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WP 1: Project Management, Coordination, Theoretical Advancement

WP 1 ensures the inter- and transdisciplinary perspective of the empirical research carried out by the project participants. This includes:

  • providing a basic research infrastructure in the project area,
  • coordinating local stakeholder inputs,
  • organising/facilitating joint research phases,
  • promoting an inter- and transdisciplinary research design,
  • unification and joint reflexion of the research process and empirical findings.

Prof. Dr. Andrea D. Bührmann
Diversity Research Institute, Faculty of Social Sciences

Prof. Dr. Rainer Marggraf
Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Development, Division of Environmental Economics and Resource Economics, Faculty of Agricultural Sciences

WP 2: PhD program "Diversity Turn in Sustainability Science"

WP 2 will develop a PhD program "Diversity Turn in Sustainability Science" focussing on social diversity, sustainability, and transdisciplinary cooperation. WP 2 will be in charge of organizing reflective workshops for the PhD students in order to enable them to meet the challenges of transdisciplinary research in the field of social diversity and sustainability research, and ensure the quality of the research process as a whole.
The program will draw on the expertise of the project's senior researchers, scientists from the University of Göttingen, and invited scholars from other institutions.

Prof. Dr. Andrea D. Bührmann
Diversity Research Institute, Faculty of Social Sciences

Prof. Dr. Rainer Marggraf
Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Development, Division of Environmental Economics and Resource Economics, Faculty of Agricultural Sciences

WP 3: Power Relations

WP 3 examines the effects of vertically integrated vanilla cultivation with regard to societal power relations

  • within vanilla-cultivating households,
  • between vanilla-cultivating households including local elites and
  • between individual households and village communities and their trading partners.

Relevant dimensions of inequality will be identified and their intersections will be analysed. WP 3's research agenda explores the multiple dimensions of inequality, including – but not restricted to – gender relations, structuring the research region´s communities. The impact various degrees of integration into the value chain have on these power dynamics is investigated in order to refine the tools for an advanced intersectional approach. Those, in turn, are employed to enrich the methodologies of transformative sustainability research.

Prof. Dr. Andrea D. Bührmann
Diversity Research Institute, Faculty of Social Sciences

WP 4: Contractual options and micro-economic framework conditions

WP 4 analyses micro-economic framework conditions governing the current situation of vanilla producing small-scale farmers. WP 4 highlights potential options that respective households will have in the project area in the future. In part, this research will be conducted in collaboration with WP 7-10. A focus will be placed on the assessment of opportunities for income diversification however. This will be done in a manner that is sensitive to existing social and ecological diversity (WP 7: Livestock farming; WP 8: Additional tree crops and respective agro-ecological optimisation; WP 9: Payments for ecosystem services; WP 10: Afforestation and improved management of agroforestry systems). As an overarching service, WP 4 will furthermore provide data on a multi-dimensional poverty index that will result from surveys, which WP 1 is to conduct among households in the project area.
A second focus of WP 4 is to arrive at an appraisal of the spectrum of household preferences as to possible contractual options that arise from a vertical integration into the vanilla supply and value chain (Refer to CFA - Section 3). To this end, we will conduct a Choice Experiment, which is to confront vanilla-producing households with different business and legal options. The information obtained from the households will be treated confidentially. Information on collective preferences will be made available to vanilla-producing households and their representatives. While the process of negotiating contracts is solely reserved to respective buyers and their contracted households or representatives, WP 4 will carry out an ex ante appraisal of expected socio-economic consequences of different contractual options and will make this analysis available to all parties involved. (1 PhD student, 1 MSc student, 1 Malagasy MA/MSc student)

Prof. Dr. Jan Barkmann
Darmstadt University of Applied Sciences
Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Development, Division of Environmental Economics and Resource Economics, Faculty of Agricultural Sciences

WP 5: Trust and Markets

Trust can be an important factor in the development of business relations (Welter, 2012) and in long-term economic development (Knack and Keefer, 1997; Horváth, 2013). We investigate the dynamics of trust relations between a multinational company and the community in the north of Madagascar. We ask: What role does trust play in the creation and success of business relations? How does the formation of productive groups affect trust, cooperation and social cohesion among community members? How do vertical market integration strategies affect existing networks of mutual support?

Prof. Marcela Ibañez Diaz, Ph.D
Research Center 'Poverty, Equity and Growth in Developing Countries'

WP 6: Competencies for rural Madagascar

WP 6 investigates the preconditions for the integration of regionally relevant contents (i.e. vanilla production in the north east of Madagascar) with respect to Education for Sustainable Development in primary education. Particularly, our analysis focuses on the contents of the current national curriculums of Malagasy primary schools and on the procedural knowledge of primary school teachers regarding Sustainable Development Issues.
All the studies will be conducted in consideration of relevant diversity dimensions (cf. WP 3). Instruments will be used under the condition of being already established and adapted to the local challenges of Sustainable Development (see WP 4, 7-10).
The aim of the present research consists in obtaining additional knowledge of school education, teacher training and about potentials of designing local relevant curricula in the SAVA region. Furthermore, we will look for transferring our results on other regions showing similar conditions. For more information, see homepage of Didactics of Biology.

Prof. Dr. Susanne Bögeholz
Didactics of Biology, Albrecht-von-Haller-Institute for Plant Sciences, Faculty of Biology and Psychology

WP 7: Livestock as a means of income diversification

Many rural households in Madagascar keep livestock for food self-sufficiency, as insurance for unforeseen costs or calamities, or, in the case of cattle and oxen, to use their work force. Against this background, WP 7 compares the purposes of livestock keeping of households that are integrated in formally organized vanilla production with such families who operate outside the formal value chain. Besides, WP 7 studies livestock husbandry practices as such, namely animal management, feeding, health care, and breeding strategies, along with changes in livestock numbers during the past decade, and the reasons for such practices and changes. The aim is to clarify whether differences in reasons for and practices of animal husbandry by the different types of vanilla-producing households are explained by their (non-)integration in the vanilla value chain, or rather by other factors. In collaboration with WP 4 we also aim at determining possible effects of an expansion and / or intensification of livestock keeping on income diversification and household food security.

Prof. Dr. Eva Schlecht
Animal Husbandry in the Tropics and Subtropics, Faculty of Organic Agricultural Sciences, University of Kassel / Faculty of Agricultural Sciences, University of Göttingen

WP 8: Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services of Agro-ecologically Optimized Land Use

In contrast to global trends, smallholder subsistence farming continues to play a major role in Madagascar’s forest-agriculture frontiers. Here, knowledge on sustainable land use management to aid biodiversity conservation is urgently needed. In WP 8 we address this research gap by assessing the value of small-scale vanilla production for biodiversity conservation in Northeastern Madagascar. Using butterflies, ants and herbaceous plants as focus taxa, we perform a biodiversity comparison of the prevalent land use systems in the SAVA region. By assessing diverse functional traits of our species groups, we provide a deeper understanding of the biodiversity responses to different land use change drivers. Additionally, predation patterns as a proxy for ecosystem integrity are assessed to evaluate the potential of vanilla farming for ecosystem service provision. Biodiversity data is analyzed along plot-based parameters (e.g. canopy closure) as well as landscape-scale parameters (e.g. forest cover) to explain patterns of local biodiversity. Highlighting the importance of land-conversion history for local biodiversity, we contrast biodiversity of differently managed vanilla plots (fallow derived vs. forest derived). We are aiming to achieve a better understanding of vanilla cultivation as well as how land use is forming biodiversity in order to provide recommendations reconciling biodiversity conservation and sustainable land use.

Prof. Dr. Teja Tscharntke and Dr. Ingo Grass
Department of Crop Sciences, Agroecology, Faculty of Agricultural Sciences

WP 9: Conservation of Biological Diversity

We investigate the landscape- to regional-scale impacts of different types of vanilla cultivation as well as alternative land-uses (e.g. swidden agriculture, rice) on the conservation of biodiversity using key indicators (Birds, Amphibians, Reptiles). Birds are assessed using point counts and autonomous sound recording while amphibians and reptiles are identified and counted during time-standardised transect.
The plot-based biodiversity data will then be analysed along a vanilla canopy cover gradient as well as comparatively among land uses. Given the heterogeneity of the landscape, we will supplement the plot based analysis with novel modelling approaches of countryside biogeography to investigate the impact of the surrounding landscape on the local biodiversity. This will allow a detailed multi-scale evaluation of the biodiversity impacts of vanilla cultivation in NE Madagascar.

Prof. Dr. Holger Kreft
Biodiversity, Macroecology and Biogeography, Faculty of Forest Sciences and Forest Ecology

WP 10: Trees - using the diversity

We aim at assessing tree resources in the vanilla production landscape and its surroundings with emphasis on tree diversity and uses. Jointly and interactively, we wish to contribute to a diversification of land use by an improved integration of native trees in land use systems.

Prof. Dr. Dirk Hölscher
Tropical Silviculture and Forest Ecology, Faculty of Forest Sciences and Forest Ecology