Giuseppe Feola

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Giuseppe Feola spent three weeks in February and March 2016 doing fieldwork in south-east Kazakhstan. He was accompanied by postdoctoral researcher Tristam Barrett and worked in close cooperation with colleagues at the Institute of Geography in Almaty. The team also benefitted from the support of the Local Community Fund, an NGO which runs an agribusiness centre in Shelek, near one of the research sites. The research team set out to collet data for the project “Climate change, water resources and food security in Kazakhstan“.


Moment of group discussion during the multi-stakeholder workshop in Koram

Moment of group discussion during the multi-stakeholder workshop in Koram

The first phase of the field work involved organising and conducting two multi-stakeholder workshops in the villages of Koram and Karaoi. Both villages have experienced serious water management issues in recent years, and the workshops allowed the research team and the participants to identify the major challenges faced by the water management system in the each location. The workshops enabled productive discussions across the boundaries that traditionally separate farmers, local authorities, NGOs and local scientists, and therefore helped unravel the complex relations between the challenges faced by different actors in dealing with water use in agriculture. For example, the workshops clearly showed that, while climate change affects water availability in this region, infrastructural inadequacies and financial and organisational issues play an important role in limiting the adaptive capacity of the farming system to climate change.


Map of the challenges faced by different actors in the local farming system in Karaoi

Map of the challenges faced by different actors in the local farming system in Karaoi

The second phase of the field work involved field visits and semi-structured interviews with 21 participants . With the aid of a mental mapping technique, the interviews allowed us to grasp the interviewee’s understanding of the water management system, in its infrastructural, environmental, and institutional dimensions. Moreover, the interviews also focussed on ongoing adaptation strategies. These include, for example, spontaneous rescheduling of water supply rotations among farmers and farmer self-organisation to clean some of the main irrigation canals and fill the gap let by the inability of the responsible state organisation to maintain the irrigation infrastructure.


Example of a mental map of the water system in Koram

Example of a mental map of the water system in Koram

This research will improve understanding of agricultural adaptation to climate change in south-east Kazakhstan, but it also sheds light on the still ongoing post-Soviet transformation of agriculture in this country.


You can read more about Giuseppe at his staff profile and personal webpage.

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Giuseppe-FEOLA_1594_wDr Giuseppe Feola engages  in interdisciplinary research with a focus on  understanding how and why social-ecological systems transform along particular pathways, and under what conditions societal change towards sustainability may occur. Giuseppe’s research has three main foci, namely sustainability, resilience and transformation of agriculture and rural systems, alternative economies and grassroots innovations for sustainability, social change theory and sustainability.

Recent publications

Giuseppe has recently published two papers in leading international journals. In “Societal transformation in response to global environmental change: A review of emerging concepts”, published in AMBIO, Giuseppe contributes to the emerging scientific debate on societal transformation by discussing the potential and limitations of different transformation concepts, and by critically reflecting on the challenges of social research to support transformative change. Giuseppe explains: “There is a growing interest in societal transformation both as an academic concept as a goal for  public policy-making. However, there is no agreement on what societal transformation means, , what it should entail, and how best it can achieved. With this paper I seek to provide structure to the scientific dialogue and to reflect on the challenges of social research on the subject of social transformation.”

In, “Researching farmer behaviour in climate change adaptation and sustainable agriculture: lessons learned from five case studies”, published in the Journal of Rural Studies, Giuseppe and his co-authors have  developed an analytic framework that other scholars can use when designing future interdisciplinary studies on farmer behaviour. The framework facilitates interdisciplinary research on farmer behaviour by opening up spaces of structured dialogue on assumptions, research questions and methods employed in empirical research.

Giuseppe’s publications are available at:

International visit

Between January and March 2015 Giuseppe was visiting scholar at the Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability (CSIS) at Michigan State University, a visit that was funded by a British Council Researcher Links grant. Through this visit, Giuseppe has strengthened his collaborations with leading researchers in the interdisciplinary research field of human-environment interactions. Giuseppe was also invited to give a research seminar at CSIS. In his talk, titled “Do informal institutions adapt to the influences of environmental and economic changes? Insights from a Colombian peasant community”, Giuseppe presented the findings of the recently concluded research project ‘Adaptation between resilience and transformation: a Colombian case study’ funded by the British Academy and the Leverhulme Trust.

To find out more, visit Giuseppe’s staff profile.

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