Knowledge for a sustainable world

Despite progress in many aspects of global development over recent decades, 690 million people experienced hunger in 2020. Degradation of our natural resources – land, water, forests, and biodiversity – continues at alarming rates. The food supply chain faces a series of global issues concerning sustainability, safety and innovation.

Over the last 15 years, there has been a significant expansion of private-sector agricultural investments in low- and middle-income countries. Too often, such investments have led to dispossessions, forced resettlements, lost livelihoods and human rights abuses for smallholders and local communities, with few real beneficiaries.

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.

Self-confessed ‘foodie’ Eli Gasgil wanted to keep as many career options open as possible, but found herself being drawn irrevocably towards working in the food industry. Now happily in her dream job, she credits NRI for giving her the necessary skillset to make the move. Eli takes up the story.

NRI’s Dr Uche Okpara is leading a ‘Prosperity and Peace’ conference in Nigeria in July 2022, bringing together civil society groups, local leaders, practitioners, academic researchers and policymakers. The aim is to provide a space for frank and honest discussion in a bid to find workable pathways towards sustainable prosperity and positive peace.

Dr Delia Grace Randolph has been recognised for her work on the links between animal, human, and environment health. The Arrell Food Institute at the University of Guelph awarded Dr Randolph the research innovation award which carries a prize of $100,000.

A message from Professor Andrew Westby

Dear colleagues and friends of the Natural Resources Institute,

After 34 years, the time has come for me to leave NRI and to take up a role as the new Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research and Knowledge Exchange) in the wider University of Greenwich.

A new study led by the University of Greenwich and the University of Kent shows that orangutans are still rapidly declining despite more than one billion US dollars invested in their conservation between 2000 and 2019. Orangutans face imminent extinction unless they are better protected. All three species of orangutan, which occur only in Indonesia and Malaysia, are classified as Critically Endangered – this is due to multiple threats from habitat loss, poaching and illegal trade. Researchers urge that orangutan conservation needs more strategic investment.

Food choices impact human and planetary health. The negative environmental impacts of the food system, increasing food insecurity and the prevalence of unhealthy diets are driving policymakers, scientists, companies and consumers to demand sustainable solutions. NRI’s Dr Parag Acharya is leading the IPSUS project (2022-2025) – 'Innovative Upcycled Plant Proteins for Sustainable Food Systems', a sustainable food initiative exploring opportunities for using crop and algae produce and products that were destined to be thrown away, and instead ‘upcycling’ them to extract the maximum protein and nutrients.

Lora Forsythe, Kaysara Khatun and Uche Okpara |

Gender-based violence (GBV) is experienced by one in three women worldwide [1]. This significant global health and human rights issue has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, as a result of measures such as lockdowns and disruptions to vital support services [2, 3]. UN Women defines GBV as harmful acts directed at an individual or a group of individuals based on their gender, and its roots are based in systemic gender inequality, the abuse of power and harmful social norms [4]. The term emphasises the multiple forms of violence that can be experienced by adults and children based on gender.

Lora Forsythe, June Po, Valerie Nelson, Fiorella Picchioni, Gwen Varley* |

‘How can we make food systems research and action more feminist, critical and transformative?’ This was the central question at a panel session convened by staff from NRI’s Gender and Social Difference Programme at the ‘Cultivating Equality’ International Conference in October 2021, organised by the CGIAR GENDER Platform and Wageningen University & Research. The conference focussed on research that helps to understand and advance positive synergies among sustainable and resilient agriculture and food systems, and equality in societies globally.

Katie James, Lydia O’Meara, Rania Hassan |

The obstacles facing women in academia exist at multiple stages in their career. Despite the fact that over half of all PhDs have been awarded to women in recent years, the percentage of permanent female academic staff is between 20–30% in the EU and US, and women are currently underrepresented as first authors in high-impact journals [1]. Women in the UK occupy only 17.5% of senior academic positions [2]; of this, only 2% are women of colour [3].