International Newsletter 2018

International Newsletter 2018







Pretoria, South Africa

AFRICAP project meeting

In March 2018, Jennie Macdiarmid attended the ‘kick off’ meeting of the AFRICAP project (Agriculture and food-system reliance: increasing capacity and advising policy) along with all the other partners (£9 million Global Challenges Research Fund grant). This is an interdisciplinary project about food and nutrition security in Africa, led by the University of Leeds University in collaboration with University of Aberdeen, MetOffice and Chatham House, working with local organisations and government in Malawi, South Africa, Zambia and Tanzania (co-ordinated by FANRPAN).

The overall aim of the project is support the development of climate-smart, sustainable agriculture to deliver nutrition security, thereby helping countries to reduce poverty and hunger whilst addressing the broader aims of the Sustainable Development Goals. The meeting was the first time that all the partners met face-to-face, and reinforced that this is a very exciting project, working with a great team of people. During our stay we visited several sites to see first-hand some of the different types of farming systems in rural South Africa. This gave us an important insight into the type of environments that we will be working.



Hyderabad, India

Centenary of the National Institute of Nutrition

One of our deputy directors, Baukje de Roos, recently travelled to Hyderabad, India, to attend the 100-year centenary of the National Institute of Nutrition (NIN), which is the premier nutrition research Institute in India funded through the Indian Government, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. Throughout its long history, NIN has been driving policy actions for improving nutrition outcomes in India.

As part of the centenary celebrations, the NIN hosted an International conference “Aligning food systems for healthy diets and improved nutrition” from November 11 – 13, 2018, and as part of this conference Baukje was invited to present on “Impacts of agroecosystems producing farmed seafood on food security and nutritional status – a global perspective”.

Aquaculture is one of the fastest growing food production sectors globally. Yet its specific impact on nutrition and livelihood in local communities, especially in low and medium income countries where commercial and/or export-orientated aquaculture activities are developed, is largely unknown. Establishing the relationships between aquaculture agro-ecosystems producing nutritious foods, and its impact on the health and nutritional status of local communities living in such dynamic aquatic eco-zones, is currently challenging for various reasons.

At the conference Baukje presented some initial data on the development of an innovative metric to link food security, nutritional status, and health & well-being outcomes to provide a better understanding of impacts of the access to aquatic foods on health. Ultimately this is believed to provide a better understanding of impacts of access to aquatic foods on health, resulting in more integrated and relevant policies and practices when further developing farmed aquatic systems.

The meeting was attended by more than 500 delegates from 29 different countries, and included representatives of the FAO, the World Bank, Institute of Economic Growth, Bill & Melinda Gates foundation, Biodiversity International, Government representatives and various academic institutions around the world.  Important global issues such as food diversity, agricultural production systems and measuring nutritional status were disucssed. Aligning with the remit of the conference, we were treated to some Indian native treats during one of the dinner parties, which included hornet’s larvae, silkwork larvae cooked in fermented bamboo shoots, and water beetles.


Elche, Spain

Buckwheat scale up for human study

As part of RESAS work investigating novel crops, scientists from the Rowett Institute have developed a new food formulation using sustainable crops with potential to grow in Scotland. For the design of this original functional food, the scientists used a biotechnological approach. This food is a buckwheat-rich beverage and will be tested in a human dietary intervention study for its potential to modulate sugar metabolism in healthy and type 2 diabetes volunteers. This human study will start next year.

In order to produce the food for this dietary study, in May 2018, Madi Neacsu has travelled to S-E Spain to work in a food grade pilot scale plant for two weeks. The pilot plant is a spin-off company from Miguel Hernandez University from Elche. Here she successfully scaled up the original recipe to prepare the functional buckwheat-rich beverage developed at the Rowett Institute in Aberdeen. A total of six batches of beverage were produced and shipped back to Scotland. 

Ubatuba, Brazil

DEVIL project meeting (Delivering Food Security on Limited Land)

At the beginning of November the DEVIL research team, including Jennie Macdiarmid, met in Ubatuba for a project meeting hosted by the Brazilian partners in the project. The project team comprised partners from the UK, Brazil, South Africa, China, India, Australia, Switzerland and USA. DEVIL is an international, interdisciplinary research project on food and nutrition security and land use, led by the University of Aberdeen and funded by the Belmont Forum and the FACCE-JPI Initiative.

Using state-of-the art food system and land use models, a number of scenarios for future food and nutrition security have been developed and are being tested. These take into account land availability, international trade, climate change and economic and political conditions of food production and supply. While they were in Brazil they visited an area of agroforestry in some of the last remaining parts of the Atlantic rainforest. Here they were able to see how small scale agriculture was being integrated in the forest and had the opportunity to eat meals made from locally grown foods in the forest.


More information can be found here >>   

Lima, Peru

Global Research Council

In May 2018 Karen Scott was part of a group of UK researchers who visited Lima, Peru. The trip was designed to introduce researchers from Peru and the UK with the aim of promoting research collaborations that would go forward to a co-funded Global Research Council/Newton Fund research grant funding scheme. The first two days were devoted to workshop style discussions where people presented their main research interests and discussed research targets. The Peruvian National Council of Science (CONCYTEC) had identified key research targets focussed on improving nutrition and health in Peru, targeting the double burden of obesity and malnutrition.

On the final day of the visit we toured two local science institutes. The National Agrarian University La Molina is an agriculture University on the outskirts of Lima, which has assembled a large collection of ancient chillis collected from all round Peru. A separate research programme is focussed on breeding quinoa plants capable of growing at different altitudes. We also visited the National Health Institute in Lima and were introduced to several food programmes used in schools to improve childhood nutrition.



Harare,  Zimbabwe

Sustianable food production workshop

In May 2018, researchers from the Rowett Institute and the Crop Technology Development Organisation (CTDO) co-hosted a stakeholder consultative workshop in Harare to identify a sustainable way forward to achieve long-term food production in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe is a landlocked, low-income, food deficit country in sub-Saharan Africa. This year more than one million people faced food insecurity with current projections estimating that 2.5 million people are at risk. In addition to widespread poverty; HIV/AIDS, limited employment opportunities, liquidity challenges, recurrent climate-induced shocks and economic instability also have a significant impact and undernutrition particularly effects rural regions where diets lack diversity, with maize being the main staple crop.

The workshop was timely, especially considering that the Zimbabwe government are currently reviewing the agricultural policy framework. It was attended by a wide range of stakeholders including senior level representatives from the Zimbabwean Ministry for Agriculture, Agriculture Research Council, Oxfam, World Food Program, International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, as well as farmers’ associations, academics and industry. Coverage of the outcomes were disseminated via prime time evening and breakfast news, as well as in the national press. Recommendations arising from the event have been prepared as policy documents and there was a clear consensus that crop diversification through utilization of neglected and underutilized species (NUS) is critical to improving food and nutrition security in Zimbabwe.

The second day was dedicated to field trips to develop a deeper insight into the various perspectives of nutritional security in Zimbabwe. This included visiting a solar water project, nutrition garden, maternal waiting home and primary school in the Mutoko District. Particularly relevant to the work on NUS was a visit to Chimukoko Seed Bank in the Mudzi District. Here the researchers had an opportunity to discuss seed diversification and storage with local woman farmers who displayed a wonderful array and detailed knowledge of underutilized crops and seeds. The Rowett and CTDO researchers are continuing to work together to secure further funding to work with other in-country partners to develop a strategy for crop diversification through adoption of NUS and an improved understanding regarding their inclusion in our diet.