Collaborations aim to tackle global food security

24th July 2017
Posted By : Enaie Azambuja
Collaborations aim to tackle global food security

Two major research collaborations led by the University of Cambridge have been awarded almost £15 million in funding, the Minister of State for Universities and Science, Jo Johnson MP, has announced during a visit to Cambridge’s Sainsbury Laboratory. The two collaborations are focused on food security in India and public health in Bangladesh and will see researchers from the UK and developing countries working together as equal partners.

The awards are part of the Global Challenges Research Fund, which aims to build upon research knowledge in the UK, and strengthen capacity overseas, to help address challenges, informed by expressed need in the developing countries.

Jo Johnson, Minister for Universities and Science, said: “From healthcare to green energy, the successful projects receiving funding today highlight the strength of the UK’s research base and our leadership in helping developing countries tackle some of the greatest global issues of our time.

“At a time when the pace of scientific discovery and innovation is quickening, we are placing science and research at the heart of our Industrial Strategy to build on our strengths and maintain our status as science powerhouse.”

Andrew Thompson, GCRF Champion at Research Councils UK, said: “The 37 projects announced today build research capacity both here in the UK and in developing countries to address systemic development challenges, from African agriculture to sustainable cities, clean oceans, and green energy, to improved healthcare, food security, and gender equality.”

TIGR2ESS (Transforming India’s Green Revolution by Research and Empowerment for Sustainable food Supplies)

Lead: Professor Howard Griffiths (Department of Plant Sciences)

Talk of a second Green Revolution has been around for a while. The first – in India and other developing countries, in the 1960s – brought a massive increase in crop production that sustained the country’s mushrooming population. But now there are new pressures – not just the need to produce even more food, but to reduce the damage done by excessive use of pesticides, fertiliser and water in the face of climate change.

TIGR2ESS, a collaboration between UK and Indian scientists, seeks to frame the big question – how to bring about a second Green revolution – in all its breadth and depth. India is developing fast– agriculture needs to take account of urbanisation, for example, which has drawn so many away from the land. Smallholder farmers- particularly women- need smart technologies to sustain crop yields, and improve health and nutrition.

The TIGR2ESS programme will assess these options, as well as supporting basic research programmes, and providing advice to local communities. There will be many opportunities for academic exchanges, mentoring and career development for scientists from both countries. Links with the relevant government ministries in India, plus industrial connections built into the programme, will hopefully turn the best recommendations into reality.

“We are extremely pleased that the TIGR2ESS programme will help to deliver our vision for partnerships with institutions in India to improve crop science and food security,” says Professor Howard Griffiths, Co-Chair of the University of Cambridge’s Strategic Initiative in Global Food Security.

“Agriculture is feminizing. We need to ensure that state resources and services, and knowledge resources, are equally accessible to women farmers,” adds Dr V Selvam, MS Swaminathan Research Foundation, India, one of the collaborators.

CAPABLE (Cambridge Programme to Assist Bangladesh in Lifestyle and Environmental risk reduction)

Lead: Professor John Danesh (Department of Public Health and Primary Care)

Gathering a big group of people and studying their health in the long term can uncover game-changing facts. The British Doctors’ Study, for example, which began in 1951, revealed that smoking causes lung cancer. Imagine if the same could be done in a country facing a perfect storm of chronic health problems.

Bangladesh is admired worldwide for its success in cutting child mortality and fertility rate, yet it faces an onslaught of chronic diseases that arise from an interplay of factors ranging from arsenic-contaminated drinking water to iron-deficient foods and from air pollution to the rise of the western lifestyle.

CAPABLE has the ambitious goal of recruiting 100,000 people from landscapes ranging from the green paddy fields of rural Bangladesh to the slums of the densest city in the world – Dhaka. From their data, engineers, sociologists, health researchers and a host of other disciplines will try to understand how the risk factors interact – and build a model that can be used to test interventions before they are implemented.

“We aim to help develop simple, scalable and effective solutions to control major environmental and lifestyle risk factors in Bangladesh,” says Scientific Director of the CAPABLE programme Dr Rajiv Chowdhury from the Department of Public Health and Primary Care at the University of Cambridge.


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