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.
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.
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.
Angelos Deltsidis and I traveled to Bangladesh in January for meetings related to a collaborative project we’re working on with the Nutrition Innovation Lab and other partners. While we were there, we had a chance to work with faculty and students at Bangladesh Agricultural University to build a chimney solar dryer for drying fresh produce.
Though I have been to Bangladesh many times before, this was my first time visiting Bangladesh Agricultural University and the nearby city of Mymensingh. As you can see in the photos, the weather was surprisingly cold during our visit!