Ad Astra Radio Family Brands

K-State Lands $6M Grant Led by Feed the Future Innovation Lab on Sustainable Intensification


By Pat Melgares, K-State News & Communications Services


MANHATTAN, Kan. — Kansas State University officials have cited a Manhattan-based innovation lab’s “decade of success” in providing global food security as key to a $6 million award announced recently by the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Officials with USAID announced that K-State’s Feed the Future Sustainable Intensification Innovation Lab, or SIIL, will receive the grant to strengthen existing agricultural research, education and outreach entities in Guatemala.

“SIIL has an extensive background, experience and success in international agricultural research and development in multiple countries around the world, which positions us to deliver positive change in Guatemala,” said P.V. Vara Prasad, director of SIIL, university distinguished professor of agronomy and R.O. Kruse endowed professor.

Guatemala’s rural and indigenous communities have struggled with poverty and malnutrition due to a lack of resources, which has impeded economic growth and development in the country.

Prasad said Guatemala has the highest rate of stunting in the Western Hemisphere at 47%, which is also the sixth-highest rate in the world. In some parts of the predominantly indigenous Western Highlands, that rate balloons to 70%.

Jan Middendorf, associate director of SIIL, said the $6 million grant has four main objectives:

  • Strengthen multi-sector collaboration, communication and strategic partnerships.
  • Create innovation and technology transfer.
  • Strengthen institutions, human and social capital, and knowledge management.
  • Improve knowledge of agriculture nutrient management and farmer use.

“At SIIL, we believe in the concept of ‘One Health,’ which indicates that healthy soils lead to healthy humans,” Middendorf said. “Though our lab specializes in agricultural intensification with a focus on sustainability and conservation of natural resources, we always put the people we are aiding as our top priority.”

According to Middendorf, supporting the individuals in a partner country will lead to them being able to take better care of the plants and animals around them, which leads to a healthy ecosystem.

“Our lab attempts to address the whole system to make transformative and long-lasting change,” Middendorf said. “This is a concept that is applicable to producers in the global south and in the United States.”

Ernie Minton, the Eldon Gideon dean of K-State’s College of Agriculture, lauded this work’s state and global impacts.

“K-State’s international engagement reinforces prior relationships and helps the university build new networks of collaborators,” he said. “These connections regularly reflect positive impacts back to Kansas through applied research that strengthens our knowledge of the opportunities and challenges in the global agricultural ecosystem and markets that Kansas producers operate within.”

SIIL is currently in its 10th year of operation on the K-State campus. Prasad notes that the lab’s impact includes offering updated technology and training to smallholder farmers, establishing Agricultural Technology Parks, providing new seed varieties for changing climates and helping students pursue international experience.

The lab’s portfolio over the past decade is more than $75 million.

“This new program in Guatemala builds on a decade of SIIL’s work to identify and implement food security solutions through sustainable agriculture practices,” Minton said. “We are very proud of the work that the SIIL team does to advance global food security as part of K-State’s next-generation land-grant mission.”

The Guatemala Scaling Agriculture Technologies Coordination Activity is in partnership with the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala, a private university; and the Institute of Agricultural Science and Technology, a government entity.

“We are excited to work closely with our in-country partners and scholars to develop and support their human and institutional capacity to address many challenges of agri-food systems, which include food, nutrition, climate and soil insecurities,” Prasad said.

More information about K-State’s Feed the Future Sustainable Intensification Innovation Lab is available online.