Knowledge for a sustainable world

Former NRI staff member, Alan Mills, has been recognised and rewarded with an MBE in this year’s Overseas and International Honours List. Alan has been a MapAction volunteer since 2005, applying his knowledge of geospatial systems to help get aid as quickly as possible to people caught up in humanitarian emergencies.

NRI is heading up a new project which is working with women millet producers in Self-Help Groups (SHGs) in Odisha, India, and which has just been awarded a prestigious grant of one million dollars over the next three years. The funding, from the International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, will enable the project to evaluate in detail, whether and how millet processing and value addition provide income and enhance livelihoods for women in the groups.

The Natural Resources Institute is part of a new European consortium investigating how rodents spread diseases on livestock farms and generating knowledge to develop future strategies to protect farm animals from rodent pest problems.

Dr Lora Forsythe is Associate Professor in Gender, Inequalities and Food Systems at NRI. In this article for International Women’s Day 2021, she explores the ‘seismic shifts’ that have occurred globally during the past 12 months, and how NRI’s Gender and Social Difference programme is recognising and reflecting on these changes.

NRI experience in improving cassava production and value addition in sub-Saharan Africa has focussed on many steps along the value chain, from farm to fork. As fresh cassava roots are highly perishable and must be consumed or processed within 72 hours after harvesting, much of the processing takes place in villages on a small scale.

Richard Lloyd Mills is an NRI PhD student who has just been awarded an £11,000 grant from the British Egg Marketing Board which will enable him to undertake further research into the genetic makeup of the Poultry Red Mite - a pest which affects chickens’ health and productivity. Richard took five minutes out of his day to Skype with Communications Officer Linden Kemkaran, about what inspired him to study this “tiny and annoyingly fast” little pest, and what the grant money means to his work.

NRI’s Dr Noushin Emami, Associate Professor of Bioinformatics, won a Stockholm Innovation award at the end of 2020, for her work on a novel and environmentally sustainable mosquito control product. The award, given by the City of Stockholm, is intended to stimulate creative people to move forward with their innovation.

NRI, together with EMBL’s European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI) and their African partners, have made a significant scientific breakthrough in unlocking the genomes of whitefly species – tiny agricultural pests that causes enormous problems for farmers and horticulturalists. The scientists describe as “euphoric”, the moment they knew they’d solved the puzzle and effectively ‘unleashed the genie from the bottle’.

Every day, over two billion cups of coffee are consumed worldwide, with the popularity of the beverage continuing to rise. Consumers can choose the strength, roast, origin, blend, style and ‘notes’ of their brew, with many also choosing to buy coffee that is certified ‘sustainable’, or with a ‘carbon-neutral’ label. How can farmers increase production to meet demand and sustain their livelihoods, whilst ensuring their beans are produced in a sustainable way?

Paul Hyatt confesses to being a life-long lover of all things geographic and that he felt like a ‘kid in a sweet shop’ when he studied with NRI at the University of Greenwich. Paul took five minutes out of his day to Skype with Communications Officer Linden Kemkaran, about his passion for fusing technology and geography and where it’s taken him during his long career.

Land degradation, climate change, pests and diseases, and lack of access to farm inputs and markets are some of the obstacles faced by millions of smallholder farmers in Africa who struggle to produce food for their families and secure an income.

The International Day of Women & Girls in Science takes place on the 11th February 2021. Science and gender equality are both vital for the achievement of the internationally agreed Sustainable Development Goals, including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Over the past 15 years, the global community has increased its effort in inspiring and engaging women and girls in science; however, women and girls continue to be excluded from participating fully in science.