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

Drying beads help Bangladesh farmers access better seed

In humid Bangladesh, finding reliable vegetable seed can be a challenge — a situation that can ruin a crop before a farmer’s hard work even begins. But Bangladesh seed companies are rapidly adopting a new technology that can improve seed germination and plant vigor, through improved seed processing and storage. Called “drying beads,” this reusable tool can help seed companies provide farmers with higher quality seed, improving the local seed industry and helping farmers maximize the potential of their own hard work.

Many of the country’s leading vegetable seed companies have adopted drying beads through a multi-part training led by Rhino Research and supported by the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Horticulture, based at the University of California, Davis. Participating organizations include Lal Teer Seed Limited, Metal Seed, Getco, A. R. Malik & Co., Ispahani Agro Limited, Bangladesh Agricultural Development Corporation and others.

“We concluded that these beads are drying our seeds faster and deeper, obtaining a better quality that results in a longer storage potential, and all this with lesser costs,” said Tabith M. Awal of Lal Teer Seed Limited in Bangladesh. “Therefore Lal Teer made the executive decision to move ahead with implementing these beads for all our seeds and crops as soon as possible.”

This year, more than 200 tons of vegetable seed have been dried and stored with drying beads — helping an estimated 100,000 farmers in Bangladesh access quality seed.

The in-depth training, offered for a week at a time and repeated Continue reading Drying beads help Bangladesh farmers access better seed

Opening a center for horticulture innovations in Guinea

Andra Williams, Horticulture Innovation Lab

Editor’s note: Andra Williams recently completed work in Guinea as a UC Davis staff member with the Horticulture Innovation Lab (see details at the end of this post about our new team member in Guinea). In the wake of Ebola, the Horticulture Innovation Lab was asked to evaluate fruit and vegetable opportunities for West African farmers in Guinea. The resulting “Rapid Assessment of the Horticulture Sector in Guinea” report made several recommendations for ways to provide support to the country’s farmers — and the Horticulture Innovation Lab team was invited to share some of its existing horticultural knowledge by starting a new center in the district of Kindia. Here, Andra shares her experiences and accomplishments from working in Guinea.

Agriculture in Guinea has faced many challenges in recent years, with political instability and health crises, such as the recent Ebola outbreak, limiting agricultural research and farmer training.

In April I was sent to work in Foulayah, Guinea, as a project manager for the Horticulture Innovation Lab, tasked with establishing a farmer service and training center in the Kindia district, at the Centre de Recherche Agricole de Foulayah (CRAF), part of the government’s national agricultural research institute (Institut de Recherche Agronomique de Guinée or IRAG). Our goal was to create a local training center devoted to introducing farmers nearby to horticultural production tools and postharvest technologies by creating training modules for the community, including individual producers, women groups and farming cooperatives.

To get started, I hired four “AVENIR agents” to work with Continue reading Opening a center for horticulture innovations in Guinea

Catch up with the Horticulture Innovation Lab at ASHS

For horticulturists in the United States, fall means the American Society for Horticultural Science is gathering for its annual conference. Our team at the Horticulture Innovation Lab has been busy preparing to make the trip to Waikoloa, Hawaii, to meet with our partners, colleagues, and fellow horticulture innovators.

You can find members of the Horticulture Innovation Lab network in action every day in Waikoloa. For example:

We know many of our horticulture research colleagues will also be attending the ASHS conference, so let us know in the comments if you will be sharing a presentation or poster, so we can try to connect.

‘Nutrition Security’ special session hosted by the Horticulture Innovation Lab

Open to all ASHS attendees is the Horticulture Innovation Lab special session, “Food and Nutrition Security in the Developing World: Challenges and Opportunities,” 12-4 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 20 in the conference meeting room . The goal of this workshop is to have a dialogue about global food security and nutrition security issues and assess the impact of horticulture in certain countries using case studies.

Some of our network’s most talented academics and Continue reading Catch up with the Horticulture Innovation Lab at ASHS

New project combines vegetables and livestock in Cambodian farming

A version of this article first appeared on the UC Davis One Health blog

New research supported by the Horticulture Innovation Lab at UC Davis aims to help farmers in Cambodia better integrate growing vegetables, raising livestock and maintaining healthy soil — all in the same place.

“By understanding the interactions between horticulture and livestock systems, we can help farmers make better use of agricultural inputs such as fertilizer and labor, which will help improve a farmer’s bottom line,” says Erin McGuire, associate director of the program, which is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development.

“Systems thinking” is critical to making a real-world impact in global food security, according to Jessie Vipham, project leader for the new $750,000 project and assistant professor at Kansas State University’s Sustainable Intensification Innovation Lab.

“Too often overlooked is that systems piece, the very fact that these things — crops and livestock, soil health and human health — play together. Continue reading New project combines vegetables and livestock in Cambodian farming