Annual Report 2004/05

December 19, 2005.  

"The Center for Development Research of the University of Bonn (ZEF) takes stocks"


A year after the funding from the Bonn-Berlin Compensation Fund ended, ZEF has been able to consolidate its position. “This is mainly due to our successful fundraising efforts”, says Prof. Dr. Paul Vlek, Executive Director of ZEF. “Whereas the University of Bonn and the State of North Rhine-Westphalia support ZEF with a core budget, the remaining 80% of the budget is being funded by third parties. Among the main financial supporters of our research projects and our International Doctoral Studies Program for Development Research (IDSP) are the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), the Helmholtzgesellschaft, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the German Federal Foreign Office (AA), the German Agency for Technical Cooperation (gtz), and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) as well as the Robert-Bosch Foundation, the Volkswagen Foundation, the European Union, the German Research Foundation (DFG) and others. A broad range of national and international academic and scientific cooperation partners enable us to conduct interdisciplinary research work of high quality. Moreover, we contribute essentially to Capacity Building in developing countries through our Doctoral Program and the set-up of our research projects”, explains Vlek.


“ZEF remains an essential part of the University of Bonn”, says the University’s Rector Prof. Dr. Matthias Winiger. “Especially its Doctoral Program has been contributing substantially to the international profile of the University”, he adds. Since its inception in 1999, two hundred seventy doctoral students from 55 countries have participated in the three-year program, 112 students have finished with a doctoral degree. Currently, around 140 students take part in the program. The University of Bonn selected the IDSP to be part of its proposal submitted to the Federal Government’s initiative to create Centers of Excellence in Germany. The outcome is not expected before mid 2006.


ZEF’s current research foci are Local Governance in the Amu Darya Region, Knowledge Management in Southeast Asia, Economic and Ecological Restructuring in Khorezm, Usbekistan, Climate Change and Water Resources Management in Ghana and Burkina Faso as well as the Conservation and Use of Wild Coffee Populations in Ethiopia (CoCE). The projects are carried out in close cooperation with several institutes of the University of Bonn.


A crucial question dealt with in the CoCE project is the economic value of wild coffee’s genetic resources. “Although biodiversity is considered to be of high value, it is difficult to transfer the potential economic value of wild coffee into real benefits for the local people in southwest Ethiopia”, tells Dr. Manfred Denich, project leader of CoCE. “An economic assessment shows that the potential economic value of the genetic diversity of wild coffee is about 0.5 – 1 billion € per year. These numbers are based on a breeding program carried out with wild coffee and aiming at varieties which have a low caffeine content, are tolerant of diseases and have stable yields under adverse environmental conditions. In the short run, however, it is often economically more profitable for the local farmers to cut down the forest and farm the land than conserve the genetic diversity of the wild coffee", Denich explains. "If the international community and the coffee industry have a sincere interest in conserving the genetic value of wild coffee they have to create financial incentives for the local population. This seems to be the most promising way to make them give up short-term economic profit in favour of a sustainable use of the resource”, concludes Denich.


The so-called “Payments for Environmental Services” are an example of such financial incentives. These payments are being made to the local population, compensating for the environmental services they perform. In the ZEF-led project “Alternative Institutions for the Management of Natural Resources in Developing Countries”, funded by the Robert-Bosch Foundation, research is done on the role and impact of such payments. Case studies have been and are still being conducted in Costa Rica, Tanzania, and Indonesia. “Preliminary results show us that these payments are a promising instrument indeed. But they are generally not the often thought miracle cure to combat poverty and protect the environment simultaneously”, warns project leader Dr. Stefanie Engel. “Programs that have been designed for optimising environmental benefits are not automatically in favor of increasing the local population’s participation. Payments for environmental services are primarily an instrument for environmental protection, not for combating poverty”, summarizes Engel the project results so far.


The Center for Development Research (ZEF) currently has three full-time Professors, 20 Senior Fellows, 23 Senior Researchers, and 142 Junior Researchers, beside administrative staff and research assistants. Around half of the scientists have an international background and the working language is English.

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Alma van der Veen