UC Davis and Uganda students consider gender in irrigation design

Julia Jordan, university of California at davis (UC Davis) graduate student and RIFA fellow
Julia Jordan, UC Davis graduate student and RIFA fellow

Editor’s note: Julia Jordan is one of two UC Davis graduate students (along with Mariah Coley) who have been working on a Horticulture Innovation Lab project in Uganda with support from Research and Innovation Fellowship for Agriculture (RIFA). As a RIFA fellow, she worked in Uganda for 5 months alongside the Teso Women’s Development Initiative and Busitema University students in relation to a project focused on developing farmer-led irrigation solutions, with leadership from Kate Scow of UC Davis. Julia previously worked as a graduate assistant with the Horticulture Innovation Lab’s management team at UC Davis.

Below is an excerpt of a blog post that Julia wrote about her work on this project, a version of which has also been shared on the Agrilinks website.

Under the shade of a mango tree on a cool Monday morning in Soroti, Uganda, ten Busitema University student interns gathered and looked around apprehensively. They were seated on bright blue plastic chairs outside of the Teso Women’s Development Initiative (TEWDI) office, where they had been meeting for weeks as part of their internships with a research project focused on  developing farmer-led irrigation solutions.

The group of crop science, agricultural mechanization, and irrigation engineering majors had just been asked to brainstorm and write down the qualities, roles and expectations they associate with women and those they associate with men. Though initially confused by the exercise, the students were soon furiously scribbling their ideas on a colorful array of sticky notes and, shortly after, engaged in a lively discussion about the gender norms and relationships they have witnessed, experienced, or heard about in their own communities.

These soon-to-be professionals, many of whom hail from rural farm families and villages in various regions of Uganda, debated pervasive assumptions about men’s superior physical strength, contemplated what it means for a woman to be expected to “submit” to her husband, and described the perceived threat of a woman attaining a higher education level than a man. They reflected on women’s responsibility to collect firewood and water, men’s tendency to manage cattle, and why it may be more common to see women riding bicycles in some regions rather than others. I encouraged the students to also consider how age, ethnicity, disability status, religion, and other social differences may influence these issues.

“So,” I asked them, “what does all of this have to do with designing irrigation technology?” Continue reading UC Davis and Uganda students consider gender in irrigation design

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

Following vegetables from field to market in Cambodia

portrait, Angelos Deltsidis
Angelos Deltsidis, UC Davis international postharvest specialist with the Horticulture Innovation Lab

While in Cambodia for the Horticulture Innovation Lab’s 2016 annual meeting, I arrived a few days early to visit a project that I have been advising remotely regarding postharvest practices. The project, led by Manny Reyes of North Carolina A&T State University, is working with women vegetable farmers who have been successfully practicing conservation agriculture in the Siem Reap region.

As a postharvest specialist, I was most interested in how the farmers are using some of the low-cost technologies that the Horticulture Innovation Lab is promoting around the world. Specifically, the project has built a cool room equipped with a CoolBot, as well as a grading table and a washing station in collaboration with Kasetsart University of Thailand and the World Vegetable Center (AVRDC). They are also working on a “tuktukbot,” which is a motorbike and trailer equipped with a cooled compartment to transport the produce for sale, maintaining the quality of the fresh produce during hot days.

During my visit I had the chance to meet the local project technicians Ren Ry and Sel Rechaney as well as local farmers. Together we explored farms, storage locations and different transportation vehicles, so I could monitor the trip of fresh gourds and chili peppers from harvest to grading, packing and storage in order to identify postharvest practices they could improve.

in trellised farm field, gropu kneeling holding banana leaves with crates of a fresh gourd on ground
From left, farmer Eang Chakriya and technician Sel Rechaney show UC Davis researcher Angelos Deltsidis how they harvest sponge gourd and wrap the vegetable in banana leaves to pack and transport.

The first stop was at the sponge gourd and chili pepper plot where Continue reading Following vegetables from field to market in Cambodia

Directors of regional horticulture centers gather in Thailand

Before the Horticulture Innovation Lab’s annual meeting in Cambodia, the directors of our regional centers met up at Kasetsart University, in Bangkok, Thailand.

Our host Poon Kasemsap of Kasetsart University welcomed Julio Lopez from the Panamerican Agricultural School, Zamorano, in Honduras and Emil VanWyk from AgriSmart Zambia (our newest director, of a future center) for two days of site visits and project updates.

Since this was the first chance that our directors have had to visit Kasetsart University and the Horticulture Innovation Lab Regional Center there, we spent the first day touring the lab and field facilities.

group talking together in a lab
Julio Lopez of Zamorano (left) discusses edible wax coating with Apita Bunsiri (right) in the postharvest lab at Kasetsart University.

The postharvest lab at Kasetsart University is designing novel packaging and coatings for fresh-cut and whole fruits and vegetables. Continue reading Directors of regional horticulture centers gather in Thailand

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