The Sustainable Development Research Team studies the sustainability of economic growth and focuses on two key, interrelated issues: climate change, and land use / land-cover change.
Climate change is one of today’s most pressing global challenges. While initially caused by the industrialisation of the developed world, its continued intensification is mainly attributable to increased emissions from rapidly growing low- and middle-income economies. Identifying climate policy options that will enable these countries to achieve lower-carbon trajectories without compromising economic development and poverty reduction is hence of the utmost importance.
A particular facet of agricultural land-use change is at the core of the team’s current research activities: large-scale land investments in poor countries. While some observers view “land grabbing” as a major threat to the rights and livelihoods of the rural poor, others point to the potential opportunities that could arise from such new investments in the long-neglected agricultural sector. Together with an international network of research institutions and NGOs, the GIGA collects data on controversial foreign investment in various countries as a partner of the Land Matrix project. Using interactive maps, the matrix shows where the largest target countries are, where the investors come from, and how the land is ultimately used.
The Sustainable Development Research Team also studies two approaches that rely on local populations in the commercialisation of agriculture: contract-farming schemes and certification. Both approaches focus on smallholder farmers and promise increased productivity and better integration into international value chains, thereby putting less strain on ecosystems and contributing to the improved livelihoods of participating farmers.
The research team studies the drivers and consequences of these phenomena to answer the following two fundamental questions: