Cary Trexler, associate professor in the School of Education and the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, received a three-year $500,000 grant from the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Horticulture Collaborative Research and Support Program to enhance vegetable production by small farmers in Cambodia and Vietnam.
In partnership with colleagues in the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, Trexler will use the grant to address some of the greatest challenges facing farmers in Cambodia and Vietnam to grow vegetables safely and cost effectively. This is a public health problem because only 8-9 percent of vegetables grown in Vietnam meet government mandated food safety standards. In Cambodia, which is one of the poorest countries in Southeast Asia, farmers are unable to grow enough fresh vegetables, so the country imports about 45 percent of fresh vegetables and most from Vietnam.
“Our goal is to empower small farmers, 59 percent of whom are women, with education and training for sustainable vegetable production that limits post harvest losses, increases food safety, increases market access and increases income. To help change the current system requires an interdisciplinary approach and requires people from historically isolated fields to work collaboratively to solve pressing problems,” said Trexler. Faculty from one Cambodian and two Vietnamese universities will join the UC Davis team to research social, environmental, and production related concerns.
An important aspect of the project includes building a model participatory action network that links farmers together to ensure they work collaboratively to overcome common challenges. This will be accomplished through Farmer Field Schools and farmer led research with cooperation with the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Vegetable Center in Taiwan.
Trexler’s research focuses on teaching and learning, international agriculture development, university level reform as well as determining what people understand about the agri-food system.
For the last seven years, Trexler has worked with universities throughout Vietnam, helping them to develop innovative teaching strategies and reform their curricula. In 2007-08, he was a Fulbright Scholar at the Agriculture and Forestry University in Ho Chi Minh City. He has also helped to establish Advance Programs in three universities from the Mekong Delta to the Mountainous regions, which were sponsored by the Vietnam Ministry of Education and Training. Trexler has also consulted for the Vietnamese Ministry of Education and Training on secondary teacher professional standards and university accreditation and for the United Nations Education Scientific and Cultural Organization on secondary teacher management issues in Vietnam.