The NaPROCLA team is excited to welcome new post-doctoral research assistant Dr Victoria Woolley to the project. Dr Woolley joins the project from a PhD at the University of Warwick where she worked with the Warwick Crop Centre team on IPM and specifically biopesticides. She brings her expertise in molecular work, entomology and pest management together to support the project. Dr Woolley will be based at NRI but will be visiting all the project partners and working alongside all members of the team as the work packages are implemented.

 

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Credit: University of Warwick | Victoria Woolley presenting some of her previous work at the RES postgraduate forum, 2017.

Natural Pest Regulation for Orphan Crop Legumes in Africa is a new project (BB/R020361/1) funded by the BBSRC GCRF programme, under the SASSA scheme. It involves the Agricultural Ecosystems team - NRI, NM-AIST, LUANAR and Egerton University.

The project will seek to optimise the management of field margins in order to maximise natural pest regulation potential across multiple under-researched crops in Eastern African. This will involve molecular elements to provide identification tools for key beneficial insect species, fieldwork, resistance screening and station trials.

The inception meeting was held on 12th October 2018 in Arusha, Tanzania, with partners organising implementation of the different activities and contributing ideas and contacts. The project will build on underpinning research already carried out as part of the Darwin Initiative project between RBG Kew, NRI, LUANAR and NM-AIST but develop the pest management angle further. As a result, we look forward to continuing to collaborate and draw on expertise of early-career scientists such as Prisila Mkenda who has been studying field margins and natural enemies during her PhD and MSc students such as Juliana Godifray who carried out work on companion planting pesticidal plants.

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The project team at the inception meeting visit to NM-AIST.

 

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Prof Stevenson meets with Elisante and Prisila to talk about their work, findings and ideas for future research.

With a growing population, there is an ever-increasing need for food production - but it must be sustainable. A huge future challenge is to meet the nutritional needs of humans globally while using resources (including land, water and biodiversity) in a sustainable manner. Increasingly, research indicates that this must be achieved by sustainable, ecological intensification of agriculture rather than by simply increasing synthetic inputs.

 

The SAFE Hub came together to address this challenge, by forming a consortium of global researchers with expertise in weed, pest and disease control, pollination services, capacity development and policy. Formed by researchers from institutions in the UK, and across the world (Africa, Asia, Latin America), it seeks to use research, training and policy to develop and implement sustainable methods of growing crops key to human health and nutrition.

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Project staff and students met in October 2018 for the McKnight Foundation Annual Meeting in Arusha, Tanzania. These meetings bring together regional research and allow McKnight-supported projects to exchange ideas, build new networks and report on their progress. Profs Steve Belmain and Phil Stevenson attended from the UK, along with NM-AIST partners.

 

The team was delighted that project PhD students Elisante Filemon, Prisila Mkenda and Angela Mkindi all won prizes for their outstanding presentations. They have carried out some very exciting research, revealing more about the dynamics and networks of field margins and the potential to engage farmers in sustainable intensification using Farmer Research Networks. More results are still coming through and all three students are working on publications.

 

Prizewinning students

The end of March brings this phase of the Darwin-funded element of the project to a close. However, the McKnight activities will continue, the PhD students have around a year of their scholarships remaining, and two new MSc students, Aurea and Juliana, will be starting new projects shortly.

In order to evaluate the success of the project and share lessons for future improvement, a project closing meeting was held 12th-14th March in Arusha. Most project partners attended, including Prof Phil Stevenson, Prof Geoff Gurr, Dr Ernest Mbega, Dr Sarah Arnold, Yolice Tembo, Julie Tumbo, and students Prisila Mkenda, Silvanus Mringi, Ancila Karani, Martin Mkindi, Angela Mkindi and new students Aurea and Juliana. Elisante Philemon was sharing his work at a difference conference in Uganda, so joined via Skype.

Some of the highlights of the meeting were the volume of biodiversity data available to continue to analyse, and the measurable changes in farmers' awareness of beneficial insects and sustainable pest management that has occurred during the project timeline.

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Prisila Mkenda speaks to the group about data on farmer behaviour, collected using a novel ICT tool.