Understanding some of the key issues regarding sustainable development from a research and networking perspective was at the core of our trip to both SEI and SIANI. There were 21 NFGL members who went on the trip, representing ten different countries including Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Ukraine, and Vietnam.
SEI is an international non-profit organisation specialising in sustainable development and environmental issues. SIANI is a network supporting and promoting collaborative dialogue and action geared towards sustainable agriculture to ensure food security, improvement in nutrition, and the eradication of hunger.
Both organisations operate globally but have their headquarters in Stockholm. In fact, SEI hosts SIANI and supplies the initiative with some of its staff. This made for an interesting combination on our trip!
The combination was reflected in the different presentations given by some of the researchers and practitioners at SEI and SIANI. The first presentation was about the supply chain initiative Trase.Earth, which seeks to transform our understanding of the sustainability of commodity supply chains by mapping trade in agricultural products.
Zero-deforestation supply chains
What was most important here was the open access information system and online platform which is used to understand the extent to which internationally traded commodities, such as palm oil and soy, meet sustainability goals at production and importation levels.
Through such as platform, companies, government and other actors, including investors and users, are empowered to address sustainability risks and opportunities in the context of achieving zero’ deforestation supply chains.
Tracing sustainable or unsustainable production and importation of agricultural commodities via Trase.Earth has implications for both our climate and livelihoods.
It was therefore no surprise that the second area of research presented was about global climate politics and the political economy of environmental problems. An SEI researcher, Kevin Adams, provided background information on the project: governance of climate adaptation in a globalised world focusing on a study of transboundary climate impacts and risk flow.
One study in the project found that developing countries are in need of global support in terms of finance, capacity building, and improved governance for adaptation to climate change targets.
The significance of developing countries accessing the Green Climate Fund under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) cannot be emphasised enough, especially if it helps them to tackle the challenge of climate change.
Another important issue relating to our global environment and development goals deals with sustainable sanitation. This was a topic discussed by SEI researcher and Swedish Institute scholarship alumni Daniel Ddiba.
Tackling the challenge of water scarcity
In his presentation on sanitation-related projects, Daniel highlighted how SEI is developing and testing the Resource Value Recovery Mapping (REVAMP) tool to help estimate the resource recovery potential of urban waste streams.
SEI Research Associate and SI scholarship alumni, Daniel Ddiba, lectures on sanitation-related projects.
REVAMP aims to ensure the ever-growing waste streams in relation to wastewater, sanitation, and food and other organic waste could be recovered and reused with cost-efficient investments.
Researchers hope that such an initiative will contribute to lessening emerging crises regarding water scarcity, food and energy security, climate change, disease epidemics and environmental degradation.
But as our local network colleague Gilbert Muliza, who studies Soil and Water Management at SLU, expressed, there are concerns over whether the benefits of recovering waste stream resources for reuse would be worth the associated costs.
To counter such skepticisms, researchers like Daniel are of the opinion that any investments into waste management in developing countries in terms of waste recovery and reuse would no doubt contribute to better outcomes, not only when it comes to improving public health from unsanitary waste streams but also livelihood sustainability.
Considering the importance of health to both our lives and livelihood, another SEI Research Fellow Caroline Ochieng, shared the study ‘Role of behaviour in adoption of public health interventions’ which looked at factors such as the cleanliness of cookstoves.
She emphasised that while advanced cookstoves are being promoted in developing countries, it was important to consider that behaviour change is a necessary determinant for adoption, in addition to resource availability.
SEI Senior Project Manager and Program Director of SIANI Madeleine Fogde's concluding presentation
Before we concluded our study tour, SEI Senior Project Manager, Madeleine Fogde, who is also the Program Director of SIANI, provided the historical evolution of SEI since 1989.
According to Madeleine, SEI currently employs over 200 people globally, representing about 32 different nationalities. Around 60 of the employees are based in Stockholm, while the rest are in SEI centres in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Oxford, Tallinn, and the United States.
Madeleine also told us about the role SIANI plays in informing Swedes that a bulk of their food is produced outside of Sweden and that it’s important for them to be aware that the people who produce their foods have less to eat.
She also stressed the need for the transformation of agriculture in terms of public investments in research and mechanisation, particularly in developing countries to ensure that agriculture becomes an attractive livelihood for young people.
On the whole, our study trip was a success, largely thanks to both Caspar Trimmer and Madeleine Fogde of SEI for the making the visit possible. Indeed, it was a visit to remember.