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02 March 2021 Kathrin Haimerl, Abteilung Kommunikation, University of Passau

Bus station in the south of Ghana. Dr. Christian Ungruhe

In West Africa, migration is an integral part of everyday life. A research team at the Chair of Human Geography at the University of Passau is leading the joint international project MiTra-Wa, funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), which aims to provide a systematic analysis of the relationships between migration and securing a livelihood and their social, economic and ecological consequences.

Circular migration between regions of origin and destination – is an integral part of everyday life in West Africa. A great number of people organise their livelihoods in social network contexts, which stretch over vast distances and often beyond national borders. These translocal relationships have a decisive influence on life in rural and urban areas – with far-reaching social, economic and ecological impacts. ‘Having said that, the planners and politicians are currently still having quite a tough time doing justice to these translocal realities with their concepts and strategies. All too often their concepts remain trapped in a territorialising way of thinking’, says Professor Malte Steinbrink, holder of the Chair of Human Geography at the University of Passau.

Interdisciplinary cooperation with universities in Ghana, Nigeria and Burkina Faso

Steinbrink and his team are heading the BMBF consortium ‘Migration and Translocality in West Africa (MiTra-Wa)’, and this is exactly where the researchers' work starts: they are investigating motivational forces, structures and processes of translocal migration in West Africa, and their consequences. In addition to the team from Passau around Prof. Dr Steinbrink and Dr Christian Ungruhe, the interdisciplinary consortium also includes researchers from the fields of geography, spatial planning, sociology, agricultural economics, ethnology and migration research from the universities in Accra, Kumasi, Ouagadougou and Ibadan and Dortmund. The work is being done under the aegis of the West African Science Service Centre on Climate Change and Adapted Land Use (WASCAL) and aims to strengthen international scientific collaboration with the partner universities in Ghana, Nigeria and Burkina Faso.

‘Our overall aim is to better understand rural-urban and international migration, urbanisation and the linkages between these phenomena and the far-reaching environmental changes in West Africa; and for that, an interdisciplinary, multi-perspective approach is absolutely essential', says Professor Steinbrink. The international research team is working with translocal mobility and livelihood approaches. The researchers will analyse the complex migration flows and informal network relations typical of West Africa in order to grasp the impact of translocality.

Passau team: group coordination and basic research

As well as the coordination of the MiTra consortium, the team from the University of Passau is responsible for the key sub-project, which focuses on empirical translocality case-studies. With a multi-local research design, the Passau team is investigating the systems in which people secure their livelihood translocally in terms of their consequences in urban and rural areas, and with an additional focus on the challenges involved in attempts to control and govern translocal mobilities.

The results of the Passau sub-project will form the basis for the more application-oriented further sub-projects of the research consortium. From the insights gained, the international team will develop recommendations for action and policy in respect of a sustainable translocal development.

The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) is funding the consortium as a whole to the tune of 1.7 million euros over a term of three years. The amount of funding for Passau itself is 630,944.40 euros.

Contact for scientific information:

Professor Malte Steinbrink
Chair of Human Geography
University of Passau
Innstraße 40
94032 Passau

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