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Collaborative research center (SFB) “Future Rural Africa. Future-making and social-ecological transformation”

The collaborative research center (SFB) “Future Rural Africa. Future-making and social-ecological transformation” involves researchers from different academic disciplines, ranging from agricultural economics, soil science and anthropology to political science, vegetation ecology and virology.


The German Research Foundation (DFG) will provide around 10 million euros to fund the second phase (2022-2025) of the transregional collaborative research center (SFB/TR 228) between the University of Bonn and the University of Cologne. 9 researchers associated with the Global South Studies Center participate in the center.

Other members of this joint project are the Bonn International Center for Conflict Studies (BICC), the University of Potsdam, the Charité hospital at Humboldt University in Berlin, the University of Namibia, Kenyatta University
University of Nairobi, ICIPE (International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology), Nairobi University of Dar es Salaam, British Institute in Eastern Africa, University of Cape Town amongst others.

Spokesperson is Professor Dr. Michael Bollig, University of Cologne, Co-Spokesperson is Professor Dr. Britta Klagge, University of Bonn.

The SFB/TR 228 consists of 18 subprojects devoted to specific aspects of the social-ecological transformation. Together they will investigate the connections between changes in land use and future-making in rural Africa. With their focus on “future-making”, the members of this large-scale project will adopt a perspective that is different from older approaches to social-ecological research: priority will be given to African actors and their ideas, wishes and expectations in respect of the shaping of future-oriented developments. The general concept of the project was inspired by recent debates on researching the future. It distinguishes between concepts of the future based on probabilities, forecasts and models, and concepts which consider future in the form of visions, imaginations and aspirations. While the former approach is common in the natural sciences, the latter is preferred by researchers in the social sciences. For any enquiry into “future-making” in the field of tension between probabilities and possibilities, both approaches are important. This will be kept in mind as from January 2018, when the different subprojects begin to investigate future-making in rural Africa.

In regional terms, the SFB is focused on the Kenyan Rift Valley, the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania (SAGCOT), and the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area in southern Africa. Researchers examine how the apparently contrary processes of agricultural intensification, infrastructuring, and extension of nature reserves, will affect land use in the future. They will investigate very different phenomena, such as the use of mobile phones for agricultural advisory services, the use of alternative energies, improved crop yield and “green growth”, but also land conflicts, new diseases and poverty.

Collaborative research centres are among the biggest externally funded projects in the German research landscape. They are long-term joint projects bringing together scholars from different disciplines in order to be able to carry out complex research programmes. They are expected to encourage innovations, contribute significantly to academic debates, and have a positive effect on the development of the universities at which they are based.


Professor Dr. Michael Bollig
+49 221 470-3501

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