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

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

TakePart photo essay explores climate resilience with farmers in Guatemala

Photojournalist Martin do Nascimento recently traveled to Guatemala’s Western Highlands to explore the Horticulture Innovation Lab’s new project helping farmers use climate-smart agricultural practices for growing vegetables.

His photo essay was published in the digital magazine TakePart, called “See the Simple Way These Farmers Are Outsmarting Climate Change.”

The essay shows us this story in beautiful, sweeping photos. Here is how Nascimento introduces his story:

“For many, the term ‘climate change’ brings to mind the image of a polar bear on a shrinking sheet of ice somewhere far off in the Arctic.

“Consider another image: A tired farmer looks out fearfully over a craggy field and wonders how he’ll grow the crops to keep his family fed.

“Pedro Esteban is that farmer, and to him, climate change is no abstraction. Continue reading TakePart photo essay explores climate resilience with farmers in Guatemala

MásRiego project starts in Guatemala

Expanding irrigation and climate-smart farming to Guatemala

An international team led by UC Davis is working to connect 9,000 rural households in Guatemala with improved water management and climate-smart agriculture strategies, to increase food security and reduce poverty.

Called MásRiego (“more irrigation”), the project aims to increase farmers’ incomes and their use of climate-smart strategies, including drip irrigation, rainwater harvesting, reduced tillage, mulch use and diverse crop rotation. To enable farmers to adopt these new practices, the team will not only provide trainings but also build partnerships to increase farmers’ access to needed microcredit financing and irrigation equipment.

“The opportunity to impact so many farmers’ lives on this scale is exciting,” said Beth Mitcham, director of the Horticulture Innovation Lab. “We’re taking lessons learned from our previous research — in Guatemala, Honduras and Cambodia — and building a team to help more small-scale farmers apply our findings and successfully use these innovative practices.”

The new project is part of the U.S. government’s Feed the Future initiative. It represents an additional $3.4 million investment in the UC Davis-led Horticulture Innovation Lab by the U.S. Agency for International Development’s mission in Guatemala.

Partnering with UC Davis is an international team with representatives from Centro de Paz Bárbara Ford in Guatemala; Universidad Rafael Landívar in Guatemala; the Panamerican Agricultural School, Zamorano, in Honduras; Kansas State University; and North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. Continue reading MásRiego project starts in Guatemala

Guatemala: Building partnerships for new irrigation project

In late August, I was part of the Horticulture Innovation Lab team who traveled to the Western Highlands of Guatemala to finalize plans for an upcoming project called MásRiego (“more irrigation” in Spanish). We will officially announce and describe this project at a later time, but I would like to tell you about our trip and the things we learned.

The Feed the Future zone of influence in Guatemala lies in the Western Highlands where water is scarce and farming is done on steep slopes. Several USAID partners work in this region in a concerted effort to reduce poverty and rates of stunting. We traveled to this region to learn about the USAID partners’ strategies and look for synergies for MásRiego. Our team consisted of Manny Reyes and Ruth McDaniel of North Carolina A&T State University, and Britta Hansen accompanied me (Amanda Crump) from the Horticulture Innovation Lab at UC Davis. We spent a lot of time with the projects of Save the Children, Catholic Relief Services, Counterpart International, and the Guatemalan Exporters’ Association (AGEXPORT).

IMG_2362
From right: Carlos Cardenas, Save the Children’s Guatemala Country Director, and Rodrigo Arias, Save the Children’s Food Security Chief of Party, explain their demonstration farm to Britta Hansen, Manny Reyes, and Ruth McDaniel.

Save the Children’s PAISANO project works with families to improve homestead food production and nutrition. Part of their strategy is to develop Continue reading Guatemala: Building partnerships for new irrigation project