Who is who: Team leader Dr. Mirjam Steglich

Dr. Mirjam Steglich, who are you and why did you choose to become a teamleader for SLE?

I work in international agricultural research and development, and lived in different parts of Africa for over 15 years. In 2019 I returned to Berlin, my original hometown. Here, I studied International Agricultural Economics and did my PhD at Humboldt University. I know the SLE since my university days as an important reference institution for international development in my area of work. I thus liked the idea to become part of SLE as a team leader, especially for the project I became part of that invited young African researchers to support development research carried out in Europe.

What is your research about and what research results have surprised you so far?

Our team investigated the concept of agroecology and how agroecological transformation shapes rural development in parts of Germany and Austria. In addition, we wanted to better understand the distant effects that changes towards more sustainable agri-food systems in the Global North can have in the Global South. In an interconnected and interdependent world, these North-South linkages are highly complex and difficult to study in a comparatively short project duration. However, we focused our interest on how we can become more aware of these connections and exploit them through strengthened South-North collaboration rooted in concepts of international joint learning and the co-creation of knowledge.

What do you like best about your current job?

I enjoyed working with a young team of German and African researchers with quite a diverse range of expertise and professional background. Besides others, we had in our team an anthropologist from Southern Africa, an aquaculture specialist from Nigeria, the only female agroforestry researcher working in Northern Kenya, and an expert for energy-food linkages in working in rural areas the Sahel region. Besides exploring agroecology and rural development in different parts of Germany and Austria, which was something I had never done before and found extremely insightful, we realized that many rural challenges are unexpectantly similar with those in African countries. Carrying out a research project in rural areas here in Europe together with a team of African professionals was an amazing eye-opener for many reasons. I would recommend it as one way to overcome some of the often indiscriminately lingering post-colonial biases we still face in development studies.