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Future Rural Africa:Future-making and social-ecological transformation

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Project Title:
Future Rural Africa: Future-making and social-ecological transformation

Project duration (Phase 1): 2018 - 2021


Africa´s future is the object of expectations, dreams, fears and contestations. It emerges from the present, but it is not completely contingent. This is the starting point of the collaborative research center (CRC): Future-making, the CRC´s key concept, means that ideas of the future are envisioned and translated into plans, policies, and spatial transformations. They materialize along newly emerging development corridors, shifting bio-cultural frontiers and large-scale land-use changes. The CRC addresses the intricate relationship between future-making and social-ecological transformation. It combines expertise from different academic disciplines, ranging from geography, anthropology, and agronomy to political science, vegetation ecology and virology. It is based at the University of Bonn, in cooperation with the University of Cologne. Other members of this joint project are the Bonn International Center for Conversion (BICC), the University of Münster, the Charité hospital at Humboldt University in Berlin, and many cooperation partners in Africa.
The three study sites selected as examples for the CRC´s inception phase all have a connection to growth corridors, but in different ways. In particular, the projects concentrate on three different examples:

  1. The Kenyan Rift Valley (KRV) in relation to the “Lamu Port – South Sudan – Ethiopia” (LAPSSET) corridor
  2. The Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania (SAGCOT)
  3. The Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA) in southern Africa and its links to the Trans-Caprivi corridor that was recently expended to form the Walvis Bay-Ndola-Lubumbashi Development Corridor (WBNLDC).

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For more details please visit Furture Rural Africa project website


Contribution of ILR

ILR contributes in the following projects:

Project A03: Agro-Futures: Scales of variability, human-environment interactions, and patterns in agro landscapes
To meet the growing food demand, several African countries opt for intensification by focusing crop production on high-potential areas and by increasing the size of the production units. However, the challenges for achieving crop intensification vary with the scales considered. Capital-intensive, large-scale land-use changes can enhance regional-scale agricultural production but rarely consider variations in resource base quality and the dynamics of hydrological regimes, and may no longer meet the multiple demands of diverse actors. Prevailing spatial-temporal differences in climatic, edaphic and (socio)hydrological attributes, in production unit-specific resource endowments, and in market attributes are likely to increase variabilities at the plot and household scales. The resulting risks and uncertainties on the one hand and expectations on the other present a disincentive for individual production units to participate in intensification strategies. Such considerations of the size and scale dependency of variability and its implications for future crop production will be empirically tested for lowland rice intensification in the Kilombero floodplain in Tanzania. We will follow land-use change processes over a 12-year period, covering the envisioned change towards “sustainable intensification” between 2018 and 2030. Socio-hydrological dynamics, farm/plot size dependent variability in yield and resource-use efficiency, productivity, market opportunities and environment-actor interactions will be assessed.

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The research within A03 will be conducted under the supervision of

Project B01: Invasive Futures: The social ecology of rangelands in changing savanna environments
This project aims to characterize and classify current rangeland scenarios along biophysical and social-economic gradients and under different invasion conditions (species, intensity, and spread dynamics), and to project future trends in pasture uses and their social-ecological implications. To test the hypothesis that rangeland systems will differentially evolve in different social-ecological settings and be affected by the spread of invasive/encroaching plants, the project will address the following objectives:

  1. Invasion dynamics:- Establish an inventory of major invasive/encroaching species and attributes of associated pasture vegetation and assess triggers, drivers, and dynamics of invasive spread
  2. Rangeland typology:- Assess and model biomass dynamics of rangelands, categorize rangeland quality and forage availability both seasonally and inter-annually, and determine phenology and digestibility of major species and (emerging) vegetation formations along biophysical gradients and with varying management regimes.
  3. Socio-economic implications:- Determine actual and perceived risks and coping strategies of major rangeland user groups and infer implications of economic mobility on future-related behaviour (social-ecological feed backs)

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The research within B01 will be conducted under the supervision of

Project Z03 Combined Farm/Household Survey
Across the three study areas of the CRC, a number of projects collaborate in the collection and use of primary data on farm-household characteristics. Such data is essential for answering the research questions of various CRC projects including A01, A03, A04, B01, B04, C01, C02, C03, and C06 for example: Will conservation contribute to well-being and declining poverty levels? Will agricultural intensification create more wealth? How is educational status/gender/age of individuals related to household decisions and related outcomes? How is migration of household members linked to future making processes? The surveys are designed to address both comparative and project-specific research questions. During the first phase, the focus lies on project-specific research questions, but comparison is pertinent in a number of projects already early on and address issues such as differences in rural development or land use trends and farm-household responses to such trends in terms of future making strategies and their outcomes.

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The research within Z03 will be conducted under the supervision of

Staff at ILR working on the project

Principal investigators
Prof. Dr. Thomas Heckelei, ILR, University of Bonn  

PhD students
Bisrat Haile Gebrekidan, ILR, University of Bonn
Martin Paul jr. Tabe-Ojong, ILR, University of Bonn


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Journal articles, working papers and conference contributions related to the project

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Last updated: Tuesday, March 10, 2020