Can the blue economy alleviate poverty and rural exodus in East Africa?

The University of Montpellier continues to shine on the international scene. David Mouillot, UM professor at the MARBEC laboratory (Marine biodiversity exploitation and conservation) and senior member of the Institut universitaire de France has just been awarded an ERC Advanced grant. This funding will enable it to conduct original and transdisciplinary research assessing the potential of coastal marine resources to alleviate poverty and emigration in rural East Africa affected by land aridification.

© Eva Maire (IRD MARBEC researcher), taken in Madagascar

A project on alleviating poverty and rural exodus in East Africa affected by land draining through the blue economy

The project is based on a main hypothesis: over the past three decades, which have been particularly marked by land desertification and natural disasters in East Africa, coastal and rural villages have better alleviated poverty and emigration by developing a sustainable blue economy providing alternative resources and livelihoods.

The blue economy is an economic concept referring to economic activities related to the oceans, seas and their coasts. David Mouillot's study will combine satellite imagery, artificial intelligence algorithms and statistical methods of spatial matching, as well as multidisciplinary field surveys. The project will focus on three types of blue economy (marine protected areas, ecotourism and aquaculture) and three countries (Madagascar, Tanzania and Mozambique) where agricultural resources are threatened by climate change and where sustainable development issues are among the most critical at the global level. 

The causal link between the establishment of a blue economy and the long-term dynamics of poverty and rural exodus remains uncharted territory in the field of international research. The aim is to better understand the extent to which coastal communities in East Africa have been able to adapt to the consequences of climate change on their land by diversifying their activities towards the sea. The results may generate new local knowledge and solutions to guide policies and investment in Africa (EU interventions, UN organisations, donors, non-governmental organisations).

"I see this ERC project as a springboard to more applied and operational projects in the field to test transformative solutions in the face of demographic and environmental pressures," says David Mouillot.

An original and innovative participation in this ERC

The European Research Council (ERC) funds frontier research projects in all fields of science and technology. This is an extremely competitive call whose only criterion is scientific excellence.

The participation of Professor David Mouillot is mainly motivated, despite the very low success rate, by the prospect of research over a long period of time (5 years). Even if the application procedure is arduous and the oral exam is very stressful, the freedom of research and the financial envelope offered by the ERC will make it possible to deepen the subject, to develop hypotheses and sometimes to be able to test them.

Practical information:

  • More information on this ERC: here.
  • More information about MARBEC: here.