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Rural-urban transformation processes in arid and semi-arid areas of the Mediterranean


Urbanization is a global phenomenon that takes on different manifestations in different regions of the world, depending on the level of development and biophysical conditions. While urban growth is currently slowing in North America and Europe, it continues to accelerate in Asia and Africa. The dependence of cities on their surrounding ecosystems has long been neglected, and little research has addressed the changes in agricultural land use, household behavior, and wealth that accompany the transition from rural to urban areas. In subregions such as North Africa and the Middle East, growing climatic insecurity and refugee flows are exacerbating urbanization processes and putting increasing pressure on neighboring (Mediterranean) countries in Europe.

Aims and approach

go-PRIMA aims to participate in the "Partnership for Research and Innovation in the Mediterranean"(PRIMA). PRIMA is a ten-year program funded by the European Union in combination with the BMBF, which will issue a series of calls for large-scale projects starting in 2018. The program targets a region heavily affected by climate change, urbanization and population growth. Funding will be provided for research on water management, agricultural systems, and agri-food value chains to improve regional and local development, with sustainable solutions increasingly requiring integrated approaches.

As a collaborative research project, go-PRIMA brings together existing expertise and research approaches on the management of water, agricultural systems, and agri-food value chains across different departments at the University of Kassel. go-PRIMA employs several postdoctoral researchers to combine the capacities of different research groups, establish and expand networks with partners in Mediterranean partner countries, and conduct pilot studies on PRIMA's objectives. With this staff capacity, the consortium will submit several proposals to PRIMA calls in the coming years.

Innovations and perspectives

go-PRIMA studies rural-urban change processes under arid and semi-arid conditions in the Mediterranean region. Despite different geophysical and climatic conditions, this region today forms a broad frontier between highly contrasting lifestyles (Southern Europe vs. North Africa and the Middle East) in terms of wealth, beliefs, and governance systems. The guiding scientific questions are:

  • How does the evolution of rural-urban transformation processes affect the availability of resources, including food and water?
  • How can cropping and livestock production systems be redesigned to make them more productive and resilient to social and environmental uncertainties?
  • What are the implications for ecosystem functions and services, and how will they be affected in the context of different political and cultural contexts?