The Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Horticulture has awarded 15 new Trellis Fund grants to organizations in Africa and Asia, matching these new projects to 16 graduate students who will provide agriculture expertise requested by the organizations.
The Trellis Fund is a model started by the Horticulture Innovation Lab in 2011 as a way to connect organizations that are well-rooted in their local communities in developing countries with budding agricultural scientists. In addition to helping local farmers, the projects also build the institutional capacity of the organizations and expose graduate students to critical agricultural needs in transitional economies.
Selected organizations each receive $4,000 grants for a wide variety of projects that will help smallholder farmers improve how they grow or sell fruit and vegetable crops.
Sometimes it helps to pause and reconnect with what motivates your work.
For Karin Albornoz — a Ph.D. student studying Horticulture and Agronomy who works in a UC Davis lab on molecular biology of tomato postharvest chilling injury — that means getting out into the world to work directly with small-scale farmers.
“I spend so much time in the lab,” she said. “Sometimes I spend a whole day in the lab extracting RNA or writing a paper. This reminds me why I am doing this work: to make a real-world impact.”
In December, she returned from a trip to Uganda where she did exactly that. In partnership with a local organization called Ndibwami Integrated Rescue Project (NIRP), Albornoz shared her expertise with farmers through several hands-on workshops about improving harvest practices and postharvest handling of pineapple, passion fruit and tomatoes. The project she worked on was supported by the Horticulture Innovation Lab, a global research network led by UC Davis with funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development, as part of he U.S. government’s global hunger and food security initiative called Feed the Future.
Though Albornoz has worked with rural farmers before, this was her first time working in Africa.
“Everywhere I looked, things were growing. There were people working in the field, women cooking, and everyone was working with food,” she said. “I know there’s a lot of stigma – when you talk about Africa, you see people’s faces change and they’re thinking about things like drought and famine and starving children. But what I saw doesn’t fit that stereotype. The challenges they are facing seem to be about not having access to opportunities.”
The workshops she led are part of the NIRP organization’s efforts to connect farmers with more lucrative markets that pay higher prices for quality produce, through a Trellis Fund project.
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As we wrap up this productive calendar year, we bring you updates about the dry chain, irrigation in Uganda, horticulture in Guinea, student advancement, gender discussions and new journal articles. We hope you too are harvesting the fruits of a productive year! Remember to let us know of any horticulture-related opportunities that we could share in our next newsletter. Continue reading Newsletter: Dry chain news, updates from our network
Editor’s note: Julia Jordan is one of two UC Davis graduate students (along with Mariah Coley) who have been working on a Horticulture Innovation Lab project in Uganda with support from Research and Innovation Fellowship for Agriculture (RIFA). As a RIFA fellow, she worked in Uganda for 5 months alongside the Teso Women’s Development Initiative and Busitema University students in relation to a project focused on developing farmer-led irrigation solutions, with leadership from Kate Scow of UC Davis. Julia previously worked as a graduate assistant with the Horticulture Innovation Lab’s management team at UC Davis.
Below is an excerpt of a blog post that Julia wrote about her work on this project, a version of which has also been shared on the Agrilinks website.
Under the shade of a mango tree on a cool Monday morning in Soroti, Uganda, ten Busitema University student interns gathered and looked around apprehensively. They were seated on bright blue plastic chairs outside of the Teso Women’s Development Initiative (TEWDI) office, where they had been meeting for weeks as part of their internships with a research project focused on developing farmer-led irrigation solutions.
The group of crop science, agricultural mechanization, and irrigation engineering majors had just been asked to brainstorm and write down the qualities, roles and expectations they associate with women and those they associate with men. Though initially confused by the exercise, the students were soon furiously scribbling their ideas on a colorful array of sticky notes and, shortly after, engaged in a lively discussion about the gender norms and relationships they have witnessed, experienced, or heard about in their own communities.
These soon-to-be professionals, many of whom hail from rural farm families and villages in various regions of Uganda, debated pervasive assumptions about men’s superior physical strength, contemplated what it means for a woman to be expected to “submit” to her husband, and described the perceived threat of a woman attaining a higher education level than a man. They reflected on women’s responsibility to collect firewood and water, men’s tendency to manage cattle, and why it may be more common to see women riding bicycles in some regions rather than others. I encouraged the students to also consider how age, ethnicity, disability status, religion, and other social differences may influence these issues.
Golden rings of pineapple have already started to dry around the edges, fragrant as they soak up the sun’s heat beneath a sheen of clear plastic — on the way to becoming dried fruit.
Fatoumata Cissoko knows this routine of drying pineapple slices well. At 29, she runs a small dried fruit business in West Africa and has already spent three years trying out different drying methods on her parents’ farm in Guinea. She is confident of the entrepreneurial opportunities that are found after harvest — when excess fruit can be processed, dried, stored and sold later at favorable market prices — and she is working to expand her knowledge and share it with more farmers.
“The best thing about agriculture is being able to harvest the fruit of your work,” Cissoko said. “Farmers are happy when I bring them new things, like the possibility of drying their fruits and vegetables that they cannot sell. And that is a great satisfaction for me.”