UC Davis and Uganda students consider gender in irrigation design

Julia Jordan, university of California at davis (UC Davis) graduate student and RIFA fellow
Julia Jordan, UC Davis graduate student and RIFA fellow

Editor’s note: Julia Jordan is one of two UC Davis graduate students (along with Mariah Coley) who have been working on a Horticulture Innovation Lab project in Uganda with support from Research and Innovation Fellowship for Agriculture (RIFA). As a RIFA fellow, she worked in Uganda for 5 months alongside the Teso Women’s Development Initiative and Busitema University students in relation to a project focused on developing farmer-led irrigation solutions, with leadership from Kate Scow of UC Davis. Julia previously worked as a graduate assistant with the Horticulture Innovation Lab’s management team at UC Davis.

Below is an excerpt of a blog post that Julia wrote about her work on this project, a version of which has also been shared on the Agrilinks website.

Under the shade of a mango tree on a cool Monday morning in Soroti, Uganda, ten Busitema University student interns gathered and looked around apprehensively. They were seated on bright blue plastic chairs outside of the Teso Women’s Development Initiative (TEWDI) office, where they had been meeting for weeks as part of their internships with a research project focused on  developing farmer-led irrigation solutions.

The group of crop science, agricultural mechanization, and irrigation engineering majors had just been asked to brainstorm and write down the qualities, roles and expectations they associate with women and those they associate with men. Though initially confused by the exercise, the students were soon furiously scribbling their ideas on a colorful array of sticky notes and, shortly after, engaged in a lively discussion about the gender norms and relationships they have witnessed, experienced, or heard about in their own communities.

These soon-to-be professionals, many of whom hail from rural farm families and villages in various regions of Uganda, debated pervasive assumptions about men’s superior physical strength, contemplated what it means for a woman to be expected to “submit” to her husband, and described the perceived threat of a woman attaining a higher education level than a man. They reflected on women’s responsibility to collect firewood and water, men’s tendency to manage cattle, and why it may be more common to see women riding bicycles in some regions rather than others. I encouraged the students to also consider how age, ethnicity, disability status, religion, and other social differences may influence these issues.

“So,” I asked them, “what does all of this have to do with designing irrigation technology?” Continue reading UC Davis and Uganda students consider gender in irrigation design

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

Sharing postharvest knowledge, from classroom to mango farm

Nick Reitz, UC Davis graduate student who participated in Trellis Fund project in Ghana

Editor’s note: Nick Reitz is a doctoral student in the UC Davis Department of Food Science and Technology, who participated in a Trellis Fund project led by the Methodist University College Ghana. Here Nick shares some details about his trip to Ghana for this project, which focused on food processing for mango farmers. Though Nick did not have previous experience with mangoes, he had a lot of knowledge to share about postharvest practices. Updated Nov. 6: The Horticulture Innovation Lab has extended the deadline for graduate students to apply for 5 new Trellis Fund projects focused on postharvest handling, small-scale processing and food preservation in Africa.

Question: How does your work on this Trellis Fund project fit into your studies and career, as a Food Science grad student?

Nick Reitz: Prior to this project, I knew almost nothing about mangos. However, my background knowledge of postharvest biology and food processing technology mixed with a fair amount of research helped overcome this lack of knowledge. The basic science behind food preservation is the same regardless of what technology is available. If you know the basics, you can find a method and predict what will happen. Adapting my knowledge to the conditions and resources available in Ghana has been one of the most interesting parts of this project so far.

While I enjoy traveling, learning about other cultures, and learning new languages, this is my first time working in international agricultural development. Help from the Continue reading Sharing postharvest knowledge, from classroom to mango farm

Opening a center for horticulture innovations in Guinea

Andra Williams, Horticulture Innovation Lab

Editor’s note: Andra Williams recently completed work in Guinea as a UC Davis staff member with the Horticulture Innovation Lab (see details at the end of this post about our new team member in Guinea). In the wake of Ebola, the Horticulture Innovation Lab was asked to evaluate fruit and vegetable opportunities for West African farmers in Guinea. The resulting “Rapid Assessment of the Horticulture Sector in Guinea” report made several recommendations for ways to provide support to the country’s farmers — and the Horticulture Innovation Lab team was invited to share some of its existing horticultural knowledge by starting a new center in the district of Kindia. Here, Andra shares her experiences and accomplishments from working in Guinea.

Agriculture in Guinea has faced many challenges in recent years, with political instability and health crises, such as the recent Ebola outbreak, limiting agricultural research and farmer training.

In April I was sent to work in Foulayah, Guinea, as a project manager for the Horticulture Innovation Lab, tasked with establishing a farmer service and training center in the Kindia district, at the Centre de Recherche Agricole de Foulayah (CRAF), part of the government’s national agricultural research institute (Institut de Recherche Agronomique de Guinée or IRAG). Our goal was to create a local training center devoted to introducing farmers nearby to horticultural production tools and postharvest technologies by creating training modules for the community, including individual producers, women groups and farming cooperatives.

To get started, I hired four “AVENIR agents” to work with Continue reading Opening a center for horticulture innovations in Guinea

Inspiring students to help farmers in developing countries (Apply now!)

Update: The deadline for students to apply to 5 specific projects in Uganda and Ghana has been extended to Nov. 20, 2017. See details at Trellis Fund webpage

The Horticulture Innovation Lab is recruiting graduate students to take part in 15 new Trellis Fund projects in Africa and Asia.

Selected students will travel to Nepal, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda or Ghana while providing agricultural expertise to a local organization and their farming clientele.

Graduate students who are attending four of the Horticulture Innovation Lab’s partner universities — North Carolina State University, the University of Florida, the University of California, Davis, and the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa — are eligible to apply. The deadline for applications is Oct. 27, 2017.

University students work with organizations in developing countries, to help farmers

Each Trellis Fund project connects a grad student from an American university with an organization in a developing country, to work together to help local farmers better grow fruits and vegetables. Continue reading Inspiring students to help farmers in developing countries (Apply now!)