Cocoa and drought projects win slice of £1.5 million funding
08 December 2023
Two ‘outstanding innovators’ from the University of Reading have been awarded a portion of a £1.5 million research fund to carry out impactful research on cocoa farming and droughts in Africa.
Environmental scientists Dr Andrew Daymond and Dr Ross Maidment will receive the funding through the Natural Environment Research Council Knowledge Exchange fellowships.
Ten ‘outstanding innovators’ were selected from across the UK to provide impactful environmental science research. Dr Andrew Daymond, who manages the University of Reading’s International Cocoa Quarantine Centre, will develop a new knowledge exchange network for sustainable cocoa farming.
He said: “My research will help cocoa farms become more sustainable and ready for climate change. Cocoa is used to make chocolate but changes in weather and soil health are making it harder to grow cocoa. I will talk to different people involved in cocoa farming worldwide, like farmers, people in government, and scientists, to understand the best options to handle climate change and take care of the soil where cocoa grows.
“I will also work with project partners in Ghana to put together some workshops for cocoa farmers that will teach easy, low-cost ways farmers can protect their cocoa crops and their livelihoods.”
Dr Ross Maidment, Earth Observation Scientist, will investigate drought risks for the African finance sector.
He said: “This funding will enable us to exploit recent developments in satellite soil moisture estimation across Africa to help us understand the risk of agricultural drought much better than before.
“We will work with leaders in the African finance sector to use this information to create new financial tools, such as insurance, to protect farmers when droughts happen. Our goal is to build better tools that can provide financial support toAfrican farmers, and in doing so, avoid losing all their crops and income if the rains don't come as expected.”
The KE fellowships are designed to enable the sharing, flow and translation of knowledge and expertise between NERC-remit researchers and the research sector, businesses, policymakers and the public.
Fellows are awarded up to three years support, enabling them to develop their skills and to deliver impact that can be felt across society and the economy.