photo by Birgit Müller

This website is about the Junior Research Group

POLISES - Global food security policies and their social-ecological side effects in regions prone to global change

Duration: 01.08.2014-31.10.2019

POLISES project homepage


The fight against hunger is an urgent global challenge. Food security policies that focus on smallholders in developing countries enjoy substantial funding. However, only limited knowledge is available on how these policies change land use practices, whether unintended side effects may occur, and what happens under the influence of global change.


Our aims are to

  • explore the impacts of global food security policies on local land use strategies,
  • investigate the resulting social-ecological resilience of smallholding farmers and pastoralists in Africa,
  • focus on combined effects of different processes of global change,
  • advance the design of such policies to be appropriate for the most vulnerable groups, and
  • support social learning on global food security.

Methodological Approach

We use dynamic social-ecological modelling, in particular agent-based modelling. This approach allows taking into account micro-scale interactions of households, linkages between social and ecological system components, and cross-scale effects of global policies (through their locally installed instruments) on local land use strategies.

Resource Systems and Policy Instruments in Focus

We investigate policy impacts on livestock and crop smallholders in drylands, with a strong focus on pastoralists. Our research is based on case studies in East Africa (Ethiopia, Kenya) and North Africa (Morocco). In this context, we aim to explore the impact of policy instruments – in particular risk-coping mechanisms, environment-related policies and land use policies – on the social-ecological resilience of smallholders.

Project Team

Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Birgit Müller (Head of the Junior Research Group) ·

Dr. rer. nat. Gunnar Dreßler (Postdoc) ·

Dr. rer. nat. Meike Will (PhD student, associated) ·

David Kreuer (Project Assistant) ·

Martin Kraus (Research Assistant)


The project is funded with 1.7 million Euro by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) under the programme Junior Research Groups “Global Change 4+1.”


Project Website

For more information, visit our external project homepage: