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Research Projects

Research Projects


COVID-19 and the response of Ethiopian rural food systems

The project aim is to understand regional food systems, household vulnerabilities, and their transformation under the impact of the current COVID-19 crisis. The research focuses on communities near Lake Tana in northwestern Ethiopia and the capital Addis Ababa. We explore the response of smallholder production, marketing and livelihoods to the emerging crisis, and scrutinize how this relates to household vulnerabilities. The DFG-funded project is led by Professor Detlef Müller-Mahn and supported by postdoctoral fellow Dr. Million Gebreyes and doctoral student Annapia Debarry. The qualitative research is conducted in cooperation with local partners at Bahir Dar University and Addis Ababa University. read more...


Future Rural Africa: Research Profile of the Collaborative Research Centre (CRC 228)

The Collaborative Research Center (CRC) combines expertise from two complementary centers of excellence at the Universities of Bonn and Cologne to study newly emerging issues of social-ecological transformation and future-making in Africa. It takes current largescale land-use change in rural Africa as its starting point. Focusing on the two seemingly opposite, yet often mutually constitutive processes of intensification and conservation, it investigates their impact on social-ecological transformation in the context of three major growth corridors in eastern and southern Africa. While social-ecological transformation is commonly understood in relation to past processes, this CRC takes a different perspective: It conceptualizes social-ecological transformation as an expression of ‘future-making’. Resonating with current debates in the interdisciplinary field of future studies, this means that potential futures and the different ideas of how they can be realized are seen to have a decisive impact on current land-use dynamics, especially through diverse processes and politics of anticipation. ‘Future-making’ refers to physical changes as well as social practices that link the present to the future in various ways. Whereas natural scientists primarily study how a ‘future of probabilities’ is anticipated in different forms of calculation, measurements and models, the social scientists also take into account how a ‘future of possibilities’ takes shape in visions and imaginations. Together, the projects of the CRC will analyze how such different approaches to the future inform practices of large-scale land-use change, and how they relate to each other. Special emphasis will be put on surprises and unintended sideeffects of future-making, which play a key role in characterizing rural Africa today. 

The food-energy-water nexus in the Blue Nile Mountains of EthiopiaP1140702.JPG

The research team is composed of researchers from Ethiopia, Germany, USA and Italy with expertise in social-ecological systems analysis, livelihoods risks and social resilience strategies, East African ecology and agronomy, hydropower development, agricultural economics, and the climate and hydrology of the Ethiopian highlands. The approach will yield new insights on adaptation strategies in tropical mountain environments. The livelihood risks and adaptation component of the project is led by Professor Detlef Müller-Mahn with an assistance from postdoctoral fellow, Dr. Million Gebreyes. This research component uses case study based qualitative research approaches, which are carried out together with a number of PhD and Master students from Addis Ababa and Bahir Dar University. read more


Urban villages by the airport. Everyday entanglements of social-economic extremes and negotiations in anticipation of development-induced displacement in Mumbai and Abidjan.

International airports are nodal points and important economic spaces for their cities in many ways. They play a crucial role innational economic development strategies and are thus among the top priorities of urban planners, city developers and national governments. Airports also act as symbols of modernity that many governments in countries of the Global South would like to exhibit to the outside world. Read more










"Trans-local relations and the reorganization of socio-ecological systems in Kenya and South Africa" (B4).

The central aim of project B4 is to understand the impact of human migration on the social-ecological systems (SES) in migrants’ home areas. These dynamics are highly relevant for the RCR projects’ research areas as well as for the conceptual understanding of social-ecological coupling processes, because livelihoods and natural resource management are highly dependent on influences from outside the locally defined system. read more



"Violent Regulation and Social-Ecological Transformation of Wetland Ecosystems in East Africa" (B1).

The sub-project seeks to understand the dynamics of transformation of social-ecological systems of two exemplary wetland ecosystems in East Africa, namely Lake Naivasha and Lake Baringo, both situated in Kenya's Rift Valley. The respective social-ecological systems are ecologically rich but highly fragile and they have become contested arenas in which a large number of conflicting actors negotiate various critical agendas. read more



"The influence of the global cut-flower industry on the production sites at Lake Naivasha/Kenya" (B3).

As part of the interdisciplinary Research Unit FOR 1501, subproject B3 deals with Global economic influences and local labor relations in the reorganization of an agro-industrial center in Naivasha/Kenya. The major focus of the geographical part is the Global Value Chains of the booming cut flower industry and its influence as a main driver of the social ecological system at Lake Naivasha. read more



The project´s focus is to highlight in which ways the global concept of ´Adaptation to Climate Change´ is taken up by different actors and institutions in the Eastern African context. In this context, ´Adaptation to Climate Change´ is understood as a travelling idea which "travels" not only between different countries but also between entities with different objectives and interests. For further and more detailed information, please visit our project website:  


Indigenous Knowledge Climate Change Adaptation Strategies in Rural Communities Adjacent to River BasinsTheo-Project-IK
The research project focus on investigating the contributions of indigenous knowledge (IK) on climate change adaptation in Tanzania with specific focus on communities adjacent to Ngono River Basin.

Failing Seasons, Ailing Societies - Climate Change and the Meaning of Adaptation in Ethiopiaimage_mini.jpg


Temperature increase and changing rainfall patterns have been widely observed and well-documented consequences of global climate change. However, the consequences at the grassroot level remain under researched. What are the impacts on agrarian production and local livelihoods? How are commun...