Stockholm university

Lisbeth Jamila Haider

About me

Dr. Jamila Haider is a Researcher at Stockholm Resilience Centre, where she co-leads the Resilience and Sustainable Development Research Theme. She studies the relationships between cultural and biological diversity through the lens of food. Jamila’s core research interests are 1) farming practices in mountain areas, 2) where she continuously aims to challenge the frontiers of social-ecological systems and resilience theories, 3) while reflexively engaging in what it means to do rigorous and impactful sustainability science in a caring way. Jamila enjoys teaching and writing about undisciplinary research journeys, practicing ontological and epistemological agility and how to enact transformational leadership with care. Jamila has worked as a development practitioner in Central Asia and Afghanistan and is co-author of the book With Our Own hands: A celebration of food and life in the Pamir Mountains of Afghanistan and Tajikistan. Currently, Jamila is co-producing a book with alpine farmer in which they explore: what it means to produce and have ‘enough’, how to respond to crisis with creativity, and of what is means to be truly alive in the face of uncertainty.

Dr. Haider is the author of over 40 peer reviewed articles, and an award-winning book.
You can find Dr. Haider’s publications here.

Profile page at Stockholm Resilience Centre



A selection from Stockholm University publication database

  • Human responses to social-ecological traps

    2016. Wiebren Johannes Boonstra (et al.). Sustainability Science 11 (6), 877-889


    Social-ecological (SE) traps refer to persistent mismatches between the responses of people, or organisms, and their social and ecological conditions that are undesirable from a sustainability perspective. Until now, the occurrence of SE traps is primarily explained from a lack of adaptive capacity; not much attention is paid to other causal factors. In our article, we address this concern by theorizing the variety of human responses to SE traps and the effect of these responses on trap dynamics. Besides (adaptive) capacities, we theorize desires, abilities and opportunities as important additional drivers to explain the diversity of human responses to traps. Using these theoretical concepts, we construct a typology of human responses to SE traps, and illustrate its empirical relevance with three cases of SE traps: Swedish Baltic Sea fishery; amaXhosa rural livelihoods; and Pamir smallholder farming. We conclude with a discussion of how attention to the diversity in human response to SE traps may inform future academic research and planned interventions to prevent or dissolve SE traps.

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  • Measuring and assessing resilience

    2016. Allyson E. Quinlan (et al.). Journal of Applied Ecology 53, 677-687

    1. Increased interest in managing resilience has led to efforts to develop standardized tools for assessments and quantitative measures. Resilience, however, as a property of complex adaptive systems, does not lend itself easily to measurement. Whereas assessment approaches tend to focus on deepening understanding of system dynamics, resilience measurement aims to capture and quantify resilience in a rigorous and repeatable way.
    2. We discuss the strengths, limitations and trade-offs involved in both assessing and measuring resilience, as well as the relationship between the two. We use a range of disciplinary perspectives to draw lessons on distilling complex concepts into useful metrics.
    3. Measuring and monitoring a narrow set of indicators or reducing resilience to a single unit of measurement may block the deeper understanding of system dynamics needed to apply resilience thinking and inform management actions.
    4. Synthesis and applications. Resilience assessment and measurement can be complementary. In both cases it is important that: (i) the approach aligns with how resilience is being defined, (ii) the application suits the specific context and (iii) understanding of system dynamics is increased. Ongoing efforts to measure resilience would benefit from the integration of key principles that have been identified for building resilience.
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  • Applying a capitals approach to understand rural development traps

    2015. Friederike Mikulcak (et al.). Land use policy 43, 248-258


    Rural development models to date have failed to adequately explain why development stagnates in certain regions, and have often focused on single policy areas. This paper proposes a more holistic approach by combining the concept of traps with the sustainable livelihoods approach, applied to a case study in Central Romania. Based on semi-structured interviews with rural inhabitants from 66 villages in 2012, we analyze the barriers creating and maintaining a lock-in situation characterized by an apparently stable low-welfare equilibrium state. By clustering development barriers into livelihood capitals we find that barriers to rural development are multiple and interacting, and are strongly mediated by the institutional context. We show that while financial, social, human, and built capitals are inadequately developed, the region's rich natural and cultural capitals stand the best chances to foster rural development. Yet, these capitals are likely to deteriorate, too, if all other capitals remain under-developed. Given this inter-connectedness of development barriers we argue that one-sided interventions cannot help 'unlock' the trap-like situation of Central Romania. Instead, multiple barriers will need to be tackled simultaneously. The development of social, human and financial capitals should be of priority concern because of their potentially positive spill-over effects across all other capitals.

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  • Understanding poverty traps in biocultural landscapes

    2015. L. Jamila Haider, Maja Schlüter, Flora Hajdu.

    Thesis (Lic)

    Over one and a half billion people live in poverty, with some 795 million suffering from chronic malnourishment. For many of these people this perilous situation has persisted for decades or more, in what is popularly characterized as a poverty ‘trap’.  Some of the poorest areas in the world, commonly held up as examples of poverty traps, also boast exceptionally high levels of agricultural and cultural diversity.  This same diversity (which we call biocultural diversity) underpins both the present and future social-ecological resilience of the communities that reside in such landscapes. The way that poverty traps are conceptualized, however, as part of the design and implementation process of conventional development interventions, can mean that these interventions may inadvertently result in the reduction of the very diversity that may be so vital to future development pathways and the long-term prosperity of the people in rural landscapes. The specific question addressed in this licentiate thesis is: How are poverty traps conceptualized in rural development?  The aim is to contribute to a more nuanced conceptualization of poverty alleviation that explicitly takes biological and cultural diversity into consideration, thereby maintaining future potential sources of resilience. In doing so the licentiate thesis seeks to provide a more powerful heuristic basis for identifying and assessing the drivers and mechanisms of persistent poverty.  Paper I offers an example of a specific case (Central Romania) representing the problem of persistent poverty in a biocultural context and addresses barriers to rural development using ‘traps’ as a conceptual framing. The findings of the paper demonstrate that multiple barriers to rural development are often interacting and mutually reinforcing, and therefore need to be tackled simultaneously, and with an additional focus on the interactions themselves, as well as each of the barriers. Paper I highlighted some of the current shortfalls of the concept of traps, namely a somewhat inconsistent literature which motivates the need for a synthesis of traps in development economics and sustainability science. Paper II provides an overview of trap conceptualisations in the broader literature (across all disciplines that address ‘trap’ dilemmas) and specifically the interplay between trap conceptualizations and causal mechanisms of traps in rural development contexts. The paper concludes that in the transition out of rural poverty, development practice may benefit substantially from a broader, more nuanced and holistic conceptualization of trap dynamics in resource dependent contexts. This argument is based on appreciation of four propositions from social-ecological thinking: (i) scale-mismatch, (ii) a more explicit recognition of the external drivers of traps, (iii) historical path-dependency, and (iv) biological and cultural diversity. In summary, the licentiate thesis contends that the way development scholars have conceptualised poverty traps may influence the way poverty is alleviated (or not). Overcoming poverty is more complicated than even multidimensional wellbeing thresholds due to unintended consequences on biological and cultural diversity, for example. Through maintaining a limited poverty traps conceptualization, we may be obscuring the ability to see the interactions that could lead to alternative, more resilient, development trajectories. 

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Show all publications by Lisbeth Jamila Haider at Stockholm University