Why fruit and vegetable research matters, with updates from our partners around the world
The Trellis Fund, operated by the Horticulture Innovation Lab, connects organizations in developing countries with U.S. graduate students who have agricultural expertise, generating benefits for both the students and the in-country institutions.
Editor’s Note: Liz Hohenberger, one of the UC Davis grad students who manages our Trellis Fund, shares a Thank You note sent by an organization that had previously received funding from the Trellis Fund.
The grants that the Horticulture Innovation Lab awards through its Trellis Fund aren’t huge; we fund 6-month projects for $2,000, matching small organizations with U.S. graduate students who can provide expert support. Since the Horticulture Innovation Lab also funds million-dollar projects, this may not seem like much, but we know that Trellis Fund projects can have a lasting impact on the graduate students (think of them as tomorrow’s agricultural leaders) and the local organizations that work together.
We recently received an email from one of the first organizations to receive Trellis funding, a reminder of how big of a difference this small grant can make. The email from Uganda started with:
“THANK YOU THE TRELLIS FUND. YOU GAVE US THE VERY FIRST PUSH!”
As one of the graduate student program managers of the Horticulture Innovation Lab’s Trellis Fund, the reality of managing 15 small projects across 9 countries in the last year has meant a lot of time spent at my computer. I love what I do, but I find it easy to get consumed in my own projects. My world can easily become compressed to that which exists inside my computer screen.
Attending the Horticulture Innovation Lab’s annual meeting this year in Siem Reap, Cambodia, was a bit of a wake-up call for me. Getting to meet many of our partners and fellow development practitioners — whose names I’ve read in emails, reports and project proposals for as long as I’ve worked here — brought the scope of our work to life in a whole new way.
In a classroom in Ghana, graduate student Dev Paudel from the University of Florida bent over computers with students and research assistants as they learned the basics of R, a free, open-source programming language for statistical analysis that he had installed on the computers earlier that week. As participants in this Kayaba Management Foundation training, the class members would next analyze the results of a needs survey of more than 300 farmers and vegetable vendors from nearby communities. Their goal?
“If we can use state-of-the-art statistical tools (including R) in Ghana, we can generate research findings that would be accepted by both policy makers and the international investor community,” said Hussein Yunus Alhassan, CEO of the Kayaba Management Foundation and chief instructor at Tamale Polytechnic. His new foundation is laying the groundwork for locally led research that supports the horticulture sector in northern Ghana, markets for horticulture value chains, and women’s empowerment.
The Horticulture Innovation Lab is seeking project proposals from organizations in developing countries for small horticultural projects, through its Trellis Fund.
The Trellis Fund will offer 15 grants, up to $2,000 each, to local organizations for six-month projects that address horticultural challenges in the region. Organizations in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Nepal, Rwanda, Senegal, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia are eligible to apply.
For the article Felicia Alvarez, who covers the agriculture beat for the Davis community newspaper, interviewed students Brittany Pierce, Deirdre Griffin, and Belinda Richardson. She also talked to Elyssa Lewis, one of the UC Davis graduate students who manages the Trellis Fund for the Horticulture Innovation Lab, about how the program works.
The article is dramatic and entertaining, bringing readers along on the students’ journeys and into distant agricultural fields, beginning with:
They found themselves in Bangladesh, Malawi and Kenya.
…. After months of preparation, three students journeyed abroad to take a crack at agricultural problems in the developing world. These are their stories.
Though 14 students from multiple universities were selected to participate in this year’s Trellis Fund projects, this article focused on the individual experiences of just these three — all of whom returned from their trips abroad very recently. As I write this blog post, two students are traveling for Trellis projects right now, and six others are planning Trellis trips in the near future.