This year DIG was awarded our 2nd Trellis Fund Award from UC Davis. The Trellis Fund is an arm of the UC Davis Horticulture Innovation Lab. Trellis works on a smaller scale than the lab, selecting students to partner with host organizations on the ground for a few months before traveling there for two-to-three-week projects. This year, 14 different students traveled to nine different countries including one to Kenya with DIG. DIG was matched with Belinda Richardson — an international agricultural development master’s student — she spent her three-weeks working closing with DIG’s Staff as well as DIG’s Farmers. Her first impression of being in rural Western Kenya was children chasing her down a red dirt road, the crying out, “Mzungu! Mzungu!” to greet her each time she road into the village. “Mzungu,” which roughly translates to “European,” was a term of endearment in the village of Lwala, Kenya, where agricultural volunteers were met with a smile, Belinda recalled.
Belinda hit the ground running and immediately started working on establishing curriculum for the second of DIG’s Mobile Farmer Field, the Farmer Business School. She was also tasked with trainings on marketing, value addition, as well as, Training of Trainers.
“I think it was nice to have an outsider be able to look at the continuity of all these programs,” she said. Belinda helped develop templates for Training Sessions as well as market surveys and curriculum tools. “DIG’s program is not just about growing nutritious food for themselves, but also for selling (and making income).” Belinda worked with different farmers to plan out their crops so they could be more consistent with their buyers. Yet with only a three-week stay, it was hard to pack everything in. Trellis’ short timeline was a unique challenge to work with. “It really keeps you on your toes,” Belinda said. Yet when she remembers riding through the fields at sunset, the smell of the cooking fires and dust from the fields accompanying her commute on back of a motorcycle, she can’t help but wish she could go back and work more with DIG and their farmers. (adapted from Global insights: Trellis students work abroad by Felicia Alvarez)