FCDO meeting

Last week, the UK-CGIAR Centre, an initiative hosted by CABI, held the first meeting of its UK science institute partners at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office’s (FCDO) HQ in London. The Centre was officially launched last November at the Global Food Security Summit in London. Funded by the FCDO, the Centre has been created to help global food security by improving ties between UK science institutes and CGIAR. The Centre Secretariat at CABI has commissioned research and created partnerships to work on various scientific areas. This meeting at the King Charles Street building was an opportunity for scientists at the UK institutes working on these projects to meet with one another, discuss their research, and present their plans to the Centre’s Board on how the projects will develop over the next three years.   

Dr Richard Shaw, the UK-CGIAR Centre’s Director, and Charlie Rowley, the Project Manager, began proceedings by giving a joint-update on the Centre’s work. This included descriptions of how the Secretariat commissioned the projects and created partnerships, a snapshot of the Centre launch and a brief discussion of futures steps.    

Professor Cristobal Uauy of the John Innes Centre (JIC) gave the first presentation in which he provided an overview of the Centre’s project focussing on genetic crop improvement. Uauy and his team at JIC will be working with scientists at ICARDA, CIMMYT as well as local partners in Egypt (Agricultural Research Centre), Kenya (Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organisation) and Pakistan (Qauid-I-Azam University). The project scientists aim to develop locally adapted wheat cultivars that exhibit enhanced resistance to wheat rusts and elevated levels of iron.  

In the second presentation, Professor Andy Challinor of the University of Leeds outlined the plans for the project named iSPARK (innovation in sustainability, policy, adaptation and resilience in Kenya). The project involves the University of Leeds, Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT (ABC), International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and the Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organisation (KALRO). The teams will collaborate to create and use evidence that supports the changes needed for sustainable, climate-resilient nutrition security in Kenya.  

Fanny Sandalinas, a research fellow at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), presented on the FRESH-EN-UP project. The project aims to improve nutrition through increased fruit and vegetable consumption in rural Tanzania, particularly amongst nutritionally vulnerable population groups. Sandalinas described how the project partners will conduct preliminary research to identify the underlying barriers to adequate fruit and vegetable consumption in the country and then co-design intervention options.  

In the final presentation, conducted via Zoom, SRUC’s Professor Jamie Newbold described how his team will develop new tools that will accelerate the development of new forages and plant residues for sub-Saharan Africa. In collaboration with the International Livestock Research Institute (or ILRI), SRUC will work towards achieving the goals of boosting animal production while decreasing greenhouse gas emissions.  

All presentations were well received by the Board. During the post-presentation talks, the UK-based researchers emphasised some areas of overlap in their respective research topics and highlighted how they could potentially collaborate with one another. In what proved to be a fruitful exchange of ideas, the attendees agreed that meetings of this kind should become a regular occurrence and a follow-up meeting is scheduled for later in the year.   

Additional information

Interview with Cristobal Uauy

Interview with Andrew Challinor

Interview with Edward Joy

Interview with Jamie Newbold