Ugandan president commends students for irrigation innovations

In Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni attended a graduation ceremony this month at Busitema University, lauding the institution and its students for their work with irrigation innovations.

Students and faculty members at Busitema University are part of a Horticulture Innovation Lab project focused on developing farmer-led irrigation solutions. The project is led by Kate Scow of UC Davis, with additional partners from the Teso Women Development Initiative, the National Semi Arid Resources Research Institute and others.

“I want to encourage you. You’re on the right path, and I will give you all my support,” Museveni can be heard saying in the video from NTV Uganda, below. “A university is the place for innovations and knowledge generation. It is also a place where the future of our youth is forged through education and where our people’s lives are changed through community outreach.”

Among the irrigation prototypes featured at the ceremony (and in the video) was a self-propelled “hydro wheel,” which is designed to pump water from a stream to farmers’ plots. The hydro wheel was designed by Continue reading Ugandan president commends students for irrigation innovations

Inventing a low-cost solution to reduce moldy foods

‘DryCard’ takes the guesswork out of drying

DryCard with color strip with color scale and directions for use. Horticulture Innovation Lab product marked with USAID and UC Davis logos
The DryCard indicates whether dried foods are dry enough to store safely.

Update: Days after this article was posted, the DryCard was recognized as a top emerging technology, winning the grand prize at the All Africa Postharvest Technologies and Innovation Challenge, March 31 in Nairobi. 

How do you see dryness? Solar drying is a simple way for smallholder farmers to preserve their harvest, but knowing when food is dry enough to store is complex. UC Davis researchers invented a low-cost, easy-to-use tool that farmers can use to measure food dryness, called the DryCardTM.

In developing countries, mold growth on dried foods is a pervasive problem, which can mean postharvest losses for farmers and unsafe foods for consumers. When mold grows it reduces the market value of dried foods, meaning less income for farmers. But moldy foods can also contain toxins that suppress the immune system, increase disease rates, and cause lifelong stunting in children.

Trip to market inspires a solution

Man with smartphone in crowded market, with woman selling fresh produce and bags of dried goods in Tanzania
Michael Reid takes a photo on the market visit in Tanzania with participants in a postharvest training course, which motivated the eventual design of the DryCard. (Horticulture Innovation Lab photo by Angelos Deltsidis/UC Davis)

Improving the postharvest drying process for smallholder farmers is something UC Davis scientists Michael Reid and James Thompson think about often. As UC Cooperative Extension specialists, Reid and Thompson have a history of working together in California and around the world on postharvest technologies, including a design for a more efficient solar dryer.

Last summer Reid led a Horticulture Innovation Lab workshop in Tanzania to provide training in postharvest handling of fruit and vegetable crops. The class visited the local market and tested the moisture content of some of the dried foods for sale. They found huge variation between the moisture contents of dried foods — over half were insufficiently dried and susceptible to mold.

It was then Reid realized the magnitude of the issue. Continue reading Inventing a low-cost solution to reduce moldy foods

Why growing fruits and vegetables matters

Improving livelihoods — through higher profits and diversified, nutrient-rich diets — is a major goal for the Horticulture Innovation Lab’s research efforts around the world.

What horticulture can do:

  • Enriching diets: Horticulture — growing fruits and vegetables — provides critical nutrients for a balanced diet. Not eating enough fruits and vegetables is a major factor in some of the world’s most widespread and debilitating nutrient-related disorders.
  • Increasing incomes: Farmers growing high-value crops, such as fruits, vegetables, flowers or herbs, consistently earn more than those growing other commodities. Horticulture can be an engine for agricultural and economic diversification.

What horticulture needs:

  • Gender equity: Vegetables, fruits and cut flowers are often grown and marketed by women, but women often have less access to markets, land, inputs and education. Addressing these constraints places women growers on the path to increasing productivity and expanding horticultural markets.
  • Technological innovation: Given the complexity of horticulture, innovative “leapfrog” technologies can reduce constraints and input costs that limit the ability of smallholder farmers to achieve maximum profitability.
  • Access to information and research capacity: Commercial success in horticulture depends on improved cultivars, management tools, market knowledge and effective postharvest practices. Sustained horticultural growth requires access to reliable information, a well trained workforce and local capacity to conduct both original and adaptive research.

Excerpt from the Horticulture Innovation Lab brochure.

See also: One-pager on how horticulture can improve nutrition