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.
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.
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.
Researcher Ana Herrera explains a mobile technology network that helps farmers warn each other of pest and disease outbreaks and extreme weather. The same system can deliver advice on how to handle such disasters directly to the farmers, and coordinate a response with experts in the field and government officials.
This Grameen Foundation project is supported by Michigan State University’s Global Center for Food Systems Innovation.