ISU Graduate Students Share ISU-UP Impacts

Three Iowa State University graduate students were recently awarded the Worldwide 2018 Food Solutions Challenge. Samuel Kiprotich, food science and human nutrition; Mike Sserunjogi, agricultural and biosystems engineering; and Emmanuel Nsamba, genetics, completed a research challenge on reducing food waste, specifically cassava rot in Nigeria and other sub-Sahara African countries. The complete story can be found, www.cals.iastate.edu/news/releases/iowa-state-team-wins-worldwide-2018-food-solutions-challenge.

The three graduate students claim their success not only because of their mentors and resources at Iowa State University, but also because of the Center for Sustainable Rural Livelihoods ISU-Uganda Program (ISU-UP) in the Kamuli District, Uganda. Samuel, Mike and Emmanuel all received their bachelor’s degrees from Makerere University in Uganda and first learned about the ISU-UP when they applied to participate in the student service learning program. The service learning program brings together Iowa State University students with Makerere University students to work on real-life issues in rural Uganda. The program allows students from both universities to work side-by-side to become change agents in the developing world while gaining a better understanding of different cultures and ways of life.

All three students credit the ISU-UP for their opportunity to study at Iowa State University, enhancing their academic skills as well as giving them the opportunity to complete a research project for the Worldwide Food Solutions Challenge. Learn more about each student’s involvement in the challenge as well as their journey to Iowa State below.

Research Project Start-Up

The idea of submitting a research proposal for the Worldwide Food Solutions Challenge began in spring 2018 when Dr. Tom Brumm, the Mary and Charles Sukup Global Professor in Food Security in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and an associate professor in the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering at Iowa State University, approached Mike Sserunjogi with the idea of watching a webinar to learn more about the challenge. After watching the webinar, Mike wanted to submit a case study to the challenge but needed to identify a topic that related to climate change.   He also needed to identify 2-3 team members to help him complete his study. Mike decided he would like to find a solution to increase the shelf life of cassava and asked Emmanuel Nsamba to join his team since Emmanuel has a wealth of knowledge around genetics and is familiar with the growing process of the cassava. Once Mike and Emmanuel identified the issue and the solution, they invited Samuel Kiprotich to bring his background in food science and human nutrition to the team. The students worked together on completing their case study to reduce the post-harvest loss of cassava by adding wax to the growing process, in return allowing the cassava to retain more moisture and extend the shelf life from 3 to 14 days. Although Nigeria is one of the largest producers of cassava, other sub-Sahara African countries and South American countries also deal with post-harvest losses. Cassava is a main food and income source for many countries, so post-harvest loss is a problem that affects everyone. Many companies and research organizations have tried to find a solution to reduce the rot of cassava, but no cost-effective solutions for farmers has been identified. The next step for these graduate students is to find suitable partners to help with additional funding and research for testing and implementation of the idea.

Journey to Iowa State University

All three graduate students’ journey to Iowa State University began with their involvement in the Iowa State University Uganda Program through the Center for Sustainable Rural Livelihoods. Samuel, Mike and Emmanuel agree that they wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for the opportunities available to them through the program. When Mike started working with Dr. Tom Brumm in Uganda, he never imagined that it would bring him to the United States, let alone Iowa State University, to further his education. Mike mentioned, “The program doesn’t only impact the locals in Kamuli District, but everyone in Uganda as it provides resources, enhanced educational opportunities and hope for a better tomorrow.” All three students also agree that the opportunities available to them through the ISU-UP have made them better people. They hope to take what they have learned through their education at Iowa State and apply it to improve the lives of people in their home countries.    

Learn more about the Center for Sustainable Rural Livelihoods or the service learning programs.