It was towards the end of the Monsoon season when I arrived in Nepal in mid-August. This is the time of the year when mountains are in peak green, saturated with season’s moisture, all lives are thriving.
My volunteer assignment in Nepal for the USAID-funded Farmer-to-Farmer Program with Winrock International was to provide a 10-day long training workshop on crop modeling applications to university faculty to add capacity in collegiate research and teaching. My host university was the Institute of Agriculture and Animal Science (IAAS) of the Tribhuvan University, located in Sundarbazar of Lamjung District, a remote campus located about 100 km northwest of Kathmandu, but a 6 hour or so journey by car on a winding two-lane mountain road that bumps through many layers of ridges and valleys, sharing traffic with long distance buses, trucks, livestock, and local people carrying fresh animal fodder around their foreheads. Every direction we turned terraced rice paddy fields were in sight, high on the hill slopes or down by the rivers at valley bottoms, as long as the monsoon rain is here, rice is everywhere humans can reach!
My workshop had about 25 participants with backgrounds in soil science, agronomy, horticulture, plant pathology, and agricultural economics. The majority of them work and live locally on the IAAS campus, but a few participants travelled a day from sister campuses to Sundarbazar to attend the workshop. I was glad to see this much interest in crop model applications that include crop growth and yield simulation, crop management effects on yield, and weather variability and climate change on yield dynamics, to list a few. Furthermore, crop models are also very effective teaching tools that help students understand the interactions between plant, soil and atmosphere, connecting principles in crop physiology, biophysics, agro-climatology, and other disciplines. I greatly enjoyed working with my class for their proactivity in discussing their real-world problems and willingness in helping each other when diverse levels of progress appeared at times during the hands-on exercises.
It is a valuable and unforgettable experience to travel and work in Nepal, it is such a beautiful and unique country, and I appreciate the Winrock F2F program and my host university IAAS for making it possible. I hope my class continues to make progress in using the crop model applications, either having a better understanding of how they work, or applying them in their research or teaching.