Junior Research Group POLISES (finished)

Global food security policies and their social-ecological side effects in regions prone to global change

Photo: R. Toth

Duration: 01.08.2014-31.10.2019

funded by BMBF in the programme Junior Research Groups Global Change 4+1


The fight against hunger is an urgent global challenge. Food security policies that focus on smallholders in developing countries enjoy substantial funding. However, only limited knowledge is available on how these policies change land use practices, whether unintended side effects may occur, and what happens under the influence of global change.


Our aims were to

  • explore the impacts of global food security policies on local land use strategies,
  • investigate the resulting social-ecological resilience of smallholding farmers and pastoralists in Africa under combined effects of different processes of global change,
  • advance the design of such policies to be appropriate for the most vulnerable groups, and
  • support social learning on global food security.

Methodological Approach, Resource Systems and Policy Instruments in Focus

We used dynamic social-ecological modelling, in particular agent-based modelling. We focussed on pastoralists in two case studies the Borana in East Africa (Ethiopia, Kenya) and Eastern High Plateau in Morocco. In this context, we explored the impact of policy instruments – in particular risk-coping mechanisms such as index-insurances, supplementary feeding and traditional ways to manage risk such as pastoral mobility and resting. In addition we investigated environment-related policies and land use policies – on the social-ecological resilience of smallholders.