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POLISES Welcomes First International Guest Scholar

by David

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Mohammed Mahdi, Professor of Rural Sociology at Morocco’s National School of Agriculture ENA in Meknès, was a guest of the POLISES group in Leipzig for ten days.

This period of intensive collaboration took off with a presentation by Gunnar on Monday morning. He showed how computer models can help understand the causes of polarisation among nomads in Eastern Morocco through a systematic variation of multiple model parameters. This presentation enabled a first discussion on the perpetually challenging back-and-forth between two different realities: those in the model world, and those in the empirical world as seen by a social scientist.

Later in the first week, Mohammed gave an inspiring talk on ‘Settlement as a form of adaptation to desertification and climate change’ where he presented his newest findings from the field in the Moroccan plateaus to interested UFZ colleagues. The focus was on current trends and developments of nomadic pastoralism there. These concern land use (rangeland / agriculture), the link between mobility and settlement, and the likely effects state interventions (through development projects and programs of assistance) will have on rangeland management.

The Tropentag conference in Berlin was the finale of this visit, an international conference on the theme of food security where we (Mohammed and David) presented a poster on the High Atlas, listened to many interesting presentations and provocative keynote lectures, and got to know colleagues with similar research interests. Moreover, Birgit gave an oral presentation on the latest modelling results regarding polarisation (with Falk, Gunnar, and Karin as co-authors) that was received well by the audience. In cooperation with VSF Germany, conference participants were also able to try out our NomadSed board game between the sessions.

I am very much looking forward to receiving our next guest scholars here at the UFZ.

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