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New DFG Research Unit in Kassel and Goettingen on agricultural transitions in rural-urban spaces


How are agricultural, ecological and social systems changing under the influence of growing (mega-)cities? This overarching question will be examined by the Research Unit FOR2432, which the German Research Foundation (DFG/Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft) has established at the universities of Kassel and Göttingen. The project will start on 1 April 2016 and is initially funded with a total of 3.7 million Euros. International partners are also involved, including the University of Agricultural Sciences in Bangalore, India, where the cooperating projects will be co-financed with 1.2 million Euros from the Indian side.

With this decision, the DFG is strengthening the successful cooperation of the agricultural science faculties at the University of Kassel and the University of Göttingen through a joint long-term research endeavour that will enhance their research profiles.

Nomads on the outskirts of Bangalore.

Photo: Bürkert.

The new Research Group will address issues of global importance such as land and resource use, food security, ecology and urbanisation. These topics will be studied with a broad interdisciplinary approach focused on the example of Bangalore. In this southern Indian metropolis growth and change are occurring in a particularly dynamic fashion.

The Research Unit is entitled " Social-Ecological Systems in the Indian Rural-Urban Interface: Functions, Scales, and Dynamics of Transition". The proposed research is trend-setting for agricultural sciences in Germany as it places basic research in this field in the wider context of transformation processes occurring in social-ecological systems.

Commenting on the grant, Kassel University President Prof. Dr. Reiner Finkeldey remarked, "The establishment of this Research Unit is a clear signal strengthening the University of Kassel at a national and an international level and boosting the research profile of our university. It also shows that our cooperation with the University of Göttingen is highly productive and innovative."

Prof. Dr. Ulrike Beisiegel, President of Göttingen University, added: "The scientists of the new Research Unit are dealing with global issues at the interface between humankind and nature. With the establishment of the Research Unit, we can further deepen the exciting cooperation with the University of Kassel in the field of agricultural sciences."

The close relationship and reciprocal dependency of mankind and nature is a basic characteristic of agriculture. This relationship was first conceptualized and termed a ‘social-ecological system’ by Elinor Ostrom, who was the first woman to receive the Nobel Prize in Economics for her work in this area. The concept was taken up from an ecological perspective and became popular because of its significance for ecosystem services. FOR2432 will build on these approaches and bring together various viewpoints under the overarching question of agricultural change in rural-urban spaces.

Working in three interdisciplinary research clusters, FOR2432 will be guided by the following questions: How and why do agricultural production systems and household structures change in various stages of urbanisation? How does urban expansion affect the ability of regional ecosystems to provide food and other ecosystem services? How do exchange processes between agroecosystems, producers and consumers, or different social groups change as urbanisation advances? How do ecological and social systems interact where rural and urban livelihoods, traditions, aspirations, and forms of land use clash?

The consortium comprises eleven sub-projects and is represented by Prof. Dr. Andreas Bürkert (University of Kassel) as spokesperson and Prof. Dr. Stephan von Cramon-Taubadel (University of Göttingen) as co-spokesperson. Four departments of the University of Kassel are participating (including one professor who is jointly appointed by Kassel and Göttingen), as are five departments of the University of Göttingen and a researcher from the James Cook University in Australia.

The disciplinary spectrum ranges from soil physics to remote sensing, from crop cultivation and animal nutrition to agricultural and development economics and beyond the agricultural sciences to human geography and ecosystem modelling. Each of the German sub-projects is matched with an academic partner project in India that will be fully funded in a parallel arrangement by the DBT, the Indian partner organisation of the DFG.

The research programmes of both sides will be closely coordinated, with 16 young academics from Germany and 26 from India working together to carry out the field research. The main partner in India is the University of Agricultural Sciences in Bangalore (UASB). In addition, Indian state research institutions for animal nutrition, socioeconomic change, forestry and space science as well as the research-oriented, non-governmental organisation ATREE are participating.

As the first joint German-Indian Research Unit, the project will also play a pioneering role in international basic research cooperation with India. Additional information on the Research Unit FOR2432 and the individual sub-projects is available at

For a picture see:
Nomads on the outskirts of Bangalore. Photo: Bürkert.

Contact details:

Prof. Dr. Andreas Bürkert
University of Kassel
Organic Plant Production and Agroecosystems Research in the Tropics and Subtropics (OPATS)
Tel.: +49 5542 98-1228

Prof. Dr. Stephan von Cramon-Taubadel
University of Göttingen
Agricultural Policy
Tel.: +49 551 39-22872

Sebastian Mense | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft

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