U.S. State Department Visit to UC Davis Hosted by UC Davis Feed the Future Innovation Labs
by Archie Jarman
Editors Heather Hayashi, Alex Russell
This spring, Feed the Future Innovation Labs for Horticulture and Markets, Risk and Resilience had the pleasure of co-hosting U.S. State Department Special Envoy for Global Food Security, Cary Fowler, for a two-day visit at the University of California, Davis. Joining Fowler for his visit were State Department Jefferson Science Fellow, John Leslie, and United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Agreement Officer Representative, Daniel Bailey.
Day one began with learning more about UC Davis plant breeding efforts by the Orphan Crops Program and international Plant Breeding Academy, through engagements with Senior Fellow Howard Shapiro, Associate Director of Plant Breeding Center Allen Van Deynze, and staff of Distinguished Professor Paul Gepts.
Presentations were then given, on the research and development being done to address global hunger and food security through the Feed the Future Innovation Labs (FTFILs) and UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences, by the FTFILs Council Chair and Associate Director of the Innovation Lab for Horticulture, Erin J. McGuire, and Distinguished Professor and John B Orr Endowed Professor in Environmental Plant Sciences and Chair of the Department of Plant Sciences, Gail Taylor.
In attendance, were staff from all three UC Davis-based Innovation Labs, including the Innovation Lab for Genomics to Improve Poultry, along with key faculty and staff from the Department of Plant Sciences, who were all gathered to learn more about, discuss and exchange ideas on how to provide support for the U.S. State Department Vision for Adapted Crops and Soils (VACS) program, an initiative guided by Fowler. Still in its early stages, VACS is anticipated to be a multi-phase initiative focused on building soil health and advancing indigenous crops in Africa. The discussion that ensued was insightful, inspiring, and fruitful.
The remainder of the day was spent in talks with the Innovation Lab for Markets, Risk and Resilience, led by Michael Carter, to learn more about the role crop insurance and financing plays in supporting smallholder growers in Africa. This meeting was an opportunity to share some of the keystone findings and results from the lab’s research in Kenya, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda and elsewhere that can be leveraged to improve food security globally.
“Our guests had important questions about potential solutions to some very hard problems related to food security policy,” said Michael Carter, MRR Innovation Lab director and distinguished professor of agricultural and resource economics at UC Davis. “We were able to discuss a number of approaches, many of which seek to address some of the risks for smallholder farmers.”
On the second day, the visitors spent their morning with the Innovation Lab for Horticulture, led by Elizabeth Mitcham, and learned more about the lab’s new locally-led research project portfolio involving African indigenous fruits and vegetables - directly from project Principal Investigators in Africa via Zoom, in addition to ongoing efforts to improve seed preservation through proper drying.
In the afternoon, Fowler was joined by distinguished guests from UC Davis, including Dean of Global Engagement Ermias Kebreab, Professor Douglas Cook, and Director of the Institute for Global Nutrition Christine Stewart, who all provided Fowler information on various international research projects at UC Davis, including those focused on nutrition and chickpea varietal development.
Ending the day, an evening reception was held at the Innovation Lab for Horticulture’s Demonstration Center, which included a tour of various technologies at the Center, and was attended by Hubert H. Humphrey Fellows and International Agriculture Development students from UC Davis. Student attendees were able to network and learn from the representatives what a career path within the field of agriculture and international development might be like with U.S. Department of State and USAID.
The Feed the Future Innovation Labs for Horticulture and Market, Risk and Resilience, and UC Davis greatly appreciated the opportunity to meet with and host Carey Fowler, John Leslie and Daniel Bailey, and look forward to seeing the VACS program develop.
Photo album available at Flickr.
Story shared by UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences.