Guatemalans interested in pursuing a doctoral degree are encouraged to apply for a fellowship package that will be part of an upcoming Horticulture Innovation Lab project in Guatemala, called MásRiego.
In late August, I was part of the Horticulture Innovation Lab team who traveled to the Western Highlands of Guatemala to finalize plans for an upcoming project called MásRiego (“more irrigation” in Spanish). We will officially announce and describe this project at a later time, but I would like to tell you about our trip and the things we learned.
The Feed the Future zone of influence in Guatemala lies in the Western Highlands where water is scarce and farming is done on steep slopes. Several USAID partners work in this region in a concerted effort to reduce poverty and rates of stunting. We traveled to this region to learn about the USAID partners’ strategies and look for synergies for MásRiego. Our team consisted of Manny Reyes and Ruth McDaniel of North Carolina A&T State University, and Britta Hansen accompanied me (Amanda Crump) from the Horticulture Innovation Lab at UC Davis. We spent a lot of time with the projects of Save the Children, Catholic Relief Services, Counterpart International, and the Guatemalan Exporters’ Association (AGEXPORT).
Most commonly used with field crops, conservation agriculture combines three practices that help farmers invest in soil health, specifically:
minimal soil disturbance (“no till”),
continuous mulch cover, and
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.
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.
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.
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.