Dr. Stephen Onakuse, President of Agrinatura, paid a visit to the Natural Resources Institute (NRI) on 24 November 2023. His visit was in recognition of the value of the work going on at NRI and a mutual interest in discussing strategies to reposition common research interests between NRI and Agrinatura. The ultimate aim is to advance their shared goal to drive positive impact globally. Agrinatura, the European Alliance on Agricultural Knowledge for Development, is an Alliance of 35 Universities and research centres from 16 European countries, working to support sustainable agricultural development.  

Stephen and NRI Director, Prof. Sheryl Hendriks discussed plans to establish project consortia, leveraging expertise to lead policy dialogue and creating an evidence-based platform for capacity building. Stephen said, ‘a multi-scale orchestration of agrifood systems approaches through an all-inclusive partnership remains the sensible way to achieve sustainable food systems locally, nationally and globally’.

Stephen’s visit follows a long history of collaboration between NRI and Agrinatura. Agrinatura has supported and channelled funding to a large portfolio of projects over the years, in which NRI has played a leading role. NRI is a partner on the European Commission’s Knowledge and Research for Nutrition project. The project aims to provide improved knowledge and evidence for policy and programme design, management and monitoring and evaluation to achieve better nutrition outcomes. NRI is providing technical expertise to support planning, implementation and learning to the project’s Nutrition Research Facility which is implemented by Agrinatura.

As part of the DeSIRA-LIFT project, NRI is also supporting regional and sub-regional research and extension organisations in Africa. DeSIRA-LIFT—Leveraging the DeSIRA Initiative for agri-food systems transformation—is a project of the Development Smart Innovation through Research in Agriculture (DeSIRA) Initiative funded by the European Commission and implemented by Agrinatura. The DeSIRA Initiative intends to contribute to climate-relevant, productive and sustainable transformation of agriculture and food systems in low- and middle-income countries.

NRI leads the Value Chain Analysis for Development (VCA4D) initiative which is implemented by Agrinatura partners. VCA4D was part of the European Union’s Inclusive and Sustainable Value Chains and Food Fortification Programme. On the VC4AD project, NRI has participated in assessing the potential of over 15 agricultural value chains for economic growth, environmental sustainability and delivering positive social impact. The value chains evaluated include aquaculture in Cambodia, oil palm and cashew in Sierra Leone, green beans in Kenya, eggs in Zambia, livestock in Zimbabwe, beef in Swaziland, and processed fruits in the Dominican Republic. Similar studies have been conducted on the milk value chain in Burundi, coastal fisheries in Tanzania while an assessment of the cashmere value chain is ongoing in Mongolia.

NRI headed the Agrinatura-led review of the 13 projects funded by the European Commission and International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD under the Putting Research into Use for Nutrition, Sustainable Agriculture and Resilience (PRUNSAR) programme. The projects implemented across South-East Asia, Africa and Latin America from 2015-2023, aimed to develop and deliver new innovations to improve the livelihoods, nutrition and resilience of smallholder farmers and rural communities.

Sheryl said, ‘NRI appreciates the opportunity to contribute to global development through the Agrinatura alliance and partnerships and look forward to working together to address the complex problems facing development, agriculture and food security.’

Such collaborative initiatives are central to both NRI and Agrinatura’s efforts to address environmental, social and economic challenges and drive sustained positive change on a global scale.