Two graduate students in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) have been selected to participate in the 2018 U.S. Borlaug Summer Institute on Global Food Security, an annual 2-week educational program funded by the U.S. Agency on International Development (USAID), for graduate students passionate about exploring challenges and solutions surrounding global food security.
Ram Bahadur Khadka, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Plant Pathology, and Ariel Garsow, a M.S. student in the Department of Food Science and Technology were among 40 invited students chosen from a competitive pool of applicants to attend this year's Borlaug Summer Institute, which will take place from June 3-16, 2018 on the campus of Purdue University.
The program includes lectures, case studies, small group discussions, near-by field trips, on-the-ground development experience, and strategy sessions on integrated approaches to solving grand challenges related to food insecurity, malnutrition, and poverty. Instructors include distinguished faculty, practitioners, and policy makers who have expertise across disciplines in the natural, social, and health sciences, and engineering.
Both Ram and Ariel are excited to meet and interact with peers and experts working towards ensuring global food security in this program.
"Food security is a complex phenomenon, with several socio-economic and political factors playing key roles," says Ram. "I look forward to hearing success stories and learning about more innovative approaches through a 'whole of society' approach to tackling food security."
Ariel looks forward to learning and expanding her understanding of the challenges of providing everyone with a safe and sustainable food supply.
Developing eco-friendly disease and pest management techniques for developing countries
Ram is a native of Nepal, a country where more than 60% of the population is involved in agriculture. However, its crop productivity is notoriously affected by climate change. Most of Nepal's farmers can't produce sufficient food for their family's needs, and thus are often compelled to migrate temporarily to search for alternative jobs. With declining productivity and a poor distribution system, achieving food and nutritional security is one of the long-term agricultural goals for Nepal. Ram's past work has involved collaborations with the Food and Agricultural Organization of United Nations (UNFAO) and the World Bank's Global Agriculture and Food Security Project (GASP), where he planned and implemented project activities to enhance the food and nutritional security of local communities in Nepal. Ram also dedicates himself to developing eco-friendly disease and pest management techniques for developing countries. He's currently working on evaluating an Anaerobic Soil Disinfestation (ASD) for weed and disease management.
When thinking about his expectations for the 2018 Borlaug Summer Institute, Ram supposes that the program will be an excellent platform to discuss and understand these phenomena and learn how to assess a multitude of contributing factors.
"I hope the program will help me hone my knowledge, aptitude and understanding of global food security and will ultimately help to address these pertinent issues to Nepalese agriculture and rural communities."
Ram's doctoral program is funded by USAID through the Integrated Pest Management Innovation Lab (IPM-IL) and he is advised by Sally Miller.
Improving food processing technologies and strengthening market linkages for farmers
Inspired by a fellowship visit to Malawi in 2015, where she encountered malnutrition and stunting, Ariel realized that it was possible to use her academic passion and background in food science to alleviate hunger. To increase her understanding of food systems, she participated in six internships with five different food companies, and eventually enrolled in a master's degree in food science at Ohio State.
"I want to help improve food processing technologies in developing countries and strengthen market linkages for farmers, like the ones that I met in Malawi."
Currently, Ariel is working with Dennis Heldman studying the effectiveness of a novel clean-in-place technology, which will provide effective alternatives to current cleaning practices, reducing water usage and improving food safety and security.
"There are water crises in many parts of the world. Water is essential to food production and security," says Ariel. "So it's crucial to evaluate processing technologies and systems in order we can conserve and maximize its usage."
Ariel expects to gain a more holistic perspective of food insecurity through the Institute's case studies, small group discussions, and speakers. "From this knowledge, I hope to gain insight into potential careers in this field and other international opportunities after I graduate."