Jamila Haider

L. Jamila Haider


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Telephone 08-674 75 94
Visiting address Krärftriket 2B
Room Vinden
Postal address Stockholm Resilience Centre 106 91 Stockholm

About me

Jamila Haider is a PhD candidate studying the relationship between persistent poverty and biocultural diversity. Her PhD explores how development interventions can improve human well-being without eroding the cultural and agricultural bio-diversity that makes a given place unique and is important for global resilience.

Her interests also include: assessing resilience, stewardship, integrating knowledge systems, and early-career journeys in sustainability science.

Jamila also works part-time as a programme officer with SwedBio, where she coordinates “Communities Self-Assessing Resilience” initiative.

More specifically her PhD:

  1. Synthesises characteristics of persistent maladaptive situations (e.g. poverty traps) and proposes a nuanced social-ecological conceptualisation (through a literature review)
  2. Shows how nature and culture must be explicitly considered, in addition to physical capital assets in poverty trap models, if poverty is to be eradicated without negative environmental and cultural impacts (through a generalised systems model)
  3. Compares human responses to social-ecological traps (using the sociological concept of anomie)
  4. Investigates how co-evolutionary relationships in everyday practice are affected by a hybrid seed in the Pamir Mountains (participatory observation, interviews, cooking)
  5. (Re-)imagines what progress (or development) in the Pamir Mountains look like for different people and organizations (idem)
  6. Uses food as a research method, and as part of development practice

Prior to starting her PhD at the Stockholm Resilience Centre, Jamila completed her Master’s degree at the University of Cambridge in Geographical Research. As part of the Political Ecology group, her thesis used Elinor Ostrom’s social-ecological systems framework to assess institutional governance of joint forestry management in Tajikistan.

Jamila worked from 2009-2011 as an international development practitioner. As International Development Management Fellow with the Aga Khan Foundation, she worked as a natural resource management program officer in Tajikistan, and then went on to support the management of a cross-border programme between Tajikistan and Afghanistan with Aga Khan Foundation Afghanistan. From 2010-2011 she held the position of national coordinator for the Land and Water Unit for the same organisation, based in Kabul.

Jamila has Bachelor degrees in Biology and Political Science (Development Studies focus) from Carleton University, where her Honour’s thesis focused on community based natural resource management in South-East Madagascar.

Additionally, Jamila is a member of:

  • International Network of Resource Information Centers also known as the ‘Balaton Group’ is a global group generating new research, action and solutions for sustainability. Since 2012, Jamila has been on the Board of Directors of the Balaton Group
  • Social Ecological Systems Scholars, an open group of early career researchers sharing experiences and research on issues of sustainability science
  • SES-LINK, a project at SRC which looks at the nature of social-ecological linkages and their implication for the resilience of human-environment systems
  • Agricultural Biodiversity Community, and was part of the steering committee from 2013-2014
  • Mountain Sentinels research group, an international research coordination network composed of teams of mountain scientists and stakeholders engaged in knowledge co-creation and practice

Jamila is also the author of “With Our Own Hands: A celebration of food and life in the Pamir Mountains of Afghanistan and Tajikistan.” The book received media attention beyond academia, won a Gourmand Award: World’s Best Cookbook (2016), and is currently being turned into a documentary film. Her cook book has also recived media attention from various outlets, such as BBC.


A selection from Stockholm University publication database
  • 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.

  • 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.
  • 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.

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

    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. 

Show all publications by L. Jamila Haider at Stockholm University

Last updated: May 28, 2018

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