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Future-Making in Rural Africa

Africa in Transition – Opportunities & Uncertainty

In large parts of rural Africa, tremendous transformation processes are currently taking place that affect millions of people and their natural livelihoods. Extensive areas are being used in new ways, new ownership structures are coming into being and new forms of production are being created. And yet, it remains largely uncertain where these many changes will lead.

The future as a process of negotiation

The future of rural Africa is open – to change, surprises, hopes, fears, speculation and contradictions.

This observation is the starting point of the newly founded Collaborative Research Centre/Transregio 228, ‘Future Rural Africa’ at the Universities of Cologne and Bonn.

The research consortium deals with the question of how the future is created and what effects different visions of the future have on current distribution and conflict situations. ‘Making the future’ is understood here above all as an interaction of social and ecological change processes, as a clash of different practices, interests and ideas.

Dr. Clemens Greiner

The different views and insights on and of the future offer an innovative approach to further the understanding of the current land use in the rural Africa.

Dr. Clemens Greiner, Senior Researcher

Land use in transition

The regional research focus is on the Kenyan Rift Valley, the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor (SAGCOT) in Tanzania and the cross-border Kavango-Zambezi Park in southern Africa (Kaza).

In Tanzania, intensified agriculture is currently seen as the solution to global hunger. Using SAGCOT as an example, the research consortium is investigating how a ‘global alliance for food security’ intends to promote industrial agriculture in an area the size of Italy.

In Kenya, transport and energy infrastructures are being expanded on a large scale in order to develop formerly peripheral regions and their resources. Lake Turkana, Africa's largest wind farm, has been built and the expansion of geothermal energy as an energy source is progressing rapidly.

With the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area, the world's largest cross-border nature reserve is to be established in southern Africa. The aim is to preserve the large wildlife populations and to develop a sustainable tourism industry.

These different processes of changes in land use superimpose and influence each other and lead to a profound redefinition of relations between people and their environment in rural Africa.

From African Studies to Virology

While social-ecological transformation processes have so far mainly resulted from the past, Transregio 228 follows a different perspective: Social-ecological transformation is understood as an expression of ‘making the future’. Thus, current debates from the interdisciplinary field of future studies are taken up and further developed.

A large number of different disciplines from the natural sciences, social sciences and the humanities, from African studies to virology, are involved. Transregio 228 deepens relations with scientific partner institutions in Africa, is committed to promoting early-career researchers and aims to develop Bonn-Cologne into a leading centre for Africa-related future and transformation research.

Prof. Dr. Michael Bollig

Only an interdiscilpinary approach, which combines natural- and social-sciences, makes it possible to gain an authentic insight into the intricate socio-economic transformations taking place in the studied region.

Prof. Dr. Michael Bollig, Institute of Ethnology