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

Sharing postharvest knowledge, from classroom to mango farm

Nick Reitz, UC Davis graduate student who participated in Trellis Fund project in Ghana

Editor’s note: Nick Reitz is a doctoral student in the UC Davis Department of Food Science and Technology, who participated in a Trellis Fund project led by the Methodist University College Ghana. Here Nick shares some details about his trip to Ghana for this project, which focused on food processing for mango farmers. Though Nick did not have previous experience with mangoes, he had a lot of knowledge to share about postharvest practices. Updated Nov. 6: The Horticulture Innovation Lab has extended the deadline for graduate students to apply for 5 new Trellis Fund projects focused on postharvest handling, small-scale processing and food preservation in Africa.

Question: How does your work on this Trellis Fund project fit into your studies and career, as a Food Science grad student?

Nick Reitz: Prior to this project, I knew almost nothing about mangos. However, my background knowledge of postharvest biology and food processing technology mixed with a fair amount of research helped overcome this lack of knowledge. The basic science behind food preservation is the same regardless of what technology is available. If you know the basics, you can find a method and predict what will happen. Adapting my knowledge to the conditions and resources available in Ghana has been one of the most interesting parts of this project so far.

While I enjoy traveling, learning about other cultures, and learning new languages, this is my first time working in international agricultural development. Help from the Continue reading Sharing postharvest knowledge, from classroom to mango farm

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!)

UH Manoa student helps with farmers’ first soil tests in Nepal

grad student portrait
Tiare Silvasy, UH Mānoa graduate student who participated in Trellis Fund project in Nepal

Editor’s note: Tiare Silvasy is a master’s student in Tropical Plant and Soil Sciences at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa who participated in a Trellis Fund project led by the Center for Agricultural Research and Development (CARD-Nepal). She recently returned from a trip to Nepal to work on this project, which focused on soil testing and nutrient management for smallholder farmers — many of whom had never had a soil test before. Here’s a Q&A with highlights from her trip.

Question: How does your work on this Trellis Fund project fit into your studies and career?

Tiare Silvasy: In Hawaii, my thesis is on nutrient management and I’m looking at local organic fertilizers, specifically at meat and bone meal, produced locally here from the islands’ fish and meat wastes. We’re looking at using those local materials on our farmer’s fields, instead of importing fertilizer products. Meat and bone meal contain a relatively high amount of nitrogen for an organic fertilizer.

Young man pointing to pH strip indicator, with older man looking on, along with other students and Tiare holding the test strips
Silvasy and students from Nepal explain soil test results to a farmer. (Photo by Saroj Khanal)

Tell us about the main work you did on this Trellis Fund project during this trip.

The farmers we met with in Nepal had never had a soil test done and didn’t really know what their soil’s baseline nutrients were. A lot of them are using farmyard manure Continue reading UH Manoa student helps with farmers’ first soil tests in Nepal