CRC TRR 228 Project B05

Science Futures

Between “intensification” and “conservation”discourses on African rural development

B05 Science Futures


To recognize the role that scientific and non-scientific knowledge systems play in the imagination and pursuit of rural futures in Africa, by considering the political economy and ecology of knowledge production, transfer and use, while actively pursuing epistemological breakthroughs crucial to sustainable development benefitting local populations.

Project Summary

The project “Science Futures” proposes to study the role of science in the design of and decisions about the futures of rural Africa, using the examples of development corridors in general and agricultural production technology therein. It recognizes that scientific and non-scientific modes of knowledge creation, transfer and use play a crucial role in imagining particular futures and in taking active steps towards their realization. Within the studied, largely remote rural spaces which the corridors link to broader national developments in the fields of agriculture, energy or tourism, science-enabled discourses of economic “intensification” through high-level use of resources such as land, water, external inputs and capital assets versus “conservation” and more ecological sustainability-oriented management practices shape societal negotiation processes aiming at diverse “rural futures”. Intensification and conservation discourses may both use scientific and non-scientific knowledge, so both kinds are taken into account while focusing on science. The empirical focus lies on territorially defined models of development (i.e. corridors) and the role of (a) spatial-planning-related knowledge systems in the genesis and current position of the corridor approach in Sub-Saharan Africa, as well as (b) agricultural scientific knowledge systems that shape the internal development dynamics and future-oriented contestation processes. ­Conceptually the project is inspired by Science and Technology Studies and Innovation System research, as well as discussions in the Sociology of Knowledge linked with Political Economy approaches. ­Methodologies include qualitative, ethnographic research and systematic quantitative (scientometric) analysis of scientific knowledge produced in the two topical areas, as well as a discourse and network analysis on genesis and actual shaping of the corridors through local policy-making. The project will conduct comparative research in and on all three CRC focus regions in Kenya, Tanzania, and Namibia in order to detect generalizable patterns of the role of science for spatial planning and agriculture in these different corridor/regional development concepts. They bear very different constellations of intensification versus conservation, strength of national science systems, role of agriculture versus other sectors, and involvement of private sector and external/international experts. In perspective, the assessment of the knowledge systems which determine how the pursued development models unfold lays the foundation for a knowledge communication, transfer, and diffusion strategy to be developed as part of the CRC’s third phase.

Research Regions: Tanzania, Kenya, Namibia

The state of knowledge and knowledge systems shaping decisions regarding the futures of rural Africa is characterized by fragmentations, contestations, and hierarchies. Scientific and non-scientific modes of knowledge creation, transfer and use influence the impact of economic “intensification” discourses, and that of the more ecologically, sustainability-oriented “conservation” discourses. In growth corridors, these discourses are embedded in both spatial- planning-related knowledge systems and agricultural knowledge systems influencing internal development dynamics, negotiations and contestation processes of rural futures. In order to guarantee that knowledge benefits – rather than hinder – local livelihoods, detailed investigations into the political ecology of these knowledge systems, their related discourses and how they influence the futures of rural Africa is needed.

  • How are scientifically informed discourses, science-to-policy interfaces, and scientific/non-scientific knowledge systems contributing to future-making in rural Sub-Saharan Africa?
  • Scientometric analysis and content analysis
  • Collection and analysis of research funding sources
  • Discourse analysis of the genesis of the three (plus one) corridors
  • Informant interviews with stakeholders
  • Participatory Observation
  • Quantitative survey of local household members

Negotiations and contestations involving multiple visions, interests and power struggles are shaping the futures of rural Africa. An analysis of the political economy and ecology of knowledge systems focusing on scientific and non-scientific knowledge production, transfer, and use allows to confront the epistemological dynamics at the center of future-making. With reference to spatial-planning-related knowledge systems and agricultural scientific knowledge systems, Science Futures puts the spotlight on the epistemic struggles (and possibly breakthroughs) of future-making in rural Africa.


Brüntrup, M. 2020. ‘Agricultural growth corridors in sub-Saharan Africa – new hope for agricultural transformation and rural development? The case of the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania’, in R Sikor, ER Terry, LG Vlek Paul & J Chitja (eds), Transforming agriculture in Southern Africa, Routledge, New York, pp. 258-270.

Brüntrup, M., Schwarz, F., Absmayr, T., Dylla, J., Eckhard, F., Remke, K., & Sternisko, K. 2018.‘Nucleus-outgrower schemes as an alternative to traditional smallholder agriculture in Tanzania–strengths, weaknesses and policy requirements’, Food Security, vol. 10, no. 4,pp. 807-826.

Hornidge, A.K., Herbeck, J., Siriwardane, R. & Flitner, M. 2020. ‘Epistemic Mobilities: Following Sea-level Change Adaptation Practices in Southeast Asian Cities’, American Behavioural Scientist, vol. 64, no. 10, Doi:10.1177/0002764220947764.

Hornidge, A.K. 2014, ‘Wissensdiskurse: Normativ, Faktisch, Hegemonia’, Soziale Welt, vol. 65, pp. 7-24.

Keller, R. Hornidge, A.K. & Schünemann, W. (eds) 2018. ‘The Sociology of Knowledge Approach to Discourse. Investigating the Politics of Knowledge and Meaning-making’, Routledge, Oxon & New York.

Leta, G., Kelboro, G., Van Assche, K., Stellmacher, T. & Hornidge A.K. 2019. ‘Rhetorics and realities of participation: The Ethiopian agricultural extension system and its participatory turns’, Critical Policy Studies, DOI: 10.1080/19460171.2019.1616212. Leta, G., Kelboro, G., Stellmacher, T., Van Assche, K. & Hornidge, A.K. 2018. ‘Nikinake: the mobilization of labour and skill development in rural Ethiopia’, Natural Resources Forum, vol. 42, no. 2, pp. 93-107.

Mielke, K. & Hornidge A.K. (eds) 2017, ‘Area Studies at the Crossroads: Knowledge Production after the Mobility Turn’, Palgrave MacMillan, New York.

Partelow, S., Hornidge A.K., Senff, P., Stäbler, M. & Schlüter, M. 2020. ‘Tropical Marine Sciences:Knowledge Prod. in a Web of Path Dependencies’, PLoS ONE, vol. 15, no. 2, article no.e0228613, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0228613.

Warnke, I. H, Hornidge, A.K., Schattenberg, S. (eds) 2021. ‘Kontradiktorische Diskurse und die Macht im Widerspruch’, Springer VS.

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Team Members

Brüntrup Michael B05

Dr. Michael Brüntrup

German Institute of Development and Sustainability

Emily Gubbini

Emily Gubbini

German Institute of Development and Sustainability

Anna-Katharina Hornidge Project B05

Prof. Dr. Anna-Katharina Hornidge

German Institute of Development and Sustainability

Saymore Ngonidzashe Kativu

Saymore Ngonidzashe Kativu

German Institute of Development and Sustainability

Erika Kraemer-Mbula B05 Science Futures

Dr. Erika Krämer-Mbula

University of Johannesburg

Future Rural Africa Logo transparent

Dr. Khamaldin Daud Mutabazi

Sokoine University of Agriculture

Future Rural Africa Logo transparent

Dr. Helen Hoka Osiolo

Strathmore University

Andreas Stamm Project B05

Dr. Andreas Stamm

German Institute of Development and Sustainability

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Prof. Dr. Theobald Frank Theodory

Mzumbe University

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