New funding for market-driven research on apricots, tomatoes

How to improve market opportunities for farmers growing tomatoes in West Africa and apricots in Central Asia are the main objectives of two new research grant opportunities from the Horticulture Innovation Lab.

September 12 is the deadline for research proposals for these two projects, each with funding up to $300,000 over two years. U.S.-based researchers are invited to apply in partnership with international scientists and organizations.

The research will provide evidence-based analysis to help smallholder farmers better connect with agricultural markets, through practices that address fruit quality, food safety, packaging, handling, processing, transportation, market analysis and other postharvest issues. The Horticulture Innovation Lab conducts collaborative research with funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development, as part of Feed the Future, the U.S. government’s global hunger and food security initiative.

Helping apricot farmers in Tajikistan

After a severe frost hit northern Tajikistan’s primary apricot growing region in 2015, farmers in southern Tajikistan’s Khatlon province saw new opportunities to connect Continue reading New funding for market-driven research on apricots, tomatoes

Looking back at the Horticulture Innovation Lab’s 2016 annual meeting

Another year, another annual meeting: Horticulture Innovation Lab partners gathered this time in Cambodia to share achievements, exchange ideas, and scheme about their next steps in advancing horticultural science and helping smallholder farmers in developing countries.

Exchanging horticultural ideas at lightning speed

Nearly 100 scientists, development practitioners, and other horticultural partners gathered for a Regional Horticulture Conference on the first day of the meeting.

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Sang Lee of USAID/Cambodia welcomes the conference participants to Cambodia with an introduction to USAID and Feed the Future impacts in the country.

Elizabeth Mitcham of the Horticulture Innovation Lab, Men Sarom of the Royal University of Agriculture, Sang Lee of USAID/Cambodia, and John Bowman of USAID’s Bureau for Food Security provided welcoming remarks to set the scene for the day and its priorities.

Lee highlighted the accomplishments of Feed the Future activities in Cambodia, including USAID’s continued investment in horticulture to increase incomes and nutrition through fruits and vegetables.

“It is estimated that 70 percent of vegetables are imported from neighboring countries,” she said. “Even if we can reduce that 70 percent marginally, I think that can make a big difference.”

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After a lightning talk by Kate Scow of UC Davis on irrigation innovation, these groups from projects in Uganda and Guatemala exchange ideas.

Much of the conference day was split into 5-minute lightning talks, with a total of 15 speakers sharing just the highlights of their recent horticultural work. After one hour of presentations, the speakers and participants circulated for follow-up questions and in-depth discussions sparked by the brief talks. (See slides from the lightning talks on our website, and watch for 5-minute video features of these talks in future blog posts.)

The day concluded with a lively Horticulture Expo, with hands-on Continue reading Looking back at the Horticulture Innovation Lab’s 2016 annual meeting

New report on horticulture in Guinea, after Ebola

In the wake of the Ebola outbreak, the Horticulture Innovation Lab was asked to evaluate fruit and vegetable production in Guinea, as part of the U.S. Agency for International Development’s ongoing response in the region.

Over several months, the Horticulture Innovation Lab’s team combined a desk study, interviews, and surveys of farmers, village leaders and market traders into a “rapid assessment.”

Report cover of USAID horticulture with Guinean farmer photo
The report, “Rapid Assessment of Horticulture in Guinea” is now available online.

The report, “Rapid Assessment of the Horticulture Sector in Guinea” is now available online and identifies constraints to improving horticultural production at household and commercial levels in Guinea, along with specific recommendations for improvements. It is intended to provide guidance to USAID and the U.S. government’s Feed the Future initiative, for investments in Guinea’s agriculture.

“We tried not to give the USAID mission in Guinea a list of things that says, ‘Everything is broken,’” said Amanda Crump, associate director of the Horticulture Innovation Lab and one of the authors. “Instead we provided a list that is doable, makes sense in the context of Guinea specifically, and identifies where to start for greater impact.”

The assessment’s recommendations are Continue reading New report on horticulture in Guinea, after Ebola

Nepal: When greenhouses become tents

Our thoughts are with those who have lost loved ones and homes in Nepal.

With partners in dozens of countries, our management team at UC Davis often filters global news based on who we know and where we’ve been. In January, our office sent Beth Mitcham to visit farmers in Nepal for the launch of a research project, with partners Manny Reyes and International Development Enterprises (iDE). At the same time, Britta Hansen from UC Davis worked in Nepal with faculty from Kasetsart University to provide a training on improving postharvest practices.

With Saturday’s earthquake in Nepal, our questions inevitably turn to: Are the people we know there safe?

One of our International Advisory Board members, Bob Nanes, experienced the earthquake from the streets of Kathmandu on Saturday, on his way to meet a friend for lunch. Besides serving on our board, Bob is a consultant for iDE and has decades of experience working in the region.

He is safe. As he says, he was a “lucky one.” He has described his experiences in detail on iDE’s blog.

Bob also sent us this photo of a greenhouse in the Lalitpur district of Nepal, originally built by farmers to better grow vegetables while working with iDE, the Horticulture Innovation Lab, and the IPM Innovation Lab. This is one of the districts that our team visited in January. Now without the shelter of their home, these farmers are taking cover in the greenhouses.

People cooking under the awning of a greenhouse made from wooden poles and plastic sheeting, near remnants of a home ruined in the earthquake.
For some in Nepal’s rural districts, greenhouses for growing vegetables are providing temporary shelter. Photo by Bimala Rai Colavito, courtesy of iDE.

Continue reading Nepal: When greenhouses become tents

U.S. scientists begin new horticulture projects in developing countries

Agricultural scientists from five land-grant universities have been awarded $4.2 million to research ways to improve livelihoods for smallholder fruit and vegetable farmers in developing countries.

Each of the new projects brings together an international research team under the Horticulture Innovation Lab, with funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development and leadership by the University of California, Davis. The collaborative program is part of Feed the Future, the U.S. government’s global hunger and food security initiative.

Does horticulture improve farmers’ lives?

How growing fruits and vegetables can improve the lives of farmers and their communities — by improving aspects of nutrition and gender equity — are the themes of two new projects, each funded for five years.

“We’re making a concerted effort to understand how horticulture can make a difference in the lives of the world’s poorest people,” said Elizabeth Mitcham, Horticulture Innovation Lab director and UC Cooperative Extension specialist at UC Davis. “We hope the results from our gender and nutrition projects will inform policymakers and donors about the benefits of supporting horticulture for development.”

Janelle Larson of Penn State will lead a $1.3 million project in Honduras that will analyze how participating in the horticultural value chain can empower women and support gender equity. The analysis will also identify policies, regulations or cultural norms that limit women’s participation in horticulture. Then the team will develop curriculum and deliver training to reduce barriers for women, with partners at the Panamerican Agricultural School, Zamorano University. (More information about this project from Penn State)

James Simon of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, will lead a $2 million project focused on improving dietary diversity through enhanced access to African indigenous vegetables in Kenya and Zambia. Once considered “famine foods,” these indigenous vegetables such as amaranth, African nightshade and spider plant have increased in popularity — but meeting market demand still presents several production and marketing challenges. This project will work to improve the value chain for indigenous vegetables and will monitor how changes to vegetable production and marketing affect household consumption of these nutritious vegetables.

Spin-off projects remix lessons learned

Three new grants take completed projects in new directions, with ideas that came from insights, surprises and lessons learned during previous Horticulture Innovation Lab projects. These “spin-off” grants are each funded for $300,000 over two years, led by researchers at UC Davis, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University.

Marketing vegetables grown with conservation agriculture methods in Cambodia and Nepal: In an earlier project, Manuel Reyes of North Carolina A&T State University worked with women farmers in Cambodia on field experiments that compared traditional growing methods for vegetables to conservation agriculture methods, which can reduce labor while providing environmental benefits. The labor-saving methods were so popular with the farmers that many of them asked to cut the experiment short — so that they could adopt the newer methods on all their fields, without the traditional tilling and hand irrigation of the control fields. In this new spin-off project, Reyes and his team will focus on helping smallholder farmers in Cambodia and Nepal market the vegetables grown with these water- and labor-saving practices, developing a brand that highlights their conservation principles. Project partners will include the Royal University of Agriculture of Cambodia, the Agricultural Development Denmark Asia organization, and International Development Enterprises (iDE).

Expanding tomato grafting for small businesses in Honduras and Guatemala: This new project led by James Nienhuis, of UW-Madison, grows from previous work first evaluating tomato and chili varieties, then producing vegetable seed locally with women farmers. This new project will evaluate grafted tomatoes for local conditions and provide training to women farmers for small nursery businesses, with local partners at Catholic Relief Services, Zamorano Panamerican Agricultural School, and the Fundación Hondureña de Investigación Agrícola. The team will also include Horticulture Innovation Lab partners at The Ohio State University who have trained African farmers in vegetable grafting.

Irrigation solutions for off-season vegetables in Uganda: For this project, farmer groups will participate in a “co-innovation” process that will focus on small-scale irrigation for dry-season vegetable production, with leadership from Kate Scow of UC Davis. The idea to focus on irrigation came from workshops held during a previous Horticulture Innovation Lab project focused on farmer field schools and participatory agricultural extension models for vegetable growers in Uganda. The group has also received funding from Michigan State University’s Global Center for Food Systems Innovation to build capacity in relation to irrigation, and will work on this new innovative irrigation project with Busitema University, National Semi Arid Resources Research Institute (NaSARRI), Teso Women Development Initiatives (TEWDI) and other local partners.

Competitive grants, collaborative program

The competitive grant process began in August, when the program issued an open call for proposals from U.S. university researchers. One call for proposals about reducing postharvest losses was not funded, though the management team expects to move forward with work to improve postharvest practices later this year. Additional grants are being finalized for projects that will scale up use of proven horticultural tools and technologies.

The Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research on Horticulture (or “Horticulture Innovation Lab”) builds international partnerships for fruit and vegetable research that improves livelihoods in developing countries. The program is one of 24 Feed the Future Innovation Labs funded by USAID, five of which are led by UC Davis. For more information about the Horticulture Innovation Lab, visit http://horticulture.ucdavis.edu.

This announcement originally appeared on the Horticulture Innovation Lab website.

About the photo at top: Kate Scow, soil science professor at UC Davis, met with farmers and research partners in Uganda recently to begin a newly funded project focused on small-scale irrigation for vegetable growers. (Horticulture Innovation Lab photo/Amanda Crump, UC Davis)