Eastern Africa

Farmers working dry land in Ethiopia
Photo: Hans Hurni

Eastern Africa is heavily affected by the impacts of climate change. Droughts, flooding, and resource conflicts are harming local people’s ability to secure their livelihoods.

In addition, global competition for land is leaving its mark on the countries of Eastern Africa: Large-scale land acquisitions and land use changes increase the pressure on ecosystems and hinder opportunities for self-determined development among local people.

Dynamics of rapid transformation, social disparities, and political and legal uncertainties are deepening the fissures between winners and losers of global change.

Research focuses

The research of CDE and its local partners goes right to work on these issues. It links sustainable use of natural resources with national and local socio-economic dynamics as well as equitable, integrative policymaking. A key factor here is, on the one hand, the promotion and expansion of knowledge and capacities, so that local populations can steer their own development sustainably. On the other hand, CDE strives to establish fair research partnerships that are adapted to the respective context.

Using participatory methods, CDE’s research activities generate robust scientific data and information that feed into political decision-making processes. In parallel, its projects and programmes deliberately promote dialogue with policymakers and society. The following topics represent key focuses:

  • Management and equitable governance of water, land, and other natural resources
  • Sustainable food systems and food security
  • Sustainable regional development and spatial planning
  • Agricultural transformation, with a particular emphasis on the trend of global actors making decisions that impact local land use (“telecoupling”)


New project: Traceability systems and landscape approaches for sustainable coffee trade

coffee roaster

Based on coffee production and trade in Ethiopia, this project will show how regulations for deforestation-free supply chains can be designed to effectively promote socially, economically, and ecologically sustainable processes in producing countries.

New project: Climate-resilient cocoa landscapes in Madagascar

Landscape in the Haut Sambirano, Madagascar

In the Sambirano watershed, small-scale farms grow high-quality cocoa. However, the region is prone to devastating cyclones. Additionally, there are competing interests and overlapping crises. This project aims at collectively engaging local stakeholders in the development of a sustainably managed landscape in the Sambirano Valley.

Strengthening research cooperation with Africa

The African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA) and The Guild of European Research-Intensive Universities, have launched 17 "Africa-Europe Clusters of Research Excellence". Among them is the "Sustainable Water and Land Resource Management for Human Well-Being", co-led by CDE and its partner WLRC, Addis Ababa University.

New network: CLOC Eastern Africa

The Cluster of Cooperation (CLOC) East Africa and the Horn is a new network that aims to foster partnerships for research and education. It works to strengthen the capacities to achieve the SDGs and Africa’s strategic framework, Agenda 2063, by promoting knowledge generation, information exchange, and opportunities for academic collaboration between Swiss universities and Eastern Africa.