News archive 2021

Co-productive agility and four collaborative pathways to sustainability transformations. Global Environmental Change. Graphic by Visual Knowledge VK

Fostering agility to diversify science, music, and society

In a new publication, a group of researchers - including Julie Zähringer from CDE and led by Josie Chambers from Wageningen University - outline critical processes for turning tensions into new relations that foster sustainability transformations. They reflect on what it means to navigate differences in agile ways at the intersection of science, music and society. More information

Food store

Scenarios for a sustainable food system in Switzerland

The current food system in Switzerland has considerable environmental, social, and economic impacts – especially beyond the country’s borders. A new project aims to develop scenarios for a sustainable food system and political strategies that explore the potential for improvement and change in the current system. More information

CLOC launched

Just launched: CLOC East Africa and the Horn

This network of researchers and institutions aims to foster North–South partnerships for research and education. It works to strengthen the capacities needed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations 2030 Agenda and Africa’s strategic framework, Agenda 2063. More information

Laos: New digital data sharing platform

Government of Laos launches new digital data sharing platform for development planning

The Lao Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry together with SDC launched a new online information platform. Developed through the Lao Knowledge for Development initiative, supported by CDE, the platform releases official data and information from across thematic sectors. More information

The future is now!

Time is running short: We have only nine years left to achieve the goals of the 2030 Agenda. What does this mean? How do we best use this time? Bern’s three universities showcased their contributions at their joint Sustainability Day on 5 November 2021. More information in German

Commodity and gold trading

Conference on commodity and gold trading: How can illicit financial flows be curbed?

At the invitation of several research institutes, a conference on illicit financial flows in commodity trading was held today at the University of Bern. The results of two research projects were discussed with representatives from science, policy, industry and civil society, and courses of action were identified. More information

Steps towards food democracy

The new “Manual for Participatory Food System Sustainability Assessments and Transformation” offers an introduction to multidimensional assessment of food systems. It is based on experiences from action research carried out by scientists and practitioners from CDE together with their partners in Africa and South America. More information

“Large land deals have become a risk factor for pandemics”

“We see business as usual that continues to destroy rainforests and natural habitats.” So concludes the third and latest analytical report of the Land Matrix Initiative. A potential post-Covid boom would also increase the risk of new pandemics, says CDE scientist Markus Giger, one of the main authors of the report. More information

Traditional irrigation

Traditional irrigation in Europe as cultural heritage

Traditional irrigation systems created and continue to create unique cultural landscapes across Europe. In a new project, CDE and the Institute of Geography, University of Bern, are researching and documenting these systems. More information in German

Anne Zimmermann und Karl Herweg

Education, a lever for far-reaching change

Without them, education for sustainable development at the University of Bern and CDE itself would not be what they are today: Anne Zimmermann and Karl Herweg. More information

Out and About Sustainably in Bern

"Nachhaltig unterwegs in Bern" ("Out and About Sustainably in Bern") is a sustainable city guide for students at the University of Bern. The guide was produced by CDE and invites students to consider what they need for a good, satisfying life. More information

The future is now!

Time is running short: We have only nine years left to achieve the goals of the 2030 Agenda. What does this mean? How do we best use this time? Bern’s three universities will showcase their contributions at their joint Sustainability Day on 5 November 2021. More information in German

Fire ban

Forest fire risk awareness and communication

As the climate warms, weather extremes are becoming more frequent. This is increasing the risks of forest fires on the northern side of the Alps – and the need for effective prevention. In a new project, CDE researchers are examining risk awareness and behaviour of different actors in the Swiss canton of Bern. The aim is to develop targeted communication strategies and materials. More information


How can the solidarity economy help promote organic farming?

From 2016 to 2018, a CDE research project investigated to what extent solidarity-based economic strategies in Switzerland and its neighbouring countries can help promote organic farming. A conference on 17 September 2021 in Bern will provide input and discussion on this topic. More information in German or French

SDGs UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

Academy 2030: playfully explore the 2030 Agenda

Focusing on SDGs 3, 15, and 16 (“Health”, “Land”, and “Conflict”) in Ethiopia and Kenya, the Academy 2030 platform offers entry points to understanding complex systems.

Karina Liechti

“State recognition of commoners’ organizations is extremely important”

Communal property has been a tradition in Switzerland since the Middle Ages. But what about today – are collective bodies and their resources still relevant in mountain regions? Researchers from the Universities of Bern and Lausanne conclude that this “Swiss Lab” of such land management systems holds lessons for similar organizations elsewhere. More Information

all-digital CDE Annual Report 2020

CDE’s Annual Report 2020 – all digital

There are only nine years left to fulfil the UN 2030 Agenda. In that time, we must radically transform our world towards sustainability. And we – as CDE – we want to contribute. Last year, we laid the necessary institutional foundation for this. More information

CDE strategy

Inspiring sustainable futures

In our new strategy, “Inspiring Sustainable Futures”, we make clear how we aim to contribute to implementation of the 2030 Agenda. Based on a specially formulated theory of change, we are promoting concrete transformations in the coming years. We have also adapted our organizational structure to reflect the new strategy. More information


Free Days for Future?

The new CDE policy brief summarizes how reduced working hours could benefit our well-being, economies, and the natural world – and what measures could be taken to help make this vision a reality. CDE researchers recommend a transformation pathway – shifting from Switzerland’s current standard workweek to a new, improved worktime status quo. More information

New app points the way to sustainable consumption in Bern

Students at Bern’s universities have developed a website and app that guide users to over 170 sustainable shops and restaurants in Bern and surroundings. More information

Bettina Scharrer

“We have to move back away from promoting industrial logic”

With its agricultural policy, Switzerland strives to reconcile conflicting goals: promoting the productivity of domestic agriculture while meeting established sustainability targets. For the sector to become fit for the future, we need to learn the lessons of the past. Bettina Scharrer, historian of agriculture at CDE, explains how use of synthetic pesticides became widely established in Switzerland and why the country today has the third highest animal density in Europe. More information in German

Theresa Tribaldos

“We are outsourcing many of the problems of our food system”

Switzerland is currently debating how its agricultural sector should operate. Finland is taking a different approach and is striving to make its entire food system – including international impacts – climate-friendly. Could this approach work in Switzerland? CDE researcher Theresa Tribaldos discusses the importance of looking beyond our own borders as well as addressing questions of justice. More information

Johanna Jacobi

“Right now, Switzerland has a chance to formulate a food policy”

Only about 80 plant varieties currently make a substantial contribution to the world’s food supply, and these are usually grown in monocultures. Such industrial agriculture requires use of artificial fertilizers and pesticides. CDE researcher Johanna Jacobi discusses viable alternatives and the necessary transformation to a sustainable food system. More information

Digital advisory services

Digital advisory services for smallholder families in Africa and Asia

The new research and innovation project "Agripath" at CDE and the Insitute of Sociology, University of Bern, aims to strengthen sustainable farming methods among smallholder families in Africa and Asia using digitally supported agricultural extension services. Its overall goal is to improve the families’ productivity, incomes, and climate resilience. More information

Rubik's Cube

The future is sustainable – it's in our hands! Bachelor & Master Summer School 2021

This year, in an international online summer school, CDE is offering students a chance to deepen their knowledge of sustainable development and to acquire the competencies needed to act as change agents.

Clearing the invasive woody weed

Management of woody weeds may yield significant livelihood benefits

A new study involving CDE suggests that clearing the invasive woody weed Prosopis juliflora and restoring grasslands in Kenya’s Baringo County may offer significant financial benefits for local stakeholders while helping to mitigate climate change. More information

Flurina Schneider

“We need to ask more about what else could have been”

In today’s hyperconnected world, decisions made far away in one corner of the globe increasingly impact what happens on the ground in another location. When it comes to land use, local populations frequently lose out. In Madagascar and Southeast Asia, CDE researchers have studied how these mechanisms work. CDE researcher Flurina Schneider discusses the results and the role of science. More information

Meaty insights

Meaty insights: How our language promotes meat consumption

“Meat consumption is deeply engrained in our language – and some expressions and phrases actually promote meat-eating or mask the problems around meat consumption,” concludes a new study from CDE. More information in German

Artisanal cheese production

The importance of processing and trade for sustainable food systems

A new project at CDE investigates the production, processing, and trade of milk, meat, and bread grain in Switzerland. It aims to show how the way in which agricultural produce is processed or marketed can contribute to a more sustainable agriculture. More information

Stephanie Moser

“We would have liked to see more courage from the Swiss government to make comprehensive changes”

How does Switzerland wish to achieve the goals of the UN 2030 Agenda? The government submitted a corresponding strategy for consultation. CDE looked closely at the document and commented on the draft. “We should take the opportunity now to create institutions and procedures that will also support sustainability beyond 2030,” says CDE researcher Stephanie Moser. More information in German

Agroecology in Southeast Asia

Agroecology and safe food system transitions in Southeast Asia

The new project “Agroecology and safe food system transitions in Southeast Asia (ASSET)” seeks to transform food and agricultural systems in Southeast Asia into more sustainable, safer, and inclusive systems by harnessing the potential of agroecology. More information

Oil mills in Indonesia

"Hungry mills" and their role in Indonesia’s palm oil industry

In Indonesia, about one quarter of deforestation is directly attributable to oil palms. The extent to which the oil mills drive forest loss and the role they could play in achieving more sustainable production are the subject of a recent master’s thesis at CDE and the Institute of Geography of the University of Bern. More information

Elisabeth Bürgi-Bonanomi

“Sustainability doesn’t come free”

The EFTA trade agreement with Indonesia is controversial due to the issue of palm oil – but it also bears something new: it is the first trade agreement with Switzerland that makes tariff reductions for imports contingent on compliance with principles of sustainability. Trade law expert at CDE, Elisabeth Bürgi Bonanomi, explains the pros and cons. More information

“The tricks of the plantation industry bring to mind the Wild West”

When Switzerland votes on the trade agreement with Indonesia on 7 March, the issue will be palm oil. In the run-up, there has been little debate about Indonesia’s interests and who profits from the palm oil industry there. Heinzpeter Znoj, social anthropologist at the University of Bern and President of the CDE Board, says: “The latest developments in Indonesia’s palm oil industry directly contradict the goals of the trade agreement.” More information

palm oil

Make value chains more sustainable – but how? The case of palm oil

The production of important agricultural commodities often clashes with concerns for sustainable development. One critical case is that of palm oil. “Can, should, or must we do without palm oil?” Read on for answers to ten frequently asked questions as well as some possible ways of approaching oilseed commodities. More information

irrigation system

Traditional irrigation: cultural heritage with a future?

Over centuries, people living in the dry valleys of the Valais built up an extensive irrigation system to ensure water supply. Today, traditional irrigation continues to be a characteristic feature of the region’s valuable cultural landscape. But what future is there for this heritage? More information in German