Fighting Crop Contamination and Building Community with MIIS Students in the Colombian Andes [Alexander Christodoulou IEP ’23]

beautiful image of Libano, Colombia
Photo of Libano, Colombia from Finca El Pensar the farm that hosted Alexander Chistodoulou research

Alexander describes his summer research project in Colombia focused on post crop management. First, he summarizes his work and its motivation and need in agricultural development. Then, Alexander accounts the deep, positive influence of the Libano community and his personal growth.


Along with Libano native and MIIS student Jaime Canon Gonzalez we have launched Team Colombia a project involving MIIS students and faculty focusing on environment and development issues in the area.

I used my EPL funding to help fund a summer research project in collaboration with the UC Davis horticulture and innovation lab on the topic of post crop management. Post crop management is a crucial part of the agriculture supply chain as poor management strategies can lead to mycotoxin infection or infestation of pests leading to crop loss. These losses can be massively consequential for rural economies from a capital and nutrition standpoint. Aflatoxin and fumonisin contamination of basic grains and pulses is widespread in the developing world and is suspected of being a primary cause of high levels of childhood stunting in the humid tropics. Although some contamination occurs in the field, a major source of aflatoxin is storage of grain at high moisture content. The UC Davis DryCard is a simple tool that allows farmers and traders to determine whether grain is dry enough to store. The problem for many farmers, particularly smallholder farmers, is that they do not have a simple means of drying grain that is not dry enough for safe storage. Present technologies are either very simple or relatively sophisticated. 

The experience of traveling around the farms of the Andes will stay with me forever and consequently

 In response UC Davis developed the pallet dryer a solar dryer that can more efficiently dry crops and prevent the development of mycotoxins. As a part of my research, I wanted to see if it was possible to effectively construct the UC Davis Pallet Dyer with locally sourced materials in the small farming town of Libano in the Colombian Andes. The experience I had working in Libano was wonderful the people are incredibly familiar and were eager to make me feel like a part of the community. Furthermore, the experience I gained conducting work in the field allowed me to get a much stronger understanding of the challenges associated with rural development in the Latin American context. Many of the materials that were assumed to be common ended up being very difficult to find forcing me to take busses to various parts of the department in search of the necessary good. The experience of traveling around the farms of the Andes will stay with me forever and consequently, along with Libano native and MIIS student Jaime Canon Gonzalez we have launched Team Colombia a project involving MIIS students and faculty focusing on environment and development issues in the area. I hope that the work that I did over the summer along with Jaime’s lifelong experience can help establish a friendship between MIIS and the community for many years to come! 

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