Kate Scow

Kate Scow

Kate Scow is Professor of Soil Science and Microbial Ecology in the Department of Land, Air and Water Resources and Director of the Russell Ranch Sustainable Agriculture Facility that hosts the Century Experiment (http://asi.ucdavis.edu/rr).  Scow is also Chair of the International Agricultural Development Graduate Group. She received her MS and PhD degrees in Soil Science from Cornell University in 1986 and 1989, respectively. She is a Fellow of the Soil Science Society of America and Chief Editor for the journal Soil Biology and Biochemistry. Scow’s research program investigates the role of soil microbial communities in providing ecosystem services in agricultural and polluted ecosystems.  Specifically she investigates linkages between microbial diversity and nitrogen cycling, responses of soil functional diversity to longterm management practices, effects of co-contaminants in organic amendments on soil communities, and works in Uganda on soil management and irrigation practices for vegetable production by smallholder farmers. 

Scow research


Participatory Research to Identify Irrigation Technologies for Horticulture for Women and Smallholder Farmers in Eastern Uganda

Kate Scow, Dept. of LAWR, UC Davis


Dry season vegetable production is high priority in largely rainfed (>97%) agricultural systems of Uganda. Irrigation opens up new markets and helps endure unpredictable rainfall patterns. Using a participatory approach, farmers and our team consider different alternatives, and then design and implement irrigated vegetable production systems and associated marketing schemes. We build on local capacity for irrigation among farmer, university, extension, non-governmental, and private industry stakeholders. We also focus on needs of smallholder women farmers who are often excluded from irrigation and marketing developments.

The project is implemented at 6 ‘innovation sites’ in eastern Uganda and brings together multi-disciplinary research teams (farmers, scientists, local NGOs, government, and university students) to co-develop technologies that build on existing, locally relevant farmer knowledge as a foundation and expand this with technologies and practices appropriate for small scale horticulture in the region (e.g. on-farm water storage, improved conveyance systems, drip irrigation, moveable sprinklers, managed infiltration/drainage, and irrigation strategies/schedules). An output is a framework for local public and private sector organizations to create, expand, and disseminate smallscale irrigation systems. We are evaluating agronomic, economic, market, nutrition, and gender impacts and implications of the different innovations and developing scale-out options for the most promising technologies. Identification of promising innovations in dry season vegetable production, combined with tools to assess their benefits and sustainability, will strengthen smallscale farmer enterprises targeted to both local markets and family consumption.

* Successes and failures/challenges you have faced in this work: women w/access to irrigation increase production save more money and develop a second business. Irrigation requires good governance strategies to anticipate conflicts that arise around shared resources. Limited access to land is greater deterrent for  women than men to invest in irrigation technologies.

* How this work relates to one or more of the Sustainable Development Goals

Goal 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture: vegetable production all year around for local markets

Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls: access to irrigation for all

Goal 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts: irrigation is powerful adaption strategy for agriculture

* Critical points/topics you would like input on from the conference discussions

How to efficiently scale up to more sites and larger regions using modeling, effective communication approaches. Integration of irrigation with other climate smart strategies. Assessing and reducing environmental impacts of irrigation. Governance strategies for farmer groups engaged in irrigation using shared resources.