily on imports from neighboring countries.”

He also emphasized the university’s interest in international cooperation and building the capacity of its young lecturers, alumni and students.

“This symposium is important in developing the concrete understanding of horticulture technology among resources in the university, where those technologies can then be disseminated to the field and privates farms, ultimately producing sustainable horticulture products for Cambodia,” he said.

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Robert Paull of the University of Hawaii, Srey Theavy of Cambodia and a student from the Royal University of Agriculture discuss one of the conference posters.

Between presentations, the event included a poster session where students, alumni and staff members shared their work with farmers, pest management Continue reading Symposium on Horticultural Science: Highlights from Cambodia’s premier agricultural university

Videos: Meet Zambian women who grow indigenous vegetables

African indigenous vegetables and women who grow them in Zambia are the subject of two videos made by a team from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey.

As a student with the Rutgers Center for Digital Filmmaking, Jeanpaul Isaacs visited Livingstone to meet the Nsongwe Women’s Group. These women are growing vegetables with support from the Agribusiness in Sustainable Natural African Plant Products (ASNAPP) organization and Rutgers Professor Jim Simon.

The Horticulture Innovation Lab has worked with Simon, ASNAPP, and a team of international partners on improving the value chain for African indigenous vegetables in Zambia and Kenya. We are currently working with this team to develop a project focused on how growing and selling these vegetables can impact farmer nutrition, as related to household consumption and dietary diversity (announcement).

In the first video, Simon narrates the story behind how Continue reading Videos: Meet Zambian women who grow indigenous vegetables

U.S. scientists begin new horticulture projects in developing countries

Agricultural scientists from five land-grant universities have been awarded $4.2 million to research ways to improve livelihoods for smallholder fruit and vegetable farmers in developing countries.

Each of the new projects brings together an international research team under the Horticulture Innovation Lab, with funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development and leadership by the University of California, Davis. The collaborative program is part of Feed the Future, the U.S. government’s global hunger and food security initiative.

Does horticulture improve farmers’ lives?

How growing fruits and vegetables can improve the lives of farmers and their communities — by improving aspects of nutrition and gender equity — are the themes of two new projects, each funded for five years.

“We’re making a concerted effort to understand how horticulture can make a difference in the lives of the world’s poorest people,” said Elizabeth Mitcham, Horticulture Innovation Lab director and UC Cooperative Extension specialist at UC Davis. “We hope the results from our gender and nutrition projects will inform policymakers and donors about the benefits of supporting horticulture for development.”

Janelle Larson of Penn State will lead a $1.3 million project in Honduras that will analyze how participating in the horticultural value chain can empower women and support gender equity. The analysis will also identify policies, regulations or cultural norms that limit women’s participation in horticulture. Then the team will develop curriculum and deliver training to reduce barriers for women, with partners at the Panamerican Agricultural School, Zamorano University. (More information about this project from Penn State)

James Simon of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, will lead a $2 million project focused on improving dietary diversity through enhanced access to African indigenous vegetables in Kenya and Zambia. Once considered “famine foods,” these indigenous vegetables such as amaranth, African nightshade and spider plant have increased in popularity — but meeting market demand still presents several production and marketing challenges. This project will work to improve the value chain for indigenous vegetables and will monitor how changes to vegetable production and marketing affect household consumption of these nutritious vegetables.

Spin-off projects remix lessons learned

Three new grants take completed projects in new directions, with ideas that came from insights, surprises and lessons learned during previous Horticulture Innovation Lab projects. These “spin-off” grants are each funded for $300,000 over two years, led by researchers at UC Davis, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University.

Marketing vegetables grown with conservation agriculture methods in Cambodia and Nepal: In an earlier project, Manuel Reyes of North Carolina A&T State University worked with women farmers in Cambodia on field experiments that compared traditional growing methods for vegetables to conservation agriculture methods, which can reduce labor while providing environmental benefits. The labor-saving methods were so popular with the farmers that many of them asked to cut the experiment short — so that they could adopt the newer methods on all their fields, without the traditional tilling and hand irrigation of the control fields. In this new spin-off project, Reyes and his team will focus on helping smallholder farmers in Cambodia and Nepal market the vegetables grown with these water- and labor-saving practices, developing a brand that highlights their conservation principles. Project partners will include the Royal University of Agriculture of Cambodia, the Agricultural Development Denmark Asia organization, and International Development Enterprises (iDE).

Expanding tomato grafting for small businesses in Honduras and Guatemala: This new project led by James Nienhuis, of UW-Madison, grows from previous work first evaluating tomato and chili varieties, then producing vegetable seed locally with women farmers. This new project will evaluate grafted tomatoes for local conditions and provide training to women farmers for small nursery businesses, with local partners at Catholic Relief Services, Zamorano Panamerican Agricultural School, and the Fundación Hondureña de Investigación Agrícola. The team will also include Horticulture Innovation Lab partners at The Ohio State University who have trained African farmers in vegetable grafting.

Irrigation solutions for off-season vegetables in Uganda: For this project, farmer groups will participate in a “co-innovation” process that will focus on small-scale irrigation for dry-season vegetable production, with leadership from Kate Scow of UC Davis. The idea to focus on irrigation came from workshops held during a previous Horticulture Innovation Lab project focused on farmer field schools and participatory agricultural extension models for vegetable growers in Uganda. The group has also received funding from Michigan State University’s Global Center for Food Systems Innovation to build capacity in relation to irrigation, and will work on this new innovative irrigation project with Busitema University, National Semi Arid Resources Research Institute (NaSARRI), Teso Women Development Initiatives (TEWDI) and other local partners.

Competitive grants, collaborative program

The competitive grant process began in August, when the program issued an open call for proposals from U.S. university researchers. One call for proposals about reducing postharvest losses was not funded, though the management team expects to move forward with work to improve postharvest practices later this year. Additional grants are being finalized for projects that will scale up use of proven horticultural tools and technologies.

The Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research on Horticulture (or “Horticulture Innovation Lab”) builds international partnerships for fruit and vegetable research that improves livelihoods in developing countries. The program is one of 24 Feed the Future Innovation Labs funded by USAID, five of which are led by UC Davis. For more information about the Horticulture Innovation Lab, visit http://horticulture.ucdavis.edu.

This announcement originally appeared on the Horticulture Innovation Lab website.

About the photo at top: Kate Scow, soil science professor at UC Davis, met with farmers and research partners in Uganda recently to begin a newly funded project focused on small-scale irrigation for vegetable growers. (Horticulture Innovation Lab photo/Amanda Crump, UC Davis)