Category Archives: Researchers

New tools to harvest better potatoes

Mercy_Kitavi
Mercy Kitavi is a geneticist and capacity-building scientist with the International Potato Center based in Nairobi, Kenya.

By Mercy Kitavi

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.

Continue reading New tools to harvest better potatoes

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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

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’

Cooking, cooling and cultivating with poop

Rebecca Larson (center), with project partners near Kampala, Uganda.

Decomposing human and animal waste has the power to change lives. While it might sound – and smell – funny, the power of poop lies in biogas, a renewable energy source produced during the breakdown of waste. The process yields a gas of about 60 percent methane that can be used for cooking, refrigeration, and other basic needs. The waste itself can also be processed and applied to fields to enrich the soil and improve crop production.

Rebecca Larson. Photo by : Lizzy LaFave

That’s what waste engineer, Rebecca Larson, assistant professor professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has been doing. She’s partnered with Vianney Tumwesige, CEO of Green Heat, a Ugandan energy company, teamed up on a host of projects in Kampala, Uganda that demonstrate new ways to transform waste to resource.

Listen our interview with Prof. Larson here

Making sorghum easier to digest

Nana Baah
Nana Baah

Sorghum is a cereal grain that originated in Africa where it has grown for 10,000 years.

It grows tall like corn. Bread and porridge are commonly prepared from it, so it is the main source of energy, protein, vitamins and minerals for millions of people.

But its biggest advantage is that it resists heat and drought. Yet it’s not as popular as wheat or corn because its hard to digest.

That’s a hard crop to crack, right?

Well, Nana Baah Pepra-Ameyaw, a doctoral student in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at Michigan State University, is giving it a try. He spoke with Ali Hussain, a reporter for The Food Fix.

Listen to their interview.