Young entrepreneurs help Guinea’s farmers access postharvest innovation

A version of this article originally appeared as part of the Feed the Future newsletter

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.

young woman digging with wheelbarrow
Fatoumata Cissoko works to prepare compost for a demonstration garden at the new horticulture training and services center on the IRAG campus in the Kindia district of Guinea. (Horticulture Innovation Lab photo by Andra Williams/UC Davis)

“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.”

She is part of a small team that has started a new horticultural training and services center as a way to boost rural entrepreneurship and agricultural prosperity. This effort is part of the long recovery from the Ebola outbreak. The burgeoning center is housed on a campus of Guinea’s national agricultural research institute, Institut de Recherche Agronomique de Guinée. For this new center, the research institute is partnering with the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Horticulture, led by researchers at the University of California, Davis. Continue reading Young entrepreneurs help Guinea’s farmers access postharvest innovation

Training postharvest partners in Tanzania’s horticulture sector

Michael Reid
Michael Reid, Horticulture Innovation Lab Leader, Technology and Innovation

Editor’s note: Michael Reid shares highlights from a five-day short course on postharvest handling of horticultural crops, funded and led by the Horticulture Innovation Lab in Tanzania this summer.

In July, Angelos Deltsidis and I travelled to Tanzania along with Marita Cantwell, our colleague from the UC Davis Postharvest Technology Center, to provide a training in postharvest handling of horticultural crops. The five-day short course was conducted at the Postharvest Training and Services Center on the World Vegetable Center (AVRDC) campus in Arusha. Ngoni Nenguwo, the AVRDC postharvest technologist, and Juma Shekidele from the Horticultural Research and Training Institute in Tengeru (called HORTI Tengeru) provided invaluable assistance in organizing and hosting the course. Ngoni also taught some of the course modules during the five-day course.

The 40-plus attendees came from Continue reading Training postharvest partners in Tanzania’s horticulture sector

Thanks from Uganda: Why the Trellis Fund matters

Editor’s Note: Liz Hohenberger, one of the UC Davis grad students who manages our Trellis Fund, shares a Thank You note sent by an organization that had previously received funding from the Trellis Fund.

The grants that the Horticulture Innovation Lab awards through its Trellis Fund aren’t huge; we fund 6-month projects for $2,000, matching small organizations with U.S. graduate students who can provide expert support. Since the Horticulture Innovation Lab also funds million-dollar projects, this may not seem like much, but we know that Trellis Fund projects can have a lasting impact on the graduate students (think of them as tomorrow’s agricultural leaders) and the local organizations that work together.

We recently received an email from one of the first organizations to receive Trellis funding, a reminder of how big of a difference this small grant can make. The email from Uganda started with:

“THANK YOU THE TRELLIS FUND. YOU GAVE US THE VERY FIRST PUSH!”

The letter went on to explain, “You initiated and nurtured the Environmental Conservation and Agricultural Enhancement Uganda (Eco-Agric Uganda), it’s hard to mention all its achievements now.”  Continue reading Thanks from Uganda: Why the Trellis Fund matters

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

Moving beyond the computer screen at our annual meeting

Elyssa Lewis, UC Davis graduate assistant at the Horticulture Innovation Lab

As one of the graduate student program managers of the Horticulture Innovation Lab’s Trellis Fund, the reality of managing 15 small projects across 9 countries in the last year has meant a lot of time spent at my computer. I love what I do, but I find it easy to get consumed in my own projects. My world can easily become compressed to that which exists inside my computer screen.

Attending the Horticulture Innovation Lab’s annual meeting this year in Siem Reap, Cambodia, was a bit of a wake-up call for me. Getting to meet many of our partners and fellow development practitioners — whose names I’ve read in emails, reports and project proposals for as long as I’ve worked here — brought the scope of our work to life in a whole new way.

Taken off the page and out of my computer screen, Continue reading Moving beyond the computer screen at our annual meeting