We are pleased to announce that the Feed the Future Innovation Lab Collaborative Research on Grain Legumes, known as the Dry Grain Pulses Collaborative Research Support Program (Pulse CRSP) from 2007 to 2012 and now to be called the Legume Innovation Lab, has been awarded a $24.5 million extension for 4.5 years, through September 29, 2017.
The research work of Pulse CRSP PI Dr. Barry Pittendrigh (PI-UIUC-1) was featured on the Big Ten Network in February 2013.
Link to main video article
Dr. Irv Widders, director, and Dr. Cynthia Donovan, deputy director, Legume Innovation Lab, were interviewed at the 2012 World Food Prize in Des Moines, Iowa, in December 2012, on how grain legumes contribute to Feed the Future Strategic Initiatives. Link to Video.
(This column is updated regularly to reflect vital information for researchers and managers connected to PULSE CRSP projects and grants. If nothing is listed, nothing is immediately due.)
Spotlight II, Full Story
Scientific Animations Without Borders
Pulse CRSP researcher Barry Pittendrigh, a professor at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, has worked with a team to develop the initiative “Scientific Animations Without Borders (SAWBO)” to advance education in developing countries on sustainable agriculture, health, even disaster relief.
SAWBO produces educational materials for low literate learners using animated content for cell phones that is then voice overlaid in local languages. These short videos—usually just a few minutes in length—utilize the recent technological advances in SmartPhones (which have video capabilities) and Bluetooth© technology, which allow for rapid transmission of the videos between individuals. Because these videos are animated, they can be easily adapted to specific cultures, overlaid with multiple languages for use around the world, disseminated via e-mail, and produced relatively inexpensively within a matter of weeks.
“This is a very different paradigm from some other current development projects, where U.S.-based educators are flown to another part of the world, interact with people in the field for a few weeks to several months, and leave,” said Pittendrigh. “From a financial perspective, this is a much cheaper way to do international development.
Widespread use of cell phones in developing nations makes access to these instructional videos easy and affordable—as well as immediate. That the videos can be watched repeatedly further enhances learning success. According to mobiThinking.com, cell phone access in the developing world is connecting more people to the internet than any other computer medium, with cell phone technology spreading rapidly throughout the developing world.
The first animated videos developed by the Illinois team (with funding from the Dry Grain Pulses CRSP–U.S. Agency for International Development and created in collaboration with aid workers and farmers in West Africa) demonstrate safe insect-control methods that are already in use in some regions. The scientifically validated techniques make use of local plants or widely available materials – such as black plastic sheets, ashes, or plastic bags – to control or eradicate insect pests from cowpeas, a staple in many parts of Africa, Asia, and Central and South America.
In one video, a farmer processes the fruits of the neem tree (Azadirachta indica) to make a liquid insecticide that he sprays on his cowpea crop. The neem is a drought-tolerant tree found in Southeast Asia and parts of Sub-Saharan Africa. Scientific studies had validated the methods and the materials needed are cheap and widely available. But explaining the technique to large numbers of people would be difficult and costly—a problem allayed by easily distributed cell phone videos.
"In Mali they are using this technique and it’s very effective,” stated Julia Bello-Bravo, a University of Illinois field extension specialist and leader in SAWBO project. "If we can show these animated videos in different parts of West Africa where this tree grows, we can get the information to many, many more people."
The process of producing the videos is fairly fast and cheap. Communicating primarily via e-mail, aid workers, farmers, entrepreneurs, and an animator collaborate on the videos with the SAWBO team. Once the content is approved, the collaborators produce two scripts: one to be read by a narrator and the other describing the actions the animated character is to perform. The animator builds the animation in stages with input from the collaborative team. Once a video is complete, the voice-over narration can be swapped out to match that of a particular country or region.
In this way, the team is building a library of educational videos that can be distributed around the world via e-mail or through the sustainable development website, SusDeViki.
An animated video explaining the SAWBO project can be accessed at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JjtOHFFJSpc
A PBS story on this project (which went
out to 1.5 million views) can be accessed at http://www.americasheartland.org/episodes/episode_721/smart_phone_farming.htm
Announcements & Opportunities
U.S. Borlaug Summer Institute
The U.S. Borlaug Fellows in Global Food Security Program is offering a two-week learning program for graduate students interested in developing a holistic understanding of the conceptual challenges around global food security with a focus on cross-disciplinary problem solving of real-world development challenges. For more information, click here.