New research supported by the Horticulture Innovation Lab at UC Davis aims to help farmers in Cambodia better integrate growing vegetables, raising livestock and maintaining healthy soil — all in the same place.
“By understanding the interactions between horticulture and livestock systems, we can help farmers make better use of agricultural inputs such as fertilizer and labor, which will help improve a farmer’s bottom line,” says Erin McGuire, associate director of the program, which is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development.
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.
Leaning into her tuktuk in Siem Reap, Eang Chakriya opens a cooler and takes out fresh wax gourds and other vegetables that have been carefully packed and chilled, showing them to a group of neighbors. Emblazoned on the tuktuk (a kind of motorized rickshaw) are images of farmers and the marketing motto, “Grown Right, Handled Right, Community Right.”
Chakriya sells nutritious vegetables directly to consumers in Cambodia as part of a farmers’ cooperative working with the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Horticulture, led by the University of California, Davis.
The project’s research team is examining incentives that help farmers improve their agriculture practices. The researchers’ hunch is that farmers will adopt conservation agriculture practices (or “Grown Right” practices) if the team also helps them to adopt two other types of profitable practices that will increase their success: improved postharvest handling techniques and novel marketing practices.
What is the role of trust in our food system? In the United States, our trust in food is often implicit. We can generally trust that the fruits and vegetables we buy at a grocery store or farmers market are safe to eat — and we are often free to shop without even thinking about that trust.
Between farmers and agricultural scientists too, trust often plays an important role. If you’re a farmer, you need to be able to trust that investing your time or money in a new technique or in attending a workshop will indeed improve your business.
But it can be easy to forget that trust is a critical first step in many of these agricultural relationships.
The Horticulture Innovation Lab has announced nine new projects in Africa and Asia as part of its Trellis Fund program.
Each of these six-month projects is funded with a $2,000 grant, with work scheduled to begin in 2017. A U.S. graduate student with related expertise will be matched to each project, to provide additional agricultural knowledge and support for local goals.
“We are pleased to build new relationships with local organizations, with support from our innovative Trellis Fund program,” said Elizabeth Mitcham, director of the Horticulture Innovation Lab at the University of California, Davis. “We believe this model, which links knowledgeable U.S. university students with local, on-the-ground practitioners, can help further extend horticultural expertise to farmers nearby.”