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International Development Research @ Cambridge


Cambridge Global Challenges SRI, in collaboration with Cambridge Global Food Security IRC, delivered the Seed funding competition and interdisciplinary workshop on Nutrition challenges in developing countries that supported the three projects described below.

These ideas and projects were informed by the preseantations made by reserchers from Bahir Dar University (Ethiopia), the Nabakrushna Choudhury Centre for Development Studies (India) and Banaras Hindu University (India) on their ongoing work adressing specific malnutrition challenges in developing countries. Through an interactive exercise, participants formed small groups to develop proof of concept projects to address these challenges to apply for the seed-funding provided by the programme. Further details about the programme can be found here.


Farmer Participatory Soil Assessment for Improved Millet Nutrition in India 

In India, specifically Odisha, the burden of malnutrition is extremely high as is the need to create sustainable livelihood systems. The projects aims to facilitate the optimum cultivation of millet as potentially a highly nutritional resource by ii) empowering local farmers to understand their basic soil resources and ii) translating UK soil assessment tool to a locally relevant instrument. The approach of farmer participatory soil assessment addresses both these issues: it uses non-technical metrics that are accessible to non-experts but accessible to those who understand the basic cultivation practices. We envisage that the indigenous agricultural community, including land owners, tenant farmers and labourers, would benefit from such an intervention. The proposed intervention would also be gender-inclusive. 



Tackling zinc deficiencies in Ethiopia

The project objective is to understand the potential for increased zinc (Zn) content in teff grains to tackle zinc deficiency in Ethiopia.  Our initial action will be to survey elemental concentrations of potentially genetically and phenotypically diverse lines adapted to Ethiopia by analyzing the flour sent to the UK from Dr. Assaye (Bahir Dar University). 

This project will use the combined local expertise of Dr Hirut Assaye in Ethiopia, and our knowledge of Zn transport, fortification and crop breeding expertise in Cambridge, to obtain data on the variation in elements and anti nutritionals in the various lines of teff grown in Ethiopia. Genomic DNA from a high and low Zn content teff variety will be sent for next generation sequencing (GBS) to identify markers for breeding. Single Nucleotide Polymorphism (SNP) data will be produced by Genotyping By Sequencing (GBS) the contrasting phenotypic lines by mapping the reads from the two lines to the publically available teff genome. This will allow for rapid identification of markers for future breeding of other potential traits along with biofortification.  This preliminary work will enable further work to develop markers to be applied in genetic association mapping populations to identify potential for Genome-Wide Association Studies. (GWAS) will be performed of a wider panel as part of future potential funding.  

This data collected can then be used to create community resources for genetic analysis of increased elemental concentrations in the grains of teff. 


The programme led by Cambridge Global Challenges and Cambridge Global Food Security that supported this project made me aware of the urgency to address food shortage and malnutrition across the globe especially in the developing countries.” 
Nelzo Ereful, Plant Science Bioinformatics Researcher  




Discovering the incentives to combat unhealthy diets

Unhealthy food consumption is prevalent in developing countries and changing diets is critical to revert this trend. Previous studies often assume that neither consumers nor industries have incentives to change unhealthy diets. It is also observed that some consumers intend to change diets but are not able to practice it in daily life, while some industries regard healthy diets are aligned with their future market but hesitate to take ambitious healthy diet strategies without witnessing behaviour changes of consumers. Thus consumers and industries are in a double-lock situation and prohibited moving to healthy diets. We aim to explore an incentive design to address this double-lock situation for both consumers and industries through reducing the behavioural costs and increasing the behavioural benefits of healthy diets. This idea is built on the on-going research and a digital platform on incentivising sustainable behaviour. As incentivising sustainable behaviour and motivating healthy diets share many similar behavioural mechanisms, we hope to understand whether we could transfer the knowledge and design skills in incentivising sustainable behaviour to healthy diets, especially in developing context. 



The Seed funding competition and interdisciplinary workshop on Nutrition challenges in developing countries was funded by the Isaac Newton Trust.

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