Sustainable Use of Natural Resources to Improve Human Health and Support Economic Development (SUNRISE)

Lead Research Organisation: NERC Centre for Ecology and Hydrology
Department Name: Directors and Science Coordinators


Globally, human societies face a burgeoning challenge of achieving sustainable use of natural resources to provide food, fuel, water and amenities for an increasing population under the context of climate change. At its most fundamental, this will require achieving food and water security of supply without threatening the ability of the environment to support future generations.

An increasingly urbanized and wealthy population is driving a growing and changing demand for food, water, land and other natural resources and contributing to environmental degradation. These demands combined with climate change, and its associated natural hazards, were critical considerations in the development of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs, 2015). The challenges posed by the SDGs require long term national scale research-based solutions. SUNRISE seeks to improve livelihoods and wellbeing through reduced environmental risk, improved environmental quality and improved reliability of the supply of food, water and other natural resources by providing the evidence and advice needed to improve management of the wider environment. SUNRISE will address local issues and research needs in China, India, Indonesia / Malaysia, Kenya and other countries in sub Saharan Africa and address SDGs 1, 2, 3, 6, 13 and 15.

SUNRISE builds on the research themes that formed the basis of the approved NC-ODA Foundation Award with activity currently in progress: (1) developing hydro-climate services for improved water resource management and flood and drought forecasting and preparedness; (2) restoration and remediation of degraded resources and environments to improve people's health and economic security, and; (3) management of land resources to ensure environmental sustainability and economic growth and resilience. These will be developed and delivered in partnership with in-country partners and stakeholders to address their most pressing environmental needs.
Hydro-climate services are tools and methods that translate data and knowledge of current and potential future hydrological conditions into information that will inform better water policy, planning, management and decision-making. The science challenge is to adapt CEH's models and understanding to perform at an acceptable level of uncertainty in data sparse regions. In meeting this challenge we will both advance UK research capabilities and provide tools, methodologies and assessments to reduce the impact of extreme events on people and their livelihoods and increase the reliability and resilience of water supplies for people, livestock and businesses on a day to day basis.
Restoration and remediation options require research aimed at understanding and quantifying the key factors and processes that cause environmental degradation and upon which mitigation measures rely. This theme will seek to fill a knowledge gap by determining the key factors that affect the rate and stability of recovery as systems are restored, and the resilience of restored systems to future change. In investigating this knowledge gap in real-world situations the findings will advance science knowledge and inform new policy and management approaches needed in India, China, Indonesia, Malaysia and Kenya but with global relevance.
Increasing agricultural productivity sustainably is a clear priority both for food provision and also as a pathway to alleviating poverty, particularly for the 83% of the global agricultural population who rely on smallholder agriculture. Small holder agriculture is often not as productive as it could be: working with local agronomists we will investigate new approaches to achieve ecological intensification, through diversification of smallholder land, water and livestock management to deliver improved productivity, resilience and sustainability.

Planned Impact

CEH's proposed activities seek to achieve maximum impact and benefit in China, India, Indonesia / Malaysia and sub-Saharan African countries. SUNRISE builds on existing and developing (within the on-going Foundation award) relationships and partnerships. We are confident that the activities are both relevant and timely, and will help to meet pressing local, national and regional needs. Our long-term vision is to develop, in collaboration with partners and stakeholders, the capacity and expertise to enable them to sustainably manage their own natural resources more effectively, and so become more resilient to environmental risks and to mitigate problems associated with environmental degradation. We will develop the knowledge, tools and methods, jointly to enable authorities and institutions to make better informed policies and decisions in adapting to the environmental challenges of climate change, demographic growth and change, and land-use change associated with economic growth. We perceive four main pathways to development impact each of which reflect different stakeholder communities and user groups: Decision and Policy Makers in Civilian Government; Development Aid Agencies; Business and Commerce and; Scientific and Academic Researchers.
CEH's main role delivering impact is the delivery of evidence, models, information tools and advice on environmental condition and likely future condition under different scenarios to those who will use it for policy and development decisions, or to inform their own research agendas. To this end a key need for our science to make a difference, including after this research programme has finished, is to engage with and provide the research outcomes wanted by the decision and policy makers, development agencies, industry or scientists on the ground. CEH have established links and experience of working collaboratively across all of these highly diverse sectors. Example partnerships (included as letters of support) include: Policy / decision makers such as the Maharashtran State Government and Lake Victoria Basin Catchment Secretariat: Aid agencies such as Crops for the Future and Proforest already collaborate with us on both research and stakeholder engagement activities; Industrial partners include Musim Mas and APRIL in SE Asia; and our many academic partners include sister centres / Institutes such as the Indian Institutes of Science (IISc)and Technology (IIT), Chinese Academy of Science institutions, Kenyan Forest Research Institute (KEFRI), etc..
We will use our expertise and relevant contacts in each of the different nations we will work in (China, India, Indonesia/Malaysia and Kenya / sub-Saharan Africa) to identify and build the partnerships required to ensure that our research outcomes are relevant and stand the best chance of being implemented to achieve the benefits envisioned: improved water resource management; and restored and sustainably managed environment's that lead to improved health and enhance livelihoods.