MásRiego project starts in Guatemala

Expanding irrigation and climate-smart farming to Guatemala

An international team led by UC Davis is working to connect 9,000 rural households in Guatemala with improved water management and climate-smart agriculture strategies, to increase food security and reduce poverty.

Called MásRiego (“more irrigation”), the project aims to increase farmers’ incomes and their use of climate-smart strategies, including drip irrigation, rainwater harvesting, reduced tillage, mulch use and diverse crop rotation. To enable farmers to adopt these new practices, the team will not only provide trainings but also build partnerships to increase farmers’ access to needed microcredit financing and irrigation equipment.

“The opportunity to impact so many farmers’ lives on this scale is exciting,” said Beth Mitcham, director of the Horticulture Innovation Lab. “We’re taking lessons learned from our previous research — in Guatemala, Honduras and Cambodia — and building a team to help more small-scale farmers apply our findings and successfully use these innovative practices.”

The new project is part of the U.S. government’s Feed the Future initiative. It represents an additional $3.4 million investment in the UC Davis-led Horticulture Innovation Lab by the U.S. Agency for International Development’s mission in Guatemala.

Partnering with UC Davis is an international team with representatives from Centro de Paz Bárbara Ford in Guatemala; Universidad Rafael Landívar in Guatemala; the Panamerican Agricultural School, Zamorano, in Honduras; Kansas State University; and North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. Continue reading MásRiego project starts in Guatemala

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.

Woman speaking into microphone at podium with Horticulture Innovation Lab insignia IMG_6147eds
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