I am a senior researcher and Head of the EMIC Section at the United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security in Bonn (UNU-EHS). “EMIC” stands for Environment & Migration: Interactions & Choices. I am a human geographer by training (Master’s and PhD), and my research is about the impacts of climate change, adaptation, migration, environmental change, livelihoods, resilience and rural development. I study these topics with a people-centred perspective. I have extensive fieldwork experience, mostly in Ghana (5 years), but also in Burkina Faso, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Nepal, the Marshall Islands and Bolivia.
A key feature of my research is the use of a mixed-method approach, combining qualitative and quantitative research tools and data, such as questionnaire surveys, life histories, Q methodology, focus group discussions, PRA tools, text mining, population census data, remote sensing, and spatial analysis using GIS software.
At UNU-EHS, I lead the institute’s work on migration-environment linkages, and loss and damage from climate change. From 2014 to 2018 I was a senior researcher in the Gibika research-to-action project that looked at livelihood resilience in Bangladesh, and I coordinated the annual Resilience Academy, which is a network of approximately one hundred young scholars and practitioners.
I studied at the University of Amsterdam (human geography) and three months at the University of Sussex (migration studies). My Master’s thesis (2002) and PhD thesis (2011) were published as books by the African Studies Centre Leiden. Five chapters of my PhD thesis have been published in international journals, like International Migration, Environment and Urbanization, Africa, Forced Migration Review and Hommes et Migrations. [link to my publications]
From 2008 to 2012 I worked as researcher in the Participatory Assessment of Development (PADev) project at the University of Amsterdam and as research consultant. Among my clients have been the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, the Royal Tropical Institute (KIT) in Amsterdam, the United Nations University (UNU) in Bonn, CARE International, DFID Ghana and the Foresight programme of the UK Office for Science. From 2006 to 2009 I worked as a lecturer at the University of Amsterdam where I taught human geography and courses on environment and international development. [link to my projects]
I have also been active as documentary film maker. My first, award-winning, documentary was screened at over twenty prestigious international film festivals worldwide. My second documentary received a nomination for the Holland-doc Jury Award of the Dutch Film Festival, and has been watched almost 3 million times on youtube. [link to my video work]
Personal life: I have a 12-year old son. I like playing soccer, all other ball-games and hiking. Favourite mode of transport: bicycle. I like trees, and a dream I have for my retirement is to look for a degraded, treeless piece of land and bring back life to it by planting trees, reducing soil erosion and promoting biodiversity. A new hobby I have is my vegetable garden and keeping chickens.