Interests and current work
Societies and environments are changing at unprecedented rates. Agricultural production and research must be adapted to continue maintaining the fullfilment of our most basic human need, access to food for living a healthy and productive life (see IFPRI vision 2020). According to the FAO, half of global child deaths result from hunger, two billion people are food-insecure and 820 million people are chronically malnourished today (FAO 2019 PDF 9.2MB). This is unacceptable in a civilized world community.
Natural science is a treasure trove providing ample solutions for alleviating this situation. Having been educated in environmental physics, plant physiological ecology, international agronomy and practical farming I see it as my obligation to contribute to developing solutions for sustainable plant production. For me, practicing sustainability means creating an honest balance between ecological, social, cultural and economic sustainabilities.
My attitude towards agronomy is fundamentally influenced by two important experiences:
1. Having worked on a reconstructed ancient runoff-farm in the Negev desert in the mid 1980s I realized that agricultural production can be sustainable for hundreds of years if farming is carried out with and not against nature.
2. The concept of “conquering” landscapes for food production is outworn. The wheatbelt in West-Australia is a good example: Farmers cleared vast areas from natural vegetation which rooted dozens of meters deep into the soils and started cropping wheat with shallow roots. Serious hydrologic imbalances and soil salinity deteriorating millions hectares of land were the consequences. The School of Plant Biology at the University of Western-Australia in Perth developed an elegant solution to which I contributed as a guest researcher in the mid 2000s: Analyzing water-use patterns of natural vegetation and applying this information to redesign farming systems that they better fit to their environments.
Both experiences led me to the conviction that learning from nature should be a common practice in agronomic research.
Agronomy needs substantial reform to provide effective solutions for climate change adaptation of farming and sharply rising food demand of a rapidly growing population. 11 internationally known plant physiologists and me recently proposed an integrated research framework which could be applied in making agronomic solutions more effective: “Linking integrative plant physiology with agronomy to sustain future plant production” (Original manuscript downloadable here)
During my scientific work in East-Africa over the past 16 years, I have gradually learned that dynamics in landscapes cannot be understood from ecological perspectives alone, but must also consider human influences. This motivated me to synthesize agroecological research principles with cognitive methods for studying future-imagination of rural African farmers. Together with East African politicians and their advisors, I have also developed a new method of environmental policy-making to overcome the limits of evidence-based decision-making in balancing nature conservation with human needs. Manuscripts of these two concepts are currently in review. I will provide further information and seek for opportunities for implementing them in practice once they have been accepted.
Listening to concerts and playing music, walking, swimming, novel reading, art, theatre, movies. Mentoring volunteers of Action Reconciliation and Peace Service.