Student opportunity: ‘Future leaders’ in international agriculture development

Association for International Agriculture & Rural Development annual conference 2015Interested in international agriculture? University students are invited to apply for a fellowship to attend the Association for International Agriculture and Rural Development’s annual conference and then participate in its Future Leaders Forum.

This year, the AIARD annual conference will be May 31 – June 2 in Washington, D.C. Continue reading Student opportunity: ‘Future leaders’ in international agriculture development

Newsletter: Conservation agriculture for vegetables, tips and opportunities

We sent a second edition of our email newsletter this week. If you’re not a subscriber yet, here’s a chance to catch up with us. Below is a copy of the newsletter, and you can also sign up to subscribe for next time.

This month we have been thinking about how conservation agriculture can work with horticultural crops. Please, read on!

CONSERVATION AGRICULTURE: NOW FOR VEGETABLES TOO? Mostly used with field crops, conservation agriculture combines three practices to improve soil health: minimal soil disturbance (“no till”), continuous mulch cover, and planting diverse crops. Continue reading Newsletter: Conservation agriculture for vegetables, tips and opportunities

Reducing drudgery while improving soil for Cambodian vegetable farmers

A version of this article originally appeared in the Feed the Future newsletter.

Most commonly used with field crops, conservation agriculture combines three practices that help farmers invest in soil health, specifically:

  1. minimal soil disturbance (“no till”),
  2. continuous mulch cover, and
  3. rotating diverse crops.

These practices can also reduce labor and reduce water evaporation from the soil.

Manuel Reyes, professor at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, has helped farmers in many countries improve their soil and use water efficiently. In doing so, he has also partnered with three Feed the Future Innovation Labs, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Beginning in 2010, Reyes started working with farmers in Cambodia on conservation agriculture for field crops, with an international team supported by the SANREM Innovation Lab. Two year later, the team worked with 56 households over 149 hectares to use conservation agriculture principles.

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Women farmers in Cambodia are combining drip irrigation with conservation agriculture to grow vegetables with less drudgery, while improving soil health. (Photo by Manuel Reyes, NC A&T)

After testing conservation agriculture practices with vegetable crops in the United States, Reyes expanded his conservation agriculture work in Cambodia to focus on vegetable farmers. Now with additional funding from the Horticulture Innovation Lab, he added drip irrigation to conservation agriculture practices for vegetable farmers. This research sought to find whether combining these practices could reduce labor needs, increase yield, increase income and ultimately receive support from vegetable farmers.

For field trials in Cambodia, women farmers grew a variety of vegetables, including string beans, cucumber, Chinese cabbage, kale, tomatoes and eggplant. Continue reading Reducing drudgery while improving soil for Cambodian vegetable farmers

Visiting Cambodia: Conservation agriculture and marketing by motorbike

Editor’s note: As our management team members visit Horticulture Innovation Lab partners and research sites in developing countries, we are sharing with you glimpses into their visits, with travel updates and photos.

As director of the Horticulture Innovation Lab, I traveled to Cambodia with Manuel Reyes of North Carolina A&T State University to launch a spin-off project related to his earlier research in Cambodia on conservation agriculture and drip irrigation for women vegetable farmers. We visited with several women vegetable farmer groups who have been successfully practicing conservation agriculture in Siem Reap.

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Manny Reyes, right, and two of his team members in Cambodia, Rechaney (left) and Rain (center), discuss progress in the conservation agriculture plots during a meeting with a group of women farmers.

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Here is one of the women farmer groups we visited, standing in their conservation agriculture plot and showing the water tank for the drip irrigation system in the background. The farmers needed less labor to manage the conservation agriculture plots due to reduced weeding and watering. Continue reading Visiting Cambodia: Conservation agriculture and marketing by motorbike

Visiting Tanzania: Postharvest Training and Services Center

Editor’s note: As our management team members visit Horticulture Innovation Lab partners and research sites in developing countries, we are sharing with you glimpses into their visits, with travel updates and photos.

Graduate student researcher Elyssa Lewis and I were invited to observe a refresher training course in Arusha, Tanzania, hosted by the World Food Logistics Organization (WFLO) and the TOPS Program.

When we visited, the WFLO was also in the process of evaluating a pilot project that trained experts in postharvest handling of fresh produce and established a Postharvest Training and Services Center in Arusha. This project was originally funded by the Horticulture Innovation Lab and led by Diane Barrett, of UC Davis. As a program officer for the Horticulture Innovation Lab, I work with these researchers and others to evaluate and disseminate their research and new technologies.

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Merius Nzalawahe, right, purchases materials from the store at the Postharvest Training and Services Center, from Odette Ngulu with Tanzania’s Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Cooperatives.

The Postharvest Training and Services Center is so much more than a training center. It aims to combine extension-type services with a sustainable business model. The small store pictured here is open every day to sell plastic packing crates, tree clippers, jars, buckets and other materials that local growers and processors can use to better handle fruits and vegetables after harvest. Continue reading Visiting Tanzania: Postharvest Training and Services Center