Africa-centric Research

Africa-centric Research

The college offers widespread research expertise and experience in African nations, all centered around our

Five Strategic Initiatives

While the following represents a core set of faculty, our portfolio extends well beyond the accomplishments of this select group.

Faculty Research

Ray R. Weil, Professor

Working in African ecosystems since 1970, Ray is an internationally recognized expert on soil science, nutrient cycling, soil organic matter, and cover crop systems. His methods for microbial biomass and active soil C have been adopted by USDA/NRCS and researchers worldwide.

Projects include:
• Brassica cover crops for soil compaction alleviation and fertility improvement
• Sulfur management to improve dietary value of legume protein
• On-the-spot soil test kit, “SoilDoc”

Initiatives:
• Advance Innovative, Profitable, and Sustainable Agricultural Production Systems

Stephanie Lansing, Associate Professor

Stephanie integrates research, teaching, Extension, and mentoring to provide efficient and ecologically sound methods for waste treatment and bioenergy using ecological engineering. Her research is focused in three intertwined areas: anaerobic digestion (AD); microbial and solid-oxide fuel cells (MFC and SOFC); and eMergy and life cycle assessments (LCA).

Projects include:
• Nutrient recovery using algal turf scrubber (ATS) with anaerobic digestion of algae feedstocks to drive a fuel cell
• Antimicrobial resistance, persistence and treatment in dairy and beef manure waste management processes
• Small-scale digesters for the US and developing countries
• Food waste, dairy and poultry manure digestion in Maryland, as well as sanitary waste digestion in Haiti

Initiatives:
• Ensure a Clean and Healthy Chesapeake Bay
• Improve Human, Animal, and Environmental Health
• Optimize Urban Environments Through Design, Green Technology, and Community Engagement

Ken Leonard, Associate Professor

Ken’s research in Africa looks at professionals and households trying to bridge the gap between knowledge and practice.

Projects include:
• Work in Uganda building women’s social networks to increase the probability that women will change their agricultural practices after receiving training from outside professionals
• Work with households in Tanzania demonstrating the process by which households learn by observing each other, slowly judging whether outcomes justify changing their own behavior
• Work with experts in Tanzania and Liberia showing that they are not motivated by service to their clientele as much as by the recognition of their peers: their highly specialized skills can often isolate them from the clients

Initiatives:
• Advance Innovative, Profitable, and Sustainable Agricultural Production Systems
• Improve Human, Animal, and Environmental Health

Jianghong Meng, Professor

Under Dr. Jianghong Meng’s leadership, the Center for Food Safety and Security Systems (CFS3) was integrated with the college’s Joint Institute for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (JIFSAN) and FDA’s Center of Excellence, expanding partnerships and building collaborative relationships between scientists, faculty, government, and industry.

CFS3 Goals:
• To ensure a safe, abundant, and affordable food supply, nationally and globally
• Build partnerships in food safety and defense research
• Foster research collaborations and outreach programs

Initiatives:
• Establish a Healthy Food System and Ensure Global Food and Nutritional Security

Bill Bowerman, Professor and Chair

Bill has spent over a year in Africa since 2006, working on environmental health, ecosystem services that vultures provide, and conflicts and interfaces among three economic drivers: agriculture, natural resource extraction, and ecotourism, as well as becoming an elder of the Massai.

Projects include:
• African fish eagles as monitors of water quality in South Africa and Uganda
• Effect on lesser flamingos at Kamfers Dam in Kimberley, South Africa which included human caused stressors such as broken infrastructure (water treatment plant), climate change, and development
• Interactions of African penguins, colonial waterbirds, and vultures with the ecosystem

Initiatives:
• Ensure a Clean and Healthy Chesapeake Bay
• Improve Human, Animal, and Environmental Health

Extension

R. David Myers, Principal Agent

Dave’s Extension responsibilities include field crop and livestock agriculture with an emphasis on fruit and vegetable production and marketing. He is the faculty adviser of ROOTS UMD, a student-led organization that strives to combat hunger and poverty in Africa by promoting innovative and sustainable agricultural practices. His group works in partnership with local communities, farmer organizations, and colleges.

Projects include:
• Pesticide use education
• Protection of natural resources
• Forming partnerships that identify and develop solutions to international agricultural challenges

Initiatives:
• Establish a Healthy Food System and Ensure Global Food and Nutritional Security
• Advance Innovative, Profitable, and Sustainable Agricultural Production Systems

Charles Schuster, Senior Agent

Charles is an expert in commercial horticulture, including commercial landscape, nursery, greenhouse, turf and garden center industries, and fruit and vegetable production. Charles is the main project lead for a pilot Cooperative Extension project near Lwemiyaga, Uganda to help increase farm productivity and food safety.

Projects include:
• Developing soil irrigation, soil fertility, and integrated pest management for common Uganda crops
• Commercial pesticide training and re-certification
• Nutrient management training

Initiatives:
• Establish a Healthy Food System and Ensure Global Food and Nutritional Security
• Advance Innovative, Profitable, and Sustainable Agricultural Production Systems

Taryn Devereux, Faculty Specialist

Taryn has deep experience working in African nations, with extensive research on gender and climate change adaptation among small-holder farms in Kenya, and leadership around gender-based agriculture extension projects in Ethiopia. She leads efforts around the college’s Women in Agriculture program.

Projects include:
• Institutional capacity-building efforts with the Afghanistan Ministry of Agriculture and newly established public universities in Ethiopia
• Preparing women extension educators working with poor or vulnerable women to improve family food security
• Capacity building among women extension workers, community leaders, students and farmers, creating a reinforcement life cycle

Initiatives:
• Establish a Healthy Food System and Ensure Global Food and Nutritional Security
• Advance Innovative, Profitable, and Sustainable Agricultural Production Systems

AGNR Africa Projects (2015-2020)

Nigeria

  • A World Bank funded project (2017-2020) with Federal University, Gashua, Ahmadu Bello University, and the University Politécnica de Madrid to convert an invasive weed that obstructs Nigerian waterways into an animal feed and biogas for cooking. The project addresses access to clean water and the shortage of animal feed during the dry season.  The project diversifies the local economy including improved family incomes, and heath by decreasing health risks from cooking smoke. (ANSC, Kohn)

  • With the University of Ibadan, to study anaerobic digestion of cassava wastewater and manures to produce bio-gas. (ENST, Lansing)

Liberia

  • A Global Classroom between UMD students and LICC students that is a collaboration in which the students identify and develop solutions to agricultural challenges faced by farmers in Liberia. The class focuses on learning about farming in a developing country context, intercultural dialogue, and developing projects on agricultural extension activities, such as an Agricultural Radio Hour, a High School Outreach Program, and a student-led Chocolate Entrepreneurship Project that is Liberia’s first national processing company.

  • The UMD ROOTS Africa student club started its first chapter in Africa, at LICC.  The UMD and LICC students work with local Liberian farmers on basic principles and practices regarding soil health, integrated pest management, agribusiness practices such as record keeping, budgeting, planning for a business, marketing, and adding value to products.

Cameroon

The BeeMangrove apiculture project in the mangroves seeks to provide an alternative livelihood to local communities who are dependent 100% on the mangroves, while at the same time alleviating mangrove logging pressures and enhancing pollinator abundances. This grass-root project brought together stakeholders and people with different interests to ensure that local communities learn to install beehives in the mangroves, harvest honey, and protect the mangroves. (PSLA, Ngev, Neel Lab)

Ethiopia

  • A food security project aimed at soil and livestock management that will utilize portable handheld instruments to determine soil pH, EC and nitrate levels, moveable solar-electrified polywire fencing for livestock management, mobile phone-enabled marketing strategies for livestock and crop products, among others. This project is in partnership with Debre Berhan University (DBU)

  • From 2016-2019, the AGNR Women in Agriculture (WIA) program led a global extension project in Ethiopia in partnership with Debre Berhan University (DBU) and Wolkite University (WKU). This project was supported by the local Rotary Club and Rotary International World Fund. Outreach programs targeted the food security of vulnerable women and youth by focusing on home gardens and small-scale poultry production. Activities included trainings at campus demonstration farms as well as satellite sites across the respective regions, Farmer Field Schools, and primary school vegetable gardens. Although the primary focus was household nutrition and food security, the universities, primary schools and women beneficiaries all reported revenue earned from surplus sales to market.

Egypt

AGNR is identifying the genetic characteristics of fish genome for improved breeding. The project, Bringing Next-Generation Breeding into Aquaculture could enhance production efficiency and development of genetically improved strains to a yield a better-quality fish.  Aquaculture biotechnology can help in developing germplasm, and farm management guidelines for improved growth, stress tolerance, fillet quality, disease resistance, and feed conversion efficiency as well as control of reproduction cycle and age at sexual maturation.  (ANSC, Salem)

Tanzania

An interdisciplinary team of AGNR Faculty, a Maryland-based education non-profit, and a tech start-up company formed "Harvest Link," an applied research initiative. Funded by the UMD Provost Office, Harvest Link traveled to Tanzania in 2017 and 2018 to conduct market value chain research with smallholder tomato farmers in Iringa in partnership with the University of Iringa. The goal of this research was to support the development of a mobile application that would connect farmers to markets, with integration into transportation services (UME, Devereux; NFSC, Sahyoun)

South Africa

AGNR is collaborating with the University of Pretoria, and the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN FDA) in evaluating the safety of cucumbers grown in high tunnels in Gauteng Province. Cucumbers are irrigated overhead with surface water or borehole water that is stored in open reservoirs. The approach is using microbiome analysis of irrigation water and cucumbers to evaluate the influence of irrigation on cucumber-associated microbiota and track antimicrobial resistance genes.  This research is applicable to large operations but could be possible in smaller farm settings that have access to surface or borehole water.

Kenya

AGNR dairy specialists are partnering with Rising Star International Investment to help dairy farmers in the Nandi province form a cooperative to improve production practices in cropping, genetics, nutrition, housing, animal health, milking methods, record keeping, business management, and marketing. These improvements in efficiencies will improve farmer income and reduce poverty. (UME, Johnson and Semler)

Uganda

In partnership with International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC), AGNR Extension Specialists trained 40 local farmers and 25 extension workers on irrigation practices, soil fertility, and integrated pest management demonstrations for common Uganda crops: cassava, plantains, sweet potato, beans, tomatoes, peppers and eggplant.  The AGNR team delivered specialized training in sustainable agricultural concepts and practices that can be easily adopted by smallholder farmers who have limited access to machinery, agrichemicals and commercial fertilizers. The team designed the project to be implemented with small hand operated tools and field portable scientific equipment. The AGNR team set-up a low-cost, field-sized vegetable trickle-irrigation demonstration and taught the farmers how to test the soil and plant tissue for major nutrients. By improving agricultural practices, Ugandan farmers were able to rely less on expensive inputs and create healthy crops, increasing their food security and farm production.  Food safety training for farmers focused on sanitation practices, with the result of decreasing instances of diarrhea, especially in children.  Most of the project materials were sourced in country, and local farmers were encouraged to cooperate to solve cropping problems and to share resource.