In a traditional African setting, we say that time waits for no man and doesn’t spare the women either.
At exactly 5:30 a.m. in East Africa, the cock crows and Kanini slowly stretches from her rickety-legged wooden bed that is covered by a thin mattress. She knows she is lucky, yet every morning when she opens her eyes to a new day, she feels like closing them again.
Phillip Kamwendo finished explaining to a group of African reporters how he used “friendly bacteria” to improve groundnut seeds.
Then the Malawi researcher turned to a nearby team led by Michigan State University experts, flashed them a wide grin and gave them two thumbs up. It was a highlight for our team that had worked for days with Kamwendo and others at Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR) to refine how to explain their research.
“When he asked the reporters how many of them understood what an innoculant was, I felt like a proud grandmother,” said Emmanuella Delva, a program officer with USAID, the project’s funder, and who pitched in on the training.
The work in Malawi was the start of a two-continent, three-country training tour that I’m still on. I just finished work with other scientists – including two MSU alums – at the Rwanda offices of the International Potato Center to help them explain their research story to funders and others.
Now I’m in Lima, Peru, about to do the same thing this week at that center’s South American headquarters.
In Uganda, farmers in rain-fed agricultural communities depend on irrigation. Without irrigation, they battle with fluctuating and
unpredictable weather conditions, droughts and flooding. Crops don’t do well and yields are low.
Researcher Abraham Salomon, of the University of California-Davis, is working in eastern Uganda, collaborating with local farmers, social advocates, and engineers on flexible and community-managed irrigation interventions. They’ve been installing and maintaining adaptable irrigation systems that allows tomatoes, cabbage, beans and other vegetables to thrive in the dry seasons and the unpredictable rainy seasons.