The International Development Studies Alumni Association of Utrecht University

IDS Research

IDS is engaged in relevant research in the developing world. This section outlines our current research programs and areas of focus.

Chinese engagement in Africa and Asia

This research project, comprising two independent but comparable case studies, examines the trans-local development impact of Chinese engagement in Indonesia and Zambia. The research aims to make a theoretical and empirical contribution to and linking of three bodies of scholarship on: (i) mobilities and development (notions, practices and temporal-spatialities); (ii) movability of knowledge and expertise in the framework of highly-skilled mobilities; and (iii) shifting hegemony in international cooperation and the global political economy.

International Migration and Development ‘here’ and ‘there’

In this program, the focus is on the interface between migration and development, analyzing the role of diaspora organizations in enhancing‘development’, in the areas of destination as well as in the areas of origin or third countries. It tries to understand globalization by showing how such migrant organizations play a role in mobilizing social and financial remittances, often not trans-nationally, but very much in a trans-local way, producing development corridors and chains. In addition, attention is also given to the way in which (local) governments and local/international NGOs deal with human mobilities. This research analyses the way human mobility is integrated into local policies, programs and projects, with a focus on Ghana and Ecuador.


The RurbanAfrica project explores the connections between urbanization, mobility and rural transformation processes in sub Saharan Africa (Rwanda, Ghana,Tanzania and Cameroon) and aims to better understand how agricultural transformation and socioeconomic dynamics in peri-urban areas (marked by different forms of commoditization and land tenure systems) interact with rural– urban resource flows. Given the rapid growth of global and secondary cities,the project explores the impact in terms of livelihood diversification,mobilities and multi-local livelihoods. What is the impact of city dynamics on redistribution of livelihood resources - and what are the implications for inequalities and (rural) poverty? In addition to spatial and socioeconomic change, the project will explore how city growth and urbanization processes reflect demographic change, and how this impacts on urban economies and livelihoods.

LANDac: The global land rush

The LANDac program focuses on the ‘global land rush’, providing critical analyses of large scale land acquisitions and land ‘grabbing’ in Africa, Asia and Latin America, and analyzing the implications for sustainable and ‘local’ development. Various PhD projects (Costa Rica, Argentina, Vietnam, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Ghana and Nigeria), analyze various investment flows (in food and bio-fuels production, dams, nature conservation, residential tourism etc.) and the maneuvering space of local people for benefit sharing and/or displacement .

This research is carried out in close collaboration with academic partners as well as practitioners and policymakers, and results are discussed in a yearly summer school.

Agriculture beyond Food

This project (linked to the LANDac program, and carried out in collaboration with the Copernicus institute) analyses the implications of the rapid expansion of the frontier of oil palm production for livelihood improvement (who benefits?) and environmental sustainability. Over the last decade, oil palm has rapidly expanded due to new market opportunities, and large numbers of smallholders seem to benefit. It has been accompanied, however, by rapid deforestation and is increasingly expanding towards vulnerable peat land areas. In addition, local groups are often by-passed. This research aims to better understand the drivers and dynamics of oil palm expansion and its impact on local development. It aims to produce decision support models that will help make oil palm production more sustainable and inclusive.

Very much related to LANDac, but funded through the CoCooN program (NWO), IDS is also involved in doing a comparative study on bio-fuel production ('Japtropha as a miracle crop’) in Ethiopia and Ghana, which should contribute to a better understanding of the dynamics and consequences of investment hypes.


Responsible Business and Trade

Inclose collaboration with MVO Nederland and LANDac, we research the business practices of Dutch and other foreign entrepreneurs in the SME agro-food sector who are currently active in Africa, specifically South Africa, Kenya, Ethiopia,Rwanda and Mozambique. Based on a cross-country survey, we compile an inventory of the business characteristics and approaches, and undertake an analysis of the operations of these firms in terms of corporate social responsibility and their impact on sustainable local development. A related study undertaken within the context of LANDac envisages the identification and appraisal of‘good practices’ of foreign investment in large-scale land-based activities in developing countries (together with Royal Tropical Institute (KIT) and AidEnvironment). New funding has become available (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) for the implementation of a new international land forum (generating new ideas for research and  policy formulation).


 Responsible business and sustainable bio-fuel production

In collaboration with the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), we analyze large-scale farm investments from the business point of view, while investigating how to make production (food, bio-fuels) more sustainable from the economic, social and environmental point of view. In this research, which is carried out simultaneously in Indonesia, Brazil and Mozambique, much emphasis will be given to the trans-local dimensions (e.g., new relations between Brazil and Mozambique), the emergence of corridors, and the importance of  development chains as sequences of impacts.The results of this research will provide the basis for an annual seminar series with CIFOR.


Land subsidence in Indonesia

In the context of a new joint degree program, IDS and Gadja Mada University collaborate in research on land subsidence and the way local government can cope with the consequences (such as daily flooding). In Indonesia, cities in coastal areas, and also towns located in peat land (invaded by oil palm – see above) are increasingly confronted with daily flooding – having severe consequences for local livelihoods and the possibilities for sustainable and healthy urban development.This program (comparison between various cities in oil palm and coastal areas) will generate knowledge about how to deal with (future) sea-level rise, and how to achieve sustainable and healthy urban development.


CoCooN: Climate change adaptation policies

IDS initiated new research on climate change adaptation strategies, making a comparative analysis of interventions strategies and responses in Ghana, Burkina Faso and Kenya. This research, carried out in collaboration with a number of African institutions and the research program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CGIAR-University of Copenhagen) will generate new knowledge about the trans-local consequences of climate variability and environmental stress. In the context of this program, attention will be given to rural-urban linkages (competing claims for water and land) and the consequences of ‘new mobilities’ for conflicts and/or building sustainable livelihoods.

The new NWO Toptalent PhD project  of MIchelle McLinden Nuijen, titled 'Governing climate change? Climate change adaptation policies and local resilience in Cambodia and Lao PDR' is very much linked and will be carried out in close collaboration with the CoCooN team.