Category Archives: Students

This category features the work of student food system innovators and researchers.

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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Herding up grasshoppers and locusts – to eat

The Kenyan researchers in this video are investigating the large scale use of insects as a source of protein.

The idea is to turn a food threat into a food source. They hope to  feed the insects to chickens that in turn provide eggs and meat to people. But they’re also investigating how to put a protein powder made from the insects directly into human food.

The supplement could help severely malnourished children and nursing women  while providing jobs for youth.  The insects mature quickly and contain amino acids essential to proper nutrition.

Related stories:

 

Zero-waste cassava processing improves nutrition, family life

Worldwide more than 800 million people consume cassava.

This project by the  Tanzania Industrial Research and Development Organization works to use every bit of the popular root vegetable that requires minimal rain.

Even cassava waste is used to produce bio gas to dry the plant’s flower during the night. It’s an energy source that supplements solar drying during the day.

The project benefits women  who are often responsible for growing and processing crops while caring for families.

Study: Malawi’s fertilizer subsidy not ‘miraculous’

messina
Joe Messina

By David Poulson

When geographer Joe Messina first analyzed satellite images of Malawi farm fields, he figured he had made a mistake.

Almost everywhere he looked in the East African nation he found maize harvest declines over the previous decade.  But this was the site of the Malawi Miracle, a fertilizer subsidy program so successful that it was lauded by researchers in scientific journals and by writers in the New York Times and The Economist.

It became a model program used to justify similar enormous investments by the international community in other African nations.

“I assumed I was wrong,” said Messina, a researcher at Michigan State University’s Global Center for Food Systems Innovation.

Continue reading Study: Malawi’s fertilizer subsidy not ‘miraculous’

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