India Partnership Expands Global Action on Climate Smart Agriculture

In November 2014, representatives of Florida A&M’s Sustainability Institute traveled to India to partner with the country’s premier organization for sustainability and climate change. The National Council for Climate Change and Sustainable Development (NCCSD) is an organization founded on facilitating action and implementing activities that are important to sustainable development while mainstreaming agriculture as a mitigation option.

The partnership began at an international conference on climate justice initiatives, where FAMU and NCCSD discovered mutual objectives. This led up to the joint signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between FAMU’s Sustainability Institute and the NCCSD.

Among the signatories of the MOU from the NCCSD is Dr. Kirit Shelat, the organization's executive chairman. Dr. Shelat has been involved in agriculture for more than 40 years, serving as the principal secretary of agriculture and cooperation department under the government of Gujarat, India. During this time he has formulated and implemented related policies, including a focus on benefiting poor families, farmers and entrepreneurs through planning for integrated development.

According to Shelat, during his tenure, Indian agriculture has seen improvements such as a 2%-3% increase in sustainable agriculture growth. Many have also been brought out of poverty, and research has been validated, leading to a rise in productivity. However, there have been inequalities in some areas. “There is unequal growth between agriculture and other sectors like services and manufacturing; the latter have an average growth of 8% - 10%, which is increasing rural and urban divide,” said Shelat.

Furthermore, there is unequal growth between farmers at the local level, even in a village with the same resources. Where one can make profits, the other can fail. “Adverse impacts of climate change pushes even successful farmers back to poverty,” Shelat continued.

FAMU’s collaboration with organizations such as NCCSD promotes the search for solutions together. “Climates do not deal with boundaries, so for big global issues, we need to have global collaboration where scientists from FAMU are working with scientists from Europe, Asia, and Africa,” explains FAMU’s Dr. Odemari Mbuya. 

Mbuya is the faculty director of the Sustainability Institute, director of the Florida Climate Institute at FAMU and the interim director of the Center for Water and Air Quality. He teaches Research Methods/Biostatistics and Plant, Soil and Water Sciences in the College of Agriculture and Food Siences. Dr. Mbuya holds an M.S. and Ph.D. from the University of Florida and a Bachelor’s degree in Crop Science from Sokoine University of Agriculture in Tanzania. His research interest focuses on phytoremediation, water resources (quantity and quality), watershed processes and computer simulation modeling.

According to Mbuya, it is not just for research purposes that FAMU is collaborating with the NCCSD; the cultural exchange is just as important. “We are all one on this planet. We can communicate with India, China, Tanzania, and discuss the interests of United States as they discuss the interests of their country,” Mbuya explained.

This collaboration will allow FAMU to perform several tasks beneficial to Indian agriculture. “FAMU can make available appropriate technology related to Climate Smart Agriculture and Smart City Management for its replication in India,” said Shelat. FAMU will also be associated with its dissemination in other developing countries. FAMU has other MOUs with other universities and organizations abroad including, but not limited to, The University of Rwanda, Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences.

In the first phase of work, FAMU may make available technologies that have been developed for salinity resistant crop, saline water use and land management, and bio-technology for agriculture and livestock.

Mbuya expounds on the importance of having a survival strategy in today’s bio-environment. “We need to work together, which is the purpose of these MOUs. We can work with people in these places and have much more control. We want to anticipate adverse effects of current practices, envision how it will be in Florida in 50 years. We should be able to predict so that we can plan.”

The MOU with India’s NCCSD is one facet of Florida A&M University's continuing mission to advance research and teaching targeted at real-world solutions to societal challenges. The Sustainability Institute was created by President Elmira Mangum in particular to advance the research, teaching and application of sustainable solutions at the campus, regional and global level.


FAMU’s Community Garden Grows Food and Community

While riding down Orange Avenue west of Monroe Street, many people are so determined to reach their destination that they often overlook the land across from the Florida A&M University Developmental Research School. In this area lies the Florida A&M University Community Garden, a place where a fertile mind can cultivate a love for agriculture.

On Saturday, April 25, 2015, the FAMU Community Garden held its open house for the public to learn about the gardening that takes place within this three-acre expanse. The open house concluded an entire week of special campus activities sponsored by the FAMU Sustainability Institute to commemorate Earth Week. Even under overcast skies and the likelihood of rain, farmers still tended to their plots and offered their advice.

According to garden manager Trevor Hylton, Extension Agent with FAMU and University of Florida IFAS Extension, the community garden is one of the oldest in the state. It was established on the southern end of the campus property over 40 years ago, and is maintained by FAMU and the Leon County Cooperative Extension service. The garden contains 71 plots that are 40 by 40 feet wide. “We give away a lot of food; it’s a lot more for teaching than anything else,” said Hylton. Members grow produce for their family and community.

FAMU Community Garden welcomes newcomers and allows gardeners to plant whatever their hearts desire. Those who attended the open house witnessed a melting pot of members with various backgrounds that reflect growing traditions from around the world, including plants traditional to Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean. Many gardeners were on hand to explain what they are growing to interested members of the public.

Charlotta Ivy, minister at the Sowing Seeds Sewing Comfort Ministry Sanctuary Garden, was tending to her plot during the open house. Ivy has been growing at the community garden for 2.5 years and gets help from volunteers at the church and members of the community. They are currently growing tomatoes, carrots, Brussel’s sprouts, watermelon, and more. Ivy also uses all natural fertilizer – “worm poop” – to fertilize the plants. She explained that everything they grow is either donated or kept by volunteers. “We give out food to senior citizens and family in community,” she said.

In 2014, FAMU students began gardening on one plot. Ursula Ible, one of the students who began the FAMU student plot, said the garden’s open house was a great opportunity to teach and show the work that gardeners do. “No matter what organization you are a part of, you should get involved with gardening because it will prioritize your nutrition and eating habits,” Ible said.

Hylton noted that every year the FAMU community garden donates thousands of pounds of fresh produce to charitable organizations. “FAMU’s community garden has been a stalwart in the community and has become the standard bearer for community gardens, with an unmatched endurance, because it is guided by the creeds of the University’s motto ‘Excellence with Caring,” he said.

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Sustainability at Florida A&M University is about the teaching, research and application of environmental and resource stewardship so people and planet prosper. The Sustainability Institute serves as the hub of all sustainability-related efforts at the university, bringing students, staff, faculty and the community together around creative collaborations.

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