The worldwide movement of people causes many challenges. Wageningen University & Research wants to understand migration, its causes and consequences. Last year we started to make a track record of relevant research within the organisation. We aim to develop tools to understand future migration flows and their root causes. We also assist stakeholders in creating solutions such as sustainable living conditions and jobs for migrants and displaced people worldwide.
Host regions, such as cities suburbs or refugee camps, show many similarities to urban areas regarding density of the population, logistics and livelihood conditions. These areas can become overburdened and exhausted when many migrants arrive, in terms of supply and demand of work, food, water and firewood, but also waste disposal and environment. In Wageningen we have a lot of knowledge about water supply systems, community and capacity building, climate adaptation and sustainable agriculture that can be used to face these challenges.
Impact-driven research agenda
A lot of useful research is conducted by colleagues within WUR that is and can be used to help address future migration issues. That’s why we have made a start to set up an impact-driven research agenda, involving several existing and new projects and partners. This is a huge task and it is not always easy to involve everyone. Therefore we have chosen to focus on developing some concrete projects first.
Sustainable campus in Jordan
For example, we have intensive contacts with GreenfieldCities, an organisation which aims to build a sustainable campus in the city of Mafraq in Jordan, near the refugee camp Zaatari. The campus should provide jobs, housing, or study and business opportunities for about 1500 Jordanians and Syrians. It is an ambitious plan with many challenges and we are closely monitoring the efforts to build the project. It is crucial not only to involve the regional and local government and aid organisations, but also citizens, investors and entrepreneurs.
In these types of international development projects it is easy to fall into the trap of determining for others what their needs are. That is why it is so important to encourage and recognize socio-cultural sensitivity among everyone who takes part in these projects. We need to ensure that dialogue is at the heart of the progress made, also when we do not get the messages we are looking for.
Potentially ground-breaking is migration forecasting: to predict future migration flows and trends. This complicated exercise can be based on all types of data. Besides data about conflicts, economy and livelihoods, data on climate, water supplies and agricultural conditions can be made part of the models. Prediction of migration flows and routes will help us to deal with migration in a more informed way.
All in all, we hope to gain more insight into the whole chain of migration from the beginning to the end. When we unravel the mechanisms that cause migration, the routes and forms it takes, and when we can help people to rebuild their lives in a sustainable manner, we can potentially contribute to the alleviation of one of the biggest issues of our time.