MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State University will lead a five-year food project that includes other schools and developing countries in examining ways small farms can increase production.
The school recently announced that it received a $50 million grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Topeka Capital-Journal reported. The project, called “Feed the Future lab,” will focus on “sustainable intensification,” or raising food production levels that will also take into account the environment and the needs of the people farming the land.
Part of the issue is also reducing the amount of spoiled food, said Vara Prasad, who will be the project’s director.
Jerry Glover, an agricultural specialist with USAID, said the project will have to consider cultural and social variables that affect farming. For example, some countries designate trees as public property, so recommending farmers add trees to their own land would be complicated, he said.
Including all of those factors will be difficult, Glover said, but only focusing on one part of the problem could leave another unsolved.
Growing maize is profitable for farmers in developing nations, but doesn’t significantly improve nutrition for farmers and their families who lack a well-rounded diet, he said.
“Without pulling these threads together, we get one objective met, but not others,” Glover said.
Kansas State University will coordinate studies in Ghana, Senegal, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Bangladesh and Myanmar. The grant will fund one or two projects proposed by colleges and nonprofits in each country. Some issues projects may focus on are crop rotation, soil and water conservation.
Prasad said working with other countries will be “mutually beneficial” to the U.S. because the projects might identify conservation strategies that could work in the states.
“A lot of times both the U.S. and developing countries are facing the same issues,” he said. “There’s a lot more in the world than Kansas.”
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