2011-2013: Sustainable Use of Natural Resources, Combating Desertification and Preventing Conflicts

With funding from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research – BMBF (Partnerships for Sustainable Solutions with Sub-Saharan Africa) the SUNARPA team started the research cooperation project “Sustainable Use of natural resources, combating desertification and preventing conflicts – establishment of linked interdisciplinary competence centres with a regional coverage and outreach for the study of pastoralist conflicts over natural resources and promotion/development of skills to advise national and regional policy makers”.

Main Objective and Approach

The main objective of the research project is to support a peaceful development in Africa through sustainable utilization of resources, combating desertification and conflict prevention and to contribute towards this by a sustainable institutionalization of African scientific expertise and competence in university centres of competence.

The project pursues a multi- and interdisciplinary and national approach and connects scientific competence in Berlin / Europe, West Africa, Sudan and in the Horn of Africa. The subject areas involved are: Social- and cultural anthropology, environmental policy, resource management and conflict research, environmental economy, communications theory, ecology, law, agriculture. In future, further disciplines will be included.

Secondary Objectives

In order to achieve the main objective, the following secondary objectives are pursued:

  • In the long term, the participating African partners are to develop into centres of competence which are sustainable and gather, concentrate and provide expertise instead of working in isolation on individual studies of local or national range.
  • The participating partners qualify themselves further as well as each other. On the one hand, new and interdisciplinary insights are being gained with a regional point of view (personal further qualification / expansion of competence), on the other hand, those universities less versed in the subject are qualified by those better informed on the subject (inter-universitary know-how transfer).
  • Within the framework of the project, all participating partners train scientific junior staff.
  • The complex interactions between Pastoralism, desertification (Climate Change) and resource conflicts are being investigated and revised in interdisciplinary cooperation. There are several more or less selectively oriented research studies and insights on the subject. The project does therefore not “start from scratch”. But since there is no actual main emphasis in research on this subject matter so immensely important for the peaceful development of Africa in either Europe or Africa, the research project gathers knowledge of the different African regions, evaluate the data and draw up a structured overview of the available knowledge but also of the gaps in the available knowledge. In order to be able to close the gaps in the available knowledge as extensively as possible, the project carries out its own field research, using the support of phd and master students.
  • Strategies for sustainable utilization of resources, combating desertification and conflict prevention are established. The knowledge gained shall not only serve to expand the competence of the participating disciplines, universities and non-universitary, relevant institutions, but also to work out and present proposals for concrete resource utilization models and –regulating mechanisms as well as strategies for political action. These strategies are to be aimed at all the different participating levels of action, at the concrete local, the regional (AU, IGAD and ECOWAS) and the political decision-making level of the participating countries.
  • Expertise is made available and advice offered to the international community, the national and regional political decision-makers and civil society.

The project generates knowledge but also disseminates knowledge in order to emphasize the importance of the subject for peace and development in Africa and to advise and qualify scientific talent, political decision-makers as well as the international community and civil society. Thus, the research project aims both gaining scientific insights as well as improve competence, or, respectively, qualification: Qualification of universities, up-and coming young scientists, political decision-makers and civil society. The responsibilities are to be concentrated in sustainable centres and institutionalized.