crops horticulture field
USDA NRCS / Flickr

Growing up in rural Nepal, where water is the most limited resource, Krishna Bhattarai was inspired to research water efficiency and help others.

After studying in the U.S. for about four years, he will go back overseas to another rural area in Uganda. Although he won’t spend time looking into water conservation, he will help solve agricultural issues faced by local farmers.

Bhattarai, a 30-year-old UF doctoral environmental horticulture student, was one of nine UF graduate students selected to work on a project by the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for the Horticulture 2018 Trellis Fund, said Lauren Howe, the program manager. The lab announced the winners Friday.

The Trellis Fund works with local organizations in developing countries to propose a horticultural project suited for each area, Howe said. It then awards a $4,000 grant to each organization and connects them with graduate students.

It connected 15 projects to 16 students — two will work on one project together, Howe said. The graduate students will each receive a $300 fellowship and have their travel expenses funded.

Only students from UF, University of California at Davis, University of Hawai’i at Mānoa and North Carolina State University could apply to the program. About 30 students submitted 60 applications.

The nine chosen UF students will be traveling to Ghana, Uganda and Rwanda to collaborate on short-term projects to address challenges faced by local farmers, Howe said.

Bhattarai said he is working with the Environmental Conservation and Agricultural Enhancement Uganda. He will work in the country for two weeks this summer.

“I was very excited when I found out my project application was selected,” he said. “This is one of those rare opportunities that students get.”

He will work to improve postharvest handling and irrigation of mushrooms, and the commercialization of tomatoes in Kira Town in central Uganda.

The town has an interest in growing large amounts of tomatoes and processing them to increase their shelf life, he said.

Bhattarai said he wants to share his knowledge from the experience and apply it in other countries.

“I hope this program expands so that more graduate students can have the opportunity for global experience in their field,” he said.