Horticulture Innovation Lab Aims to Empower Smallholder Farmers
By Matt Marcure and Cynthia M. Portalatin
Florida A&M University’s (FAMU) Center for International Agricultural Trade Development Research and Training (CIATDRT) will help lead global efforts to advance production, handling, and consumption of fruits and vegetables as part of a five-year $15 Million award from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) for its Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Horticulture.
“One of our main objectives, as we lead FAMU’s effort within the Horticulture Innovation Lab, is to help the targeted communities develop the much-needed sustainable solutions to the challenges faced globally within the horticultural value chains to improve productivity, incomes, and livelihoods,” said Harriett A. Paul, CIATDRT and International Agriculture programs director for FAMU’s College of Agriculture and Food Sciences (CAFS).
Lambert Kanga, Ph.D., director of FAMU’s Center for Biological Control, will serve as lead scientist for Entomology/Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program as he joins the FAMU CIATDRT in this effort.
“One of the most important aspects of food safety in the global food supply chains is pest management. As climate changes, economic losses due to insect pests will increase, thus, we will contribute to the implementation of successful integrated pest management strategies for the communities we will serve,” said Kanga.
Locally Let, Globally Supported
USAID will provide a base $15 million investment over the next five years, with up to $34.5 million total funding possible to support this global research program and consortium, led by the University of California-Davis. This competitive program was first awarded to UC Davis in 2009 and renewed in 2014.
The global consortium aims to help develop sustainable, local expertise and innovative technical and social solutions for horticulture producers and their communities. The consortium consists of: Florida A&M University, Michigan State University, Texas A&M University, UC Davis, and the World Vegetable Center, along with subject matter experts from Penn State University and Making Cents International, to help manage this program.
Within the consortium are partners and specialists with expertise in horticulture, agronomics, agri-sociology, agribusiness and agri-policy. The Horticulture Innovation Lab will convene these global, regional, and local experts to determine research needs in each geographical area, and the team will emphasize a holistic, locally led approach to build community resilience and support inclusivity.
The Horticulture Innovation Lab will work with and promote local leadership in communities across the globe while focusing their efforts in West Africa, East Africa, South/Southeast Asia and Central America. At the forefront of their research is the development of environmentally sustainable, market-oriented production and post-harvest handling methods that improve income for smallholder farmers and other stakeholders in fruit and vegetable value chains, as well as providing them more access to nourishing fruits and vegetables.
Building on fertile grounds
Fruits and vegetables provide vital nutrients for healthy communities, empower women and youth, and improve overall sustainability in production systems – this was the central tenet informing all of the work that the Horticulture Innovation Lab did during its first 10 years.
As a direct result of the Horticulture Innovation Lab’s work, more than 750 horticultural technologies are now available for transfer and scaling in communities across the globe. More than 32,000 farmers are applying or using these technologies as a result of the lab and its network’s collective work, and more than 13,000 hectares of land are under new management practices.
The Horticulture Innovation Lab produced a number of innovative technologies, including a chimney solar dryer that more efficiently dries and preserves fruits and vegetables for long-term storage, and a simple tool called the DryCard that lets farmers know if food is safe for dry storage.
Additionally, researchers facilitated the adoption of improved agricultural methods, such as drip irrigation in Guatemala, and conservation agriculture for vegetable production and a packinghouse in Cambodia, that led to climate and social resilience.
The Horticulture Innovation Lab is a part of Feed the Future, the U.S. government’s initiative to combat global hunger and poverty. It brings partners together to help some of the world’s poorest countries harness the power of agriculture and entrepreneurship to jump-start their economies and create new opportunities. For more information visit: https://www.feedthefuture.gov.