Professor Steve Banwart, 1959-2023

It is with great sadness that we share this tribute to the Global Food and Environment Institute (GFEI) founder and much-loved colleague, Professor Steve Banwart, 1959 - 2023.

Colleagues will be sorry to learn of the death, on 30 December 2023, of Professor Steve Banwart, Director of the Global Food and Environment Institute and Dean for Global Development.

Steve was an expert in soil and water resource protection for food security. His research focused on the role of soil carbon in sustainable agriculture production and climate action.

Through his role as Director of the Global Food and Environment Institute, Steve worked with global partner networks in Europe, Southern and Eastern Africa, East Asia and North and South America. His vision for the Institute was to tackle some of the most significant societal challenges of the 21st Century through contribution towards achieving resilient food systems that balance and meet the combined objectives of providing food security, environmental sustainability and dietary health for all people.

He played a pivotal role in the development of the University Farm, with the aim of creating a highly connected digital agrifood campus for net zero agriculture, to transform productive engagement with education, research facilities, industry, government and citizens worldwide.

He was also a very strong advocate for and an active member of the FSNet programme and the University's strategic global partnerships with the University of Pretoria and Nanjing University.

He was active in science diplomacy with strong ties to Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) activities, building knowledge partnerships in regions around the world.

He was the academic lead for global engagement of the Northern 8 Universities AgriFood programme, participating in science and innovation missions overseas to launch the UK-China Agritech Strategy and led the 2017 UK agritech science mission to Argentina. 

He was instrumental in the development of the UKRI-NSF China Newton Fund research programme on protecting the ecosystem services of soil and water resources. As part of this programme, he was the UK lead for the project on peri-urban agriculture in China.

He co-authored the 2012 UNEP Yearbook emerging issues chapter Benefits of Soil Carbon and chaired the subsequent Scientific Committee of Problems of the Environment (SCOPE) International Rapid Assessment Process project on Benefits of Soil Carbon for Science, Policy and Management.

He was the principal investigator of the European Commission Large Integrating Project on soil transformations in European catchments (SoilTrEC), which brought together partners in Europe, China and North America.