Knowledge for a sustainable world

Development Programme:
Sustainable Agricultural Intensification

Enhancing value added products and nutritional benefits from agroforestry systems, The British Academy – 2020-2021

Agroforestry has potential to slow tropical deforestation and contribute to local and global diets. Despite its promise, agroforestry currently occupies a relatively small area compared to more extensive land uses. This project integrates natural and social sciences with local knowledge to co-develop strategies and technologies to add value to primary products from agroforestry crops grown by indigenous communities in tropical rainforests. Building on a longer-standing Newton Fund collaboration, the project works with communities in the Peruvian Amazon to demonstrate the value of an interdisciplinary approach to generate value-added agroforestry products to improve livelihoods and nutrition in indigenous communities and curb deforestation.

Partners: CIRAD (, Instituto de Investigacion Nutricional (;

NRI contact: Pamela Katic


Striga smart sorghum solutions for smallholders in East Africa, The Royal Society/GCRF – 2019-2022

This project aims to overcome two important constraints to smallholder sorghum production in sub-Saharan Africa: poor soil fertility and weed infestation. The most common and problematic weed for sorghum is the parasitic weed Striga, which causes more damage than ordinary weeds. Striga infection can be reduced by cultivating resistant varieties, or by using fertilisers, which also directly improves productivity on poor soils. No solution alone however provides complete control. We thus aim to improve and combine both solutions to help farmers obtaining complete Striga control and high sorghum yields. We will validate genes responsible for different resistance mechanisms as these can, in the near future, be transferred and combined in farmer-preferred varieties. Exciting innovations in molecular biology make this possible. Alongside this, we will ask farmers to evaluate previously identified resistant sorghum varieties to select the best ones. Next, we will test and develop low-cost fertiliser technologies that increase Striga resistance and yield of these sorghum varieties. We will disseminate these technologies through extension workshops and videos, enabling millions of farmers to become food secure and generate income from selling their surpluses.

Partners: Kenyatta University (;

NRI Contact: Jonne Rodenburg


Landscape scale genomic-environment diversity data to model existing and novel agri-systems under climate change to enhance food security in Ethiopia, BBSRC/GCRF - 2019-2021

This project aims at performing a high-resolution multi-functional genomic and environmental characterization of Ethiopian highland agri-systems, focusing on Enset and ten regionally and globally important crops that together comprise a range of complementary agri-systems in the Southern Ethiopian highlands, seeking to enhance their role in future resource provision, and generating clear economic and social impact on the livelihoods they support. NRI role in this project is to characterise the ecosystem services, and in particular soil fertility, provided by these different agri-systems.

Partners: Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, Queen Mary University London, Addis Ababa University and Hawassa University;

NRI contact: Lucie Büchi


Sustainability-Intensification Trade-Offs in Coffee Agroforestry in Central America, BBSRC/GCRF - 2019-2021

The project is led by NRI and implemented with partners the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, UK, the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Centre (CATIE) in Costa Rica and the Universidad del Valle in Guatemala. The aim of the project is to identify the production practices that maintain profitability, without damaging the environment and negatively affecting future yields. This project will generate evidence as to how to achieve the best balance between profitability and sustainability under conditions of climatic variation, plant disease outbreaks and fluctuations in market prices that affect productivity and economic returns. Research will study ecosystem services generated by different kinds of coffee agroforestry or ‘shaded coffee’ and how they contribute to the economic and climatic resilience of these agri-systems. The results of this project aim to contribute to the national climate mitigation and adaptation strategies of the coffee sector by identifying the production strategies that enable profitable coffee production, without depleting the ecosystem services that contribute to the resilience of coffee production.

Partners: Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Centre (CATIE) in Costa Rica, Centre for Environmental and Biodiversity Studies, Universidad del Valle in Guatemala;

NRI contact: Jeremy Haggar


Intercultural models to improve nutrition and health of indigenous populations through gender-sensitive agroforestry practices in Peru, Newton Fund – 2019-2022

Potential positive and negative effects of agroforestry on human nutrition and health have been described, but there has been little research to document these impacts. Beyond the products derived from trees, crops and livestock, agroforestry systems can also support wild biodiversity of plants and animals which contribute to food and nutrition security in various ways across seasons. There is a particular need to understand how women’s involvement in agroforestry affects their nutritional status, time use, care-giving behaviours and household diets. The goal of our research is to work with indigenous communities involved in coffee- and cocoa-based agroforestry, and with local public health, agriculture and forestry institutions, to identify options to improve nutrition and health in the Peruvian Amazon. Our approach focuses on strategies which are appropriate to local conditions and cultures, and which respond to the priorities and interests of women.

Partners: London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (, Instituto de Investigacion Nutricional (, Instituto de Investigaciones de la Amazonia Peruana (, Salud sin Limites Peru (;

NRI contact: Pamela Katic


Diverseafood: Evaluating the potential of multi-trophic aquaculture to improve nutrition and ecosystem sustainability in the UK, Global Food Security Programme – 2019-2021

This project addresses barriers to the diversification of aquaculture systems in the UK by evaluating the contribution of Integrated Multi-trophic Aquaculture (IMTA) to the nutritional value of aquaculture-produced seafood and to the environmental sustainability of the sector. We investigate the contribution of IMTA systems to the nutritional profile of seafood and to the reduction of negative environmental impacts, and address regulatory, consumer acceptance and business challenges to the diversification of UK aquaculture. Specifically, this project evaluates (i) the contribution of IMTA to total fatty acids budgets from aquaculture (ii) the socioeconomic value of ecosystem services associated with IMTA, (iii) existing regulatory barriers to the adoption of IMTA and policy interventions to diversify UK production, (iv) consumer acceptance of new seafood products within an increased sustainability context, and (v) existing and emerging business models that can disrupt the current business-as-usual situation, so as to unblock existing barriers to the development of the sector.

Partners: Scottish Association for Marine Science (, Newcastle University (, The University of Manchester (;

NRI contact: Pamela Katic


Sustainable Agricultural Intensification Research and Learning in Africa (SAIRLA), FCDO 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.

NRI contact: Jeremy Haggar


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.

NRI contact: Adrienne Martin


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

NRI contact: Phil Stevenson


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.

NRI contact: Phil Stevenson


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.

NRI contact: Phil Stevenson