Solution-Oriented Research for Development programme: 7 projects funded

© r4d | Enrico Celio

From cocoa agroforestry to traditional medicine: 7 transdisciplinary research projects in collaboration with developing countries were selected for funding in the first call of the programme, for a total amount of CHF 6.4 million.

The Solution-Oriented Research for Development (SOR4D) programme is a joint funding scheme of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the SNSF. It promotes new approaches and different dynamics in transdisciplinary research among researchers and development actors, thereby advancing development. The programme aims at generating solutions, innovations and better knowledge to foster sustainable development and reduce poverty in the least developed and low- and middle-income countries. 75 pre-proposals were submitted in May 2022 in response to the first SOR4D call. In a two-step evaluation process, relying on an international and transdisciplinary evaluation panel and international external experts, 17 proposals were invited to submit a full proposal. Of these, 7 projects were selected for funding under a total budget of 6.4 million francs.

Wide array of disciplines

SOR4D projects are thematically open but must contribute directly to the objectives of sustainable development. The selected projects cover a wide array of disciplines from agricultural engineering, applied psychology, environmental sciences, human ecology, public health to social geography.

In one project, a team from Switzerland and Ghana tackles the problem of unsustainable monocultures in cocoa farming using an approach grounded in agroforestry - dynamic agroforestry - that integrates improved environmental health and human wellbeing. The team’s objective is to support the development of effective dynamic agroforestry programmes with local stakeholders that can make cocoa farming attractive again for the farmers in general, and for women and young people in particular. Furthermore, they will increase awareness about dynamic agroforestry and its benefits to policymakers with the aim of promoting its uptake at national level.

Another project focuses on traditional medicine. It addresses the loss of its natural, cultural and intellectual resources and contributes to its role as part of future primary health care, as a source of innovation, and as a socially and environmentally stabilising cultural heritage. The transdisciplinary project team is composed of researchers from the University of Zurich, the Bishop Stuart University Mbarara, the Makerere University in Kampala and practice partners from the NGO PROMETRA Uganda and the Uganda National Museum.

Transdisciplinary research and sustainable development

In addition to promoting cooperation between researchers in Switzerland and in developing countries, the SOR4D programme enables the research community to work hand in hand with practitioners, policymakers and end users on the ground. The local development actors form an integral part of the project consortium. With this approach, the programme not only ensures dissemination of research results, but also their direct application and pilot testing in view of future upscaling.

The SOR4D programme is a new funding scheme. According to Pierre Willa, head of Thematic Research of the SNSF, “SOR4D is an inspiring joint initiative between SDC and SNSF and a programme with clear transdisciplinary objectives. It will enable the SNSF to develop its funding portfolio to better support the translation of research results towards implementation. The aim is rapid impact on our society, which is particularly urgent in the area of sustainable development”.