A Q&A WITH SHARON TUSIIME, 2018 AIARD FUTURE LEADER FELLOW
By Sharon. M. Tusiime
AIARD Future Leader Fellow, 2018
Department of Horticulture
Iowa State University, USA
How did you find out about the FLF program last year and why did you apply?
I discovered the Future Leaders Forum (FLF) from faculty at Iowa State University. I am very passionate about international agriculture and rural development, having spent 8 years working as a field technician and graduate student in rural agricultural development. As a Ph.D. candidate nearing graduation, I also wanted to build my professional network and learn about opportunities to continue working in agricultural development.
What did you expect and how did the program meet your expectations?
FLF exceeded my expectations. The breadth and depth of our conversations during sessions with professionals in international agriculture and rural development was nothing that I had experienced before. Members and partners of the Association for International Agriculture and Rural Development (AIARD) have made incredible progress in advancing global agricultural development and hunger alleviation. Everyone was willing to share lessons learned from their projects and programs.
How did the 2018 Future Leader’s Fellow experience in AIARD shape you and have a positive impact on you as a student?
I am thankful for the opportunity to have been part of this wonderful program. I had never been in a room with so many people who are so passionate about rural development and want to make a difference. In classes and while working on projects, I find myself drawing from this experience constantly. I now think about global challenges with a more systems thinking approach.
What were the key activities that you enjoyed the most and how did the program benefit you?
I enjoyed networking with professionals within the field of international agriculture and rural development and obtained various contacts as a result of those interactions. Working with a group of talented graduate students (fellow future leaders), listening to their research, and conducting team-based activities augmented my learning and understanding of various global challenges and the research being conducted to address the challenges.
As a doctoral candidate, what do you research in your PhD program? Why should readers pay attention to the research you do? How does your research impact agricultural research and farmers? How will your research inform policy in Uganda?
Over 80% of Uganda’s economy depends on agriculture as a livelihood and tomatoes are the most widely grown and consumed vegetable. Vegetables such as tomatoes are a valuable source of income and an important contributor to ensuring nutritional food security for small-landholder farmers. Tomatoes are cultivated by small-landholder farmers who usually own 2 ha or less of land and, unfortunately, often produce yields that are lower than the land is capable of producing. Low yields typically are attributed to pests, insects and diseases, poor quality agricultural inputs, lack of improved cultivars, inadequate information on sustainable horticultural practices and limited access to good quality seeds. An evaluation of factors influencing agriculture productivity identified improvement in seed as the most important component to increasing productivity.
Using tomato as a model, my research is aimed at improving farmer livelihoods by providing better access to good quality seed. My research focuses on a holistic multifactorial evaluation of the seed value chain (farmers, seed companies, agricultural research organizations, agricultural universities and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture) with the objective of identifying weak links and developing effective solutions that lead to overall improvement in farmer access to quality seed.
As a horticulturalist and seed scientist, my passion is to assist small-landholder vegetable farmers to use their limited financial resources in the most profitable way. To improve farmer livelihoods, seed systems need to provide farmers with planting material (i) in sufficient quantities (ii) at the right time (iii) of an appropriate physiological state, vigor and health, (iv) of superior genotypes appropriate to the farmer’s purposes, and (v) at an affordable price. As such, my dissertation is focused on several specific ways to achieve some of the above factors.
The collective outcome of this multifactorial approach to understanding the seed value chain will result in scientifically based public policy recommendations for tomato seed production, processing and distribution that will be shared with stakeholders including the Ugandan Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF), National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO), Makerere University and small-landholder farmers.
My research will provide the first studies for Uganda’s vegetable seed value chain specifically in tomatoes. Having an efficient seed system will enable small-landholder farmers (end-users of the seed value chain) to access good quality seed and improve their livelihoods. This research will greatly inform the current draft of the national seed policy and improve vegetable seed systems in Uganda.
Why is it important for U.S. universities to be engaged globally?
The world is a global village and there is a need for U.S. universities to embrace and create programs and curricula that foster international collaborations. It is vital to incorporate global understanding within higher education. These programs train and prepare college students as system thinkers who are able to deal with global complex issues in development. Students are also better prepared to get immersed in cultures different from their own, while building relationships and developing critical thinking skills.
What would you like individuals interested in applying to become an AIARD Future Leader Fellow to know? Do you have any messages for program sponsors and donors?
I would urge new Future Leader Fellows to take this opportunity very seriously and apply for the program if they are interested in building a career in international agriculture and rural development. It is a rewarding experience and students get to share ideas, listen to real-world global challenges and critically think about potential solutions with the help of development professionals.
To the sponsors/donors, thank you so much for this amazing experience. The program would not have been possible without your generous support. Please continue to support the program because you are training young professionals in agriculture and rural development.
By Dr. Susan Schram,
AIARD Washington DC Secretariat,
Education and Advocacy Committee Chair
Thanks to the good work of the Association for International Agriculture and Rural Development (AIARD), Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), the Farm Journal Foundation, Agricorps, the Senate and House Agriculture Committee staff, and others, the December passage of the 2018 Farm Bill is good news for professionals who develop and implement programs in international agriculture. Following are some relevant highlights:
1. Title VII—Research, Extension, and Related Matters, Subtitle A, Section 7101 is perhaps the most important section as it lays out the purposes of agricultural research, extension, and education and amends Section 1402 of the National Agricultural Research, Extension, and Teaching Policy Act of 1977 by adding: ‘‘(9) support international collaboration that leverages resources and advances priority food and agricultural interests of the United States, such as— ‘‘(A) addressing emerging plant and animal diseases; ‘‘(B) improving crop varieties and animal breeds; and ‘‘(C) developing safe, efficient, and nutritious food systems.’’
This language represents a significant shift toward Congressional recognition that American agriculture, while world-class, increasingly relies on global engagement for science, markets, and innovation. While United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) remain the lead government agencies in working with developing and transitional countries, Congress is aware now more than ever that the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) domestic programs are strengthened through international partnerships.
2. Title III, Subtitle C:
The Secretary of Agriculture will consult with FFA, the National 4–H Council, and others to identify candidates for the fellowships. Candidates must be U.S. citizens, hold at least a bachelor’s degree in an agricultural-related field, and understand U.S. school-based agricultural education and youth extension programs.
3. Title VII, Subtitle A:
(2) improving agricultural research;
(3) supporting the participation of U.S. institutions in programs of international organizations (e.g. the United Nations, the World Bank, regional development banks, and international agricultural research centers);
(4) improving agricultural teaching and education;
(5) assisting U.S institutions in strengthening their capacity for food, agricultural, and related research, extension, and teaching programs relevant to agricultural development activities in developing countries to promote the application of new technology to improve education delivery;
(6) providing support for the internationalization of resident instruction programs;
(7) establishing a program, to be coordinated by the Director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture and the Administrator of the Foreign Agricultural Service, to place interns from U.S. institutions in, or in service to benefit, developing countries; and
(8) establishing a program to provide fellowships for students at U.S institutions to study at foreign agricultural colleges and universities.
This section also requires the Secretary of Agriculture to enhance linkages among U.S. institutions, the Federal Government, international research centers, counterpart research, extension, and teaching agencies and institutions in developed countries and developing countries: “(1) to carry out the activities; and (2) to make a substantial contribution to the cause of improved food and agricultural progress throughout the world.” The bill authorizes $10,000,000 for each of fiscal years 2019 - 2023 to carry out activities in Section 7123.
“(A) to develop and deploy advanced solutions to prevent, prepare, and protect against unintentional and intentional threats to agriculture and food in the United States;
“(B) to overcome barriers in the development of agricultural technologies, research tools, and qualified products and projects that enhance export competitiveness, environmental sustainability, and resilience to extreme weather;
“(C) to ensure that the United States maintains and enhances its position as a leader in developing and deploying agricultural technologies, research tools, and qualified projects and products that increase economic opportunities and security for farmers, ranchers, and rural communities; and
“(D) to undertake advanced research and development in areas in which industry by itself is not likely to do so because of the technological or financial uncertainty.
AGARDA would be a component of the Office of the Chief Scientist at USDA and Congress authorizes $50,000,000 per year, 2019-2023 for this program.
4. And finally, Subtitle F, Section 7603
authorizes the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR). While FFAR’s activities are primarily domestic, they have included work with groups such as CGIAR Centers. After FFAR submits a strategic plan describing a path to become self-sustaining, the Secretary is authorized to transfer $185,000,000 to the Foundation to use until expended.
Because the Farm Bill only authorizes programs, funding for specific programs will also be contingent on available appropriations and administrative decision making but, in sum, the Farm Bill is a clear “win” for professionals engaged in international development.
For the text of the Farm Bill, visit: https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/2/text
By Tom Gill, AIARD President-Elect
Smith Chair in International Sustainable Agriculture
Director of International Programs
University of Tennessee, Institute of Agriculture
As we close out another year, we often take time to reflect on the highs and lows of the past months. Looking back on 2018 around the world, it is far too easy to get caught up in the sheer scope of the challenges facing us: the hunger crises in conflict areas of the world; the hardship faced by migrants willing to give up their current circumstances for the chance of a better life elsewhere; the devastating effects of extreme weather events and further spread of pests, diseases and invasive species, to name but a few.
However, on travels in Ireland last week, I was reminded that these concerns are not new - the blight that led to the Great Potato Famine in the 1840s led to a million deaths and more than two million Irish to emigrate. Today, the Irish continue to be concerned about their place in the world – what does a post-Brexit Ireland look like and what does this mean for Ireland’s role in the European Union and the rest of the world?
Yet, we are not without hope. The Conference of the Parties (COP) 24 Katowice talks ended in progress on measures to address global climate change, and the U.S. Farm Bill being signed. Perhaps we can still reach outside of our comfort zones and map a better future for our world? Will we take up the mantle and bring about a progressive, fruitful 2019?
Now is the time to not just look back, but also press ahead. Can we set resolutions that we won’t break by January 2nd? The Association for International Agriculture and Rural Development (AIARD) is already looking ahead to its 2019 conference, from June 2-4, in Washington, D.C., where we will address resilience in our global food system. What does this resilience look like? What will it take to obtain a resilient global food system? Can we achieve it? Are the advances in technologies and practices we are encountering in our global food system setting us on a resilient path to meet the demands of a rising global human population? Oh how those Irish potato farmers would have wished for a resilient food system almost 200 years ago!
As you take time this Christmas and holiday season, prepare yourself for a new year – can we develop resolute resilience in our global food system? And can we fulfill resilient resolutions for our planet?
By Russ Webster, AIARD Vice-President
Founder and President of Grow to Market
Like many holiday celebrations around the world, the American tradition of Thanksgiving centers around family, friends, and — of course — food. We gather, we feast, we share stories, we laugh, and we give thanks for our many blessings. To prepare for Thanksgiving we shop, cook, serve, eat, and sometimes eat again. This is the process that most of us typically see – shop, cook, eat, shop, cook, eat, repeat. It makes me hungry just thinking about it!
What most of us don’t see are all of the steps connecting farm to store – the processors, packers, cold-storage operators, transporters, warehouse operators, packaging facilities, grocery store managers, and stock clerks. Imagine for a minute a can of cream-of-mushroom soup (I grew up in the Midwest, and this was a CRUCIAL ingredient for green-bean casserole…). How many businesses and workers are involved in that can of soup? Many!
In the U.S., according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), food and agriculture accounted for 11 percent—about 21.6 million full and part-time jobs—of total employment in 2017. Of these 21.6 million jobs, about 2.6 were on-farm, 15.7 were accounted for in food services—food and beverage stores, restaurants, and bars, etc.—and the remaining 3.3 were in other food and agriculture related industries. In addition to jobs, the U.S. food and agriculture sectors are characterized by high levels of mechanization at all stages of value addition and public support for funding needed infrastructure including roads, energy, and communications.
Levels of employment in developing countries are, by contrast, much higher percentagewise. In Africa, an estimated 60 percent of the workforce is engaged in agriculture, and countless small, micro and informal businesses are working to move food from the farm gate to local, urban, and in some cases export markets. Their distinct disadvantage, however, is not having access to capital equipment, finance, and infrastructure needed to efficiently and safely build farm-to-table linkages. This contributes to tremendous levels of food loss before getting to consumers, which in turn becomes a major contributor to hunger and malnutrition. In fact, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), about 1/3 of food produced globally is either lost or wasted. In industrialized countries, waste occurs primarily at the retail or post-consumer levels, whereas in developing countries most occurs post-harvest and in processing, before reaching consumers.
There are a lot of issues to be addressed in overcoming world hunger and malnutrition. One that deserves more of our attention is just what’s being discussed here: capturing food that is already produced (meaning nutrition too) and delivering it safely to consumers. This of course will require broad stakeholder engagement, from both the public and private sectors. It also means helping entrepreneurs and business owners, primarily small- and medium-sized, to adopt better food safety and food processing practices into their business models, as well as developing markets and consumer demand for their higher-quality, higher-cost food products. Good food can be good business.
So, this Thanksgiving, think about all of those folks who played a part in setting your table, starting with the farmer, right up to the stock clerk. Think too about their peers in developing countries, and the similar-yet-different challenges they face, and how important their role is in feeding a hungry world. And, if you do eat green-bean casserole, thumbs up!
By Gretchen Neisler, AIARD President
Vice Provost for International Affairs, University of Tennessee - Knoxville
Fall has brought its splendor to our weather and forests and as many societies turn to celebrating the harvest season and giving thanks for the bounty of food produced, there are still 815 million people suffering from hunger. It is the silent killer – each year it is killing more people than malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS combined.
Today, the FAO celebrates the World Food Day to commemorate the founding of the Organization in 1945. “The commemoration promotes worldwide awareness and ACTION for those who suffer from hunger and for the need to ensure food security and nutritious diets for all.” (www.fao.org)
As an organization, AIARD and its members are steeped in the work of alleviating hunger, enhancing food production, and changing policies to reduce household food insecurity. While we know the facts that surround food insecurity and malnourishment, I hope you will take a moment to reflect on the progress that has been made after reading this – “out of the 129 countries monitored by FAO, 72 have already achieved the target of halving the proportion of people who suffer from hunger by 2015; over the past 20 years, the likelihood of a child dying before age five has been nearly cut in half, with about 17,000 children saved every day; extreme poverty rates have been cut in half since 1990.” (www.fao.org)
Now, take another moment and renew your commitment to the work that still needs to be done. What can you focus on for the next 12 months that will have a positive impact on this issue? Where can you maximize your network to instill change and modify behaviors for different outcomes?
Happy fall y’all from my new post at Rocky Top! I look forward to connecting with you and marveling at the good work being done to achieve #ZEROHUNGER and the great leadership we have in AIARD.
The mission of the AIARD BLOG
The mission of the AIARD Blog is to highlight and share thoughts, ideas and work from people who have devoted their careers to global agricultural development and hunger alleviation.