The Innovation Labs Partners Meeting in Malawi wrapped up with a field trip on Thursday, April 23. Attendees visited the Integrating Nutrition in Value Chains (INVC) project and Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR), among other sites.
INVC is USAID/Malawi’s flagship Feed the Future activity. It focuses on soy and groundnut value chains to strengthen farmer livelihoods. At the INVC field site, National Smallholder Farmers’ Association of Malawi (NASFAM) Program Manager Raymond Mwemitete provided an overview of the contexts in which INVC works and introduced lead farmers, Joseph Nkhome and Martha Black. Joseph and Martha described their work as lead farmers and demonstrated the improved crop management techniques they learned through the program.
Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources is a public university with more than 500 students. Participants in the tour had the opportuity to see livestock, crop, and laboratory facilities. Of particular note were the nutrition lab's work on aflatoxin control management, the animal lab's analysis of feed quality to improve livestock health, and the chemistry lab's study of the nutritional profile of indigenous foods and plants.
The Innovation Labs Partners Meeting ended yesterday with a field trip. Participants toured an array of people and sites, including the USAID Integrating Nutrition in Value Chains (INVC) activity, Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR), and International Crop Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT). The field trip featured demonstration plots where improved crop management practices are being tested as well as trials in new seed varieties. The day ended with a visit to Chitedze Research Station, where students explained how their studies would benefit Malawian agriculture.
More details about the field trip will be posted on Agrilinks.org next week, where you can also review the full week’s events, download PowerPoint presentations, and post comments and questions if you are registered.
Thanks so much, and if you have any questions or ideas for helpful learning products from the event, please feel free to contact Laura Ostenso, Knowledge Management Specialist, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a wonderful weekend!
Tuesday afternoon’s panel provided insight into the rationale, approaches and challenges to nutrition-sensitive agriculture, a framework at the heart of Feed the Future.
Many Innovation Labs are attempting to understand and address the factors that influence nutrition, but the most explicitly involved is the Nutrition Innovation Lab of Tufts University. After a brief introduction by Shibani Ghosh, Jeff Griffiths teased out the complicated relationship between food production and nutrition: an improvement in the former does not necessarily lead to gains in the latter. Jeff also underscored that an evidence base connecting the dots between specific interventions and specific nutritional outcomes has yet to be generated.
Beth Mitcham of the Horticulture Innovation Lab explained that her team plans to give more attention to nutrition during its second phase of research. She talked through diverse examples of the interventions she works on, including the development of value chains for African indigenous vegetables, pest exclusion nets, seed drying beads, and inexpensive CoolBots for storage.
Hillary Egna of the Aquaculture and Fisheries Innovation Lab argued that the feed conversion ratio for sea products is significantly less than that of land-based products. Betty Bugusu of the Food Processing & Post-Harvest Handling Innovation Lab talked about engaging the private sector early in value chain development as well as some trials with triple layer plastic (PICS) bags. Dirk Maier of the Reduction of Post-Harvest Loss Innovation Lab spoke to a few examples of moisture meters, solar dryers, and inexpensive hermetic storage systems.
Last but certainly not least, Howie Bouis of IFPRI’s HarvestPlus gave an interesting window into the history of biofortification, a technology conceived in the 1990s and a term he helped to coin in 2001. Despite biofortification's relative maturity, Howie suggested that a few questions have yet to be answered: Will extra nutrients be absorbed at levels sufficient enough to improve micronutrient status? Will farmers adopt and consumers buy biofortified crops in viable quantities? Can biofortification be mainstreamed?
To close, Rob Bertram thanked all attendees and challenged the audience to increase the number of stakeholders present at the next Innovation Labs Partners Meeting.
Next up: Check back for initial impressions from a field trip to visit the flagship Integrating Nutrition in Value Chains project!
The second day of the Innovation Labs Partners Meeting kicked off with a presentation and conversation on sustainable intensification (SI). SI focuses on increasing food production on existing farmland while minimizing negative impacts on the environment. Jerry Glover provided an overview of how SI optimizes the production of farming systems per unit of area. Vara Prasad outlined the five-year plan for the Sustainable Intensification Innovation Lab, which was recently funded for a five-year grant.
Throughout the morning, attendees also heard from Rangaswamy (Muni) Muniappan of the Integrated Pest Management Innovation Lab, Neville Clarke of the Innovation Lab for Small-Scale Irrigation, Regis Chikowo of Africa RISING (Research in Sustainable Intensification for the Next Generation), Tara Steinmetz of the Assets & Market Access Innovation Lab, and Duncan Boughton of the Food Security Policy Innovation Lab.
One ongoing thread of discussion has regarded how communication between practitioners and the Innovation Labs can be improved so that the best technologies might come to bear on the lives of smallholder farmers.
Stay tuned for more updates, including the day's PowerPoint presentations, and don't forget to follow @Agrilinks on Twitter for live updates. Have thoughts regarding how to improve linkages between researchers and development practitioners? Tweet them or start a conversation in the comments section at the bottom of this page!
On Monday morning, roughly 100 jet-lagged souls found themselves at the Sunbird Capital Hotel in Lilongwe for the annual Feed the Future Innovation Labs Partners Meeting. Throughout the course of this week, 16 of the 24 Innovation Labs from across the U.S. will come together, along with USAID staff, implementing partners, and local partners, in order to share research, challenges and needs with each other.
The morning kicked off with addresses by Dave Hoisington, Innovation Lab Council Chair, Rob Bertram, USAID Chief Scientist, Virginia Palmer, U.S. Ambassador in Malawi, and Allan Chiyembekeza, Malawi Minister of Agriculture. Home to eight different Innovation Lab projects, Malawi is also host to a flagship initiative in integrating agriculture and nutrition, as well as value chain projects in legumes, groundnuts and orange-fleshed sweet potatoes.
After pausing for a brief photo opportunity, the conference resumed with presentations by regional USAID Missions, who articulated some of ways they would like to collaborate with the Innovation Labs. Some of their ideas included: agriculture policy, research into post-harvest processes for the prevention of aflatoxin, livestock, value chains and market access, and nutrition. They also reiterated that cutting-edge technologies are not getting to small-scale farmers and that knowledge sharing and good communication will be key to maintaining effective relationships between the Missions and the Innovation Labs.
Just before lunch, Kulvinder Gill of the Climate Resilient Wheat Innovation Lab chaired a panel on pests, diseases and climate resilience. George Bettinger spoke about the Rift Valley Fever Innovation Lab, which is partnering with a large biomedical manufacturer in Morocco in order to scale the production of inexpensive vaccines. Tim Dalton of the Sorghum & Millet Innovation Lab gave an overview of the research he oversees in genetic enhancement, productive systems management and added-value products. Finally, Peter Setimela talked about his team’s successes with drought resistance maize varieties.
After a delightful courtyard lunch, several representatives from USAID gave presentations on open data access (Zachary Baquet), human and institutional capacity building (Karen Duca), and local capacity development (Lynn Schneider).
The final session of the day, chaired by Vern Long of USAID, explored the spectrum of legume productivity research. Legumes, valuable both for their nutritive and nitrogen-fixing attributes, are the focus of the Grain Legumes Innovation Lab, directed by Cynthia Donovan, Peanut Productivity & Mycotoxin Control Innovation Lab, directed by Dave Hoisington, and the Soybean Value Chain Research Innovation Lab, directed by Peter Goldsmith. Rowland Chirwa closed out the day with a few remarks on PABRA, the Pan-Africa Bean Research Alliance. The legumes panel sparked robust dialogue (particularly for so late in the day), and Vern excitedly announced that there will be many more opportunities for conversation, as 2016 has been named the International Year of the Pulse.
In summary, Monday was an excellent overview of some of the research and requirements of the participating organizations. Here’s to a deeper dive on Tuesday!
We had a great first day at the meeting! Check back soon for a recap of today's presentations and discussions.
We hope you’re looking forward to the Innovation Labs Partners Meeting next week as much as we are! We’re hopping on a plane to Malawi this afternoon but would like to introduce ourselves before we hit the ground. As members of the Feed the Future Knowledge-Driven Agricultural Development (KDAD) project, we will be at the meeting to provide knowledge management support and, if you are not joining in Malawi, to keep you up to date on discussions, presentations and other developments.
Meet the team: Look for Fred Smith, Chief of Party; Catie Peters, Communications Specialist; and Kristen Reardon, Digital Media Producer, throughout the week. We’ll certainly be looking to catch up with you!
What we’ll be doing: In addition to producing daily blog summaries for Agrilinks.org with highlights and insights from each day, we are interested in learning more about your work and would like to interview Innovation Lab staff and partners. These interviews will be edited into a suite of post-event products that will showcase the results of the Labs’ individual and collective efforts.
What’s next: Keep an eye out for daily emails with direct links to materials and updates from the meeting. If you are not attending and want to stay abreast of presentations and discussions, or if you’ll be in Malawi and want to recap your day, you can peruse the materials and post comments, questions and responses.
Please feel free to connect with the team throughout the meeting. If you have questions or ideas in the meantime, contact Laura Ostenso (email@example.com), Knowledge Management Specialist.
Safe travels and see you in Malawi,
The KDAD Team