Scholarship opportunity: Guatemalan to study at North Carolina A&T

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.

The chosen student will pursue a Ph.D. in Energy and Environmental Systems at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (N.C. A&T), with tuition, fees, travel and dissertation costs supported with funds from the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Qualifying applicants should: Continue reading Scholarship opportunity: Guatemalan to study at North Carolina A&T

Guatemala: Building partnerships for new irrigation project

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).

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From right: Carlos Cardenas, Save the Children’s Guatemala Country Director, and Rodrigo Arias, Save the Children’s Food Security Chief of Party, explain their demonstration farm to Britta Hansen, Manny Reyes, and Ruth McDaniel.

Save the Children’s PAISANO project works with families to improve homestead food production and nutrition. Part of their strategy is to develop Continue reading Guatemala: Building partnerships for new irrigation project

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.

photo: team members discuss project

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.

group photo in field in Cambodia

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

14 steps to growing vegetables with conservation agriculture and drip irrigation

Manny Reyes, NC A&T
Manuel Reyes, professor, North Carolina A&T State University

As told by Manuel Reyes, professor in Biological Engineering at North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University:

  1. Manually till and weed a small plot of land (no more than 200 square meters).
  2. Make vegetable beds.
  3. Find a source of mulch for your site. Mulch should not contain seeds and not grow vegetatively.
  4. Cut mulch and let it dry.
  5. Install drip irrigation on the site.
  6. Put dried mulch on the entire area including the furrows between the vegetable beds. Mulch should be at least 2.5 inches thick. Continue reading 14 steps to growing vegetables with conservation agriculture and drip irrigation