Knowledge for a sustainable world

Development Programme:
Sustainable Agricultural Intensification

Sustainable Agricultural Intensification Research and Learning in Africa (SAIRLA), DFID 2015-2020

SAIRLA is a five-year programme that seeks to generate new evidence and design tools to enable governments, investors and other key actors to deliver more effective policies and investments in sustainable agricultural intensification (SAI) that strengthen the capacity of poorer farmers’, especially women and youth, to access and benefit from SAI.
SAIRLA’s research projects will generate new evidence and decision-making support tools to help governments, policy-makers, investors and other key actors create an enabling environment for women and poorer smallholder farmers engage in sustainable agricultural intensification. SAIRLA will facilitate the development of multi-stakeholder learning platforms – the SAIRLA Learning Alliance - in each of the target countries and between those countries and international stakeholders to co-generate, share and facilitate use of knowledge by decision makers.

Social and Environmental Trade-offs in African agriculture - SENTINEL

The SENTINEL project aims to understand the challenges, trade-offs and synergies inherent in increasing agricultural production in Africa while safeguarding vital ecosystem services and promoting social equality. NRI, together with four other UK Universities and African partners from Ghana, Zambia and Ethiopia and the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORM) are collaborating to enhance the capacity of UK and African researchers for interdisciplinary research on impacts, risks and trade-offs of different agricultural development pathways. The project is led by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and funded by the UKRI Global Challenges Research Fund.

Natural Pest Regulation on Orphan Crop Legumes in Africa BBSRC/GCRF 2018-2021

Pest damage of legumes is one of the major challenges to food and nutritional security in Africa and disproportionately affects poor farmers growing low-input orphan crop grain legumes such as beans, pigeon pea, cowpea and lablab. Non-crop habitats in field margins provide the environment required to support natural enemies of pests including hoverflies. Management or manipulation of this non-crop habitat can help to support natural pest regulation and can even be augmented and sustained in better managed natural or manipulated agro-ecosystems. The project will develop approaches that support and augment natural pest regulation through improved agroecosystems management with reduced pesticide use. The research will provide evidence for benefits of natural pest regulation and establish how this can be optimised through better landscape management or manipulation and how natural pest regulation can function alongside other management practises including natural pest resistance, botanical insecticides and intercropping

Farmer research networks to evaluate sustainable agro-ecological crop protection using pesticidal plants. McKnight Foundation

The main objective is to create a Farmer Research Network (FRN) operating in the Kilimanjaro Region of Tanzania and the Central Region of Malawi by bringing together existing farmer groups and helping to create new groups of farmers who are willing to work together to help further optimise the use and development of pesticidal plants. The FRN will be helped to increase their own use of pesticidal plants for pest control so that farmers can observe differences, themselves, understand the limitations of plant extracts and identify aspects of use that can be further optimised through their own activities.

Harnessing Agricultural Ecosystem Biodiversity for Bean Production and Food Security Darwin Initiative, 2016-2019

This project surveyed plant and invertebrate biodiversity in bean ecosystems in Tanzania and Malawi and evaluate their ecologies and identify plant species that (i) attract, nourish and provide habitat for natural enemies of pests; (ii) promote the activity of pollinator insects in crops and (iii) provide environmentally-benign ‘botanical insecticides’ as additional control for pests. This required a systematic analysis of roles and interactions of pest and biological control species/habitats, supporting development of management systems that increase productivity through strategic integration of biodiversity. Using this knowledge we developed interventions that maintain and optimise these ecosystem services.

Rehabilitation of Robusta Coffee in Sierra Leone (EuropeAid) 2013-2016

The project in collaboration with Welthungerhilfe supported 10,000 smallholder farmers to renovate their coffee plantations, which have been abandoned since the civil war. This was done through training in good agricultural practices in Farmer Field Schools and by providing improved planting material in total 1.75 million coffee trees were planted. The project also built the capacity of the producer organisations to manage quality during harvest and processing undergo certification for the sustainability of production.

Cocoa pollination for optimised production project: CocoaPOP – EU ACP S&T Programme

This project in collaboration with University of Trinidad and Tobago, CABI and Cocoa Industry Board (Jamaica) (2012-2016) studied the ecology of cocoa pollinating midges (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae) in the Caribbean, focusing on the diversity of species and the size of populations currently present, how these change over the year, and how they can been increased and safeguarded. The project provided training in insect identification skills to students and researchers in Trinidad and Tobago, and monthly sampling of the insect fauna of cocoa estates allowed the team to characterise populations, distribution and variability of small Diptera in these environments. Publications have covered pollinator populations and environmental influences (Arnold et al. 2018), and also behaviour of cocoa pollinators in responses to odour.

Agroforests: a critical resource for megadiversity in Guatemala. DEFRA/Darwin Initiative 2012-2015

The aims of the project were to:

  • Identify the role and potential of agroforestry systems to sustain biodiversity in agroforest/forest/agriculture mosaics.
  • Identify the incentives of land-owners to maintain biodiverse production systems.
  • Support land-owners in accessing incentives to conserve biodiverse production systems
  • Provide policy recommendations to public and private bodies on how to improve incentives to landowners to conserve biodiversity

Farms registered as private nature reserves tended to show more diversity in the type of shade than the coffee plantations and conserved larger forest areas. Further promotion of ecotourism and attraction of visitor numbers would provide an incentive for other land-owners to develop this alternative source of income while conserving the environment. See more details HERE

Ecological Rodent management. European Development Fund

Across the Tropics, rodents typically consume 20% of staple crop production and are also linked with contaminating stored food and transmitting human and livestock diseases which kill thousands. New emerging rat-borne diseases are adding to the growing list of life-threatening diseases. In moving away from traditional rat poisons an ecologically-based environmentally sustainable rodent management approach has been developed which is affordable for subsistence farmers and the urban poor. All of the communities trained changed their behaviour and practices and showed improved livelihoods.