Matin Qaim succeeds Joachim von Braun as ZEF director

Photo by Volker Lannert, uni bonn.

September 23, 2021.  

Agricultural economist Matin Qaim, who has been Professor of International Food Economics and Rural Development at the University of Göttingen since 2007, was recently appointed to the University of Bonn. Professor Qaim will serve as Schlegel-Professor of Economic and Technological Change and Director at ZEF from October 1, 2021.

The official appointment ceremony at the University of Bonn was held on September 24, 2021. In the photo: Matin Qaim (right) with Bonn University's rector (left) and his two new Schlegel-professor colleagues at the inauguration ceremony.


See also the press release by Bonn University about Matin Qaim and his two new Schlegel-professorship colleagues appointed by the University here

In addition, ZEF interviewed its new director Professor Matin Qaim by posing three questions:

1. Looking at your impressive CV and career path it seems like you are taking a big loop, after several other stages returning to ZEF and the University of Bonn, where you had obtained your doctoral degree in the year 2000. What was your main motivation to return to your “alma mater”?

When I had started my doctoral studies in the late-1990s, ZEF was brand-new and I was among the first students in ZEF’s Doctoral Program. At that time, ZEF was still quite small, but constantly growing and the institute already had a very international set-up and profile. After completing my doctoral degree in 2000, I left ZEF for a postdoc period in the USA. I then returned to ZEF in 2003 and stayed for one year with my own small research group, before accepting a professorship at the University of Hohenheim in Stuttgart and later at the University of Göttingen. During the different stages, I always maintained my ties with ZEF and observed how the Center evolved and thrived over the years. ZEF is a unique place, with an impressive track record in interdisciplinary development research, a fabulous international network, and a strong global visibility among development researchers and policymakers. Returning to ZEF and becoming Director at this great institution is an honor and occurs to me as a logical next step in my career. I am very excited to take on this position and eager to contribute to ZEF’s success story and the University of Bonn’s excellence.

2. ZEF is looking forward to having you as a new Director and Professor of Economic and Technological Change … So what are your ideas and visions for your new position at an institute you know so well? Which themes are on top of your agenda? What aspects are you looking forward to most?

One of my main research areas over the last few years was making global food systems more sustainable, considering both human health and planetary health. This is definitely an area that I will continue working on together with the team at ZEF and also with other colleagues at the University of Bonn and beyond. Planned research includes aspects of food production, such as studies on the socioeconomic and environmental effects of agricultural innovations, but also issues around food markets, food trade, sustainable consumption, and healthy diets and nutrition. Other topics that I will continue to work on include sustainable rural development with a particular focus on Africa and Asia, and links between climate change, food security, and poverty. I will try to further strengthen the ties with the Agricultural Faculty, the Medical Faculty, the Social Sciences and Economics of the University of Bonn, striving towards collaborative research consortia. I am also looking forward to fruitful joint work with the German Development Institute (DIE) and the other partners of the Bonn Alliance for Sustainability Research (Bonn Alliance). One of my passions is also training and mentoring young researchers, so I really look forward to interacting with the talented scholars from all over the world in ZEF’s Doctoral Program.

3. You have conducted research and have taught on a wide range of agricultural and development economics topics in many regions of the world. What do you consider the “highlights” of your research activities and your academic achievements so far?

I am probably best known for my research on the effects of agricultural biotechnology and genetically modified crops (GMOs) in developing countries. This is an area that I have worked on for more than 25 years. In Europe, many people believe that GMOs have nothing to offer for poor farmers and consumers, but research that I conducted with my team in several developing countries shows that GMOs can help improve income and resilience in the small farm sector, thus contributing to food security and poverty reduction. Several of our results were published in top academic journals, such as Science and Nature Group journals, but more work needs to be done to reduce skepticism towards GMOs among the wider public. Other research areas that my team has contributed to with internationally visible output are nutrition-sensitive agriculture, sustainable land use, linking smallholder farmers to emerging value chains, and the effects of modern food retailers on consumer nutrition and health.


What you should know about Matin Qaim’s professional background:

Matin Qaim started his academic career with a diploma in agricultural sciences from Kiel University (1996). He conducted his doctoral research at ZEF from 1997 to 2000 on "Potential Impacts of Plant Biotechnology in Developing Countries" and obtained his PhD from the University of Bonn in 2000. From 2001 to 2003, he was postdoctoral fellow at the University of California at Berkeley, USA. In 2003, he completed his habilitation at the University of Bonn and obtained his “venia legendi” in agricultural and development economics. Shortly thereafter, he accepted an offer from the University of Hohenheim, where he was Professor of International Agricultural Trade and Food Security from 2004 to 2007. In 2007, he became Professor at the University of Göttingen, where he has initiated and led several collaborative research projects on sustainable agriculture and food security.

Professor Qaim has implemented and led research projects in numerous countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America and has a worldwide network of research partners. He has received numerous awards and honors for his pioneering work. In 2018, he was elected member of the German National Academy of Sciences (Leopoldina). In 2019, he was recognized as Fellow of the American Agricultural and Applied Economics Association (AAEA), the highest honor of the agricultural economics profession in North America. In 2021, Qaim became President-Elect of the International Association of Agricultural Economists (IAAE). He has over 250 academic publications and has supervised more than 50 doctoral researchers from 20 different countries as main advisor.