Knowledge for a sustainable world

The sustainable development agenda is a response to a new class of challenges that call into question current patterns of human activity in relation to production and consumption, access and distribution of resources, and the way these processes and patterns of human activity are governed and directed.

Every year, viral diseases wreak havoc worldwide on tomato and cucurbit crops (squash, pumpkin, courgette), causing huge yield losses ranging from 15% to 100%, accounting for losses of around €3.5 billion in Europe alone. The emergence of new and devastating plant viruses is fuelled by a combination of climate change, rising global trade and more interconnected agricultural sectors.

Walking through a field of sorghum, your vision might be drawn upwards to the plant’s impressively tall stalks, its waxy green leaves or its large panicles. You may be unaware of what is happening to the crops under your feet. A cereal species of the grass family (Poaceae), sorghum is an important crop worldwide.

Wine connoisseurs might describe the taste of a wine as earthy, round, robust, crisp, mellow, oaky, or any number of specialist terms. Much of the taste is attributed to its terroir – a term encompassing the complete natural environment in which a particular crop is produced, including factors such as the soil, topography, and climate.

Valerie Nelson and Adrienne Martin |

How can we change corporate behaviour to stop the harm it causes to workers, Indigenous Peoples, local communities and environments in low- and middle-income countries? Corporate power has grown through globalisation, and state power to curb corporate impacts has decreased. Voluntary initiatives are widely promoted as a responsible business solution to international supply chain challenges.

Forests are critically important – they encompass vast terrestrial biodiversity, they are culturally, spiritually and economically significant to millions of local communities, Indigenous Peoples and producers. Because of their role as carbon sinks, the protection and restoration of forests is central to any of humanity’s efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

Climate change and the prospect of more frequent droughts in Africa are leaving farmers across the region facing an uncertain future and increasing risks of food insecurity. NRI is participating in a new project being implemented by the European Alliance on Agricultural Knowledge for Development (Agrinatura) which is designed to support an EC-funded Initiative – the Development of Smart Innovation through Research in Agriculture (DeSIRA).

Peace and prosperity underpin the success of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), from reducing extreme poverty and violent conflicts to ensuring peaceful and inclusive societies. But there are now more conflicts worldwide than at any time in the past 20 years, spurring massive displacement of millions of people, intensifying livelihood struggles, and reducing opportunities for social cohesion and economic development.

The North African country of Morocco is heavily dependent on agriculture, which employs 40% of its labour force and is vital for feeding its growing population. However, it is extremely vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, with overall temperatures projected to increase, and precipitation to decrease sharply, leading to an increase in major droughts.

With over 200 million people, Nigeria has the largest population on the African continent, which is projected to double over the next 30 years. Current crop production is barely keeping up with these rates of population growth. With weak national food controls, and high levels of postharvest physical, nutritional and quality losses due to poor infrastructure, sub-optimal marketing information systems, and increased food consumption outside the home, how might closing the food security gap be achieved?

Aquaculture, which involves farming aquatic animals and/or plants in the oceans or freshwater, is one of the fastest growing food-producing sectors and currently contributes over 40% of world fish supplies. The benefits of this development are real and visible, both for producing countries and for consumers in the form of lower prices and access to healthy sources of fatty acids.

UNICEF estimated that approximately 10.4 million children were at risk of suffering from acute malnutrition in 2021 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan, northeast Nigeria, the Central Sahel, and Yemen. Along with Sierra Leone, these countries or regions have experienced humanitarian crises, conflicts, intensifying food insecurity, and pandemics, raising the threat of severe acute malnutrition (SAM).