£2.8million study to combat global food poverty
10th June 2008
The University of Leeds Transformation Fund will bring together researchers from medicine, plant science, ecology, social policy and the environment to focus on preventing future food crises in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The Human Health and Food Security Research Programme, funded with the University's own money and resources, will examine how food production can be improved to ensure growers obtain the maximum nutritional value from their crops, as well as minimising damage to existing ecosystems. Partnerships with African universities and institutes are being developed to enable researchers to enhance research capacity in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The UN estimates that the current global food crisis has plunged an extra 100 million people into poverty across the globe. Drought and unpredictable weather patterns are having a major impact on the global harvest. In turn, lack of natural resources often leads African farmers to use their land in unsustainable ways, overusing it until crop yields decline severely.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that 33 per cent of all Sub-Saharan Africans are undernourished.
Project leader Professor Howard Atkinson says, "Researchers from the School of Medicine will ensure that the programme has a strong emphasis on ensuring a nutritious diet free of fungal toxins and parasites to add to efforts of plant scientists on improving the yield of African staple crops."
Many of the crops that survive well under stressful climatic conditions are not the ones that provide the healthiest diet: for example cassava survives well in dry conditions but is not particularly nutritious.
The Human Health and Food Security Research Programme is one of four projects being paid for via the University's pioneering Transformation Fund which is supporting research into major global issues of our time. The fund is unique in that it comes from the University rather than corporate or government sponsors.
Professor Tim Benton, Pro-Dean for Research in the Faculty of Biological Sciences says, "If we consider all the problems facing the future of food production, from a growing world population, through to climate change and increased use of land for the production of bio-fuels, then by the middle of this century we will need perhaps ten times the amount of agricultural land we currently use. But there is only a maximum of about two times the land available - including all the land currently covered by rainforest. This is set against a background of an intrinsic danger of trying to increase food production too fast and therefore destroying the future fertility of land used in food production. The research project is about trying to find a way of increasing output sufficient for a healthy diet without destroying ecosystems."
"Most current agricultural research looks at Western needs rather than the needs of the developing world, which is another reason why this programme is exceptional," he adds.
This is especially important in areas where the land is becoming more arid, as in Africa. Over-grazing can lead to loss of vegetation, which in turn means the soil fails to hold together and can be blown away. Recovery time where soil is lost in this way can be up to hundreds of thousands of years.
Last 3 months. View all
Vas Ponnambalam, Leverhulme Trust (1/09/2013), £245,031
Darren Tomlinson, Leverhulme Trust (1/09/2013), £5,645
Michelle Peckham, Gareth Howell, Roman Tuma, David Beech, Nigel Hooper, MRC (1/05/2013), £893,675
Sarah Calaghan, Derek Steele, BHF (1/05/2013), £208,005
Neil Messenger, EPSRC (1/04/2013), £618,675
Lars Jeuken, BBSRC (1/04/2013), £300,633
Ian Wood, Dunhill Medical Trust (1/04/2013), £113,705
Paul Millner, Wellcome Trust (1/04/2013), £40,000
Andrew Macdonald, Yorkshire Kidney Research Fund (1/04/2013), £39,886
Samit Chakrabarty, Royal Society (1/04/2013), £15,000
Sarah Zylinski, Royal Society (1/04/2013), £11,000
Urwin, Howard Atkinson, BBSRC (1/03/2013), £626,738
Charlotte Haigh, Wellcome Trust (1/03/2013), £50,000
Jim Deuchars, Leeds Teaching Hospitals Charitable Foundation (1/03/2013), £34,618
Carrie Ferguson, Wellcome Trust (1/03/2013), £27,700
Viewing last 3 months | View all items
Declines in the biodiversity of pollinating insects and wild plants have slowed in recent years, according to a new study. more
New research looks at how the management of farms and agricultural landscapes impacts on both pollinators of crops and natural enemies of crop pests. more
A key building block in the virus, which causes birth defects and stillbirths in sheep, goats and cattle, could be targeted by anti-viral drugs. more
A faculty-led study, published in the journal Ecology Letters, overturns the common assumption that evolution only occurs gradually over hundreds or thousands of years. more
The University of Leeds is leading a £5.7 million, government-backed initiative to transform the way replacement joints and other medical implants are made. more