Thursday, January 28, 2016

GM Cotton Production in India

This week we take a look at an interview with Ganesh Nanote, a farmer from India. Ganesh explains production practices, trends, reasoning, and challenges facing agriculture in India, specifically around cotton production. I encourage you to read the interview conducted by Aneela Mirchandani and reflect with others using the discussion points below.

Profile of an Indian Farmer

Discussion Points

  • How are GMO's (genetically modified organisms) viewed around the world?
  • There is a big debate on seed technology and patents that go with them. Reflect on the following statement from the interview regarding seed freedom, "This is a question of the farmer's freedom to select his seed and access technology." What is your stance and why?
  • Ganesh does an excellent job of telling the story of how cotton production in India has transformed since the early 1990's. Explain this transformation and the advantages or disadvantages that have accompanied.
  • In countries where farmers have large plots of land they plant a percentage of non-Bt seed along side Bt seed to fight resistance issues. In countries were farmers have smaller plots of land this is not always possible. What are these farmers doing to combat resistance? Do you have any other ideas they could try?
  • Many argue that poor farmers cannot afford GM seeds due to the cost of the technology behind them. How does Ganesh respond to this? What is your view? Explain.
  • Explain how Ganesh equates farming and soil health to someones IQ and nutritional health.
  • What challenges are facing farmers in India according to Ganesh? Are farmers around the world and in your community facing these same challenges? What could be done to address these challenges in your opinion?

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Argentine Wheat

Argentina is loading ships with wheat bound for locations around the world including the United States. The article linked below explores the story behind increased exports from Argentina. After reading the article linked use the discussion points provided to guide your conversations around the globe!

Argentine Wheat Returns to the U.S.

Discussion Points

  • What has led to the increase of wheat shipments from Argentina to locations around the world?
  • What has caused farmers from the United States to purchase wheat from Argentina for feed for livestock?
  • Who is the number one purchaser of Argentine wheat? Why do you believe they are the number one buyer?
  • Do you feel that this trend of major wheat exports out of Argentina will continue? Justify your response.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Farming the Desert

This week we take a look at the efforts in Egypt to increase agriculture productivity to feed a growing country, continent, and world. There are many challenges facing farmers and the linked article gives some insight into what is happening in Egypt. Read the linked article and use the discussion points below to guide your conversations.

Farming the Sahara

Discussion Points

  • While the market in El Obour is buzzing with activity and goods why is Egypt facing a domestic food shortage?
  • What is the government doing to address this crisis?
  • Why are some concerned that the current plan from President Abdel and the government will fail?
  • Explain the issues around water availability in Egypt.
  • When Egypt does produce Ag products they often end up in the European Union. Why is this the case? What are the impacts of this?
  • Create a list of challenges that are facing agriculture in Egypt.
    • How can these challenges be overcome?
    • Which do you feel is the biggest challenge facing agriculture in Egypt?
    • Do you believe that Egypt will overcome these challenges and find success? Justify your response.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Reflecting on Haiti

We had a spectacular week in Haiti working with students of all ages sharing our passion for agriculture! We were able to work with students at the elementary and university to promote and improve agriculture practices. We continue to see growth and potential with Haitian agriculture. We built upon the practices we shared last year. To keep things moving forward we are scheduling frequent internet conferencing meetings to provide education for both sides throughout the year and keep things moving forward. We are, also, excited to partner with UCCC to provide a conference for farmers across Haiti in 2017! Below is a picture of the 2016 team.

On the way home we had time in the Dallas airport to reflect on our time in Haiti. I asked each participant the one big thing that stuck out at them and will share the responses now:

Dalton emphasized that there is so much potential. They have so much knowledge and skills they just need guidance and encouragement to apply it.

Mitch enjoyed picking up the relationships that were started last year and building those relationships while forging new friendships.

Kayla was excited to see how religion is such a big part of their culture and intertwines with all they do including agriculture.

Alex was impressed by the knowledge the professors share and seeing the opportunities for applied learning they have before them.

Julie was inspired by the excitement and potential of the medical and agriculture students working together to improve health through agriculture.

Kyle looks forward to staying connected over the next year to move projects forward and keep improving.

Meghan was provided the opportunity to learn about agricultural practices with limited resources. She loved educating Haitians with even more ways to use under utilized resources to improve soil health for a more bountiful food supply.

I (Brad) am excited about the Haiti Ag Summit and potential to share agriculture with a larger group in Haiti to keep moving things forward.

You can see this experience had a great impact both on the students and faculty in Haiti as well as with our group from the Global Agriculture Learning Center at Hawkeye Community College. We cannot wait to see what the future holds!

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Coming Home

Friday morning we had a great time sitting down and discussing a plan to continue moving agriculture forward in Haiti. A great plan has been developed and we look forward to some upcoming opportunities. After our morning meeting we departed the Caiman area to head to the airport. There was a surprise rain the night before so we hit some wet roads on the way to the airport. Friday afternoon we flew out of Port au Prince on our way to Miami, before departing for Dallas where we spent the night before the final leg of our travels returning us to Cedar Rapids a little after noon on Saturday. Be watching for a recap of our time in Haiti over the next couple days. 

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Build the Soil

We started off the morning with our great elementary students with our "what we know about agriculture" lesson, but this time shared it with 4th graders. At the end of the lesson they raised the chain above their head while in a circle and stated "Agriculture feeds the world!" in both Creole and English.

Next we had some down time before our afternoon activities so we loaded up and headed to a project where UCI is helping a woman by building a new house. We got to work up a good sweat with some manual labor prepping for the footings of the house. Pick axes and shovels were the tools of choice although a bowl works in a pinch. 

After lunch we continued with English lessons at the elementary, this time working with the 4th graders on English. As we have advanced through the grade levels it has been great to see the development and ability to speak English grow! Following English we made our way to the university to have a discussion on soil nutrition and plant production. Great emphasis was placed on building the soil and its productivity. Many ideas where exchanged and we challenged the Haitian students to pick one of the practices we brainstormed and experiment with it over the next couple months. We are working on a way to share their results to keep up on their progress. 

Following our discussion with agrculture students we moved to a larger classroom so we could combine medical and agriculture students for a presentation by Julie Grunklee on the importance of bringing agriculture and health together. It was great to have participants with Community Health Initiative (CHI) join us for the presentation and the rest of our time in Haiti. At the conclusion of Julie's presentation we made our way to the roof top of the university to change out batteries in our weather station sensors and watch the sun set over the Haiti landscape. 

We enjoyed pizza for dinner before the men's choir from the area joined us to perform many Haitian numbers before inviting us to join them for their final song in English. At the conclusion of the singing we enjoyed a final Coke by our tree out front and reflected on our experiences and got to know the folks from CHI a little better. We prep for a long time of travel over the next day and a half. 

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Goats to Guano

Our time is flying by in Haiti! Hard to believe that we only have one full day left in Haiti. We started off our day by returning to our energetic 5th and 6th graders to elaborate on our agriculture lesson from the day before. After further discussion we had the students build an agriculture chain. Students had to write agriculture facts on strips of paper and hook them together to make a chain that we hung around the classrooms.

Next we made our way to the university where we spent much of the morning discussing livestock production focusing on hogs and dairy goats with a little bit of chicken production. There was discussion on all aspects of production from breeding to meat production. The students had many questions for us and we're very appreciative of all that our students shared with them. 

Following lunch we had brief English lessons with the 3rd and 4th graders before we met back up with the university students. They took us to their goat production area where most goats are Alpines or have some Alpine blood in them. We covered topics from feeding to health. We discovered they battle many of the same issues we do in the United States such as mastitis. We were shown an interesting way of checking pregnancy as well. 

After our time with the goats we hiked to a cave where guano is collected for use as fertilizer. This was a great workout and many enjoyed exploring the cave. We then returned to campus where we attended a Wednesday night church service before meeting around our favorite tree to plan our lessons for Thursday. It is great to see the magnitude of learning taking place by both sides, Hatians and Americans!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Precision Farming in Haiti

Today was a great day filled with agriculture and education! We started off the day with 5th and 6th graders at the elementary school. We shared a lesson revolving around agriculture awareness. We had the students create a list of agriculture related concepts in Haiti. They compiled a great list that we discussed. We will return tomorrow morning to address questions that arose from this activity and look at things more in depth.

Following our time with the 5th and 6th graders we met up with the university students to head to the irrigation gardens. Once we reached the gardens we had a brief discussion on the importance of soil sampling and recorded where we took samples with GPS receivers in order to return to take samples in the future. We then took a close look at row spacing, plant placement, and germination which led to spectacular discussions. While at the garden we had the opportunity to jump in and assist with transplanting of some leeks. 

Precision farming is alive and well in Haiti! They precisely place bagas (waste from sugar cane) beside each plant for perfect placement of the fertilizer. They, also, use measuring techniques to assure proper placement of each plant in the row. 

After lunch we had the opportunity to work with second graders learning English before we made our way to the university to test the soil samples that we took. We did basic tests for nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and pH. We will review these results later in the week with the students. 

Before dinner this evening we took some time to enjoy the company of our hosts with another competitive round of volleyball matches. Following dinner many students from the university came over for an evening of games and social time with our group. We look forward to the great things to come on Wednesday! Be sure to be checking our Facebook and Twitter pages for photos of our experience in Haiti. 

Monday, January 4, 2016

Market Madness

We started off our Monday with a trip to the local market. You could find everything from rice to super glue to hogs. Several of the group bought some souvenirs. The group tried to buy a goat, but the price jumped drastically when we were part of the purchasing group. We held off and are still in search of a goat to purchase for a local family. At the livestock auction at the market the following prices can be expected: cow = $1,000, horse = $300, donkey = $200, and hog = $250. At the conclusion of our time at the market we swung into the community bakery and enjoyed some delicious fresh baked bread. 

Following the market we had a short walk to Saul's irrigation gardens and the gardens being utilized by the UCCC students. We will return to these gardens tomorrow to do some planting and pull soil samples. We got to see a variety of crops being grown from citrus to egg plant to cabbage. There is a cement channel that runs through the gardens where they can then pump water up the hill and let it trickle back down the hillside. While at the gardens we were able to see the tilapia ponds that are being dug by hand to be utilized by UCCC. Below is a picture of the group at the irrigation gardens. 

After lunch we stopped over to the elementary to assist with teaching English to some first graders. It was a great experience for our group and the Haiti students were thoroughly entertained by our excellent dance moves. 

From there we traveled to one of eight feeding centers that UCI is in charge of. At this feeding center children can receive two meals per week. This is an essential nutrition savior for many children. As the food finished cooking we spent time tossing a frisbee around with the children. When the meal was ready each child pulled out a bowl and spoon from their backpack which they handed to us to be filled with a rice and beans mixture. Below is a picture of us filling bowls for the children. 

Next we returned to campus where we met with the dean of agriculture at UCCC planning out the remainder of our time in Haiti. This evening has, also, been filled with planning agriculture lessons to share with the elementary students. 

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Sunday Fun Day Haiti Style

Today was our first full day in Haiti. We started off this morning by attending a church service here on campus and seeing the traditions of the Haitian culture. On Sunday our cooks have the day off so Craig and Julie prepared a spectacular lunch for us.

After lunch we traveled to one of the eight feeding centers that UCI supports. Upon arrival we had the opportunity to distribute Christmas gifts to the children at the feeding center sent from sponsors all over the United States. These feeding centers provide much needed food and nutrition to youth in Haiti. JeanJean stated that they want the food at these centers to be grown in Haiti and be self sustaining if possible. Now much of the food is donated and imported in. Students at UCCC are working with the feeding center to start a garden and produce much of the food needed. This project is just in it's beginning stages and will be expanding. The picture below shows the start of the garden and the area it will expand to reaching the back tree line. 

Next we visited several irrigated fields/gardens. Currently we are experiencing the dry season in Haiti so if you want to see much success irrigation is needed. We first visited a garden growing black beans under the shade of papayas due to the heat. Papayas can be a fruit or vegetable. If harvested before they have ripened they are considered a vegetable and if harvested after they have ripened they are considered a fruit. Below you will find a picture of this garden. 

Following inspection of the papaya and black bean garden we made our way to a farmers field where he was growing black beans following corn. This farmer used to have to split his time between Haiti and the Dominican Republic in order to support his family, but since UCCC has stepped in and shared production practices he has improved production greatly! This has allowed him to stop traveling to the DR and spend the entire year in Haiti with his family farming. With the increased production the family is supported and they even have product left over to sell to others. He grows corn, black beans, plantains, millet, etc. While we were there we were able to witness millet being ground to be turned into mush for human consumption and explore his black beans that were growing with irrigation following his corn crop. He has to irrigate the beans about every eight days and the plantains about every 15 days. Below is a picture of JeanJean explaining this farmers practice. 

After our time in the fields we made our way back to campus and enjoyed a spectacular chicken BBQ. After dinner we gathered around the tree out front and got to hear a story from a former witch doctor who has since converted to Christianity. He shared the struggles he had faced in his previous life and the negative affects that voodoo had on his family, community, and country. 

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Level Z Roads

After a short night in the Miami airport we boarded our final flight to Port au Prince, Haiti. We arrived on schedule to Haiti, but long lines awaited us in immigration. After grabbing our luggage we loaded up the van and started the three hour trek north to the Caiman area. From Port au Prince to Caiman we travel on National Highway 3. This highway is paved 3/4 of the way to Caiman, but the last 1/4 is a little rough. As our host JeanJean states, "In Iowa you have level B roads. In Haiti we have level Z roads!"

Haiti countryside 

After arriving in Caiman we enjoyed lunch mid-afternoon before receiving a tour of campus from Kristie. She shared the incredible story of UCI and how it has grown from nothing to what it is today. Today they have nutrition centers, a preschool, a elementary, church, and the university (I am sure there is much more that I am missing). We were able to see many of the agriculture projects on campus from demonstration gardens in agroforestry, grafting of citrus trees, tree nursery, and the papaya garden. 

UCCC Campus

After our tour many enjoyed a friendly volleyball match with locals before enjoying a delicious dinner of chicken, rice, beans, red sauce, and plantains. As this is posted we are sitting under the tree outside our dorm visiting about the challenges and opportunities facing Haitian agriculture. We look forward to a great Sunday in Haiti tomorrow!

Friday, January 1, 2016

First Class Crew

We have a first class group of individuals heading to Haiti to kickoff the New Year! January 1st 8 of us made our way to the Eastern Iowa Airport to begin our trek to Haiti to work with UCCC (University near Caiman) developing agriculture projects. Over the next week we will work with students and faculty at UCCC in agronomy, animal science, alternative energy, and meshing agriculture and health. This is an ongoing partnership that is always developing and expanding. Upon arrival at the airport the airlines heard what our group was up to and upgraded us to first class seats!

Our travels have us with an overnight in Miami, before we make our way to Haiti in the morning. We will have two farmers from Iowa joining us later on Saturday night in Haiti for a week of learning and teaching. We will also have a delegation from Community Health Initiative (CHI), who has health projects in Haiti, join us later in the week to see where the Global Agriculture Leaning Center (GALC), UCCC, and CHI can collaborate. 

Check back daily for updates from Haiti. Be sure to look for pictures of our experience on Facebook and Twitter.