Issue #16: December 2020


Nutrients are the basic building block of life. More than half the 7 Billion people on the planet are alive today, thanks to innovations on nutrients for agriculture and food. Inefficient use of nutrients has far reaching and cross cutting impacts – Water quality, Air quality, Greenhouse gases, Biodiversity and Soil quality.


Message from GPNM Chair:

As the year comes to a close, it is time to reflect on what has been a strange year with the pandemic disrupting activities throughout the world. Although members of the Global Partnership for Nutrient Management have not been able to meet in person, digital technology has ensured that the meetings and discussions were held on schedule and in fact, seem to have attracted many more participants than otherwise. In this sense, it has been a fairly successful year.

In March 2019, the UNEA-4 adopted the Resolution on Sustainable Nitrogen Management. Approximately forty countries are part of the working group and the first meeting of the working group was held on 7-8th June 2020. The progress report is scheduled to be presented by the UNEA-6 in 2023, in which GPNM is playing a key role. Any suggestions/ activities by the Member countries is welcome.

As part of the growing nutrient challenge, phosphorus is an irreplaceable element essential for life-growth. Excess phosphorus mobilization has resulted in widespread eutrophication of freshwaters and coastal waters. In this connection, ‘Our Phosphorus Future’ is being developed as a Book is worth mentioning.

2020 saw a series of webinars on Sargassum and Phosphorus. The Sargassum webinars reviewed the challenges, responses, and collaboration in West Africa and the Caribbean. In the case of phosphorus, the focus was on the sustainable management of phosphorus in the Great Lakes.

Midway through the year, the 2nd Joint Global Partnership on Nutrients Management (GPNM) and Global Wastewater Initiative (GWI) was held. Linkages with other UN organisations were also strengthened with participation in the FAO webinar in December. GPNM is also gaining strength through its partnerships with private sector engagement, exploring collaboration with PhosAgro (the largest phosphorus company in Russia) and others.

I would like to extend my gratitude to all the Members of the Steering Committee who have been a pillar of support in this difficult year. Mahesh Pradhan’s hard work in coordination of all the activities of the GPNM is much appreciated as is Milcah Ndegwa’s inexhaustible zest in her work with the GPNM.

As we come to the end of this fairly successful year despite the challenges, I would like to wish everyone the best in the new year 2021. There may be a vaccine in sight for Covid-19 but there is no vaccine for the planet, as the UN Chief said recently. Let us affirm that we will make greater efforts in nutrient management for a cleaner, safer and healthy planet.

FAO/UNEP Webinar “Nitrogen Challenges in Agri-food systems: Halve Nitrogen Waste by 2030”

On 7th December 2020, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) jointly organized the webinar entitled “Nitrogen Challenges in Agri-food systems: Halve Nitrogen Waste by 2030”. This webinar was the first of a series of webinars that will be organized to promote sustainable nitrogen management through science and policy. The collaboration to address these challenges and move towards sustainable and inclusive agri-food systems are in line with the areas of mutual interest highlighted in the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between FAO and UNEP, recently amended and extended until 2024.

The virtual event aimed to raise awareness of the nitrogen challenges and potential technical solutions and policies for sustainable nitrogen management in agriculture. “The urgency with which nitrogen threats must be mitigated while preserving the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people require strong policy responses and commitments of FAO Member nations. Sustainable nitrogen management requires the implementation of technical solutions and policies across the agricultural value chains,”. This event was an opportunity to discuss the implementation of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) resolution (UNEP/EA.4/L.14) on sustainable nitrogen management, which recognizes the importance of global coordination and collaboration to tackle nitrogen challenges across landscapes and seascapes and to achieve Sustainable Development Goals.

During the webinar, five keynote presentations provided an overview of the magnitude of the nitrogen issues and policy solutions to reduce multiple nitrogen threat on the environment. Some practical solutions to reducing nitrogen waste from agriculture were highlighted among others: improving nutrient use efficiency of crops through germplasm screening and breeding, enhancing crop rotation, using nitrogen-fixing legume species, improving soil biodiversity, improving manure management systems, and feed production and feed use efficiency in livestock systems.

International Nitrogen Assessment Meeting

On 30th November-2nd December & 8th December-10th December 2020, the First International Nitrogen Assessment Meeting (INA-1) was virtually convened as a follow up to the previous plenary International Nitrogen Management System (INMS) meetings and 2020 UNEP Nitrogen Working Group meeting in June 2020.

The aim of these workshop sessions was to give the INMS community a first view of the proposed content of each chapter of the International Nitrogen Assessment (INA) report, to enable reflection on potential gaps and to provide regional or other perspectives. The sessions were intended as a ‘workshop style meeting where Coordinating Lead Authors (CLAs) were not only presenting finished products, but rather progress made on, and early-stage plans for, their respective chapters.

This ‘International Nitrogen Assessment (INA) drew together outcomes from tools development (INMS Component 1), model application, scenarios, mitigation (Component 2), and regional demonstrations (Component 3). The outputs are expected to be important in helping raise global awareness (Component 4). There are ongoing Outline negotiations with Cambridge University Press which will provide the basis to publish a high impact volume in 2022, including costs to allow open access publication of the INA. It is anticipated to produce a volume of approximately 650 pages with circa 30 chapters, overall structured as 5 main parts.

As a way to promote inclusivity, openness and shared expertise as the INA is developed, we are hereby inviting nominations for Peer Reviewers and Additional Contributing Authors for the INA. The deadline for applications is 7th January 2021 at 10:00 AM GMT. We highly encourage all qualified colleagues from our diverse communities to apply for these roles. More information, and the web-form to apply, can be found here: https://www.inms.international/ina-nominations-peer-reviewers-additional-contributing-authors


Sargassum in the Wider Caribbean Region - challenges, responses, and synergies

#4 Sargassum webinar flier

On 30 November 2020, the UNEP’s Global Partnership on Nutrients Management (GPNM) and UNEP’s Science Division in collaboration with Cartagena Convention organized the Fourth Sargassum webinar, entitled ‘Sargassum in the Wider Caribbean Region - Challenges, responses, and synergies with focus on the wider Caribbean region. By 2018, the Caribbean witnessed the largest macro algae bloom recorded in history, an 8, 850 km long mass extending from the central Atlantic and Caribbean Sea to West Africa and the Gulf of Mexico. Belts of Sargassum, circulated by ocean currents, regularly wash ashore in the Caribbean now, where they rot on the beaches, giving off a strong, sulfurous stench. The objective of this webinar was to provide an update of Sargassum situation from countries in the region, and build synergies amongst countries, UN Agencies and other stakeholders in addressing the Sargassum challenge through integrated approaches in line with the 2030 Agenda, the Paris Agreement, biodiversity and ecosystems, as well as chemicals related international multilateral agreements.

Over 650 registered for this webinar, with 358 participating in the nearly 2-hour interactive webinar. Discussions included, amongst others, Introduction to the Cartagena Convention – Regional Sargassum White paper and the science policy interface; Country updates: Sargassum challenges, responses and synergies from Barbados, Guadeloupe, Trinidad & Tobago, Dominican Republic, and Mexico. As well as ONE UN Approach from UNDP and FAO.

Meeting report is available here

Meeting panelist.


Sargassum challenges, responses, and collaboration in West Africa

On 22 September 2020, the UNEP’s Global Partnership on Nutrients Management (GPNM) and UNEP’s Science Division in collaboration with UNEP’s Abidjan Convention and IOC-UNESCO organized the third Sargassum webinar, entitled ‘Sargassum challenges, responses, and collaboration in West Africa’, where Sargassum is becoming an increasingly regional phenomenon, negatively impacting aquatic resources, fisheries, waterways, and shorelines. This webinar featured an overview of Sargassum challenges in West Africa from the Abidjan Convention Secretariat, followed by leading experts from some of the affected countries in West Africa, namely Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone. The webinar provided a platform to share information, build knowledge, promote best practices and develop ocean governance collaboration in combating the Sargassum challenge in West Africa, taking into account the upcoming COP13 of the Abidjan Convention and the Fifth Session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA5).

Meeting Panelists

Over 450 registered for the webinar, with 250 participating in the nearly 2-hour interactive webinar. Discussions included, amongst others, The Abidjan Convention – Regional Sargassum Framework for West Africa; and Country updates – Sargassum challenges and responses from Sierra Leone, Côte d'Ivoire, Benin, Nigeria and Ghana.

Meeting report is available here


Demonstrating the Need for Sustainable Phosphorus Management in Lakes: Global Case Studies

On 9th September 2020, the UNEP GPA Global Partnership on Nutrients Management (GPNM) and the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (UK-CEH) organized a joint webinar entitled “Demonstrating the Need for Sustainable Phosphorus Management in Lakes: Global Case Studies”. This webinar provided an opportunity to discuss the key issues, responses and collaborations that are needed to support sustainable phosphorus management, within the context of case studies from lake regions across Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America. Highlights included environmental and socio-economic gains that stand to be won through sustainable phosphorus management which relieves the burden of phosphorus pollution on lakes and their catchments. In addition, the webinar served as a prelude to the upcoming report: “Our Phosphorus Future”, which aims to provide scientific consensus from the global scientific phosphorus community on how to best deliver phosphorus security.

The webinar had nearly 700 registrations, with 376 attendees in the nearly 2-hour interactive webinar. Starting with a global overview of Sustainable Phosphorus Management, case studies on demonstrating the need for sustainable phosphorus management in lakes from Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America were presented, followed by stakeholder reflections from the industry and scientific community.

Webinar panelist

Meeting report is available here


The Science of Sargassum

Credit: National geographic

On 21st July 2020, the UNEP GPA Global Partnership on Nutrients Management (GPNM) and the UNEP Science Division in partnership with IOC/UNESCO, and the international program Global Harmful Algal Blooms (GlobalHAB, of IOC and SCOR - the Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research-) organized a second webinar entitled “The Science of Sargassum”. The purpose of this webinar was to explore on the scientific knowledge we have and the challenges we face in understanding and assessing Sargassum occurrences. The webinar featured leading experts from different institutions working on Sargassum. Outcomes of the Webinar will contribute to the development of a white paper to feed into the planned Open Science Meeting of the Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection (GESAMP), GlobalHAB and other international institutions and projects.

Meeting panelist

Over 600 registered for the webinar, with 400 participating in the nearly 2-hour interactive webinar. Discussions included, amongst others, the issue of high arsenic content in Sargassum for agricultural use or general disposal; potential uses for Sargassum and the production capacity given the sheer quantity of the seaweed that is washed up on the shorelines of the Caribbean; major causes of eutrophication leading to the Central Atlantic Sargassum bloom; and complementary large scale satellite observation datasets used to make some type of correlation to the Sargassum bloom intensity and occurrence.

Meeting report is available here

Food Systems Task Team Meeting

Credit: CGIAR System Organization

“A food system gathers all the elements (environment, people, inputs, processes, infrastructures, institutions, etc.) and activities that relate to the production, processing, distribution, preparation and consumption of food and the outputs of these activities, including socio-economic and environmental outcomes.” Further “A sustainable food system (SFS) is a food system that delivers food security and nutrition for all in such a way that the economic, social and environmental bases to generate food security and nutrition for future generations are not compromised”.

Moving towards more sustainable food systems is critical. Urgent attention is required to address existing challenges, as well as new and evolving demands on our food systems. United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is committed to accelerating action through its Sustainable Food Systems programme of activities which aim to raise awareness as well as catalyse action at local, regional and international level.

On 19th November 2020, Mahesh Pradhan participated in the Food Systems Task Team Meeting and gave a presentation on ''Nutrients Management: The challenge to produce more food and energy with less pollution''. With the increased demand for food by growing population, the world needs more nutrients, especially nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P), which are essential to raise crops and animals to feed an increasing world population. Research shows that developing countries may account for ¾ of global nutrient consumption by 2050, contributing to a further increase in global nutrient production of 40% to 50%.

Efforts are ongoing through the adopted resolution during the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-4) on Sustainable Nitrogen Management, which calls on exploration of the options for better management of the global nitrogen cycle and how they could help to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals; as well as Coordinate existing platforms for assessment of the multiple environmental, food and health benefits of possible goals for improved nitrogen management.

Sargassum Uses Guide: A resource for Caribbean researchers, entrepreneurs and policy makers

Source: Centre for Resource Management and Environmental Studies (CERMES)

On 20th September 2020, Anne Desrochers developed a publication entitled: Sargassum Uses Guide: A resource for Caribbean researchers, entrepreneurs and policy makers. Download the publication here


Linking land based activities with ecosystem dynamics and nutrient management of the Pulicat Lagoon in India


On 9th December 2020, UNEP signed a contract with National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, India to the demonstration project entitled ''Linking land based activities with ecosystem dynamics and nutrient management of the Pulicat Lagoon in India''. The purpose of this project is to implement a demonstration project aimed at identifying potential options for agricultural management surrounding Pulicat Lagoon to reduce greenhouse gas emission, nutrient loads and lessen future algal bloom events in the Lagoon. Considering the existing land use practices, multiple watershed models will be applied to examine the ability of a series of land management scenarios, developed in consultation with agricultural and environmental stakeholders, to reach the proposed targets. Additionally, existing agricultural practices (selective classes), soil mineralization and net N loss around the Lagoon will be assessed for prioritizing Crop Management to increase Nitrogen Use Efficiency (NUE) and restrict Cultural Eutrophication in Pulicat Lagoon.

The project runs up-to 30 June 2021.


Tackling solid and liquid waste pollution, particularly from wastewater and nutrients, across the County of Vihiga in Kenya


The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) under the Global Partnership of Nutrients Management (GPNM) an Vihiga County Government in Kenya signed an agreement to implement a demonstration project aimed at tackling solid and liquid waste pollution, particularly from wastewater and nutrients, across the County of Vihiga.

Project activities include:

  1. Develop the County Environmental Action Plan anchoring matters on Solid and Liquid waste management
  2. Review and Finalize the Vihiga Solid and Liquid Waste Management Policy.
  3. Assist the County in developing a holistic waste management strategy for short, medium and long-term.
  4. Organize training and capacity-building activities on tackling wastewater and nutrient pollution, as well as on the reuse and recycling of waste.
  5. Organize a final stakeholders workshop for dissemination of lessons learned, especially to other Counties.



Sri Lanka Status Report on Sustainable Nitrogen Management

This status report was developed by the Land Resource Division of the Ministry of Mahaweli Development and Environment of Sri Lanka is released on the occasion of launching of the United Nations Global Campaign on Sustainable Nitrogen Management through a High-Level Segment and Science–Policy–Political Dialogue, to be held from 23-24 October 2019 in Colombo. The content of this document is based on a broader stakeholder consultation comprising state, private sector and non-governmental organizations, and a desk review on information available on public domain. The report also provides an account of research outcome in many sectors, with suggestions for effective nitrogen management. The information provided are not exhaustive but a representation of the various economic sectors of the country where nitrogen is used as an input in various forms. While making an attempt to assess the current status of nitrogen management in Sri Lanka, the report will benefit the global efforts for quantifying the net economic benefits for food and energy production, freshwater and marine environmental quality, air quality, greenhouse gas mitigation and stratospheric ozone depletion mitigation. This status report is also expected to provide a guide for policy and strategic planning to achieve the goals of sustainable nitrogen management, contributing to a comprehensive global strategy on nitrogen management.

Full report is available here

Impacts of Sand and Dust Storms on Oceans: A Scientific Environmental Assessment for Policy Makers

Each year, an estimated two billion tonnes of dust is raised into the atmosphere. According to the report, Impacts of Sand and Dust Storms on Oceans: A Scientific Environmental Assessment for Policy Makers, even the smallest elements can have substantive effects on ecosystem functioning – and on the Earth system, at large.

Full report is available here


Workshop: Sargassum Watch (NOAA) Data collecting tools, 21-22 January 2021

Webinar 5: Sargassum Challenges and Responses, First quarter 2021 (tbc)

Webinar 2: FAO and UNEP joint webinar , March 2021 (tbc)

13th GPNM Steering Committee Meeting, April/May 2021 (tbc)

UN Food Systems Summit, Sept 2021

The 26th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 26) to the UNFCCC, 01 - 12 November 2021


The Global Partnership on Nutrient Management (GPNM) is a multi-stakeholder partnership comprising of governments, the private sector, the scientific community, civil society organizations and UN agencies committed to promoting effective nutrient management (with a focus on nitrogen and phosphorus) to achieve the twin goals of food security through increased productivity and conservation of natural resources and the environment. UN Environment, through the Coordination Office of the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities (GPA), provides the Secretariat of GPNM. Read more at: www.nutrientchallenge.org. For more information contact Mahesh Pradhan at mahesh.pradhan@un.org or Milcah Ndegwa at milcah.ndegwa@un.org

JOIN the GPNM! Access the application form here.

Website: https://www.unenvironment.org/explore-topics/oceans-seas/what-we-do/addressing-land-based-pollution/global-partnership-nutrient

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