DFG Research Unit FOR2432/1

SOCIAL-ECOLOGICAL SYSTEMS IN THE INDIAN RURAL-URBAN INTERFACE:
FUNCTIONS, SCALES, AND DYNAMICS OF TRANSITION

Coordinating Universities:
Universität Kassel & Georg-August-Universität Göttingen

Funding agency: Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)


Summary

Agriculture is one of the oldest examples of a coupled Social-Ecological System (SES) of mutually interdependent environmental and societal components. Against the background of the global challenge of accelerating urbanisation, FOR2432 will address agricultural transition processes in the rural-urban interface, exemplified by the emerging megacity Bangalore. This research will be carried out in close collaboration with a partner consortium in Bangalore, co-funded by the DBT in India.

Competition, diversity, and conflicts present major challenges for a large number of individual and institutional actors in the rural-urban interface. We expect that their responses to these challenges will ultimately lead to increased efficiency and complexity in the investigated systems. Based on hypotheses-driven work at the field and household scales in soil science, crop production and livestock husbandry, FOR2432 aims at providing empirical evidence for transition pathways in response to urbanisation. Changes in the demands placed on ecosystems services and in the distribution of socio-economic household structures and value chains will be analysed as spatio-temporal processes. We will also investigate whether transition processes are reflected in changes of regional land-use patterns and food consumption practices. To this end we will employ interdisciplinary factorial experiments on-station and on-farm, a nested sampling architecture along a common research transect, remote sensing technologies, and modelling approaches linking different analytical scales. The synthesis of results and development of new hypotheses will be guided by the use and comparison of different SES concepts. In this way, FOR 2432 will contribute to both a functional understanding of urbanisation processes worldwide and to the on-going debate on the use of the SES framework in the agricultural sciences.

Research questions

(1) How do agricultural production systems and household structures change at different stages of urbanisation?

(2) How does urban expansion affect the ability of regional ecosystems to provide food and other ecosystem services?

(3) How do exchange processes between agroecosystems, producers and consumers, or different social groups change as urbanisation advances?

(4) How do social and ecological systems interact where rural and urban livelihoods, traditions, aspirations, and forms of land use clash?

These research questions lead to the General Hypotheses which guide the work in Clusters A, B, and C.

Partner institutions in India:

  • UASB - University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore
  • NIANP - National Institute of Animal Nutrition and Physiology, Bangalore
  • ATREE - Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment, Bangalore
  • ISEC - Institute of Socio-Economic Change, Bangalore
  • IIST - Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology, Trivandrum
  • IWST - Institute of Wood Science and Technology, Bangalore
  • APU - Azim Premji University, Bangalore

Partner collaborative project:
The Rural-Urban Interface of Bangalore: A space of Transitions in Agriculture, Economics, and Society

Funding agency: Department of Biotechnology (DBT), India