UC Davis to lead global horticulture program
University of California, Davis
November 30, 2009
UC Davis will lead an international effort to help developing countries rise out of poverty through improved production and marketing of high-value horticultural crops.
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is funding a new $15 million, five-year global Horticulture Collaborative Research Support Program (Horticulture CRSP). Partnering with UC Davis in the program are the University of North Carolina, University of Hawaii, and Cornell University.
UC Davis faculty in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences are leading the effort. They officially launched the Horticulture CRSP on Oct. 28, and wasted no time soliciting “shovel ready” proposals to jump start projects in countries located in sub-Saharan Africa, southern Asia, and Latin America.
Through a competitive grants program, Horticulture CRSP leadership will select and support partners at land-grant universities and institutions in target countries as they undertake research, training, curriculum development and outreach activities.
A pressing need
Horticulture, which includes the propagation of both food and ornamental crops, is a means for meeting human health and nutrition needs, and for providing new economic opportunity.
“Forty to 50 percent of the food produced in the developing world never reaches the table,” said Ron Voss, an emeritus Cooperative Extension specialists who will lead the new program. “We see a pressing need to implement environmentally friendly technologies and innovative practices that will improve growing, handling, and marketing of horticultural products.”
Voss is an expert in specialty crop production and is experienced at organizing and leading programs for small-scale farmers. Other Horticulture CRSP team members at UC Davis include associate director Beth Mitcham, a Cooperative Extension specialist and specialist; Michael Reid, a professor in the postharvest physiology of ornamental plants; and Mark Bell, who leads the International Learning Center and specializes in training and communications. Headquarters will be with the college’s International Programs office on the UC Davis campus.
The new program will address priorities identified in the USAID-sponsored Global Horticulture Assessment conducted and written in 2004-2005 by a team of international horticultural and development experts led by Patrick Brown, a UC Davis plant sciences professor.
Horticultural research topics will include improving germplasm or plant genetic material, local plant varieties, and sustainable production methods in horticultural crops that will ensure success in the marketplace. Because so much of the food grown in target countries is wasted, there will be a special focus on reducing postharvest losses. Training aimed at decreasing the incidence of food-borne illnesses also will be provided.
Voss noted that in the developing world, women provide as much as 90 percent of the labor for production of horticultural crops, yet often have limited access to resources, receive lower wages, and have less stable jobs than men. Gender equity will, therefore, be one of the overarching themes of the new horticulture program.
Other key priorities will include developing and strengthening private-sector relationships, particularly related to markets and marketing, as well as improving local support for horticultural producers through short- and long-term student and professional training.
The program will also emphasize innovative technologies and information accessibility. Most rural areas in the developing world are still not linked to the Internet, so other methods, such as information storage on cell phones, will be explored for program delivery.
In the next phase, pilot projects that employ “leapfrog” technologies will be encouraged in horticultural development. Photovoltaics to power electric water pumps or small-scale coolers, for instance, are becoming more affordable and hold great promise.
The results of research projects funded by the new horticulture program will be made available through a readily accessible database of information and training tools. All research projects in the program will include outreach and evaluation components to provide farmers, horticulturists, marketers, and consumers in the developing world with the tools they need to improve their horticultural crop production, as well as their livelihoods, nutrition, and health.
“Those improvements will translate into enhanced nutrition and human health, as well as improved social and economic conditions,” Voss said. “By harnessing the research, training, and outreach expertise of the land-grant universities in the U.S. to work with local developing country partners, we are confident that we can improve their knowledge generation and horticultural capabilities in much the same way that the land-grant system helped to revolutionize American agriculture.”
To learn more about the Horticulture CRSP, visit the program’s website at http://hortcrsp.ucdavis.edu/.