NRI is helping to organize an e-conference on "Tackling Poverty Through Multiple-Use Water Services". The e-conference, running from 17 May to 25 June, is being coordinated by the IRC-led Thematic Group on Productive Uses of Water at the Household Level (Prodwat) of which NRI is a core member. The e-conference is a follow-up to the January 2003 international symposium on "Poverty and Productive Uses of Water at the Household Level".
An innovative instrument for on-site soil testing has been developed by a commercial partnership between a University of Greenwich team (led by NRI's Prof. Ray Coker) and the Kent-based innovative SME Crown Bio Systems (CBS), together with an instrument-design company and specialist consultants. The successful venture was supported by funding of about £1 million from the UK Department of Trade and Industry under EUREKA, a European programme for development and marketing of equipment (see www.eureka.be). The instrument is now being field-tested by collaborators in the UK and Ireland.
A three-year curriculum-development project in Uzbekistan – funded by the EC Tempus programme and led by one of NRI's food management experts, David Walker – has concluded with a major seminar at Bukhara Technological Institute of Food and Light Industry (BTIFLI) to review the achievements in the context of SMEs and disseminate the outputs. The seminar – entitled "The Role of International Projects in the Development of Small and Medium Sized Enterprises with Reference to Economic Liberalization" – was held on 17-18 February 2004 and was attended by over 300 participants, including David Walker and other members of the project team from the University of Greenwich Business School, Larenstein University of Professional Education, and the Bukhara Technological Institute.
NRI's research on natural biological control of the African armyworm, Spodoptera exempta, has been gaining media attention. Following a press release by the University of Greenwich, an article about the work appeared on 13 December in the New Scientist's 'This week' section carrying news of interesting and significant research. Subsequently, Sir Tam Dalyell MP (writer of a regular column in New Scientist, a former shadow science minister, and longest-serving current Member of the UK Parliament) wrote to DFID, highlighting the New Scientist article and urging them to support more such research on natural biological control. The research, led by David Grzywacz, leader of NRI's Agriculture, Health and Environment Group, has been featured in several local Medway newspapers and has also attracted interest from broadcasting media, with plans for a television item on BBC South East Today and for inclusion in a forthcoming BBC World Service radio programme sponsored by DFID. The story has also been publicized by the London Press Service.
NRI's Professor of Food Safety, Ray Coker, has been awarded a £45,000 SMART grant by the UK's Department of Trade and Industry to develop an instrument that will allow food wholesalers and retailers to test their own products for the presence of toxic chemicals, rather than having to send samples for expensive laboratory testing. The University of Greenwich is contributing an additional £15,000 to the project, which involves a joint team from NRI's Food Management & Marketing Group and the School of Engineering.
Andrew Westby, NRI's Director of Research and Professor of Food Technology, has been elected President of the International Society for Tropical Root Crops (ISTRC) at its triennial Symposium in Arusha, Tanzania, from 9 to 14 November 2003. The Symposium was attended by about 150 of the world's leading researchers on tropical root crops. Andrew, who has previously served as the ISTRC's Councillor for Publications, will be its President from 2003 to 2006.
The post-harvest sector has the potential to contribute much more than it does to the livelihoods of poor people, but development efforts in the past have always been more focused on agricultural production. A new initiative promises to change this. The Global Post-harvest Forum (PhAction), currently chaired by NRI's director Guy Poulter, together with FAO and GFAR have merged their own initiatives to develop a Strategic Plan for a 'Global Post-harvest Systems Initiative for the 21st Century: Linking Farmers to Markets.'
NRI land use planner Dr Robert Ridgway is visiting Kazakhstan from 18 September to 2 October to commence the implementation phase of the DFID-funded project "Land Use Plan for the Semipalatinsk Test Site." Robert is project manager and land use planner, and NRI Associate Nick Hodgson is the project's GIS expert. The NRI specialists, provided through NR International Ltd, are working with a consortium team led by Mouchel Consulting Ltd with Dr Peter Coughtrey as project director.
The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Greenwich, Prof. Rick Trainor, has announced that Dr Guy Poulter is now confirmed as NRI Director. Formerly Director of Operations at NRI, Guy was appointed as its Acting Director at the start of 2003. He intends to consolidate and build on the past two years of re-organization of the Institute's structure and business management, in order to ensure that NRI continues to be a significant national and global player in helping to improve the lives of some of the poorest people in the world through the application of its diverse expertise in areas such as social anthropology, land and water management, farming systems, economics, food science, and pest and vector management.
The famed explorer Sir Wilfred Thesiger died on 24 August 2003 in hospital at the age of 93. In a lifetime of travelling and exploration in the Middle East and Africa, often willingly enduring hardship and eschewing modern methods of transport, Sir Wilfred took a spartan approach to sharing the austere lives of others. His lasting legacy is his eloquent writing about his travels and his renowned collection of photographs from places and cultures now changed beyond recognition by technological advance. He is most famously known for his crossings by camel of the 'Empty Quarter' of Saudi Arabia in the late 1940s in the company of a group of Bedu tribesmen. What is less well known is that these expeditions were sponsored by the Anti-Locust Research Centre (ALRC), one of NRI's forerunners. The explorer had approached ALRC's Dr Boris Uvarov (later Sir Boris Uvarov FRS), who provided funding from ALRC for him to map the desert area and particularly to locate the outbreak centres of locust swarms in the region. Sir Wilfred Thesiger's book on his exploration of the 'Empty Quarter' ("Arabian Sands" 1959) is widely regarded as a classic of serious travel writing and as giving an exceptional insight into the lives of the Bedu at that time. Several of Sir Wilfred's original reports, annotated maps and photographs from these travels are retained in NRI's Locust Archives at Chatham.