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Themes and Expertise

Themes and methodological expertise

The SLE has traditionally focused on rural development issues in the global south, including the typical developing countries as well as fragile states, transition countries and emerging countries, with a special emphasis on marginalised groups. Due to changing economic, social, demographic and ecological conditions, rural populations around the world are undergoing many different processes of change. In the last few years, the SLE has therefore broadened the scope of its work to take in issues such as town-country relations, urban development, structural change and migration, all topics that go beyond purely rural development.

Against the backdrop of the international development 'agenda 2030', the SLE has oriented its study and training programmes and its research towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the 'Zukunftscharta' of the German development cooperation community, which are themselves aimed at social inclusion and ecological sustainability. These aims also apply to the global north, in particular with respect to the reduction of CO2 emissions, but also for social goals such as coherent, development-oriented regulation of international trade or attention to social inequalities within societies.

The SLE's working topics include:

  • rural and agricultural development (value chains, microfinance, rural institutions);
  • poverty reduction, structural change, in particular in the global south;
  • civil society, development ethics, anti-discrimination;
  • food security and sovereignty, quality of nutrition;
  • management and governance of natural resources (forests, water, soil, pastures, biodiversity);
  • town-country relations, green or sustainable cities, urban farming;
  • climate change (protection and adaptation), disaster prevention;
  • cooperation with fragile states, peacebuilding, crisis prevention and conflict management.

The SLE offers expertise and high-quality advisory services in all these areas.

We combine this thematic expertise with methodological expertise to put in place practical, lasting development processes. The right methods are always vital whenever research knowledge is to be gathered, tested and put into practice as workable policies, measures and tools. The development of new methods is therefore a central aspect of our practical research.

In our projects, we teach the following approaches, methods and tools, as well as others:

  • analysis of vulnerabilities, resilience and livelihoods, and the value chain approach;
  • integrated approaches to resource management, the nexus approach, the stewardship approach;
  • systemic adaptations to climate change, no-regret measures;
  • disaster risk reduction strategies, conflict prevention, emergency and transition aid, rights-based approaches (inclusion);
  • translation and extension of research results into policy and practice through systemic knowledge management;
  • participatory approaches.


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