Translations of the ‘adaptation to climate change’ paradigm in Eastern Africa




Prof. Dr. Martin Doevenspeck


Politische Geographie




04 / 2011 - 10 / 2016


The project starts from the observation that society-environment relations in Africa are currently facing an intense re-shaping through a multitude of climate related programmes, conceptually developed at an international level, translated into projects and programmes at the national level and negotiated and appropriated ideologically, socially and economically at the local level. It takes the global concept of ‘Adaptation to Climate Change’ as a travelling idea that was initially designed by scientists in the North and is presently “travelling” to the South. The project is based on the following hypotheses:

(1) The ‘travelling’ of the global adaptation to climate change paradigm to Africa is an ambiguous and contested translation process in which the idea undergoes reinterpretation, modification and appropriation so that it matches experiences, needs and interests of stakeholders at multiple levels in Africa.

(2) Translation processes are structured by translation regimes that are constituted by a specific set of actors, networks of communication, institutional patterns of interaction, and knowledge resources.

(3) Translations and their social, technological and environmental materialisations will imply fundamental changes in the way people exploit, manage and conserve their environment and thus be accompanied by conflicts between different social groups with their respective interests.

The key question is twofold and asks on the one hand how actors in different translation regimes in Ethiopia, Tanzania and Rwanda are able to unfold their capacities of adaptation and creativity in the process of translation of the adaptation idea and on the other hand how the mobilisation and transformation of these capacities shape environmental governance and thus a re-ordering of state-society-environment relations in these countries.