LINK team carries out rainwater harvesting field research in Eastern Kenya

Farmers in Kenya’s drylands use numerous techniques and technologies to capture the scant water that falls during rainy seasons.  Rainwater harvesting (RWH) technologies, which range from simple to complex — and inexpensive to very expensive — also vary in effectiveness and optimal use.  In order to make smart decisions about financing and implementing RWH structures, it is important to know not just their technical specifications and expected water capacity, but also their return on investment (ROI) on the ground.  At present, this data is largely unavailable. LINK (Learning and Innovation Network for Knowledge and Solutions) winner Dr. Kennedy Mwetu of Kenyatta University (KU) had a number of questions that he knew needed to be answered in order for farmers, financiers, and implementing organizations to make better decisions on RWH: How quickly can a farmer reach ROI in a “farm pond,”?  How does ROI differ for a large, community-owned “sand dam”? What combination of crops and other inputs make for optimal ROI?  Mwetu, a team of researchers and graduate students from KU, and partners from World Agroforestry Center (ICRAF) in Nairobi set out in late October 2013 to identify empirical data suggesting answers to these and other questions. Their ultimate goal was to identify viable business models for RWH, and free up financing for the most effective, scalable technologies. […]

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Featured Collaborator: Dr. Thomas Miller, University of California, Riverside Entomologist

Meet Thomas Miller, GKI featured collaborator. Dr. Thomas Miller is a professor at the University of California, Riverside’s Department of Entomology.  Aside from being an eminent leader of the international entomological community, Miller is an important member of the team working on LINK: Rwanda’s “antestia-potato taste” specialty coffee challenge.  In partnership with Dr. Susan Jackels at Seattle University who focuses on the chemistry of “potato taste,” a team at Rogers Family Company in California and in Rwanda that sources affected coffee beans and provides support across the network, and Dr. Daniel Rukzambuga at the National University of Rwanda who works to develop national capacity to protect against coffee pests, Dr. Miller focuses on the biology of the microorganisms on the surface of green coffee beans.  Dr. Miller also hosts a website dedicated to the coffee challenge.  GKI’s Colin Huerter spoke with Dr. Miller in June 2013. Rwanda is a long ways off  – how did you get involved with the project? I met Nina Fedoroff, co-chair of GKI’s Advisory Board, when I became an AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) Fellow in 2011.  She had seen some of my research and recommended that I join the team.  Even though I had not worked on coffee before, the project immediately grabbed my attention – it seems that no matter who you explain it to, everyone is fascinated.  The international aspect drew me in, but at the same time there is a local connection because it also involves California buyers and roasters [such as Rogers Family Company]. The most compelling part is the obvious need for a solution.  Although coffee is a crucial export in Africa’s Great Lakes region, researchers have not yet been able to propose a practical application to reduce the potato taste defect.  With Rwanda losing a substantial proportion of its crop each year to the defect, eliminating it would have a significant impact.  Solving potato taste defect is a difficult task, but that’s why I like […]

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