5 ways relationships promote innovation – and can improve food safety

Editor’s note: This blog post by Karen LeGrand was originally a presentation given at the Horticulture Innovation Lab’s 2017 annual meeting.

LeGrand is a UC Davis researcher who helps manage a Horticulture Innovation Lab project focused on building safe vegetable value chains in Cambodia along with an international team from the Royal University of Agriculture, the University of Battambang and iDE Cambodia. Their team builds on lessons learned from a previous project in Cambodia.

Karen LeGrand, UC Davis
Karen LeGrand, UC Davis researcher working on a Horticulture Innovation Lab project in Cambodia

What do relationships have to do with innovation and food safety? Our project is built on the idea that when we focus our work around the shared interests of a community, it can bring people together in participatory ways that result in innovation and sustainable change.

One example from the first phase of our project was a situation where a marketer wanted to purchase vegetables that were considered “safe” (free of microbiological and chemical hazards). Farmers participated with our research team to conduct trials aimed at identifying appropriate ways to change farming and postharvest practices Continue reading 5 ways relationships promote innovation – and can improve food safety

6 lessons from postharvest loss assessments in Rwanda

Editor’s note: This blog post by Gurbinder Singh Gill was originally a presentation given at the Horticulture Innovation Lab’s 2017 annual meeting.

Gill manages the Horticulture Innovation Lab’s project focused on reducing postharvest losses in Rwanda as the managing associate at Agribusiness Associates, Inc.

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Gurbinder Gill of Agribusiness Associates, leader of a Horticulture Innovation Lab project

Postharvest losses in African agriculture are often estimated at about 30-40 percent. The Horticulture Innovation Lab’s latest project in Rwanda set out to reduce postharvest losses in horticulture last year. Our first step was to conduct in-depth field work to understand the main causes and stages at which postharvest losses occurred in our four focus crops — tomatoes, green chilies, green bananas and orange fleshed sweet potatoes. We set out to understand the issues from three perspectives: Continue reading 6 lessons from postharvest loss assessments in Rwanda

7 ways that gender matters in western Honduras

Editor’s note: This blog post by Janelle Larson was originally a presentation given at the Horticulture Innovation Lab’s 2017 annual meeting in Guatemala.

Larson is an associate professor in agricultural economics at the Pennsylvania State University and leads the Horticulture Innovation Lab project focused on empowering women through horticulture in Honduras.

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Janelle Larson, Penn State associate professor, who leads a Horticulture Innovation Lab project

Gender norms define the roles and responsibilities of women and men at the individual, household, community and societal level. We have found this to be a factor in western Honduras where patriarchy permeates many aspects of life.

Our findings indicate how gender norms influence and pervade seven different key aspects related to our project:

  1. Gender matters in agriculture
    In agriculture production, women’s work is often unrecognized and under compensated. Women’s participation in production — mostly in harvesting and the processing phases of high-value crop chains — is relatively large. According to our household survey conducted in 2016, nearly 20 percent of women in our study area work as day laborers, often for coffee harvest, and approximately 6 percent of women work in their family fields. Women are also heavily involved in home garden production. They are responsible for approximately 54 percent of the activities of home garden production, which is mostly for home consumption.

    Young woman and old woman talking in plastic chairs
    Gender matters in household decision making: A Zamorano graduate interviews a woman as part of a survey of more than 500 households in Western Honduras.

Continue reading 7 ways that gender matters in western Honduras

5 lessons for expanding drip irrigation among smallholder farmers

Editor’s note: This blog post by Meagan Terry was originally a presentation given at the Horticulture Innovation Lab’s 2017 annual meeting in Guatemala.

Terry is a UC Davis junior specialist who lives in Guatemala and manages the Horticulture Innovation Lab’s MásRiego project, which promotes drip irrigation and climate resilience in Guatemala’s western highlands.

portrait: Meagan Terry
Meagan Terry, UC Davis junior specialist for the Horticulture Innovation Lab

The name of our project, MásRiego, literally means “more irrigation” in Spanish, but this project boasts more than simply installations of drip irrigation systems. Our project develops and implements a holistic, business-driven solution to result in wider availability of drip irrigation, conservation agriculture, improved water management, and vegetables. These activities are carried out while addressing social inclusion, technical capacity, nutrition, and asset building for all community members, especially women and youth.

Our goal is to convert 100 hectares of land in Guatemala’s western highlands to more efficient means of irrigating and growing vegetable crops, with improved management practices. In addition, we will train thousands of technicians, youth, and farmers on how to use conservation agriculture principles and other agricultural practices that stress climate resilience in the face of changing rainfall and weather patterns. We have identified more than 1,000 potential beneficiaries who are eager to adopt drip irrigation in the 12 municipalities where we are working.

There have been some important lessons learned thus far Continue reading 5 lessons for expanding drip irrigation among smallholder farmers

Cambodian farmers reach new buyers with a fresh approach

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

Leaning into her tuktuk in Siem Reap, Eang Chakriya opens a cooler and takes out fresh wax gourds and other vegetables that have been carefully packed and chilled, showing them to a group of neighbors. Emblazoned on the tuktuk (a kind of motorized rickshaw) are images of farmers and the marketing motto, “Grown Right, Handled Right, Community Right.”

Chakriya sells nutritious vegetables directly to consumers in Cambodia as part of a farmers’ cooperative working with the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Horticulture, led by the University of California, Davis.

The project’s research team is examining incentives that help farmers improve their agriculture practices. The researchers’ hunch is that farmers will adopt conservation agriculture practices (or “Grown Right” practices) if the team also helps them to adopt two other types of profitable practices that will increase their success: improved postharvest handling techniques and novel marketing practices.

So far, the idea seems to be working.

As a partner in this Feed the Future Innovation Lab, researchers from Continue reading Cambodian farmers reach new buyers with a fresh approach