The United Nations University Institute for Natural Resources in Africa (UNU-INRA) is one of the 15 Research and Training Centres / Programmes of the United Nations University (UNU). The aim of the institute is to bridge the gap between science and natural resources management policies in Africa. UNU-INRA’s mandate is to contribute to the sustainable development of Africa’s natural resources in a way that maintains the quality of the natural environment and transforms lives.
The institute’s programme areas focus on the development, management and governance of Africa’s renewable and non-renewable natural resources as well as green economy promotion. UNU-INRA’s goal is to be a catalyst for knowledge creation and delivery for efficient use of Africa’s natural resources in order to improve livelihoods.
Specifically, UNU-INRA’s objectives include the following:
The institute operates from its main office in Accra, Ghana and carries out some of its programme activities through a network of Operational Units (OUs) and a College of Research Associates. The OUs consist of multidisciplinary groups of researchers located at selected institutions in five African countries: Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Namibia, Senegal, and Zambia. Each of these focuses on specific areas of natural resources management.
The institute also runs a competitive Visiting Scholars Programme that provides opportunities for researchers from the continent to undertake high quality research. UNU-INRA also collaborates with other UN agencies, multilateral and bilateral institutions to deal with natural resources challenges facing Africa.
To be the leading institution in Africa in capacity building for research in natural resources management.
To empower African universities and research institutions through capacity strengthening.
In 1985, in response to the 1980 Organization of African Unity (OAU) Lagos Plan of Action for the Economic Development of Africa, (1980–2000), the United Nations University (UNU) assembled a group of distinguished African scientists and technologists to define the role UNU could play in enhancing the ability of African universities and research institutions to contribute to finding solutions to Africa’s developmental problems.
The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) initiative also recognises the critical roles that higher education must play in the development of Africa, particularly the application of science and technology to the management and use of natural resources. African countries have also subscribed to the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Meeting the MDGs and putting together the relevant tools needed to meet the NEPAD agenda pose serious challenges to most African countries.
The NEPAD document also identifies the need to strengthen the weak research and training infrastructure in African universities and research institutions as a necessary first step to harness Africa’s human and natural resources for development through the application of science and technology. A critical element for this to occur is the application of new knowledge in science and technology by African scientists to advance the management of resources, which are being managed in a way that impacts negatively on the livelihood of the African people. The conservation, development and management of Africa’s resources in a sustainable way are critical for generating wealth to alleviate poverty.
As a result, the United Nations University Institute for Natural Resources in Africa (UNU-INRA) was established in 1986 to support the building of African capacity. It seeks to contribute to ensuring sustainable development of Africa’s natural resources, maintaining the quality of its natural environment, mitigating the effects of climate change and realising a better quality of life for the continent’s people. UNU-INRA’s main goal is to empower African universities, research institutions and individuals through capacity strengthening.
Dr. Elias Takor Ayuk is the Director of the United Nations University Institute for Natural Resources in Africa (UNU-INRA). He has over 20 years experience in sub-Saharan Africa on development issues including institutional capacity building, poverty reduction, food security, natural resources management, strategic planning and development funding.
Prior to joining UNU-INRA, Dr. Ayuk served as a Senior Programme Specialist with the Globalisation, Growth and Poverty (GGP) programme of the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) at the Regional Office for West and Central Africa, in Dakar, Senegal from 2004 to 2010, where he was responsible for project development, management and monitoring of the IDRC’s GGP program in West and Central Africa. He also served as Acting Executive Director of the Secretariat for Institutional Support for Economic Research in Africa (SISERA/IDRC), Dakar, Senegal from 2002 to 2006.
His other previous positions include Regional Senior Policy Economist and Project Leader of the agroforestry research project of the Southern African Development Community/World Agroforestry Centre (SADC-ICRAF) from 1998 to 2002 (Zimbabwe); Regional Policy Economist (1994–1998), of the Semi-Arid Lowlands of West Africa Regional program of the International Centre for Research in Agroforestry, Bamako, Mali, and Regional Economist and Country Representative (1992–1994) of the ICRAF Semi-Arid Lowlands of West Africa Regional Programme in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. Dr. Ayuk was also a Rockefeller Foundation Visiting Scientist at the International Fertilizer Development Centre – Africa Office (1990-1991, Togo). He has undertaken consultancies for the World Bank’s Soil Fertility Initiative and for UNESCO’s World Wide Fund for Nature.
He is a member of the editorial board of several international journals including, Nutrient Cycling in Agro ecosystems and Sustainability Science. He is also a member of the International Foundation of Science Scientific Advisory Committee on Social Sciences, a member of the external reference group for the African Capacity Building Foundation, ACIR Report 2013 on natural resources management, the International Association of Agricultural Economists, the Western Agricultural Economics Association, the Southern Agricultural Economics Association and the American Agricultural Economics Association.
Dr. Ayuk holds a PhD and MSc in Agricultural Economics, both from Texas A&M University, and a Bachelor degree in Economics from Hamline University (Minnesota, USA).