New Nature-Based Future Challenges thanks to philanthropic donation

Published on
March 15, 2023

Climate change, loss of biodiversity and food insecurity are threats to the global food supply and our society that require pioneering solutions. Wageningen University & Research (WUR) and the University Fund Wageningen are therefore partnering with the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) to launch a series of three Nature-based Future Challenges. Aim of these student challenges is to stimulate student teams to find solutions that mitigate climate change effects and contribute to a biodiversity positive future. The FFAR is donating over $250,000 to make this challenge a reality.

Deltas: highly productive and populated, highly vulnerable to climate change

Two of the challenges will focus on delta regions: highly populated coastal wetland regions with fragile ecosystems that are particularly susceptible to severe weather events.The third challenge will focus on concrete solutions for Africa. This continent is highly vulnerable to climate change, which results in immediate threats for human health, food and water security and socio-economic development.

One of the most impactful ways of mitigating risks for these vulnerable regions is to look for nature-based solutions. “Nature-based solutions can provide approaches to mitigate climate change, restore biodiversity and enhance food security,” said Dr. John Reich, FFAR scientific program director.

Nature-based solutions leverage the functions of ecosystems to benefit society and to address environmental and public health issues such as heat waves and flood risk. These solutions often encompass concepts such as ecosystem services, natural capital, and blue-green infrastructure, such as green roofs and walls in cities to catch rainwater and mitigate heat.

The next generation of leaders in nature-based solutions

Through these three editions of the Nature-based Future Challenges, WUR aims to foster and educate the next generation of leaders who understand the potential of nature-based solutions.

“FFAR’s contribution enables us to create the optimal context to empower a new generation of changemakers,” said Rio Pals, Manager Student Challenges WUR. “The Challenges provide inspiration and transformative pathways for decision-makers and a hopeful perspective for future generations. This is a powerful push to speed up the transition towards a nature-positive future.”

As partner in the Challenges, FFAR will leverage its network to build scientific and community leadership in U.S. universities, specifically within the Mississippi Delta Region, connecting US students and stakeholders to a global network of mentors and the nature-based solutions community. The University Fund Wageningen acted as a financial intermediary, as the challenge connects with the Fund’s aim to bring together people, funds and ideas to foster talent development and innovative research at WUR.

The Nature-based Futures Challenge in practice

In these Nature-based Future Challenges students will develop maps that illustrate the nature-based, food-secure and biodiversity-positive future for one of the selected deltas and surrounding landscapes. This also includes a supportive narrative that substantiates the nature-based future and shows anticipated and potential impacts in the next five to ten years. Successful implementation of nature-based solutions is people-centric and place-based. Through FFAR’s partnership with WUR and the University Fund Wageningen, the opportunities and connections made possible by the Challenges will be brought to the three regions.

The Challenges will run over a period of four years, with the first one starting in November 2023 and a finale in June 2024. For more information about the Challenges, upcoming events and open application details, visit the WUR Nature-based Futures Challenges page.