Nepal: When greenhouses become tents

Our thoughts are with those who have lost loved ones and homes in Nepal.

With partners in dozens of countries, our management team at UC Davis often filters global news based on who we know and where we’ve been. In January, our office sent Beth Mitcham to visit farmers in Nepal for the launch of a research project, with partners Manny Reyes and International Development Enterprises (iDE). At the same time, Britta Hansen from UC Davis worked in Nepal with faculty from Kasetsart University to provide a training on improving postharvest practices.

With Saturday’s earthquake in Nepal, our questions inevitably turn to: Are the people we know there safe?

One of our International Advisory Board members, Bob Nanes, experienced the earthquake from the streets of Kathmandu on Saturday, on his way to meet a friend for lunch. Besides serving on our board, Bob is a consultant for iDE and has decades of experience working in the region.

He is safe. As he says, he was a “lucky one.” He has described his experiences in detail on iDE’s blog.

Bob also sent us this photo of a greenhouse in the Lalitpur district of Nepal, originally built by farmers to better grow vegetables while working with iDE, the Horticulture Innovation Lab, and the IPM Innovation Lab. This is one of the districts that our team visited in January. Now without the shelter of their home, these farmers are taking cover in the greenhouses.

People cooking under the awning of a greenhouse made from wooden poles and plastic sheeting, near remnants of a home ruined in the earthquake.
For some in Nepal’s rural districts, greenhouses for growing vegetables are providing temporary shelter. Photo by Bimala Rai Colavito, courtesy of iDE.

Continue reading Nepal: When greenhouses become tents

‘Local’ inspiration from half a world away

An entomology researcher in North Carolina. A program coordinator in the Democratic Republic of Congo. A social change specialist in Washington, D.C. A banana expert in Hawaii. A project evaluator in Ghana.

Many of the graduate students who have participated in the Horticulture Innovation Lab’s Trellis Fund projects have gone on to interesting careers in diverse places.

photo: portrait of Mark Lundy
Mark Lundy, UC Cooperative Extension advisor, now works with farmers in Colusa, Sutter and Yuba counties in California.

One of the first students to travel with a Trellis Fund project was Mark Lundy, then a UC Davis grad student who worked in Malawi on a tomato project led by the Bvumbwe Agricultural Research Station.

Today Mark works with farmers in California as a Cooperative Extension advisor on crops such as tomatoes, alfalfa, wheat, sunflower, beans and vegetables, with the University of California’s Agriculture and Natural Resources. (He also recently co-authored a popular paper about insects as food.)

This week, Mark wrote for the Feed the Future blog about his experience Continue reading ‘Local’ inspiration from half a world away

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.

IMG_9039 eds
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