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Research Institution

The Desertification Research Centre (Nucleo di Ricerca sulla Desertificazione - NRD) is an Interdepartmental Centre of the University of Sassari.

Who We Are

NRD is an interdisciplinary Centre with 40 professors from the University of Sassari who deal with desertification and sustainable land management, belonging to different disciplinary areas: earth sciences, agricultural sciences, economics, biological and biomedical sciences, social sciences, legal sciences, and a staff of 20 young post-docs and managerial-administrative personnel. NRD is part of the Global Network of Dryland Research Institutes and is the operational secretariat of Desertnet International, an international association of researchers accredited to UNCCD and UNFCCC.

Our Own Experience

Since the 90s we have been carrying out experimental research in the field of international development, cooperation, and advanced training in support of the sustainable use of natural resources. For over a decade we carried out research at the Berchidda-Monti long-term observatory (NE Sardegna) to study biodiversity and ecosystem services of extensive Mediterranean silvopastoral systems, with interdisciplinary and multi-scale approaches. NRD has gained experience in research and cooperation in African and S-American countries on themes similar to those of the EWABELT project.

Giovanna Seddaiu

In EWA-BELT I am the project coordinator and I will be involved in all WPs in particular in WP2 and WP5 for developing a composite indicator of sustainable intensification. I am an associate professor of Agronomy and Crop Science at UNISS. I gained over 20 years of research experience on the interrelations between Mediterranean cropping systems, the associated ecosystem services, and their environmental impact, with a special focus on agro-silvopastoral systems. The studies referred to different spatial scales (from field to catchments and districts) and governance levels.


I am currently serving as Secretary-General of DeserNet International. From 2016 to 2019, I was the scientific responsible for UNISS in the H2020 project "FLOWERED"( During the Flowered project, I had the opportunity to travel many times in Kenya and Tanzania researching with local research institutions to find strategies to deal with fluoride contamination in cropping systems.   

Quirico Migheli


I am a full professor of Plant Pathology and currently serving as Deputy Director at the Department of Agricultural Sciences of the University of Sassari and as Director of the Desertification Research Center. I have been Vice-President of the Italian Society of Plant Pathology (2013-2015); a member of the Ph.D. School in Agricultural and forestry systems and food production; Senior Editor of the Journal of Plant Pathology (2011-2015); Editor-in-Chief of Biocontrol Science & Technology (2016-present); Chair, BSc degree in Security and International Cooperation (2016-present). My scientific interests and expertise span across plant health and food safety issues, namely: molecular diagnostics; epidemiology of fungal pathogens; molecular plant-pathogen interactions; biological control of mycotoxin-producing fungi; and risk assessment of biocontrol agents.

In EWA-BELT I will be a member of the Steering Committee and the Co-Leader of the WP3 for the introduction in the target areas of economically affordable, socially-acceptable and environmentally-friendly Integrated Pest and Diseases Management practices.

Pier Paolo Roggero

I am a full professor of Agronomy and crop science and the current Director (2020-2023) of the Department of Agricultural Sciences of the University of Sassari, as well as former Director of the Desertification Research Centre (2008-11; 2011-13; 2016-18; 2018-2020). I was the Secretary General of DeserNet International until 2020 and chaired the Italian Society of Agronomy ( from 2007 to 2011. My scientific interests and expertise are in the interdisciplinary studies on agro-sylva-pastoral systems, agri-environmental issues including water management and sustainable energy production systems, climate change adaptation, and integrated assessments of agricultural systems through field co-researching and participatory approaches.


I was the scientific responsible for UNISS of various research projects (JPI FACCE MACSUR,, JPI FACCE MAGGNET, and IC-FAR”. In EWA BELT I will be a member of the Scientific Advisory Board and will coordinate WP5 for developing a composite indicator of sustainable intensification. 

Laura Altea


I am the project manager of Ewa Belt and I also collaborate within WP5 to study the social indicators o1.4f sustainable intensification practices and technologies. 

I have an MSc in International Development and Cooperation, a Ph.D. in Environmental Sociology, and multiple years of field and head office experience in international development, with a focus on rural development, small-scale agriculture, environmental management, and climate change adaptation. I specialize in project management, drafting of project proposals, applied research, and participatory approach. I have contributed to and learned from in-country project implementation both in Africa and Latin America.

Margherita Rizzu

I am an Agronomist and Postdoctoral researcher at the Desertification Research Centre and Department of Agricultural Science of the University of Sassari. My scientific interests and expertise are centered on the mitigation of agricultural activity impacts on climate change and agri-environmental issues with particular attention to soil and irrigation water contamination. From 2016 to 2019, I collaborated on the H2020 project “FLOWERED” (, during which I carried out several missions in Kenya and Tanzania having the opportunity to visit various cropping and livestock systems of the African Rift Valley and to work in partnership with local Research Institutes to find strategies to address fluoride contamination in the food chain.


In the EWA BELT project, I am involved in particular in WP1 (Coordination and management), in WP2, focused on traditional and innovative agricultural practices, and in WP5 for developing a composite indicator of sustainable intensification.

Safa Oufensou

Safa Oufensou_Foto.jpg

I am an Agricultural engineer and Postdoctoral researcher at the Desertification Research Centre - Department of Agricultural Science, University of Sassari.

My scientific interests and expertise are focused on the search for alternative pest management approaches, including the development of natural fungicides or inhibitors of mycotoxin biosynthesis for ensuring food safety and security. In EWA-BELT I am involved in WP3, aiming at implementing effective pre- and post-harvest management strategies to minimise mycotoxin contamination in stored cereals, as well as in co-developing the PLANTHEAD remote plant disease diagnostic platform

Meron Lakew Tefera

For over 10 years, I've worked in soil fertility management, agricultural irrigation, natural resource management, climate change, farmers' venerability studies, and environment, and ecosystem services, from the experimental plot to the watershed level. As a member of a research team and the research team coordinator, I worked at the Amhara Agricultural Research Institute in Ethiopia (ARARI-GARC) (2008-2017) and the Ethiopian Technology and Innovation Institute(2019-to-date).  I earned a Master of Science degree (2017) in Natural Resource Management and Tropical Rural Development, as well as a first-level MSc degree (2020) in Agricultural Heritage System from the University of Florence, Italy, and a BSc degree (2012) in Natural Resource Management from Bahir Dar University in Ethiopia.


I am a PhD fellowship award winner at EWA- BELT, currently, working under WP3 in Ghana, Burkina Faso, and Tanzania focusing on land degradation and desertification studies with the full supervision of Professor Giovanna Seddaiu and Dr. Ing. Albero Carletti. Soil science, environmental risk assessment, climate change, drought, soil and water management, land degradation, and rehabilitation concerns are among my scientific interests and competencies.

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