Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg


Department of Agricultural, Environmental and Food Policy

phone: +49 345 5522-511
Secretariat: Janet Huber

Visitor address:
Von-Seckendorff-Platz 4
06120 Halle (Saale)

Fourth Floor

postal address:
Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg
Natural Science Faculty III
Department of Agricultural, Environmental and Food Policy
06099 Halle (Saale)

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Research Focus

Applied, problem-oriented: the „Land-Water-Energy Nexus”

The work of the department can be characterized with the keyword “Land-Water-Energy Nexus”. In case studies on land grabbing and the water grabbing that often follows, we analyze topics which are highly relevant for international agricultural and food policy. From a climate policy viewpoint, land, water and energy management are highly linked. Thus, the support of energy crops leads to an increase in land scarcity for food production or the production of energy from hydropower often competes with irrigated agricultural production for scarce water resources.

Proceeding from current societal questions, we are interested in the impact of non-agricultural investments in the German agricultural sector, the design of the agricultural land market and newly evolving property rights structures, particularly in East Germany. Likewise we work on strategies for sustainable land use with less soil erosion and better CO2 sequestration in the step zones of Russia.

Methodologically sophisticated, policy-relevant: Development of the PICA method

The department deepens policy analysis and policy evaluation from an institutional economic perspective by use of a decision support method, which assesses, ex-ante and systematically, the compatibility of agricultural and environmental policies with the institutional environment. This Procedure for Institutional Compatibility Assessment (PICA) can be combined with well-established agri-economic models. The method is applied to current questions of agricultural and rural policies.

The success of decentralization policy measures, for instance, will depend in large part on the extent to which local actors participate in decentralization processes. We currently analyze determinants of successful participatory processes for policies as different as the European Water Framework Directive and agricultural decision-making processes in Thailand.

Another aspect of this research focuses on potential policy for bringing out positive leadership qualities to facilitate collective action. In addition, our work involves building a theoretical concept of power that can be operationalized, allowing analysis of the influence of power and leadership on ecological and socially sustainable resource management. This is important for a wide variety of issues, from questions of agricultural irrigation in Central Asia to direct foreign investments in the agricultural sector of Ethiopia.

Theoretical, interdisciplinary: social-ecological research

The department is a member of the research group, initiated and originally led by the Nobel Prize laureate in economics, Elinor Ostrom, which is working on a diagnostic framework to analyze socio-ecological systems and the integration of socio-technical systems into that framework. This system approach will foster interdisciplinary collaboration across traditional boundaries in agricultural sciences. For that, we are using a comparative approach of social-ecological case studies, working with a data base that is actively developed.

Another theoretical question involves how institutions influence the formation and implementation of societal moral concepts regarding the desirable treatment of animals, nature and food. We elicit the normative assumptions built into particular institutional arrangements, which influence the process of shaping public opinion. By highlighting these assumptions, we contribute to the discussion on their suitability.

An recent interdisciplinary approach taken up by the department follows the question whether theoretical explanations from the traditional commons research (e.g. irrigation, pastures, fishing grounds) can be adapted to explain coordination mechanisms in the global commons (e.g. deep sea, biodiversity) and in the newly constructed commons (e.g. city gardens, apartment buildings, parks, recreational spaces, internet, opensource software and car-sharing).