Video: UC Davis student connects with Ugandan farmers over pineapple postharvest practices

A version of this blog post originally appeared on the UC ANR Food Blog.

Sometimes it helps to pause and reconnect with what motivates your work.

For Karin Albornoz — a Ph.D. student studying Horticulture and Agronomy who works in a UC Davis lab on molecular biology of tomato postharvest chilling injury — that means getting out into the world to work directly with small-scale farmers.

“I spend so much time in the lab,” she said. “Sometimes I spend a whole day in the lab extracting RNA or writing a paper. This reminds me why I am doing this work: to make a real-world impact.”

In December, she returned from a trip to Uganda where she did exactly that. In partnership with a local organization called Ndibwami Integrated Rescue Project (NIRP), Albornoz shared her expertise with farmers through several hands-on workshops about improving harvest practices and postharvest handling of pineapple, passion fruit and tomatoes. The project she worked on was supported by the Horticulture Innovation Lab, a global research network led by UC Davis with funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development, as part of he U.S. government’s global hunger and food security initiative called  Feed the Future.

Though Albornoz has worked with rural farmers before, this was her first time working in Africa.

“Everywhere I looked, things were growing. There were people working in the field, women cooking, and everyone was working with food,” she said. “I know there’s a lot of stigma – when you talk about Africa, you see people’s faces change and they’re thinking about things like drought and famine and starving children. But what I saw doesn’t fit that stereotype. The challenges they are facing seem to be about not having access to opportunities.”

The workshops she led are part of the NIRP organization’s efforts to connect farmers with more lucrative markets that pay higher prices for quality produce, through a Trellis Fund project.

In this 2-minute video, Karin Albornoz visits a pineapple farm, leads a pineapple training and discusses next steps for this Trellis Fund project led by NIRP in Uganda in 2017. The video clips and photos were taken by Karin while she was working and edited by Hallie Casey for the Horticulture Innovation Lab. Continue reading Video: UC Davis student connects with Ugandan farmers over pineapple postharvest practices

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

UH Manoa student helps with farmers’ first soil tests in Nepal

grad student portrait
Tiare Silvasy, UH Mānoa graduate student who participated in Trellis Fund project in Nepal

Editor’s note: Tiare Silvasy is a master’s student in Tropical Plant and Soil Sciences at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa who participated in a Trellis Fund project led by the Center for Agricultural Research and Development (CARD-Nepal). She recently returned from a trip to Nepal to work on this project, which focused on soil testing and nutrient management for smallholder farmers — many of whom had never had a soil test before. Here’s a Q&A with highlights from her trip.

Question: How does your work on this Trellis Fund project fit into your studies and career?

Tiare Silvasy: In Hawaii, my thesis is on nutrient management and I’m looking at local organic fertilizers, specifically at meat and bone meal, produced locally here from the islands’ fish and meat wastes. We’re looking at using those local materials on our farmer’s fields, instead of importing fertilizer products. Meat and bone meal contain a relatively high amount of nitrogen for an organic fertilizer.

Young man pointing to pH strip indicator, with older man looking on, along with other students and Tiare holding the test strips
Silvasy and students from Nepal explain soil test results to a farmer. (Photo by Saroj Khanal)

Tell us about the main work you did on this Trellis Fund project during this trip.

The farmers we met with in Nepal had never had a soil test done and didn’t really know what their soil’s baseline nutrients were. A lot of them are using farmyard manure Continue reading UH Manoa student helps with farmers’ first soil tests in Nepal

Building trust in food systems – here and in Cambodia

A version of this article originally appeared in the UC ANR Food Blog.

What is the role of trust in our food system? In the United States, our trust in food is often implicit. We can generally trust that the fruits and vegetables we buy at a grocery store or farmers market are safe to eat — and we are often free to shop without even thinking about that trust.

Between farmers and agricultural scientists too, trust often plays an important role. If you’re a farmer, you need to be able to trust that investing your time or money in a new technique or in attending a workshop will indeed improve your business.

But it can be easy to forget that trust is a critical first step in many of these agricultural relationships.

In a vegetable field, Thort holds open the net door of a net house, with someone standing inside among the vegetable rows
Thort Chuong (now a Fulbright scholar and UC Davis grad student) welcomes us into a nethouse in Cambodia, owned by a farmer who tried it after joining a savings group and hearing about this new way he could grow vegetables without spraying pesticides. Karen LeGrand of UC Davis stands inside, among the leafy green seedlings in the nethouse. 

Establishing trust between actors in a food system has been critical for a Horticulture Innovation Lab project in Cambodia, focused on Continue reading Building trust in food systems – here and in Cambodia

Video: Irrigation solutions in Uganda require social science and farmer-led innovation

Post-conference update: You can find the video of Kate Scow’s talk in the online conference video, beginning at about 52:00.

Kate Scow, UC Davis soil science professor, is one of the featured speakers for the “United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Conference: Research to Action on the African Continent” on Jan. 23 at UC Davis.

She will give a 15-minute, TED-style talk on participatory research and other aspects of her agriculture work in Uganda on the Horticulture Innovation Lab project, “Developing farmer-led irrigation solutions.”

In 2016, Scow gave a 5-minute lightning talk on the same project, which you can find here as a preview for her upcoming talk: https://youtu.be/VqRV1RsnN3g

A public livestream of the conference’s main sessions will be provided, beginning at 8:30 a.m. PST, Jan. 23. Registration to attend Continue reading Video: Irrigation solutions in Uganda require social science and farmer-led innovation