The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a call to action for all countries, in partnership, to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. They address the global challenges we face, including poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, peace and justice. 

The SDG Challenge seeks to support diverse, transdisciplinary teams to develop transformative, sustainable solutions that will contribute to addressing development challenges under the UN SDGs in countries where Irish Aid works.  

Concept Phase Teams


Partner Country Vietnam

Challenge AI Solutions for Mangrove Blue Carbon in Vietnam 

Vietnam’s extensive mangrove forests (138,318 hectares), with a carbon sequestration rate of around ten times that of terrestrial forests, should be helping to battle climate change for the country. In addition, mangrove forests provide additional ecosystem services such as nursery and breeding grounds for a myriad of species, water filtration, sediment trapping, and coastal protection for the eight million Vietnamese citizens living along the coastline. However, 38% of mangroves have been lost in recent decades, and more data is needed to track mangrove changes and implement restoration.

Solution We propose to develop AI models that fuse satellite and drone imagery to accurately map the mangrove extent in Vietnam at a high resolution. We will develop AI models to assess the carbon storage capacity of mangrove forests, which could be used in Vietnam’s Nationally Determined Contribution. The team will also implement a mangrove monitoring system to provide real-time information on the mangrove forests’ health and help plan restoration. The research will help protect and expand the mangrove forests, capture carbon dioxide, and provide the Vietnam coastline and its residents with better protection from landslides and extreme weather. 

UN SDG Alignment

13.1 Strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters in all countries.

13.2 Integrate climate change measures into national policies, strategies and planning.

Team Dr Quan Le, University College Dublin, Dr Tuan-Quoc Vo, Can Tho University (CTU), Dr Anh-Vu Vo, University College Dublin, Dr Thuy Nguyen-Thi-Bich, The Dutch Fund for Climate and Development (DFCD), SNV


Partner Country Uganda

Challenge The future of data driven agriculture in Uganda: A design-led approach to building climate resilient futures with marginalised smallholder farmers

New technology is opening up opportunities for smallholder farmers to be integrated into the broader agri-food system. We want to help those farmers to co-design solutions to climate change specific to their locations and lives, in this case in Uganda. We hope to achieve the triple win of increased productivity, enhanced resilience and reduced emissions.

Solution We will achieve this goal through the design and development of affordable climate-smart technologies that can be used by vulnerable communities immediately. Smallholder farmers will have access to data to support their decisions. These data will come through a bespoke remote sensing network via mobile phone and community-based data translators. We will test a Futures Innovation Platform to allow smallholder farmer communities to use data to decode the changing nature of agriculture systems, and imagine future scenarios for the region – allowing forecasting to become a means of prevention and allowing the communities to work on strategies and solutions leading towards their preferred futures. 

UN SDG Alignment

Climate change (SDG13), Zero Hunger (SDG2), Clean Water and Sanitation (SDG6) are complex interrelated wicked problems for which data-based models and decision support techniques can help us better understand and solve.The project brings together, in a novel way, two existing technologies, which combined offer the opportunity to empower marginalised smallholder farmers to become data driven and futures focused, co designing mechanisms for raising capacities for effective climate change related planning and management (SDG13b).

Team Dr Annmarie Ryan, Senior Lecturer, Kemmy Business School, University of Limerick, Dr Anthony Gidudu, Dean, the School of the Built Environment (SBE) and an associate professor at the Department of Geomatics and Land Management at Makerere University (MU), Dr Eoin O’Connell, Lecturer, Faculty of Science and Engineering, University of Limerick 


Partner Country Tanzania

Challenge HEAT-ADAPT: Enhancing HEAT ADAPTive capacity in Africa’s informal settlements with nature-based solutions

More than five million people per year die of heat stress linked to the higher temperatures caused by climate change. In Dar es Salaam, the capital of Tanzania, 70% of the population are socio-economically weak and live in one of more than one hundred informal settlements with high heat exposure and low adaptive capacity – putting them at risk for heat stress. Our question is whether green infrastructure to regulate climate can be developed to work in this urban environment.

Solution HEAT-ADAPT is a grassroots project to engage stakeholders and beneficiaries to design nature-based solutions such as exterior greening and community cooling centres. These adaptations are evidence-based, socially inclusive, cheap and fit for their purpose. We will integrate them into informal communities to enhance the resilience and heat adaptive capacity of these areas, along with other benefits.

UN SDG Alignment 
13.1 Strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters in all countries.
13.3 Improve education, awareness-raising and human and institutional capacity on climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction and early warning.
3.d Strengthen the capacity of all countries, in particular developing countries, for early warning, risk reduction and management of national and global health risks.
11.7 By 2030, provide universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible, green and public spaces, in particular for women and children, older persons and persons with disabilities.

Team Dr Tobi Eniolu Morakinyo, University College Dublin, Dr Elinorata Mbuya, Ardhi University, Prof. Francesco Pilla, University College Dublin, Mr Msololo Onditi, Forum on Climate Change (FORUMCC)


Partner Country Zambia

Challenge Our project, named REHEATZ, wants to recycle heat that is currently wasted during the production and preparation of meat in Zambia. The aim is to reduce the energy, cost and carbon dioxide emissions of food products. Large volumes of hot water are used producing meat and preparing meat-based food. Most of the energy in this hot clean water at 40-50 C is discarded.

Solution We want to recycle that energy instead through the development of wastewater heat recovery technology (WWHR). With WWHR, the energy used to heat the cold water for food service use will be brought back into the local heating system, lowering the cost of food production and reducing energy and carbon dioxide emissions. REHEATZ offers a viable developing country solution for Zambia as it develops low-cost technology for the benefit of the local community.

UN SDG Alignment 

13 Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.

Specifically the project contributes to target 13.2.2 aiming to help countries reduce their total greenhouse gas emissions per year, via lowering the contribution arising from food production. The project will also contribute to target 13.3 by raising awareness and building human and institutional capacity on the potential for climate change mitigation in food production via the recovery of heat from wastewater.

Team Prof. Aonghus McNabola, Trinity College Dublin (Team Lead), Dr. Godfrey Hampwaye, Southern African Institute for Policy and Research (Zambia) (Partner Country Team Lead), Prof. Padraig Carmody, Trinity College Dublin (Team Co-Lead), Ms. Mangiza Chirwa Chongo, Hivos Zambia (Societal Impact Champion)


Partner Country Malawi

Challenge Supporting climate-resilient health facilities in Malawi through sustainable access to water using solar disinfection of harvested rainwater: the SURGWater Project

The climate crisis makes reliable access to water unpredictable in regions such as sub-Saharan Africa, where the most vulnerable populations life. More than 17 million women per year give birth in healthcare facilities without adequate water, putting their lives and those of their babies at risk. These healthcare facilities are often the only place where rural communities can access health services, but without water, life-saving surgeries cannot be carried out. The patients face emergency referral, and delays resulting in death.

Solution We want to work on a sustainable low-energy solution. The SURGWater transdisciplinary team proposes to use solar water disinfection batch reactors to treat harvested rainwater, providing a back-up supply. We will develop a prototype adapted to the needs of district healthcare facilities in Malawi, where the team has a background of experience and research. We will evaluate feasibility, effectiveness and adoption of the solar water disinfection technology in clinical settings with a view to informing national scale-up.

UN SDG Alignment

13 Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

Team Prof. Kevin McGuigan, RCSI, Prof. Christabel Yollandah Kamballa, Malawi University of Business and Applied Sciences, Dr. Jakub Gajewski, RCSI, Dr Martin Wesian


Partner Country Tanzania

Challenge Water management through ECOhydrology for climate change ADAPTation in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania (WECOAdapt)

WECOAdapt is exploring the relationship between urban development, water and the ecosystem in Tanzania. It will enhance the resilience of communities vulnerable to climatic and anthropogenic stress. WECOAdapt focuses on reducing and preventing negative impacts of floods and droughts and of unsustainable urban development. It will work on reversing the degradation of water and land resources, and the decline in biodiversity.

Solution In different parts of the project will: validate and test ecohydrology models in five pilot sites in Dar es Salaam; co-design adaptation pathways and options with the community and stakeholders in five Water-Land-Climate Co-design labs (applying a participatory backdating methodology); and co-develop sustainable adaptation finance mechanisms for supporting the implementation of adaptation options. WECOAdapt will bring a new approach to adaptation planning to improve management of drought and floods and the understanding of ecosystems of sub-Saharan cities.

UN SDG Alignment

13 Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

Team Liana Ricci, University College Dublin, Gabriel Kassenga, Ardhi University, Tanzania, Fiachra O'Loughlin, University College Dublin, Timothy Ndezi, Centre for Community Initiatives, Tanzania