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The University of Limerick team will work with farmers in Uganda to design climate change solutions
Friday, 10 March 2023

A University of Limerick team has received significant funding to work with farmers in Uganda to design climate change solutions.

Dr Annmarie Ryan of UL’s Kemmy Business School and Dr Eoin O’Connell, UL’s Faculty of Science and Engineering and CONFIRM, will work with farmers to use data to co-design solutions to climate change specific to their locations in Uganda.

They will work with Dr Anthony Gidudu, Dean, the School of the Built Environment and an associate professor at the Department of Geomatics and Land Management at Makerere University, who is a co-leader on the project.

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris TD and Minister of State for International Development and Diaspora Sean Fleming TD announced funding of €2.1m for six teams to develop innovative solutions to climate action challenges.

Run in partnership between SFI and Irish Aid, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Challenge will see the teams competing for an overall prize of €1 million as they tackle climate action issues on life below water and life on land.

The ultimate winner will use their prize money to further advance their solution towards implementation.

Dr Annmarie Ryan, senior lecturer in marketing at the KBS and principal investigator on the project, said: “This project will capacitate small holder farmers in Uganda not only in the use of climate data to inform current farming practices, but as part what we can term an imagination infrastructure to collectively envision alternate and sustainable futures for Ugandan agriculture and its food security.

“From a UL perspective we are particularly excited by the inter disciplinary nature of this project. Bringing together expertise from the Kemmy Business School and Electronic and Computer Engineering in UL and geomatics and agriculture from our partners in Makerere University, Uganda we can collectively imagine, design and ultimately realise data enabled, farming futures with real world impact today,” Dr Ryan added.

Dr O’Connell, lecturer in the department of Electronic & Computer Engineering, said: “Millions of farmers in Uganda lack access to information about the scope of climate-level changes they are experiencing and how they can adapt to them. Data-enabled agriculture can trigger societal changes in rural communities leading to the creation of sustainable climate-smart villages. This project will harness data-enabled agriculture, which provides smallholder farmers access to data analytics.

“These insights will provide a basis for climate-based agricultural advice related to crop planning, pest and disease incidence and control, crops and livestock under unfavourable weather conditions to mitigate crop damage and loss, crop management advice.

“While focused on future systems design, we envisage the societal impacts to be immediate, as small holder farmers and farmer stakeholders become empowered to imagine and design for future state climate adaptation. The scope of the impact will grow over the short and medium term as the data system develops.”

Speaking today, Minister Harris said: “I am pleased to share the selection of these six teams for this SDG Challenge. The climate crisis and its consequences for life demand solutions that we can deploy as soon as possible. 

“SFI’s Challenge Funding Programmes seek to support Ireland’s research community to accelerate the pace of innovation, developing novel, potentially disruptive, technologies to address significant societal challenges. 

“These teams will work with researchers in Irish Aid’s partner countries to devise, refine and implement solutions to problems that threaten everyday life. 

“This real-world impact is at the heart of the challenge-based funding supported by SFI and my department, which will utilise the best of research to make many lives better.” 

The focus of the SDG Challenge is for the development of innovative solutions relating to challenges associated with climate, biodiversity, and the environment, with a specific objective of addressing challenges in countries where Irish Aid works.  

These projects represent international collaborations between research institutes in Ireland and groups in Irish Aid partner countries, in this case Tanzania, Zambia, Vietnam, Malawi and Uganda.

Minister Fleming said: “This year’s SDG Challenge funding focuses on climate action and the environment. We have already seen how developing nations can be disproportionately affected by the climate crisis. 

“By supporting researchers both in Ireland and in the countries where Irish Aid works, we will use innovative ideas and cutting-edge scientific research to help mitigate some of those effects.” 

Prof Philip Nolan, Director General, Science Foundation Ireland said: “The award of this funding is an exciting moment for these teams, and we are looking forward very much to seeing how they use this opportunity to advance their research.

“These six teams are working on specific problems that are central to our response to the climate crisis and using their creativity and research skills to develop immediate solutions. 

“Not only do they represent some of the best of Irish research, they are also driven by the hope that their solutions can change the world – a sentiment at the heart of challenge-based funding.” 

The SDG Challenge calls on research teams to develop innovative solutions that contribute to SDG 13: Climate Action, and related goals and targets. 

Recognising the interconnectedness between climate, biodiversity and the environment, the challenge theme also encompasses SDG 14: Life below water and SDG 15: Life on land. 

The projects submitted include concepts to conserve energy, protect water supplies, and work on local environmental problems affecting people and crop production.