Jean-David Gerber's Lab

Featured projects (1)

The GoverDENSE project aims to study the institutional determinants of densification challenges. It analyses how densification processes are governed and simultaneously questions the impacts of current attempts at increasing the performance of planning implementation in terms of sustainability. Its overarching research question examines the conditions under which spatial planning can lead more effectively to increased densification while retaining urban quality for all, including more vulnerable socio-economic groups.

Featured research (7)

In many cities, there has been renewed interest over the last 30 years in densification as part of wider efforts to combat urban sprawl. In daily practice, however, densification is a contested process because of its redistributive effects. Next to potential environmental advantages, it produces both benefits and losses for different individuals and households. The redistributive effects are an expression of conflicts between environmental, economic, and social dimensions of sustainability. We show that the latter is heavily impacted: if densification projects are not designed to the needs of people who are actually supposed to benefit from it-the residents low income groups are at risk of social displacement. This scenario is highly unsustainable. By using a neo-institutional approach and comparative case study methodology conducted in Switzerland, we analyze the institutional rules and the involved actors' strategies when dealing with densification projects. We explain the mechanisms leading to the loss of social qualities when competing with economic interests of investors and authorities.
Decentralization policy forms part of a broader global ideology and effort of the international donor community in favor of subsidiarity and local participation and represents a paradigm shift from top-down command-and-control systems. Since 2003, the formalization of property rights through titling became an integral component of decentralized land administration efforts in Ghana. The creation of new forms of local government structures and the related changes in the distribution of responsibilities between different levels of government have an impact on natural resource management, the allocation of rights, and the unequal distribution of powers. This paper aims to understand how decentralization reforms modify the balance of power between public administration, customary authorities, and resource end-users in Ghana. Decentralization's impact is analyzed based on two case studies. Relying on purposive and snowball sampling techniques, and mixed methods, we conducted 8 key informant interviews with local government bureaucrats in land administration, 16 semi-structured interviews with allodial landholders, 20 biographic interviews, and 8 focus groups discussions with small-scale farmers. The interviews analyzed the institutions and the roles of actors in land administration. Our case studies show that decentralization has the tendency to increase local competition in land administration where there is no clear distribution of power and obligation to local actors. Local competition and elitism in land administration impact the ability of small-scale farmers to regularize or formalize land rights. Thus, the paper concludes that local competition and the elitism within the land administration domain in Ghana could be the main obstacles towards decentralization reforms.
Since the 1970s, temporary uses of vacant spaces have become a preferred urban development strategy to revitalise centrally-located neighbourhoods. In the housing sector, however, tempo-rary uses are barely registered as they provide only short-term shelter in buildings shortly be-fore demolition. Therefore, they do not secure a stable right to housing. In Switzerland, never-theless, temporary uses are increasingly gaining momentum in the housing segment. Since the 2010s, besides institutionalised but non-profit temporary housing, a for-profit model has emerged. This commodified model is managed on the owners’ behalf and is based on loaning law contracts that require payment for operating costs, but not rent. Consequently, the legal pro-tection of the temporary users’ rights, namely low-income families, single parents, people with social aid, and students remains weak. This article detects the mechanisms at play explaining the reasons for the shift towards profit-seeking in temporary housing by using an institutionalist and actor-centred analysis approach. Through a qualitative single case study analysis of Zurich, Switzerland, the phenomenon will be analysed in a city confronted with increasing affordable housing shortage and densification pressure.
In Switzerland, the fight against uncontrolled urban sprawl and the protection of agricultural land have long tradition. To reconcile these concerns, the Swiss voting majority agreed to introduce densification as a legally binding policy objective in 2013. Simultaneously, however, densification processes have started to threaten the housing situation of low- and middle-income tenants due to higher rents following redevelopment. In this article, we argue that the Swiss way of implementing densification is characterised by a systematic bypassing of tenants’ needs for social sustainability in housing due to the current political priorities of the Swiss federal government. Using an institutionalist analysis approach and qualitative case study methodology, we analyse the institutional mechanisms and the actors’ rationale behind this emerging business of densification. Finally, we discuss the role of the national state in the provision of the “right-to-housing” for all income segments and its consequences for the country’s long term sustainability performance.
Contract farming (CF) is always and inherently a gendered process. This paper unveils the gender dynamics in resource access, use and labour control to show how outgrower CF induces changes, often contradictory engendering processes of production relations. It asks: How does CF influence gender relations in access to land, household labour relations and employment conditions (participation)? Relying on a detailed case study research of a sugarcane CF scheme in Malawi, we show that CF has a complex gen-dered impact on household's production relations. CF leads to a masculinization of farm management and ownership together with a feminization of labour. Nevertheless, women translate such labour provision into active participation in decision-making over the use of the cash returns from the CF for better outcome in the household. At the individual level, some can benefit from it; especially women who manage to engage in cane farming are able to attain financial independence and increase their bargaining power within their households. However, such benefits are reserved for households with access to land. Nevertheless, women engagement in cane farming coupled with increased gender awareness through NGOs sensitization is contributing to a change in gendered social perceptions and increased valuation of women abilities in commercial farming, their needs and contributions and may be modifying the gender balance at the community level. We demonstrate that empowering women by making them cane farmers alone is not enough to change women position within their communities, unless community members accompany such empowerment with the recognition and acknowledgement of the women's contribution. The finding suggests that combining active women participation in outgrower CF with authority enhancing programs through community education whilst creating the possibilities for women to take independent action may be a good way to improve the gender relations between men and women.

Lab head

Jean-David Gerber
  • Institute of Geography

Members (14)

Andreas Hengstermann
  • Ulster University
Sébastien Boillat
  • Universität Bern
Fabian Käser
  • Swiss Academy of Sciences
Deniz Ay
  • Universität Bern
Michele Amacker
  • Universität Bern
Timothy Ananbegle Adams
  • Universität Bern
Kristina Lanz
  • Universität Bern
Anna von Sury
Anna von Sury
  • Not confirmed yet