Knowledge for a sustainable world

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.

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 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].

Andrew Westby |

“Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls” – this is Sustainable Development Goal #5, one of the 17 global goals adopted in 2015 by the United Nations. My colleagues at NRI, our partners, students, and collaborators will be familiar with this goal. While some have spent their careers researching this area, many others will have incorporated a ‘gender element’ or used a ‘gender lens’ in their research projects.

The 2022 Royal Entomological Society (RES) Student Forum had been eagerly anticipated as being an in-person event after two years of virtual meetings due to Covid restrictions. The annual forum, organised by and for undergraduate and postgraduate students whose research is linked to entomology, gives participants the opportunity to give scientific presentations, network and share ideas with their peers. Three-time organiser, Manuela Carnaghi, and first-time presenter, Harrison Lambert, both PhD students at NRI, describe their excitement at meeting in person on day one, before Storm Eunice swept across the UK and forced a swift re-think and a quick return to virtual meetings.

Molly E Brown |

Women’s responsibilities in agricultural production in low-income rural communities are increasing, along with high rates of male migration to urban areas. Yet with recent shifts in data collection tools, women have been sidelined in the provision of agricultural information and statistics, and as a consequence, have not been able to influence or easily access appropriate agricultural services.

Guadalupe Roberti* with Lucie Büchi and Lora Forsythe |

Soil is the foundation of life on Earth. For agriculture, food systems and natural resources, soil provides a range of essential ecosystem services, and its quality or ‘health’ is central to sustainable agriculture and food production.

Gwen Varley* and Winifred Candiru* |

Motherhood can come with tremendous pressures: many women struggle with balancing care work with other work obligations, mental health challenges, physical complications of childbirth, fatigue, and a slew of gendered norms and expectations. These pressures are all the more intensified for women living in extreme poverty and facing worries about whether they can provide their children a steady, nutritious diet of diverse, nourishing foods, or, in many cases, whether they can provide them a meal at all.