New projects in Africa and Asia to help fruit and vegetable farmers, with a little help from U.S. university students

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.

Selected graduate students Continue reading New projects in Africa and Asia to help fruit and vegetable farmers, with a little help from U.S. university students

Video: UC Davis student connects with Ugandan farmers over pineapple postharvest practices

A version of this blog post originally appeared on the UC ANR Food Blog.

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.

In this 2-minute video, Karin Albornoz visits a pineapple farm, leads a pineapple training and discusses next steps for this Trellis Fund project led by NIRP in Uganda in 2017. The video clips and photos were taken by Karin while she was working and edited by Hallie Casey for the Horticulture Innovation Lab. Continue reading Video: UC Davis student connects with Ugandan farmers over pineapple postharvest practices

Inspiring students to help farmers in developing countries (Apply now!)

Update: The deadline for students to apply to 5 specific projects in Uganda and Ghana has been extended to Nov. 20, 2017. See details at Trellis Fund webpage

The Horticulture Innovation Lab is recruiting graduate students to take part in 15 new Trellis Fund projects in Africa and Asia.

Selected students will travel to Nepal, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda or Ghana while providing agricultural expertise to a local organization and their farming clientele.

Graduate students who are attending four of the Horticulture Innovation Lab’s partner universities — North Carolina State University, the University of Florida, the University of California, Davis, and the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa — are eligible to apply. The deadline for applications is Oct. 27, 2017.

University students work with organizations in developing countries, to help farmers

Each Trellis Fund project connects a grad student from an American university with an organization in a developing country, to work together to help local farmers better grow fruits and vegetables. Continue reading Inspiring students to help farmers in developing countries (Apply now!)

UC Davis ‘DryCard’ invention wins competition to reduce food loss in Africa

A new invention from UC Davis researchers won a competition as the top emerging technology to reduce food loss and waste across the African continent.

The low-cost tool, called the DryCardTM, shows farmers whether their dried food products are dry enough to store safely, reducing food losses and risks of mold and associated toxins.

The DryCard beat out more than 200 entries to win the grand prize in the “All Africa Postharvest Technologies and Innovation Challenge.” Top technologies and innovations were invited to pitch to an audience of about 600 participants, including private investors and international organizations, at the first All-Africa Postharvest Congress and Exhibition, March 31 in Nairobi, Kenya.

group holding DryCards with prize check
From left, Bertha Mjawa and Elizabeth Mitcham wave DryCards in victory as they accept the grand prize from organizers during the All-Africa Postharvest Technologies and Innovations Challenge. (Horticulture Innovation Lab photo by Erin McGuire/UC Davis)

Elizabeth Mitcham, director of the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Horticulture and a UC Cooperative Extension specialist in postharvest biology for the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences, represented the DryCard during the competition.

“I have never seen such strong interest in a technology like this,” Continue reading UC Davis ‘DryCard’ invention wins competition to reduce food loss in Africa

Building trust in food systems – here and in Cambodia

A version of this article originally appeared in the UC ANR Food Blog.

What is the role of trust in our food system? In the United States, our trust in food is often implicit. We can generally trust that the fruits and vegetables we buy at a grocery store or farmers market are safe to eat — and we are often free to shop without even thinking about that trust.

Between farmers and agricultural scientists too, trust often plays an important role. If you’re a farmer, you need to be able to trust that investing your time or money in a new technique or in attending a workshop will indeed improve your business.

But it can be easy to forget that trust is a critical first step in many of these agricultural relationships.

In a vegetable field, Thort holds open the net door of a net house, with someone standing inside among the vegetable rows
Thort Chuong (now a Fulbright scholar and UC Davis grad student) welcomes us into a nethouse in Cambodia, owned by a farmer who tried it after joining a savings group and hearing about this new way he could grow vegetables without spraying pesticides. Karen LeGrand of UC Davis stands inside, among the leafy green seedlings in the nethouse. 

Establishing trust between actors in a food system has been critical for a Horticulture Innovation Lab project in Cambodia, focused on Continue reading Building trust in food systems – here and in Cambodia