Solving Poverty in Africa with Drones-Research from Oakland University

snow-and-treewaiting

Regular readers of this blog know that I am in deep admiration for those researchers who are using their skills to tackle the seemingly intractable problems that plague so many-especially poverty and extreme poverty.

I am in awe of researchers such as Nobel Prize winner Norman Borlaug who was widely considered the father of the “green revolution,” the wonderful work at MSU helping to tackle  food scarcity in Flint with the Flint Eats app and other creative uses of technology such as the Michigan State University research teaching farmers in East Africa using video technology.  

Now we can add Oakland University researcher, Jon Carroll to the list of researchers using technology to solve the problem of poverty in Africa. Dr. Carroll is using drones to create very precise images of water and chlorophyll in the plants which can then lead to precise, hyper-localized solutions for crop  yield leading to a very sustainable agricultural model.

In the excellent article by OU News, Dr. Carroll talks about the impact that this research experience had on him.

He states, “This was a very different kind of project because I was surrounded by the people who were going to be affected by this research.”

Questions for Discussion

  1. Why is sustainable agriculture important to Jon Carroll?
  2. How did he use the drone technology to improve crop yields?
  3. What are some of the solutions he might recommend to farmers?
  4. Why was this experience so memorable for him?
  5. How else could you imagine using the drone technology to help the farmers in Africa?

Helping Farmers in East Africa- Michigan State University Researchers

Michigan State University Research

It is so exciting when researchers are able to take concepts and ideas from the classroom and apply them in a real world setting.

It is especially exciting when it means that this can make a difference in people’s lives.

That is exactly what a team of researchers from Michigan State University did when they travelled to Tanzania and Kenya to help improve agricultural practices.

MSU doctoral candidate in media and information studies, Tian Cai, and a research team, created a research project-creating low-budget videos of videos that communicated farmers perspectives for not using drought resistant maize.

Then, they  showed a group of villagers the videos followed by a discussion. The control group did not receive the videos. An additional treatment group received the videos and a text message.

This group indicated they were most likely to use drought resistant maize, which would benefit their likelihood of success, and help the environment.

This is a great example of applied research and the significant impact that researchers can have in helping those that might not have access to the necessary information and support to make lasting changes. Teachers of media studies, environmental science will especially want to share this research with their students.

For a link to the MSU news article by Nicole O’Meara, please click here. 

Questions for Discussion

  1. Who was involved in providing input at the initial one day workshop?
  2. What government agency provided funding?
  3. What is the local language of the region studied?
  4. Which condition had the most impact?
  5. What additional data would you want to review to determine the efficacy of this research?
  6. What changes might you make to this research to potentially improve its outcomes?
  7. Why did professor Steinfield say this research was aligned to the philosophy of the media and information department at Michigan State University?

International Law and Sustainable Agriculture

Most of us are excited about the great progress technology is making to improve crop yields, reduce chemical use in agriculture and making agriculture more sustainable to help feed our growing population. But will the simple act of farmers using this technology feed the world?

Doubtful according to the University of Kansas Law Professor, John Head. In Head’s new book, “International Law and Agroecological Husbandry: Building Legal Foundations for a New Agriculture,” he argues that there must be international legal mechanisms to ensure that the benefits of this technology are distributed equitably.

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One of the key aspects to his vision, is long term planning and thinking as espoused by a few of my heroes such as Wendell Berry and the visionaries at the Long Now Foundation. Head talks about the need to move beyond thinking in 5 year cycles and to vision decades into the future such as developing a “50 year farm bill” that Wendell Berry and Wes Jackson wrote about in a NY Times article.

Check out Mike Krings’ feature on John Head and his book for more details of this important, perhaps essential element, of a transition to a sustainable, equitable world. I think creative educators might create a wonderful activity- a thematic unit on sustainable agriculture integrating the science, the marketing, the economics, and the legal. How would you do this in your classroom? Let us know!

Questions for Discussion

  1. What is the “extractive agriculture” system?
  2. What are elements of an “agro-ecological” approach?
  3. Why will simply implementing higher yield crops not simply solve the problem of food insecurity?
  4. Why is long-term planning and thinking essential to solving issues of food insecurity?
  5. How do you think professor Head’s background impacted his interest in this topic?
  6. The article talks about the  need for new global treaties to address this topic-what might these treaties consist of? Who would be the involved nations?
  7. What else does this inspire you to “dream, learn, do?”