Spice farming

How to fight poverty – new dissertation challenges traditional approaches to sustainable development

In order to improve living conditions in poor countries, mutual collaboration and an understanding for each other’s differences is required. There is a risk that various support projects create a structure for climate transition that does not work in reality once the project funds are finished. This is shown in a new dissertation from Linnaeus University.

The economist Alina Husung’s research focus is climate transition and poverty reduction. She has studied how entrepreneurship can be used to organise the economy in a way that repairs the damages caused by humans to the ecosystem.


In her dissertation, Alina Husung has studied a spice plantation project on the island of Pemba. The island belongs to Tanzania and is located roughly 50 km from the mainland. The project is part of a bigger EU-funded project. The aim of the spice project was to coordinate the work to improve sustainability in forest agriculture and spice plantations. Moreover, the inhabitants were to receive tools that could help them adapt to climate changes and reduce poverty also when the project funding ceases.

Conditions if development aid can be turned around

“In my research, I have used the so-called north-south conflict as my point of departure. That’s the socioeconomic and political divide in which industrial countries constitute ‘the north’ and development countries or ‘the third world’ constitute ‘the south’”, says Husung.

“My dissertation helps challenge traditional approaches to sustainable development that are based on the idea that people in the global north have the answers to all global challenges, including climate change.


For instance, many people associate East Africa with repeated requests for development aid. Underprivileged people in the global south are most often portrayed as passive and helpless ‘victims’, based on the assumption that ‘we’ (the West) have the solutions and the ‘they’ (the global south) have the problems”, Husung continues.

“However, my research shows that in some cases the relationship on development aid can be turned around. My dissertation illustrates how individuals in the global north can learn from individuals who are already adapting to the consequences of climate change. They do this by creatively experimenting and trying out new forms of livelihood possibilities. Thus, we can see that adaptation strategies for handling climate change can be developed directly by the people who need them most”, Husung explains.

Ethically necessary to involve the global south in the decision-making process

“The dissertation also provides practical proposals for decision-makers who work for development organisations that are active within the fields of climate adaptation and poverty reduction. More concretely, my study presents proposals for what western financiers should think about when they finance social entrepreneurship in East Africa”, says Husung.


We must also develop adaptation strategies that are sensitive to the conditions, abilities and interests of the global south.

Alina Husung


“My proposal, in order to make the relationship within global south-north collaborations more equal, is that we should not only consider making the regulations that control these relations more equal. We should also make it possible for global south-north actors to co-decide on any new regulations. For instance, people in the global south must decide what to do with the project money themselves. It’s ethically necessary to involve the global south in the decision-making process”, Husung continues.

“We must also develop adaptation strategies that are sensitive to the conditions, abilities and interests of the global south. Therefore, dominating actors in south-north collaborations must be aware of and embrace the diversity of voices and the marginalised perspectives that are found in the global south.

Small wins

Alina Husung’s study shows how entrepreneurs can create alternative strategies. This is done by using existing resources and regulations in a strive for so-called “small wins”. This can happen when they are subjected to structural limitations, like, for instance, loss of project funding. This means, for example, that entrepreneurs create small inventions through collective action.

They can make use of established relations, informal networks and community bonds to replace the financial capital to which they have no longer access. By striving for so-called “small wins” and by engaging in small changes, entrepreneurs will, to some extent, be able to continue their work also when the funding of a project stops.


Alina Husung, phone +4672-452 0462, email alina.husung@lnu.se

Carina Sörgårn, research communications officer, phone +46470-70 85 52, email carina.sorgarn@lnu.se