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 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.

New publication: Manual for Participatory Food System Sustainability Assessments and Transformation – Steps towards Food Democracy

The manual offers an introduction to multidimensional assessment of food systems. It is based on experiences from action research carried out by CDE together with its partners in Africa and South America. It describes how to assess the degree to which food systems are sustainable and democratic, and how interested food system actors can engage in co-designing and implementing “transformative actions”.

Academy 2030: playfully explore the 2030 Agenda

The UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development requires negotiations to balance different development priorities. Achieving one goal can have positive or negative effects on other goals, and interactions between goals are often complex. Focusing on SDGs “Health”, “Land”, and “Conflict” in Ethiopia and Kenya, the Academy 2030 platform offers entry points to understanding complex systems.

New project: 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.