Understanding agricultural frontiers emergence in Southern and Eastern Africa: an interdisciplinary approach combining ethnography, remote sensing and decision-making models

Please register via the booking url below to receive joining instructions – in your booking confirmation, click on “View online event” for the Zoom link and passcode.

Online seminar followed by Q&A – all welcome. NB – all times given in UK time.

In this research we aim to explain the processes that condition and shape the emergence of agricultural frontiers – i.e., regions with rapid development of natural resource exploitation and land use changes – in territories considered as marginal in terms of agricultural productivity and global market connections. Our research focuses on the dry forest and woodland region of Southern and Eastern Africa, with a specific attention to Northern Mozambique. The project combines an ethnographic approach exploring the role of successive “waves” of pioneers; a remote sensing mapping of tree plantations expansion – led by foreign investors -; a spatial analysis of the effects of land use and land tenure policies on land use change dynamics; a Bayesian decision-making model based on interviews of investors and agricultural operators from the farm level to the financial decision centres (London, Amsterdam); and a theoretical economic model which formalizes the conditions of regime shift from pre-frontier characterized by semi-subsistence agriculture to the rapid expansion of commercial agriculture. Linking these approaches allows to progress in a theory on land use frontier emergence, and to establish the basis for proactive governance of these dynamics.

Patrick Meyfroidt holds a PhD in geography (2009) and a degree in sociology from the University of Louvain (UCLouvain) in Belgium. Since 2016, he is a Research Associate of Belgian Research Fund and Professor at UCLouvain. His main research interests are land use and forest transitions, linkages between globalization and human-environmental changes, and governance of land systems.

The research presented here is part of the ERC SG project MIDLAND: erc-midland.earth.