Category Archives: Trends

Poetry, improv and a lost crop of the Incas: Telling stories to save the world

CIP scientist Willy Pradel explains his research at a mock press conference. Image: David Poulson

By David Poulson

Jan Kreuze stood in front of a room full of reporters and began shredding paper.

“This is how a plant attacks a virus,” the researcher explained.

Then he bent over and gathered up the pieces. Reassembling them with a computer program is an easier, cheaper way of getting a picture of the disease than sifting through the genetics of an entire plant, he said. And that could lead to better strategies for fighting it.

Wilmer Perez held a cardboard wheel above his head.

“It doesn’t need batteries or the Internet,” he told the group.  And yet the device helps farmers decide when to apply pesticides, dramatically reducing their use.

Continue reading Poetry, improv and a lost crop of the Incas: Telling stories to save the world

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Communicating research: Malawi journalist interviews one from the U.S.

By Max Johnston

Stanley Kadzuwa, a reporter with the Malawi Institute of Journalism (MIJ) FM Radio, recently interviewed David Poulson, senior associate director of the Knight Center and professor of journalism at Michigan State University.

Kadzuwa participated in a workshop put on by Poulson and Amol Pavangadkar, director of Sandbox Studios and a senior specialist with the Media Information Department at MSU’s College of Communication Arts and Sciences.

Listen to the interview here.

Poulson discussed communicating research through journalism, the differences between Malawi and Michigan, and some stories from the training tour.

MIJ FM Radio has operated for over 15 years and airs programs throughout Malawi’s three regions.

This broadcast is from part of The Knight Center for Environmental Journalism’s two-continent, three-country training tour. We’re sharing stories that we’ve received through our global partnerships.

For more information on The Knight Center’s tour and partnerships, read more here.

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

How private investment in food production can make the world less hungry

By Max Johnston

Food finances are tricky.

Funding food production in developing countries has been difficult for a number of reasons, according to Rebecca Toole, a policy expert in economics.

“Farmers may seem like risky borrowers,” Toole said. “They often don’t have a established credit history, they also might not have stores of capital they could use as collateral for loans.”

Heifer International, a global non-profit organization, uses something called impact investing. That’s where you have the private sector invest in food production, with a smaller relative return to their investment. Continue reading How private investment in food production can make the world less hungry

Professor wants to give farmers “magic wands”

By Max Johnston

If you had a magic wand that could make the world less hungry, what would you do? That’s the question David Kramer, professor of Photosynthesis and Bioenergetics at Michigan State University, is trying to answer. Kramer and his team have made a magic wand of sorts, the MultispeQ, a handheld device that measures a plant’s health.

98 percent of farms are less than ten acres, according to David Kramer, professor of Photosynthesis and Bioenergetics at Michigan State University. Continue reading Professor wants to give farmers “magic wands”