Knowledge for a sustainable world

Over one million tonnes of small, whitebait-like fish are caught in the Great Lakes and rivers of eastern and central Africa each year. Small pelagic fish (SPF) are one of the best sources of micronutrients and essential vitamins, and they are affordable by the people most at risk of malnutrition and stunting. Known colloquially as Dagaa, Mukene, Usipa and Kapenta, large quantities of SPF are harvested, mainly by small-scale fishers, processed by small-scale processors and marketed through traditional market channels.

Despite living in one of the most biodiverse areas on the planet, many of the indigenous communities of the Amazonas Region in Peru experience high levels of poverty, food insecurity and malnutrition. Over half of the region’s indigenous children under five years of age suffer from chronic undernutrition and anaemia.

July has been declared ‘plastic-free July’ where everyone is encouraged to notice and check their use of plastics, especially ‘single-use’ plastic items. The Plastic Free Foundation, the organiser of this month’s initiative, was founded in 2017 with a vision of seeing “a world free of plastic waste”.

This year’s graduation will happen virtually. At 1000 BST today, Friday 24 July 2020, the names of graduating students will be read out by NRI’s Director, Professor Andrew Westby. Awards will be conferred by the University of Greenwich Vice Chancellor, Professor Jane Harrington. Everyone choosing to graduate in the virtual ceremony will receive a mention and there will be a sense of occasion, celebration and achievement, albeit remotely.

At the beginning of March 2020, Manuela Carnaghi was elected President of NRIPS – the Natural Resources Institute Postgraduate Society – and she was brimming with ideas. But what she hadn’t bargained on, was the entire country entering lockdown, and the Medway campus closing its doors for the foreseeable future. Manuela takes up the story.

A new study has revealed that trees and shrubs in complex forest communities avoid being eaten by hungry caterpillars by ‘hiding in plain sight’. Published in Science, the paper shows that these plants have learned to adapt to the plants hunters by producing odours that are so similar to other trees in the forest that they are more difficult to distinguish and locate as a food source.

Every time we sink our teeth into a square of chocolate, we should spare a thought for the unappreciated and tiny cocoa midges that pollinate the cacao flowers, from which we get cocoa beans, the raw material for chocolate. The midges do all the initial hard work and without them, we’d be facing the prospect of a world without chocolate.

Critters, creepy-crawlies, bugs, scuttlers, beasties – just a few of the many nicknames given to our insect friends. This year for National Insect Week, the theme is ‘little things that run the world’ and the Royal Entomological Society is asking all of us to notice and appreciate insects just that little bit more.

Like most of the UK, NRI began the process of closing down its office and laboratory-based work the week immediately preceding official lockdown, and those who could, began working from home. Since then, only one or two people have been allowed on site at NRI’s Medway base, either for essential maintenance purposes, looking after plants in the greenhouses or tending plant and insect cultures in the insectaries.

Valerie Nelson | Olga Martin-Ortega | Gillian Summers

All workers in the world have a right to decent work: safe and healthy working conditions, protection against discrimination, fair and adequate remuneration, freedom of association, and other fundamental human rights that are enshrined in international labour standards. Regardless, the global production of goods is tainted by the abuse of human rights. Every global supply chain, and many local ones, in sectors from food and beverage, electronics, garments, surgical material to bricks and stones present serious risks of human and labour rights violations to workers.

World Oceans Day is marked each year on June 8th, with its aim of “raising awareness of the vital importance of our oceans and the role they play in sustaining a healthy planet.” It’s a day where people and organisations come together – this year by video link due to COVID-19 – to gain an overview of the state of the oceans and to discuss protection and conservation.

As the world reels from the deadly ravages brought by COVID-19, another plague – at least as old as mankind itself – is devastating huge swathes of east Africa and the Middle East, and is going largely unnoticed.
Massed swarms of desert locusts, bigger than any seen since the mid-1990s, are sweeping across Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Yemen, Iran and Pakistan, eating everything in their path and leaving behind a trail of ruined crops and livestock pasture. NRI is now leading the fight back against this plague, thanks to a grant of US$135,000 from USAID - the United States Agency for International Development.