Knowledge for a sustainable world

Experts at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew have confirmed that a plant found in the Sierra Leone hills is that of Coffea stenophylla, the native Highland Coffee which was last collected in the wild in the 1950s. Kew coffee specialist Dr Aaron P Davis and NRI’s Professor Jeremy Haggar, collected the coffee plant sample on a recent trip to the Kasewe Hills in south-central Sierra Leone. They worked closely with Daniel Sarmu, who is drafting the Sierra Leone National Coffee Policy, and all are delighted to have found this rare Highland Coffee plant. The trip was supported and co-funded by the Darwin Initiative and the hope is that one day, Highland Coffee can become a viable product again.

When you picture a rat, what do you see? Fear, disease and destruction? Or maybe, intelligence, cunning and guile? Rats provoke many different responses, but are rarely a welcome presence in our lives. Musophobia, the fear of mice and rats (muso is Latin for mouse), is one of the most common specific phobias around.

The psychology of this is simple: rodents are the most successful mammals, second only to humans, so perhaps subconsciously we view them as potential rivals to our continued dominance in the world.

On Wednesday 20th March 2019, the Pilkington lecture theatre at the Medway Campus, University of Greenwich, filled up with staff, students and guests, keen to hear Professor Jeremy Haggar’s inaugural lecture: Seeking Sustainability in Agricultural Systems.

When a distinguished professor stands up to address an assembled audience, it’s easy to imagine that they arrived at this place in time fully formed. But of course, they, just like everyone else, have been on a journey of discovery that has led them to this place of professional accomplishment.

As part of a consortium of partners, the University of Greenwich has been awarded funding to develop a full business case for the ‘Growing Kent & Medway’ innovation cluster. Led by NIAB EMR, a horticultural research organisation based in East Malling, Kent, the consortium has received £50k in funding from the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) ‘Strength in Places Fund’ to develop a full business case for the ‘Growing Kent & Medway’ innovation cluster. World-class consortium partners include the APS Group, Berry Gardens Growers, Thanet Earth Ltd, World Wide Fruit Ltd, Hadlow College, and the University of Kent, along with the University of Greenwich. 

Is your organisation or project working towards gender equality? If so, how? What are the underlying objectives for doing so? Have ‘gender’, ‘women’ and ‘empowerment’ become buzzwords to include in project proposals in the hope that they’re more likely to be funded? Are women targeted in your project only as a means to achieve another economic or developmental outcome?

Today, 8th March, is International Women’s Day. At NRI, we are taking this opportunity to look at how the theme of gender equality is used within the research for development context, and how to challenge current attitudes.

Now in its third year, the ‘Three Minute Thesis’ or 3MT competition, is once again challenging PhD students to explain their research creatively using language appropriate to a non-specialist audience, in just 180 seconds. It’s quite a feat, considering that the average thesis takes years to research and complete and comes in at around 80,000 words. Oh, and participants are not allowed to use PowerPoint either; just one single static slide is permitted as a visual aid.

‘End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture’ reads Sustainable Development Goal number 2, succinctly abbreviated to ‘zero hunger’. A new initiative aims to address SDG2 through improving the coordination of policies, programmes and funding mechanisms aimed at enhancing food and nutrition security in a sustainable manner. To do this, 35 organisations from Europe and Africa are creating a platform to better coordinate research and innovation efforts. NRI’s Dr Tim Chancellor and Professor Adrienne Martin are helping to take forward this highly strategic initiative.

With a growing global population, the need to produce more food is ever present. For decades, unsustainable farming practices have produced myriad negative impacts on the environment. How can we increase agricultural productivity for an adequate food supply while conserving the environment? This is the central question in an Inaugural Professorial Lecture to be given by NRI’s Professor Jeremy Haggar on Wednesday 20th March 2019 at the University of Greenwich’s Medway campus.

Like with the current Spice Girls t-shirts, ‘irresponsible business’ hits the headlines when working conditions in factories making products for high-profile brands are revealed. Over the years, details have emerged of workers in developing countries who are under-age or overworked, underpaid and operating in unsafe or dangerous working conditions and of companies that pollute the environment or have negative effects on local communities. Making business more responsible has the potential to have a huge positive impact on everyone, especially the millions of poor workers and communities whose lives are directly affected by business. But while many global companies and investors are increasingly concerned about sustainability issues, there are systemic challenges and major sustainability issues in all sectors – from apparel to agriculture, electronics and mining. NRI has been researching if and how companies can become responsible.

Better nutrition for a growing population is a major challenge of our time. However, to improve nutrition, more understanding is needed of patterns of consumption, dietary practices and food systems. By improving standards for collecting and measuring data and developing innovative methodologies for evaluating agriculture and food systems, scientists will be able to build a robust evidence base, which in turn will guide actions to improve nutrition.

Increasing agricultural productivity is essential to feeding a fast-growing population and has the potential to lift rural families out of poverty. Sustainable Agricultural Intensification (SAI) provides the means to do this with limited available resources, while protecting our living environment and conserving natural and agricultural biodiversity.

NRI has been working to reduce losses and waste after harvest since the food crisis of the 1970s.