Category Archives: Text

Bridging food scientists and journalists with communications training in the public interest

Malawi researcher Phillip Kamwendo, with hat, explains experiment in groundnut production to African journalists . Image: David Poulson
Malawi researcher Phillip Kamwendo, with hat, explains crop experiments to African journalists . Image: David Poulson

By David Poulson

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.

Amol Pavangadkar, director of MSU's Sandbox Studios, explains video production techniques to Malawian journalists
Amol Pavangadkar, director of MSU’s Sandbox Studios, explains video production techniques to Malawian journalists. Image: David Poulson

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.

The work in Malawi was by far the most complex. Continue reading Bridging food scientists and journalists with communications training in the public interest

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Improving vegetable farming with community-driven irrigation tech in Uganda

Farmers installing an irrigation system . Photo provided by: Abraham Salomon

 

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.

Abraham Salomon. Photo: Lizzy LaFave

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.

Listen to the our interview to Abraham here

Edamame demand could spark production in Great Lakes region

Arkansas currently grows the most commercial edamame in the U.S. Image: Pamela Reed
Arkansas currently grows the most commercial edamame in the U.S. Image: Pamela Reed

By Carin Tunney

Great Lakes farmers could cash in on edamame, but a shift from dry soybeans won’t be seamless, experts say.

Edamame is a popular vegetable at many U.S. restaurants. It’s a type of soybean that is harvested while tender.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says 90 percent of soy products come from U.S. farms and more than 80-percent are grown in the Midwest. But that is mostly grain-type soybeans dried and fed to cattle or manufactured into protein sources like soy milk. Continue reading Edamame demand could spark production in Great Lakes region

Scientists raise alarm over decline of invasive species in East African great lake

Nile perch. Image: Tonny Omondi
Nile perch. Image: Tonny Omondi

By Halima Abdallah

Editor’s note: Uganda-based reporter Halima Abdallah of The East African developed this story at an environmental journalism workshop led by Eric Freedman, director of MSU’s Knight Center for Environmental Journalism which publishes The Food Fix.

Will the commercial viability of Lake Victoria and its ecosystem be sustained? This is the question arising from re-emergence of low value native species like dagaa against dwindling stocks of high-value species like the Nile perch.

Continue reading Scientists raise alarm over decline of invasive species in East African great lake

Women, water, work and inequality

Uzbekistan. Image: Embassy of Uzbekistan, Washington D.C.
Uzbekistan. Image: Embassy of Uzbekistan, Washington D.C.

By Eric Freedman

Water is a precious commodity in rural Uzbekistan. It’s in short supply but essential for the cotton and wheat that are the landlocked Central Asian country’s “strategic export commodities” providing 30 percent of its gross domestic product.

Water is just as essential for peasants who grow most of their own food.

Now a new study shows the interconnection among water, women, work and gender inequality under Uzbekistan’s government-mandated water management system that overwhelmingly favors private farms owned by men.

That allocation system largely excludes peasant women whose “subsistence water needs [are] being taken less seriously than the market-oriented needs of private farmers,” write professors Elena Kim of the American University of Central Asia in Kyrgyzstan, Conrad Schetter of the Bonn International Center for Conversion in Germany and Anna-Katharina Hornidge of the University of Bremen in Germany, Continue reading Women, water, work and inequality