Project C03, Green Futures

Project Summary

Project C03 focusses on concepts of “green futures” and their role in the politics of land-use change. It approaches these concepts as “travelling models” of development to explore how they are translated into national and regional contexts, and how the translation is influenced by specific actors, visions, and technologies. In the first funding phase the empirical studies in Kenya, Tanzania, and Namibia focused on “Green Growth” as a travelling model that seeks to harmonize environmental and economic goals. In the second phase, project C03 will be joined by Kenyan ethnologist Eric Kioko as a new PI, and shift its empirical focus to an infrastructure oriented model of green futures based on the construction of dams and hydro-development schemes. Large irrigation infrastructures generally play an ambiguous role in future-making, because they are on the one hand justified as promising solutions to the anticipated future problems of climate change and population growth, but on the other hand they create new uncertainties for local populations, especially when they do not materialize as originally planned. Project C03 aims to scrutinize this ambiguity by approaching hydro-development schemes in Kenya and Tanzania as arenas of future-making, where different actors struggle for control over the appropriation and allocation of resources. Research design takes a longitudinal approach to capture the different stages through which large-scale infrastructure projects usually go before they become operational, from initial ideas and preparatory measures to concrete construction works. Empirical research will focus on projects that are still in planning or under construction, i.e. the Crocodile Jaws dam in Laikipia, Kenya, and medium-sized irrigation schemes in the Kilombero Valley, Tanzania. Methods include document analysis, multi-sited ethnography, expert interviews, participant observation, and focus group discussions with members of the local communities. C03 can build upon strong collaborative ties with scientific partners in the region, who will participate actively in empirical field work, theory-oriented reflection, and publications.

Research Areas: Kenya, Tanzania, Namibia.

Keywords: Future-Making, Future Visions, Green Development, Green Growth, Travelling Idea, Win-win Narratives.

Key Question

How do travelling models and local arenas of hydro-development influence future-making and social-ecological transformation in Kenya and Tanzania?


1. Qualitative Ethnographic Methods
2. Focus Groups Discussions
3. Semi-Structured Qualitative Interviews
4. Participatory Observation

Key Findings from Phase I

In the first funding phase, project C03 “Green futures” focussed on development initiatives that seek to harmonize environmental aspects (“Green”) and economic goals (“Growth”). The main findings give evidence of the heterogeneity of these initiatives and related politics of land-use change in Kenya, Tanzania, and Namibia. The differences can partly be explained by the physical conditions of the three study sites, and more prominently by the diverse political and institutional framework in the three countries. The case studies showed how “green” concepts are used as “travelling ideas” of development, which are translated and modified according to national politics and power plays.

Key Milestones

  • 2018

    • Start of the first phase of the CRC
    • Exploratory field visits in Tanzania and Namibia
    • Master students field trip to Tanzania with C03 cooperation
    • Kick-off workshop and Summer School in Nairobi
    • Start of the Graduate School (a.r.t.e.s in Cologne)
    • Internal discussion on preliminary findings
    • Participation: OECD Green Growth Conference, Paris
    • Presentation: DIES Academicus, Bonn
    • PhD Workshop near Cologne
  • 2019

    • Presentation: NKG, Eichstätt
    • Field work in Tanzania, Kenya and Namibia
    • Household survey in Tanzania
    • Summer School in Nairobi
    • CRC-Retreat: Kloster Steinfeld
    • Participation: OECD: Green Growth Conference in Paris
    • Qualitative Interview, Green Growth Institute Director, Bonn
  • 2020

    • All PhDs come back from African countries
    • Writing Workshop (Online)
    • Interview with presidential candidate Tundu Lissu (Online)
    • CRC Summer School and Retreat (Hybrid)
  • 2021

    • Second funding phase project proposal submission
    • Participation: AAG Conference
    • Participation: IDS Summer School (forthcoming)
    • DFG funding proposal review (forthcoming)
    • Participation: Digitalal DKG/ GeoWoche (forthcoming)
  • 2022

    • Launch of Phase II
  • September 2022

    • Project Presentation at CRC-TRR 228 Kick-Off Event & Summer School in Windhoek, Namibia


Bazzana, D., Gebreyes, M., Simonetto, A., Müller-Mahn, D., Zaitchik, B., Gilioli, G. und Belay, S. 2020. Local perceptions of the effect of dam construction on well-being and water-energy-food securities in Ethiopia, in: Sustainability. DOI

Boeckler, M., Engel, U., Müller-Mahn, D. 2018. Regimes of Territorialization: Territory, Border and Infrastructure in Africa. In: Engel, U., Boeckler, M., Müller-Mahn, D. (eds.) 2018. Spatial Practices: Territory, Border and Infrastructure in Africa. Leiden, Boston: Brill, pp. 1-22. DOI

Dittmann, J. & Müller-Mahn, D. 2021. Transfrontier conservation governance, commodification of nature, and new dynamics of sovereignty in Namibia. In: Bollig, M., Lendelwo, S., Mosimane, A. & Nghitevelekwa, R. (eds): Commodifying the ‘Wild’: Conservation, Markets and the Environment in Southern and Eastern Africa. James Currey Publishing (forthcoming).

Gebreyes, M., Müller-Mahn, D. 2019. Cultural Political Economy of Irrigation Management in Northeastern Ethiopia: The Case of the Kobo-Girana Valley Development Programme". In: Water Alternatives.Link

Kioko, E.M. 2021 Commodifying East Africa’s Sandalwood: Organised crime and community participation in the transnational smuggling of an endangered plant. In: Bollig, M., Lendelwo, S., Mosimane, A. & Nghitevelekwa, R. (eds): Commodifying the ‘Wild’: Conservation, Markets and the Environment in Southern and Eastern Africa. James Currey - Boydell and Brewer Publishers (forthcoming)

Kioko, E.M. and Gravesen M. 2019. Cooperation in the midst of conflict: cattle raids and land deals in Laikipia and Narok, Kenya, Africa (Cambridge University Press), Vol 89, Issue 3, pp. 562-585. DOI.

Kioko, E.M. (2017): Conflict Resolution and Crime Surveillance in Kenya: Local Peace Committees and Nyumba Kumi, in: Africa Spectrum, Vol 52, Issue 1, pp. 3–32.

Müller-Mahn, D., Mkutu, K., & Kioko, E.M. 2021. ‘Mega-projects – mega-failures? Politics of aspiration and the transformation of rural Kenya’, The European Journal of Development Research. href="">DOI

Müller-Mahn, D. & Kioko, E.M. 2021. ‘Rethinking African futures after Covid-19’, Africa Spectrum. href="">DOI

Müller-Mahn, D. & Kioko, E.M. 2021. ‘COVID-19, disrupted futures, and challenges for African Studies’, in Greiner, C., S. van Wolputte & Bollig, M. (eds), African Futures, Brill, Leiden, forthcoming.

Müller-Mahn, D., Moure, M., Gebreyes, M. 2020. Climate change, the politics of anticipation, and future riskscapes in Africa. Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society. Link

Müller-Mahn, D. & Dittmann, J. 2019. Die Schatten der Geschichte: Koloniale Landnahme und ihre Folgen in Namibia. In: Geographische Rundschau 71, (5), 30-33. Link

Müller-Mahn, D., Dannenberg, P. und Klagge, B. 2019. Das ländliche Afrika im Umbruch - Entwicklungskorridore und die Transformation des Agrarsektors. In: Geographische Rundschau (11), 10-16.

Müller-Mahn, D. 2019. Envisioning African Futures: Development corridors as dreamscapes of modernity. In: Geoforum. DOI

Müller-Mahn D. 2020 Zukunftskontinent Afrika? Entwicklungsperspektiven zwischen Wunsch und Wirklichkeit. UNIVERSITAS 75 (12), 4-18.

Müller-Mahn D. & M. Gebreyes 2019. Controversial Connections: The Water-Energy-Food Nexus in the Blue Nile Basin of Ethiopia. In: Land, vol. 8(9), pp. 1-20. DOI

Nweke-Eze, C. & Kioko, E.M. 2021. Investors’ sustainability tensions and strategic selectivity in the development of Geothermal Energy in Kenya. In: Leal Filho, W., Pretorius, R. and de Sousa, L. (Eds.) Sustainable Development in Africa, World Sustainability Series. Cham: Springer. Link

Pelling, M., Müller-Mahn, D., McCloskey, J. 2020. Disasters, Humanitarianism and Emergencies. A politics of uncertainty. In: Scoones, I., A. Stirling (eds.): The Politics of Uncertainty - Challenges of Transformation. Routledge, pp. 127-140. DOI

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