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

How new apricot research can help farmers and reduce poverty in Tajikistan

Apricots offer farmers in southern Tajikistan a profitable opportunity — particularly when dried for export to foreign markets.

In a region where 10 percent of the population lives on less than $1.25 per day, an international team led by U.S. scientists is digging into a new research project to help, advancing the science behind growing, drying, and selling these golden fruits.

Long history, new opportunities for apricot farmers in Tajikistan

Apricots have a long history in Tajikistan, as part of a region that is rich in apricot biodiversity (and potentially where the fruit originated). While apricots are grown widely across the country, farmers in northern Tajikistan in particular have well established commercial production and drying operations. More than 80 percent of Tajikistan’s dried apricots are exported to Russia, the world’s largest importer of dried fruit.

In 2015 a frost in northern Tajikistan presented southern farmers with a new opportunity. The frost prompted processors to look farther afield for apricots — including to farmers in the country’s southwestern Khatlon province, where Continue reading How new apricot research can help farmers and reduce poverty in Tajikistan

Should I use pest-exclusion nets? 7 tips from Sun Tzu’s Art of War

Editor’s note: This blog post by Poonpipope “Poon” Kasemsap was originally a presentation given at the Horticulture Innovation Lab’s 2017 annual meeting

Kasemsap an associate professor at Kasetsart University in Thailand and also the director of the Horticulture Innovation Lab Regional Center at KU. The center brings together key regional players to circulate technical assistance and innovative technologies in support of smallholder farmers and small business in Thailand, Cambodia, Bangladesh and Nepal. 

Poon Kasemsap
Poon Kasemsap, of Kasetsart University in Thailand

Pest-exclusion nets are one of the technologies for horticulture development promoted by the Horticulture Innovation Lab. The nets can be easy to use and can also serve as floating row covers to control temperature, light, relative humidity and soil moisture for plant production. Some of the pest-exclusion nets used by Horticulture Innovation Lab researchers are made and marketed locally by mosquito net manufacturers.

But why should you consider using nets for pest management? Here are 7 considerations in adopting nets for agricultural use, inspired by Sun Tzu’s The Art of War:

  1. The greatest victory is that which requires no battle:
    The nets create a barrier that protects vegetables against pests and associated diseases, and thus provide an inexpensive and safe method of managing insect pests while reducing risks associated with pesticides to both farmers and consumers. The pest-exclusion nets provide an excellent example of victory (against certain insects) which requires no battle (insecticide).  Continue reading Should I use pest-exclusion nets? 7 tips from Sun Tzu’s Art of War

5 ways relationships promote innovation – and can improve food safety

Editor’s note: This blog post by Karen LeGrand was originally a presentation given at the Horticulture Innovation Lab’s 2017 annual meeting.

LeGrand is a UC Davis researcher who helps manage a Horticulture Innovation Lab project focused on building safe vegetable value chains in Cambodia along with an international team from the Royal University of Agriculture, the University of Battambang and iDE Cambodia. Their team builds on lessons learned from a previous project in Cambodia.

Karen LeGrand, UC Davis
Karen LeGrand, UC Davis researcher working on a Horticulture Innovation Lab project in Cambodia

What do relationships have to do with innovation and food safety? Our project is built on the idea that when we focus our work around the shared interests of a community, it can bring people together in participatory ways that result in innovation and sustainable change.

One example from the first phase of our project was a situation where a marketer wanted to purchase vegetables that were considered “safe” (free of microbiological and chemical hazards). Farmers participated with our research team to conduct trials aimed at identifying appropriate ways to change farming and postharvest practices Continue reading 5 ways relationships promote innovation – and can improve food safety