Learning by doing is the philosophy of the Pan-American agricultural school known as Zamorano in Honduras. Students come to class every day dressed in their uniform of blue jeans and blue shirt. They come to work, not just to study; more often than not, their classrooms are the fields and the food production plants on campus. They plant seeds and pull weeds and milk cows and nurture fish and make ice cream and inseminate queen bees.
It is all part of the curriculum which leads them to graduate as agricultural engineers in one of four careers: Agribusiness Management, Agricultural Science and Production, Food Agroindustry and Socioeconomic Development and Environment.
Like the ag schools at U.S. land-grant universities, Zamorano is on the front line of the fight against hunger as the world reverses its long neglect of agriculture development. These blue clad students are eager to take on the great challenge of the world: doubling food production by 2050. Already at Zamorano, they are learning by doing seed research, helping farmers adapt to changing climate, developing more nutritious foods. In particular, they will be forging progress on the south-south axis, taking their knowledge to other developing countries facing the same problems as the countries in which they grew up.
by Marième Daff, Africa Program Director, Trickle Up For more information about Trickle Up, visit www.trickleup.org.
Ms. Daff's areas of expertise include incorporating gender into program work through training and gender analysis. Ms. Daff has a BA in French and Comparative Literature from the Sorbonne in Paris and an MA in journalism and communications from New York University.
The Delicate Dance of the Hungry Season
Every time I travel to Mali in the fall, I am amazed at how lush everything looks. The contrast between the dry and rainy season is quite dramatic. Between November and May—the long “dry season”—the soil is arid, barren and almost uniformly brown. The rains usually arrive in June and last until the end of September, marking the beginning of the harvest.
Last October, when I visited some of the rural villages where Trickle Up works in northern Mali, participants and their families, many of whom are small-scale farmers, were preparing for the annual harvest.
Tall millet and sorghum grain plants tell the story of a successful and happy time for these women and their families. What they don’t tell is the story of the rest of the year. During my last visit I met with Niamoye Maiga, a Trickle Up participant, in the small town of Djenné. She told me, “The harvest generally lasts us only eight months of the year.” If you do the math, that still leaves four months before the next harvest, a period that Malians and others around the world refer to as the “hungry season”, when families must go with an inadequate supply of food. This means lots of skipped meals, resulting in increased rates of malnourished children.
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