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USAID’s innovation lab for horticulture in Honduras

USAID’s Innovation Lab for Horticulture began in 2009 when USAID selected the University of California, Davis (UCDavis) as the lead institution in a number of research projects aiming to “help developing countries out of poverty through improved marketing and production of high-value horticultural crops.”

Funding for the Innovation Lab for Horticulture comes from USAID’s Feed the Future project. The Innovation Lab for Horticulture is crucial in Honduras, a country where the agricultural industry, particularly horticulture, is a key part of the economy. The agricultural output makes up 10% of the country’s GDP and is the main source of income for many Hondurans who live in poverty. 

The Innovation Lab for Horticulture’s work in Honduras focuses on a number of poverty-related aspects of life, including food safety, crop yields, education, entrepreneurship, and women’s empowerment. A research team from a university in the United States executes each of these projects, working with the Panamerican Agricultural School at Zamorano University and other local organizations in Honduras. Recent projects include disease-resistant crops, technology design, and gender integration.

The work of Dr. James Nienhuis of the University of Wisconsin-Madison focuses on creating disease resistance in a wide variety of plants across Central America, and he has spent about 30 years performing this type of horticultural work in Central America. His team’s goal in Honduras and other Central American countries is “providing increased income and enhanced nutrition to rural families” by improving crop yields through disease resistance. Dr. Nienhuis served as the principal investigator in the Expanding Tomato Grafting for Entrepreneurship in Guatemala and Honduras project, which ran from January 2015 until September 2018 with an allotted budget of $330,000.

Dr. Nienhuis says that researchers chose Honduras as the location for this work because “Honduras has the greatest need.” He explains further that he “wanted to give rural families and rural women a chance to gain confidence and empowerment by using available land and women’s cooperatives to make money first selling vegetables and later producing and selling grafted plants.”

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