The National Research Council Lays a Path for Sustainable Agriculture in the 21st Century

By Daniel Kandy

Farmers in the U.S. are being called upon to meet the double-challenge of feeding a growing population while implementing agricultural reforms that are environmentally sustainable and socially equitable.

Researchers are identifying and seeking to address the issues that farms face and issues that reach beyond the farm. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

With the knowledge that farms are not islands, separate from the environment or the society in which they exist, researchers are identifying and seeking to address the issues that farms face and issues that reach beyond the farm. Toward Sustainable Agricultural Systems in the 21st Century acknowledges the unintended negative consequences of the U.S agricultural system, with its dependence on industrial methods that have high yields, but at a high social and environmental cost, and calls for a more holistic perspective. The report identified four goals seen as key in achieving sustainable agriculture:

  • Satisfy human food, fiber, and feed requirements, and contribute to biofuels needs;
  • Enhance environmental quality and the resource base;
  • Maintain the economic viability of agriculture;
  • Improve the quality of life for farmers, farm workers, and society as a whole.

The authors recommend reaching this goal through an incremental approach, in which the development of existing sustainable agricultural techniques will be continued and expanded,  as well as a transformative approach, in which multiple research areas will be brought together to design sustainable farming systems.

Although largely focused on the case of the U.S and its agricultural systems, the report does provide a chapter on sustainable agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa, and how knowledge of the implementation and uses of sustainable farming in the region can benefit from the lessons learned by farmers and policy makers in the U.S. With a large part of the world’s population projected to be living in sub-Saharan Africa in the near future, it is vitally important to implement sustainable techniques sooner rather than later.

Daniel Kandy is a research intern with the Nourishing the Planet project.

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Depending on A Global Workforce

This is the second in a series of blogs Nourishing the Planet will be writing about workers in the food system. Nourishing the Planet research intern Ronit Ridberg recently spoke with Erik Nicholson, National VP of the United Farm Workers of America. In the first part of this two-part interview, Erik talks about the global agricultural system and the role American consumers play in it.

Name: Erik Nicholson

Affiliation: National Vice President, United Farm Workers of America; International director of the Guest Worker Membership Program. Founded in 1962 by Cesar Chavez, the United Farm Workers of America is the nation’s first successful and largest farm workers union currently active in 10 states.

Location: Tacoma, Washington

Bio: Erik Nicholson has worked extensively on pesticide issues affecting farm workers and their families as well as child labor, housing, consumer outreach, education and legislative issues. He currently serves as one of two national farm worker representatives to the Environmental Protection Agency’s national pesticide advisory committee, the Pesticide Program Dialog Committee.

Nicholson led the two-and-a-half year organizing campaign at the national guest worker labor-contracting firm Global Horizons, resulting in the first national guest worker union contract in the history of the United States. He currently is working to develop an international infrastructure to better advocate on behalf of guest workers.

(Photo credit: United Farm Workers of America)

Can you please contextualize the work you do, in what has become a global system of agriculture?

We are now importing the majority of the food we eat. The overwhelming majority of workers who harvest the food we eat in the United States are not from this country. And many if not most of the workers employed in the fields in the United States are displaced farmers from their own countries (mostly Mexico but not exclusively.)  So we’re seeing that many of the same pressures and challenges that are facing farmers in the US are the very same ones that are displacing small farmers in the global South and resulting in them coming in search of employment to the United States, Canada, Australia, and European Union. At the same time, farmers and sometimes their spouses in the US are looking for second jobs in more urban settings.

When Vietnam entered the global market with coffee we saw an unprecedented exodus of coffee farmers out of eastern Mexico. When NAFTA was signed, mass exodus of corn farmers – so we see a direct correlation between these international trade policies and agricultural practices and kind of the global crisis of agriculture that we’re facing.

Within that context you look at agriculture in the United States and pretty much anyone born in this country has no aspirations to work in the fields. And I think if we’re honest with ourselves, the reason is because we all know the conditions are not good, the pay is pretty bad, and there’s really no benefits. As a result we have depended on immigrant workers to come up and do the work that we haven’t wanted to do. And so if you look at the history of the United Farm Workers, we’ve had workers literally from around the world as members – from Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines, Yemen, African Americans and of course, Mexicans, Central Americans, and the internationalization of the work-force continues. We now have workers working under contract from Somalia, Sudan, Kenya, and it’s very much become a global workforce that is harvesting the food we eat.

UFW recently hosted an international gathering of farm workers from 14 different countries. Can you share some of your impressions of that gathering?

It was just amazing to have people who are doing the same work we’ve been doing for fifty years in the United States, together in the same room. We were in awe of just how bad it is out there. We think it’s bad here, and then you talk to folks from Ecuador or Peru, who come to the States telling us, “What are you guys complaining about? You don’t know the half of it.” And so as we really compared notes, the contexts were different but it was appalling just how bad it is for farm workers across the world. That was sobering.

But at the same time, it was tremendously exciting to meet people who give a damn, and who are actually out there in the trenches trying to make a difference. It was a very lively conversation. We did a lot of work just getting to know each other and the different contexts in which we’re working and actively looking for ways to collaborate. One of the first things that came to mind for all of us was that we need to educate the world about how bad it is for farm workers and why everyone who eats should care! We’ve established relationships that have never existed before, and are actively working to build upon those to see what we can do for workers globally.

What do the popular “food movements” of today have to do with farm workers’ rights, and how can individual consumers get more involved in supporting change around the world?

Just look at the whole conversation about “sustainability”, the Buy Local fad, and that was preceded by the organic fad, and the whole mythology that was erected around those concepts that included somehow that workers were going to be treated better. When the reality is there are local farmers I would never ever in a million years buy something from, and gladly pay a premium to have it flown in 2000 miles because I know workers are treated well. And while workers aren’t exposed to as many toxins in organics, there are still toxins in the organic world that are allowed, and organics does nothing on the labor front. So I think we need to make sure that labor is part of the equation.

I’ve found that people are frequently reluctant to dirty their hands because you’re dealing with three very politically charged issues: the sustainability of small farmers, immigration policy, and labor. If you really want to stand with the people who are out there right now in the field, rather than projecting a better future theoretically, find out who’s picking your food and how you can stand with them. Boycott Arizona and let your voice be heard that those types of laws are unacceptable. Support immigration reform, so we can provide legal status to the hundreds of thousands of people that put food on our table. And then really be an advocate to help support the people that are here, now, in their struggle to make a better life for themselves.

It is incumbent on us as people who care about food and care about the viability of small farmers, to understand that these realities are the same for hundreds if not millions of people worldwide.

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Providing Seeds to Improve Food Security in Burkina Faso

By Daniel Kandy

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is providing quality seeds to 100,000 vulnerable farmers in an effort to improve food security in Burkina Faso. Much of the country lies within the Sahel, a biogeographic zone that runs between the Sahara Desert to the north and the savannahs to the south. The region is often hit by drought, decreasing food security in the country. The FAO’s efforts are in response to a food crisis that has left millions of people at risk of hunger.

The FAO projects that the provision of seeds will improve food production for 860,000 rural households, or 6 million people. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

The European Union pledged €1 billion to aid countries facing food security threats and has partnered with the FAO to develop projects. Burkina Faso is one of 50 priority countries to receive aid, along with other sub-Saharan nations such as Zimbabwe and Mali. The FAO projects that the provision of seeds will improve food production for 860,000 rural households, or 6 million people. The agency is also supporting some 900 seed producers in irrigated areas of southern Burkina Faso to help them increase revenues while contributing to improving food security in the rest of the country.

Burkina Faso stands to have its agricultural productivity decline dramatically with the effects of climate change , particularly the reduction in rainfall in a region that is already drought-prone. While the efforts of the FAO and European Union may help to increase regional food security, there is also a broader need to attain the Millennium Development Goals, another UN endeavor that promises long-term fixes for the pressing issue of food security.

Daniel Kandy is a research intern with the Nourishing the Planet project.

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Enter the Dragon: China’s Growing Presence in Unconventional Gas and Oil Markets

Last Thursday, state-owned China National Petroleum Corp. (CNPC) announced a new joint venture with Encana, Canada’s largest producer of natural gas, to develop some of Encana’s holdings in the Montney and Horn River Shales. These are two of North America’s “Magnificent Seven” shale plays, containing an estimated 240 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas—enough to supply China with natural gas for almost 90 years at 2008 levels of consumption.

Of course, with natural gas consumption increasing more than 20 percent a year prior to the economic downturn, no one expects China’s gas needs to remain flat—least of all the Chinese themselves. That is why the CNPC-Encana agreement joins a growing list of Chinese investments in unconventional oil and gas reserves around the world.

The deal with Encana will give CNPC a chance to gain insight from an independent gas company that has some of the longest experience with applying hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling to extract gas from shale formations. In this model, one hand washes the other: major oil and gas companies gain access to the technology and expertise they need to develop unconventional gas, and smaller independent gas companies get access to the sizeable amounts of capital that many have needed in recent years. Taking the time to do initial exploration in other countries and produce gas there sustainably will require deep pockets, so the entrance of state-owned and international oil companies could soon have important effects on the global gas market.

The Chinese energy market represents a major prize for potential future exporters of unconventional oil and gas. This week, Sinopec paid ConocoPhillips $4.65 billion for a 9.03 percent interest in Syncrude, an oil sand project in Alberta, Canada. In March, Petrochina, a CNPC subsidiary, and Shell bid on Arrow Energy, a coal bed methane producer in Australia. Shell also has a major interest in a proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminal on Australia’s coast, whose product will likely be liquefied coal bed methane almost certainly destined for Chinese markets. Although Shell’s investments in LNG will be affected as the global unconventional gas supply increases, the company seems to be betting on an ever-more-voracious Chinese demand for diverse energy sources.

China itself is thought to have significant untapped unconventional gas potential. CNPC and Shell signed an agreement in March to explore jointly for gas in the country’s Sichuan province, which contains a large shale gas play. The U.S.-China Shale Gas Resource Initiative, announced during President Obama’s visit to China last November, will assess China’s shale gas potential and promote international investment in the country’s gas shales.

Anxiety surrounding China’s access to energy resources has grown in tandem with its gross domestic product. Although the country’s investment in wind and solar energy is rapidly overtaking international competitors, its economy will continue to rely heavily on fossil fuels due to its exploding energy demand. But China’s appetite is quickly outstripping its domestic supply of coal, once considered a secure and inexhaustible, if dirty, source of energy.

As a result, the world has seen China making more and more deals with energy resource suppliers beyond its borders. Recent deals have indicated that the Chinese government’s resource strategy is shifting to a two-way mode: instead of passively buying commodities from Australia, the United States, and other major suppliers, the government is encouraging its industries to leverage their capital either by investing directly in foreign markets or by establishing joint-ventures with local partners. Meanwhile, China has opened its domestic resource market to foreign investors. Through collaboration with foreign companies on oil and gas projects both in China and abroad, Chinese companies hope to acquire the technological expertise that is key to unlocking these resources themselves.

With this updated version of its “opening-up” initiative, China hopes to catch up with industrialized countries not just in terms of the scale of its overall economy but in core competitiveness as well. And with China now the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, the energy investments it makes today will have a profound influence on the Earth’s future climate.

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China’s Agricultural Development: Lessons for Africa?

By Hauke Brankamp and Tobias Reichert

In past decades, advice from international institutions on agricultural policies and development strategies was based heavily on support for free markets and minimal public intervention. But in many regions, particularly in Africa, these strategies did not lead to significant poverty reduction and improvements in agricultural productivity. China, on the other hand, was able to reduce hunger and poverty dramatically by applying both public interventions and market mechanisms.

Among other lessons sub-Saharan African can take from China's development strategy, the paper suggests that rural infrastructure should be improved and investments made in agricultural research. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

In a paper published recently by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) , Shenggen Fan and the China-DAC Study Group on Agriculture, Food Security and Rural Development outlined their views on how Africa could draw lessons from China’s development strategy. They looked in particular at the Chinese government’s unusual “trial-and-error” policy—an evidence-based approach that induced remarkable growth and has now entered its fourth phase. Policies in the 1970s and 1980s focused mainly on agricultural decollectivization, decentralization, and marketing reforms; in the 1980s, the first and most effective step in reducing rural poverty involved increasing administered prices for agricultural products rather than liberalizing markets. Only in the 1990s and 2000s did market liberalization and reforms occur in China’s agricultural as well as manufacturing and service sectors.

Sub-Saharan Africa, in large part, went through externally shaped reforms in the 1980s and 1990s, most notably structural adjustment programs. Some of these reforms led to positive results in the agricultural sector, yet they were not able to foster high and steady rates of economic growth–nor did they succeed in alleviating poverty.

What can African governments learn from China’s experience? The paper identified four crucial policy areas. First, the authors attribute special potential to agriculture-led growth, as experienced in China. For sub-Saharan Africa, this would mean promoting the productivity of small-scale farmers in particular, by securing land rights, strengthening markets, and facilitating access to extension services. In addition, rural infrastructure should be improved and investments made in agricultural research. Second, the authors put forward the idea of applying the Chinese strategy of evidence-based policymaking to sub-Saharan Africa. This includes timely field-testing of policies before their national application as well as phased approaches to the introduction of reforms. Third, the authors note that the design of reform programs should be properly tailored to the aims that are to be achieved. Reforms should also concentrate on strengthening institutions (e.g., research institutions) and building capacity (both human and administrative). And finally, the paper calls for Africa to, as China did, invest in institutions, such national agricultural research and extension system, as well as building up education and training for researchers, farmers, and extension workers.

Hauke Brankamp and Tobias Reichert are food and trade analysts with Germanwatch.

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Making Sure the Food Industry Works for its Employees

This is the first in a series of blogs Nourishing the Planet will be writing about workers in the food system.

There is a growing awareness about the importance of making food choices that are both good for our bodies and for the environment. Organic and locally grown food are increasingly popular among foodies, as are the grocery stores and farmers markets that sell it. But, as a recent article from Food First highlights, one link missing from this socially and environmentally conscious food chain is the workers who grow, process, prepare, and serve that food—and who are often underpaid and mistreated.

Food preparation and serving related jobs are the lowest paid of any industry, meaning that food and agricultural workers often can't afford to buy food. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

Many people employed by the food industry are unable to afford the price of the very food they prepare and serve. Food preparation and serving related jobs are the lowest paid of any industry, meaning that food and agricultural workers often can’t afford to buy food–in 2007, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that 45 percent of farm workers were found to be food insecure and 48 percent were on food stamps.

In addition, the threat of deportation and aggressive anti-union campaigns help to exploit and isolate undocumented immigrants, the most vulnerable—and fastest growing—sector of workers in food preparation and service. In the meatpacking industry alone, 20 to 50 percent of workers are undocumented and research from 2006 showed that 24 percent of farm workers, 12 percent of food preparation workers, and 27 percent of butchers and food processors were also undocumented.  Meanwhile, nationwide, union density has dropped from 35 percent in the 1940’s to the current 12 percent.

While state laws—such as the recent one passed in Arizona demanding the arrest of people unable to produce documentation of citizenship— call for harsh punishment for undocumented laborers, the food industry benefits from the unequal dynamic between these same workers and their employers. In California, for example, undocumented workers “gross economic contribution through sales, income, and property taxes, was $45,000/person (including children) in 1994.” But the workers themselves each made on average, only $8,840 per year.

If the mainstream media isn’t yet talking about the injustice in the food industry’s treatment of food and agriculture workers, then workers, farmers, and other activists are taking up the call themselves.  In Florida, for example, The Coalition of Immokalee Workers— a community-based organization comprised mainly of Latino, Mayan Indian and Haitian immigrants working in low-wage jobs in Florida— is working to promote fair wage, improved safety regulations, and the right to organize on the job, among others. In California, Swanton Berry Farms, an organic farm that promotes fair labor practices, makes sure all of its employees are members of the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) affiliated union, United Farm Workers of America (UFW). And nation-wide, the Food Chain Workers Alliance, a coalition of worker-based organizations that include the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, is working to promote fair wages and working conditions for all members of the food industry.

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Research We Wish We Didn’t Need

Sleepy people make more mistakes.

It’s harder to see things that are far away.

Being fired makes people sad.

No, these aren’t the thought-provoking and compelling statistics about creating a more sustainable world that readers have come to expect from the Worldwatch Institute. They are, however, actual findings from studies conducted in the last four years.

Why highlight research that has seemingly obvious conclusions? Because a recent climate change study ought to fall into this category, too, but doesn’t. It doesn’t thanks to public misunderstanding of the consensus among climate scientists that human-made climate change is happening.

The study, from researchers with Stanford University, the University of Toronto, and the Hewlett Foundation, shows just how strong that consensus is. It found that 97.5 percent of the 200 most-published climate researchers agree that climate data shows the average temperature of the planet went up over the last 50 years, and “most” of this warming was caused by greenhouse gas pollution from people. Or, written like the first three studies: Climate change experts agree humans are causing climate change.

Figure 2 from Anderegga et al 2010

Click figure to enlarge. Source: Anderegga et al. 2010 with minor edits by author

Given the scientific consensus already expressed in exhaustively reviewed publications like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report, such a conclusion should seem obvious. It should, by now, even read like a headline in the satirical newspaper The Onion. However, given recent attacks on the credibility of the IPCC report, Climategate, and reports of petitions by skeptical climate scientists, the new study provides a significant quantification of the state of agreement among climate scientists.

The study’s value extends further. As the graphics at right illustrate, and the blog Climate Science Watch explains (emphasis added),

the relative climate expertise [by number of publications – Fig. 2] and overall scientific prominence [by citations from peers in other papers – Fig. 3] of the researchers unconvinced of anthropogenic climate change is substantially below that of convinced researchers.

Click figure to enlarge. Source: Anderegga et al. 2010 with minor edits by author

Moreover, regardless of whether a climate researcher’s work had been cited heavily by peers or only a few times, those convinced by the evidence greatly outnumbered those unconvinced.

It’s unlikely that this research alone will quiet the perception that climate scientists disagree about the strength of climate change research. It is, however, an important step in that direction. Popular reports about new research may also convince more people that climate change is happening and that humans are at fault. As an upcoming Worldwatch Vital Signs Online article reports, new and existing data on glacial melt and sea-level rise data clearly show considerable and worsening climate change.

As Meera Bhaskar noted earlier in ReVolt, most of the U. S. public gets the message. If public understanding in the United States, and globally, continues to grow, climate research like Anderegga et al.’s may soon earn that “obvious” label.

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Kickstarting Livelihoods with Improved Water Management

By Alex Tung

In the hot, dry regions of West Africa, small-scale farmers may spend as many as five hours a day hauling water in calabashes (hollowed, dried out squashes) or plastic buckets to irrigate their crops. But now farmers can make more money without breaking their backs, thanks to “Affordable Micro-Irrigation for Vegetable Production in West Africa,” an initiative of the AVRDC-World Vegetable Centre with support from the Taiwan Government Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Photo credit: AVRDC, Appropriate Technologies Magazine

Known in Mali as “nafasoro,” the MoneyMaker pump, developed by KickStart, is one of the more widely adopted tools in the region. The pumps are available in two models: a pedal pump, the Super MoneyMaker, which costs 49,500 cfa (US$103), and a manual pump, the MoneyMaker Hip Pump, which costs 22,000 cfa.

“[Kickstart’s pump] has very good prospects for riverbank vegetable gardening and irrigating vegetables even about 75-80 meters from river sources,” said Dr. Madhu Bhattarai, an agricultural economist at AVRDC.

To encourage farmers from Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali, and Ghana to adopt better crop management practices, AVRDC started holding training workshops for farmers and communities in December 2009.  These workshops focus on explaining irrigation systems, such as the KickStart pump, and better water management.

In Mali, where AVRDC worked with the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) to demonstrate technologies, more than 6,000 pumps were sold and 5,000 enterprises were created. Farmers have become actively involved in testing and adapting equipment for their vegetable gardens. Currently, more than 150 women farmers are growing vegetables using affordable micro-irrigation methods, including drip irrigation kits, pedal pumps, and microsprinklers.

Investing in micro-irrigation technologies may seem daunting for small-scale farmers, but the venture has proved to bring a reliable return on investment. Mahmoud Guindo, a farmer in Mali, doubled his annual income selling fruits and vegetables after purchasing the MoneyMaker irrigation pump. In addition to being able to irrigate crops more easily, farmers like Mahmoud can now expand their planting area of high-value crops such as fruits and vegetables and cultivate several crops year-round, yielding a steadier, higher income.

To learn more about ways that irrigation technologies are helping small-scale farmers improve their incomes and livelihoods, see Innovation of the Week: Slow and Steady Irrigation Wins the Race, Getting Water to Crops, and Access to Water Improves Quality of Life for Women and Children.

Alex Tung is a research intern with the Nourishing the Planet project.

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Food Chain Radio Asks, What Should We Do With Our Leftovers?

By Daniel Kandy

A recent program on Food Chain Radio focused on the efforts of Robert Colmes of RC Farms in Las Vegas, Nevada, to utilize the massive amount of waste that the city generates. Colmes’ takes food scraps from the casinos and hotels of Las Vegas, cooks them to kill pathogens, and feeds them to the 3,000 hogs he raises. This example of waste reduction and recycling  has saved money not only for Colmes, but the city of Las Vegas and  farmers who use the manure Colme’s hogs produce for fertilizer. It also reduces the amount of food finding its way into landfills.

Hogs feeding on leftover food scraps (Photo credit: Jenny Litchfield)

Colmes believes that the tremendous amount of food waste is created because Americans prefer to “take the easier path”, even if it means more expensive food, both ecologically and economically. Every year the average American wastes almost 475 pounds (215 kilograms) of food. And Colme’s belief in recycling food scraps is one that appears to be taking off elsewhere. The city of Berkley, California, for example, has embarked on a food waste collection program of its own. Restaurants, produce markets, florists, bakeries and food manufacturers can participate in the city’s pilot food waste recycling program, in which organic scraps and waxed cardboard are made into compost, which is then offered free to the public.

For more about innovations in preventing food waste, see our recent op-ed in USA Today and contributing State of the World 2011 author, Tristram Stuart’s website, WASTE.

To read more about food waste and ways it can be prevented, see: Innovation of the Week: Reducing Food Waste, Reducing Food Waste in the Event of An Erupting Volcano and Other Farming Hazards, and Breaking It Down: Corn Plastic and Backyard Compost

Daniel Kandy is a research intern with Nourishing the Planet

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Learning to Listen to Farmers

At the Department of Agricultural Economics and Extension at Cape Coast University in Southern Ghana, learning takes place not only in classrooms, but also literally in fields  and farms all over the country. As part of a program to improve agricultural extension services, extension officers are working with professors to find ways to improve food production in their communities. The extensionists, who are already working with farmers, are selected by the Ministry of Agriculture and the University from all over the country to train at the University to help them better  share their skills and knowledge with farmers.

Danielle Nierenberg meets with professors from the Department of Agricultural Economics and Extension at Cape Coast University in Southern Ghana. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

The program was started in the early 1990s after the Ministry of Agriculture found that its’ extension workers were not communicating well with farmers, says Dr. Okorley, a  Cape Coast professor. The goal of the program, according to Okorley, is “to improve the knowledge of front line extension staff.” Because the educational background of many extension workers is “limited” (many don’t have the means to attend college) says Okorley, they “couldn’t look at agriculture holistically.”

But the university is helping change that problem. Students learn how to engage with farmers and communities by learning better communication skills. And they are trained to properly diagnose problems, as well as come up with solutions.

After attending a year of classes on campus, the students go back to their communities to implement what they’ve learned in Supervised Enterprise Projects (SEPs). The SEPs give the student-professionals the opportunity to learn that particular technologies, no matter how innovative they might seem in the classroom, don’t always “fit” the needs of communities, says Dr. Okorley. The SEPs also help them implement some of the communication skills they’ve learned in their classes, allowing them to engage more effectively in the communities where they work. Instead of simply telling farmers to use a particular type of seed or a certain brand of pesticide or fertilizer, the extension workers are now learning how to listen to farmers and help them find innovations that best serve their particular needs. “One beauty of the program,” according to Dr. Okorley, “is the on-the-ground research and experimentation.” He says “it allows the environment to teach what should be done.”

They have plans to scale up and improve the program by developing a “technology village” that will allow students to try out different technologies or practices before taking them back to their villages. And they hope to engage women in the program–currently, there are no female professors or students in the program. In addition, they’re hoping to incorporate a value chain approach in the curriculum, helping extension workers and farmers alike find innovative ways to add value to and improve the quality of crops.

Listen below to Professor Festus Annor-Frempong discuss how the University is helping improve agriculture in Ghana and to Peter Omega, a former student, talk about his work with farmers in his community.

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