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Wageningen UR (University and Research centre)

Published on: 01/05/2013

Wageningen UR is the No.2 ranked university in the world for Environmental Sciences*. Climate and Water is one of the focus research areas, and Ethiopia an important country for staff, students and research activities. We interviewed Huib Hengsdijk of Plant Research International, one of WURs research institutes.

Wageningen UR at a glance

Wageningen University and its eleven research institutes focus on three core areas: food and food production, the living environment, and health, lifestyle and livelihood.

Key activities: Two of WURs research institutes Alterra and the Centre for Development Innovation (CDI) are engaged in CASCAPE (a joint effort of Ethiopia and The Netherlands to improve agricultural productivity linked to Agricultural Growth Programme). Water is a central issue in WURs research on integrated resource management in the Central Rift Valley. A related NUFFIC-funded project completed in 2012 on  â€˜Strengthening Ethiopian universities in integrated river basin management’ was completed in 2012.

Where Wageningen UR work: Central Rift Valley, Mekele, Dire Dawa, Bahir Dar, Hawassa and Jimma.

Find out more: Links to information about WUR activities in Ethiopia include on research in the Central Rift Valley; on the CASCAPE project at ; and the Water Resources Management Group at

Contact WUR: search for the contacts you need at

Interview with Huib Hengsdijk

Wageningen UR experts are interactive problem-solvers, using scientific approaches to come to practical solutions. Often multiple disciplines are integrated for a wider perspective. A nice example to demonstrate how Wageningen UR work is given by Huib on their work on pesticide pollution issues in Ethiopia.

Often the large scale horticulturists and floriculturists are criticised for intensive use of fertilisers and pesticides (especially on roses). However, interdisciplinary research has found that smallholders contribute significantly to environmental degradation through the use of internationally banned products. As local laboratories lack the capacity and certification for testing water samples for all the related compounds, farmers were surveyed to get an idea of the kind of pesticides and fertilisers and the extent of their use. It turned out that almost a third of smallholders use DDT, which risks contaminating ground and surface water.A stark reality is that just under a third of farmers interviewed could read and understand labels of pesticide packages.

To limit the risks of the increasing demand for pesticides with expanding agricultural production, Alterra with funding from the Dutch government and FAO began a project in 2010 to provide the Ethiopian government with better methods for evaluating pesticides. Wageningen UR researchers and local colleagues are developing guidelines for identifying effects of the substance on environment, on people spraying and residues in harvested products. Alterra is working with three PhD students who upon graduation will work for the body responsible for authorizing use of pesticides.

*Performance Ranking of Scientific Papers for World Universities, 2009