International Agricultural Policy and Environmental Governance

Institution: Universität Kassel

About the lab

The Section International Agricultural and Environmental Policy and Environmental Governance (led by Prof. Dr. Andreas Thiel), Faculty of Organic Agricultural Sciences, Kassel University, critically evaluates contemporary institutions, policies and actor constellations and their impacts on regional and local social-ecological food systems and the natural environment. We use institutional economics and political science approaches as well as approaches drawing on critical geography.

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Featured research (6)

Coordination in the public sector among interdependent policies is considered crucial for their effectiveness. However, while coordination has been studied for decades, conceptual approaches to understand the functional and temporal dimensions of policy coordination are lacking. This paper attempts to address these gaps by integrating governance functions and action situations into the analysis of the policy cycle, thereby introducing the notion of holistic coordination. We argue that this approach is useful to get a more differentiated understanding of where and why coordination across the policy cycle breaks down, and to capture the political economy of policy-making. Empirically, we undertake an illustrative case study of the European Union (EU) Water Framework Directive (WFD) implementation in the Guadalquivir river basin, Spain, focusing on measures to reduce agricultural water consumption. We find that the failure to reach agreed policy objectives of reduction of water consumption can be traced back to the way governance functions were addressed and coordinated within action situations and across the overall policy cycle. Furthermore, the analysis shows that the lack of holistic coordination can be seen as an outcome of deliberate decisions by public actors involved in the policy, taken already at the beginning of the policy cycle. Thereby, expected benefits that agricultural water users associated with the policy have been deliberately increased, while their related expected costs have been decreased. Ultimately, this made the policy objective to reduce agricultural water consumption less credible and the policy more acceptable to water users and a powerful agricultural lobby.
Coherence and coordination among interdependent policy sectors are considered key for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Literature on policy coherence argues that a lack of coordination may lead to policy incoherence; however, literature on coordination also sometimes points to the reversed causality that incoherencies in policies or in governance functions (functional incoherence) may hinder coordinated policy outcomes; in fact, these assumptions have rarely been further theorized or tested empirically. In this paper, we hypothesize the higher functional or policy coherence, the higher coordination at process level and the higher the likelihood that coordination at process level is translated into coordination at outcome level. We test this hypothesis for cross-sectoral coordination challenges among different water using sectors in six different basins located in Germany, Iran, Mongolia, Spain, and South Africa. At first glance, four cases seem to confirm the first part of the hypothesis for functional coherence and three for policy coherence. It remains difficult to establish causality. Whether functional and policy coherence translate into coordination at process level seems to depend on a functioning coordination body. We further find that functional and policy incoherencies may either lead to coordination problems (in view of conflicts of interest) or even go along with a high level of coordination at the process level, possibly to compensate for incoherencies. Neither functional nor policy coherence change the relationship of coordination at process and outcome level. To explain coordination at the outcome level, other factors need to be considered.
Human–elephant conflict (HEC) is a severe and much-debated issue in Sri Lanka. An average of two hundred animals are intentionally killed, and seventy to eighty human casualties are counted each year. The Sri Lankan elephant (Elephas maximus maximus) is an endangered subspecies. The reported elephant mortality rates are high. On the other hand,human–elephant conflict also leads to hardship and trauma among rural populations. This research paper reviews causal explanations for HEC in Sri Lanka, tracing underlying narratives and connecting broader conservation theory and practical approaches. The paper discusses potential causes and contexts of HEC in Sri Lanka, including historical factors (i.e., colonial hunting and land-use changes), poaching, habitat loss due to population growth, crop-raiding behaviour, problem animals, and changes in agricultural production systems. The review concludes that socio-economic and cultural factors in HEC in Sri Lanka are poorly explained, and more research should focus on the underlying conditions of rural populations’ vulnerability.
See full special issue at (open access). In the face of multiple crises of ecology, economy, and social equity, the question of how to democratically transform toward a more sustainable society is high on the political agenda as well as pertinent to academic research. The first part of this introductory article to the special issue provides a brief overview of contemporary interrelated debates on sustainability, democracy, and transformation. It discusses the main concepts, themes, and questions that are part of the highly diverse and constantly evolving body of literature on the topic, as well as differences regarding analytical frames and normative underpinnings. The overview shows that the literature remains largely silent about supporting theories of change, ontologies, methodologies, and principles ‒ and/or the ways in which transformation, sustainability, and democracy are interrelated. The second part of this article introduces the contributions to this special issue. The special issue is guided by three overarching questions: What can we say about the possibilities and problems of democratically enacting changes toward greater social, ecological, economic, and political sustainability in societies? Which analytic frames are useful for evaluating change, including its democratic and sustainability quality? Where do evaluations and judgments derive their analytical and normative legitimacy from?
Institutional arrangements for managing forests at the constitutional level of the state define the property rights bundles through which rural households access benefits and manage forests in communal lands. Forest degradation in communal areas of Zimbabwe show that there is need to understand the influence of forest-related constitutional level rules on actual or perceived benefits to conserve, preserve and improve management of forests in communal areas. We examined through a systematic search and review of Acts of Parliament, the overarching principles that underlie property rights bundles for harvesting of forest produce in communal lands in Zimbabwe. Results show that the rights to regulate access, withdrawal, management, exclusion and alienation of land and forest resources lie with the minister and the state President. The legislation criminalizes unauthorized access and commercial use even for inhabitants. Local communities and individuals can initiate and implement management systems only with the approval of the appropriate authority. The constitutional level rules restrict inhabitants of communal lands to authorized entrants for protected forest areas or authorized users for communal forests thus shifting the responsibility for proactive management of forest resources away from the direct users. The current legislation inherited the legislative provisions of the colonial era where centralization of forest management shaped land and forest resources conservation policies. Therefore, there is need for legislation that stimulates local management of land and forest resources through revision of property rights for rural households. Coupling alienation rights with exclusion rights could stimulate rural households to invest in forest resources and undertake more intensive management of woodlands in communal lands.

Lab head

Andreas Thiel
  • Department of International Agricultural Policy and Environmental Governance
About Andreas Thiel
  • Professor of International Agricultural Policy and Environmental Governance at the Faculty of Organic Agricultural Sciences at University of Kassel. My research focusses on a critical analysis of institutional change and performance in the agricultural and natural resource management sectors.

Members (10)

Hussam Hussein
  • University of Oxford
Md Rezaul Karim
  • Universität Kassel
Sören Köpke
  • Universität Kassel
Muluken Elias Adamseged
  • International Water Management Institute
Nora Schütze
  • Universität Kassel
Renata Buriti
  • Universität Kassel

Alumni (2)

Christian Schleyer
  • University of Innsbruck