Project C03, Green Futures

Project Summary

Project C03 ‘Green Futures’ has been concerned about emerging paradigms of green development (e.g. ‘green economy’, ‘green growth’, etc.) that increasingly have been finding their way into governmental policy debates and also into programs of the international development community in countries of the Global South. Narratives about green development often come with the promise of a win-win-situation: environment-friendly and at the same time growth-oriented development.

The project C03 critically engages with this promise by way of unveiling the antagonistic environmental politics that come along with the suggestion and implementation of allegedly ‘green’ ideas New green idea brings together a set of agents from different scales that seek to enact their versions of ecological growth, which neither necessarily match the agenda of others, nor benefit all. Thereby sub-project C03 contributes to the CRC’s overarching topic by analyzing visions of ‘Green Futures’ as specific form of future-making and driver of social-ecological transformation.

Research Areas: Kenya, Tanzania, Namibia.

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

Key Questions

How has “Green Growth” as a travelling idea re-constituted the environmental governance through particular regimes of translation in different countries?

To what extent have travelling ideas (e.g. Green Growth) been taken up by different actors (government, private sector, NGO, etc.)?

To what extent have green future visions been part of policies discussion, policy formulation and later on policy implementation?

Which alternative narratives about possible “Green Futures” are being discussed among relevant actors in the respective countries?


1. Qualitative ethnographic methods
2. Focus Groups Discussions
3. Semi-Structured Qualitative Interviews,
4. Participatory Observation

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)

Key Findings

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.


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, D. Müller-Mahn (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, EM 2021, ‘Mega-projects – mega-failures? Politics of aspiration and the transformation of rural Kenya’, The European Journal of Development Research, DOI.

Müller-Mahn, D & Kioko, EM 2021, ‘Rethinking African futures after Covid-19’, Africa Spectrum, DOI.

Müller-Mahn, D & Kioko, EM 2021, ‘COVID-19, disrupted futures, and challenges for African Studies’, in C Greiner, S van Wolputte & M Bollig (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

Outlook for phase II funding

In the second funding phase, C03 will continue to use a political ecology perspective to study the politics of land-use change, but it will shift the empirical focus to hydro-politics in Kenya and Tanzania. This includes dam construction projects, as well as large-scale irrigation schemes. These development projects are considered as arenas of competing future visions, interest groups, and power plays. C03 aims at exploring the contradictions between the long-term promises and expectations of dams and irrigation schemes, and the immediate uncertainties they cause among local populations. Dams, irrigation schemes and the growing demand for water are key issues of future rural (and urban!) Africa, which indicates the relevance of the topic in the context of CRC-TRR 228.

Empirical research will focus on selected dam and irrigation scheme sites in Kenya and Tanzania to investigate the power struggles and newly arising uncertainties created by the situation of the “not yet” during the planning and implementation process. The spatial focus will be similar to the previous funding phase, with case studies in Laikipia County in Kenya and the Morogoro Region/ Kilombero District in Tanzania. Methods will primarily include expert interviews conducted at the national and County/ District level, qualitative interviews and focus group discussions with members of the local communities affected by dam sites and irrigation schemes.

Partner Institutions