Africa University, Clemson, work together on food production
March 16, 2006
|A UMNS photo from Clemson University
Gloria McCutcheon is an entomologist working with the vegetable-production project in Zimbabwe.
A UMNS Feature
By Tom Lollis*
Africa University and Clemson (S.C.) University have joined hands to help small
farmers in the region improve vegetable production, protect the environment and
Zimbabwe is “a country filled with beautiful people and smiling faces
amidst an HIV/AIDs epidemic and poverty,” said Gloria McCutcheon, entomologist
at Clemson’s Coastal Research and Education Center at Charleston, S.C. “Many
of the people are not receiving the nutrients they need in the form of vegetables.”
McCutcheon, a member of Trinity United Methodist
Church in Orangeburg, S.C., is a principal investigator of a project that
in 2004 and will run through
2009 with support from a $45,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s
Foreign Agricultural Service. Powell Smith, Clemson Extension vegetable entomologist
at Edisto Research and Education Center at Blackville, is co-principal investigator.
“The goal is to help the small farmers increase yields of leafy greens,
be good stewards of the environment and produce foods without excessive pesticide
residues,” McCutcheon said. During a December 2004 visit to Africa University,
she taught students, technicians and farmers how to identify the families of
insects that are important in biological control of plant pests, such as the
“There are more insects that are beneficial to us than those that are
pests,” she said. “Many of the beneficials are inconspicuous, move
very fast and often spend part of their lives inside pest insects as parasites.”
Common natural enemies of plant pests include ladybird beetles, ground beetles,
pirate bugs, lacewings, mantids, spiders, parasitic wasps and flies, plus fungi,
viruses and bacteria.
Learning from Africa
Many of the vegetables grown in Zimbabwe, including leafy greens, are similar
to what is grown in South Carolina, and the corresponding complex of pests
and beneficials is similar. Clemson investigators will search for appropriate
beneficial organisms that can be imported to the United States and tested to
see whether they can be released here safely to help control pests.
“It’s possible we may also learn some production techniques that
could be useful,” McCutcheon said.
|A UMNS photo from Clemson University
Gloria McCutcheon and graduate student Walter Manyangarirwa examine squash for signs of insects.
During a visit to villages near Mutare, Zimbabwe,
she observed some women, “who
are the real farmers in Zimbabwe,” spraying crushed marigolds on vegetables
to fight pests. She believes there is much to learn about traditional agricultural
practices, and much of the knowledge is in Africa.
While at Africa University, a United Methodist-related
school in Mutare, McCutcheon noticed the children at the Fairfield Orphanage
harvesting greens as food for
the university’s cafeteria. The children picked off the “friendly” insects
and returned them to the garden to help control pest insects, she said. “They
were not using any chemical pesticides in their garden. They were using natural
insects to fight off the enemy.”
She points out that it was African slaves who taught the principles of rice
production to plantation owners in Charleston in the 1800s, resulting in tremendous
wealth for the landowners.
The Africa University-Clemson partnership grew
out of a conversation between McCutcheon and the Zimbabwe ambassador during
to Florence, S.C.,
in the 1990s. He had universities with similar missions as Clemson University
to extend official invitations to me,” she said. One of the contacts
was from M.N. Mphuru, an entomologist who is now deputy vice chancellor at
An empowering program
While McCutcheon was on sabbatical leave, James Salley, associate vice chancellor
of the Africa University Office of Institutional Advancement, arranged for
her to travel to Africa University to visit with the Faculty of Agriculture
and Natural Resources. Together, they developed the collaboration now under
“The Clemson/AU partnership is a wonderful collaboration between two
institutions that have a shared commitment to help the human condition,” Salley
said. “This work is one of the ultimate empowerment stories, a program
that will help people to help themselves.”
The Clemson-AU partnership has already produced a graduate student. Walter
Manyangarirwa, a member of the agriculture faculty at Africa University, is
a doctoral candidate in the Department of Entomology, Soils and Plant Sciences
During the summer, he will spend his time at Edisto Research and Education
Center working with McCutcheon and Smith. Manyangarirwa will return to Africa
University next year, where he will teach students from 25 countries in Africa.
For more than 25 years, McCutcheon, one of a handful of African-American
researchers with a doctoral degree in the field of entomology, has conducted
outreach and research programs to include students of color who have the
potential to pursue graduate degrees.
*Lollis is extension editor for Clemson University’s Edisto Research & Education
Center, Blackville, S.C. The article was adapted from a release sent out by
Clemson’s PSA Media Relations Department.
News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.