Knowledge for a sustainable world

Climate change and the prospect of more frequent droughts in Africa are leaving farmers across the region facing an uncertain future and increasing risks of food insecurity. NRI is participating in a new project being implemented by the European Alliance on Agricultural Knowledge for Development (Agrinatura) which is designed to support an EC-funded Initiative – the Development of Smart Innovation through Research in Agriculture (DeSIRA).

Peace and prosperity underpin the success of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), from reducing extreme poverty and violent conflicts to ensuring peaceful and inclusive societies. But there are now more conflicts worldwide than at any time in the past 20 years, spurring massive displacement of millions of people, intensifying livelihood struggles, and reducing opportunities for social cohesion and economic development.

The North African country of Morocco is heavily dependent on agriculture, which employs 40% of its labour force and is vital for feeding its growing population. However, it is extremely vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, with overall temperatures projected to increase, and precipitation to decrease sharply, leading to an increase in major droughts.

With over 200 million people, Nigeria has the largest population on the African continent, which is projected to double over the next 30 years. Current crop production is barely keeping up with these rates of population growth. With weak national food controls, and high levels of postharvest physical, nutritional and quality losses due to poor infrastructure, sub-optimal marketing information systems, and increased food consumption outside the home, how might closing the food security gap be achieved?

Aquaculture, which involves farming aquatic animals and/or plants in the oceans or freshwater, is one of the fastest growing food-producing sectors and currently contributes over 40% of world fish supplies. The benefits of this development are real and visible, both for producing countries and for consumers in the form of lower prices and access to healthy sources of fatty acids.

UNICEF estimated that approximately 10.4 million children were at risk of suffering from acute malnutrition in 2021 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan, northeast Nigeria, the Central Sahel, and Yemen. Along with Sierra Leone, these countries or regions have experienced humanitarian crises, conflicts, intensifying food insecurity, and pandemics, raising the threat of severe acute malnutrition (SAM).

In January 2021, NRI hosted a virtual international seminar to share research insights and to discuss the challenges relating to food and nutrition security in sub-Saharan Africa. This was part of NRI’s Food and Nutrition Security Initiative (FaNSI), through which the institute has been expanding its research capacity and partnerships with a specific focus on addressing climate change, food loss and waste, sustainable agricultural intensification and food systems for nutrition.

Self-confessed ‘foodie’ Eli Gasgil wanted to keep as many career options open as possible, but found herself being drawn irrevocably towards working in the food industry. Now happily in her dream job, she credits NRI for giving her the necessary skillset to make the move. Eli takes up the story.

NRI’s Dr Uche Okpara is leading a ‘Prosperity and Peace’ conference in Nigeria in July 2022, bringing together civil society groups, local leaders, practitioners, academic researchers and policymakers. The aim is to provide a space for frank and honest discussion in a bid to find workable pathways towards sustainable prosperity and positive peace.

Dr Delia Grace Randolph has been recognised for her work on the links between animal, human, and environment health. The Arrell Food Institute at the University of Guelph awarded Dr Randolph the research innovation award which carries a prize of $100,000.

A message from Professor Andrew Westby

Dear colleagues and friends of the Natural Resources Institute,

After 34 years, the time has come for me to leave NRI and to take up a role as the new Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research and Knowledge Exchange) in the wider University of Greenwich.

A new study led by the University of Greenwich and the University of Kent shows that orangutans are still rapidly declining despite more than one billion US dollars invested in their conservation between 2000 and 2019. Orangutans face imminent extinction unless they are better protected. All three species of orangutan, which occur only in Indonesia and Malaysia, are classified as Critically Endangered – this is due to multiple threats from habitat loss, poaching and illegal trade. Researchers urge that orangutan conservation needs more strategic investment.