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Scientists at the Leuphana: Dr. Arvid Bergsten

02/27/2017 Arvid Bergsten is a post-doctoral Marie Curie fellow at the Faculty of Sustainability. His research deals with sustainability and collaborative governance, with a case study on food security in Ethiopia.

Bergsten's work takes place at the meeting point of the social and the biological sphere. “A general interest of mine is to understand complexity and interdependencies in social-ecological systems, so that we can learn how to coexist more sustainably with nature. To explore this, I am using network modelling in combination with other quantitative approaches,” says Bergsten. By viewing social and ecological systems as networks that interact with each other, he had previously shown how collaborative actor networks can develop to co-manage shared resources and transboundary ecosystems. 

Who should collaborate and why?

The food system is central to many sustainability challenges that humanity faces today. Bergsten’s current project in southwestern Ethiopia is about uncovering collaborative networks in the governance of food security and biodiversity in rural landscapes. “Sustainability is challenging especially for governance issues that span across several sectors of society, as with many environmental problems today. These require coordination among multiple stakeholders at multiple governance levels,” Bergsten explains. Together with Jörn Fischer's team, Arvid Bergsten has mapped interactions among 190 stakeholders and 60 governance issues in the Ethiopian study system. They are now identifying which particular aspects of food security and smallholder livelihoods that seem to be falling between the cracks in the governance system, for example by being poorly coordinated among stakeholders. “Stakeholders needs to know where the gaps are in order to focus their efforts. The usual call for more coordination of everything is fairly meaningless to most practitioners”, Bergsten continues.
The second question in Bergsten’s project in Ethiopia asks whether the informal sharing of labor and land among individual farmers influences their food security and diversity, as well as their individual freedom to grow the crops they prefer. Based on interviews with 180 farmers he is investigating how social and economic factors, group dynamics, and government involvement in concert influence the food security, diversity and sovereignty of farmer households. “We have this new discussion in Europe about alternative ways of economic organization that are informal and communal, or that involve sharing. I see a chance to learn from the traditional communal solutions that are still in place in many developing countries,” Bergsten concludes.

After his doctorate at the Stockholm Resilience Centre, Arvid Bergsten was a Lecturer at Södertörn University, and an Environmental advisor Ekologigruppen. He holds a MSc in socio-technical systems, and a BSc in History of science from Uppsala University. Since 2016, Arvid Bergsten is working on his postdoctoral project "Social and Ecological Networks supporting biodiversity and food security" project (SENet).

For more detailed information


Dr. Arvid Bergsten
Universitätsallee 1, C40.231
21335 Lüneburg
Fon +49.4131.677-7815

Editor: Martin Gierczak, University Communication. News can be send to