Torben Birch-Thomsen

Torben Birch-Thomsen

Associate Professor

Member of:

    Place of work
    Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management
    Geography Section
    University of Copenhagen

    Personal data and education
    Nationality: Danish
    1988 M. Sc. in Geography from IGUC, 
    1994 PhD in geography (tropical agriculture) from Faculty of Science, University of


    1989 Half-year research assistant scholarship to prepare a PhD research programme at IGUC.
    Study-scholarship and a travel grant at the Scandinavian Institute for African Studies (SIAS), Uppsala, Sweden.
    Assistant Lecturer at Centre for Africa Studies, University of Copenhagen
    1990-92 PhD-scholarship at IGUC.
    1993-95 Assistant Professor at IGUC.
    1994-96 Assistant Lecturer at Centre for Africa Studies, University of Copenhagen.
    1996-97 Assistant Professor at Department of Geography and International Development Studies, Roskilde University Centre (RUC).
    1997- Associate Professor, IGUC/DGGUC.
    2002 Acting Director of DUCED SLUSE (June-November).
    2004- Appointed as mentor and educational supervisor within the Higher Education Teaching and Teaching Practice Programme (Adjunktpædagogikum) at Faculty of Science, University of Copenhagen.

    Professional activities
    Research within the field of environmental and socioeconomic effects of land use change and intensification. A particular focus has been on the relations between livelihood strategies of rural communities, farming system, land use changes and rural-urban linkages with special reference to East-, West- and Southern African conditions.
    Additional research has been:
    - in relation to introduction of new technologies (with focus on animal traction) into farming systems in the tropics, including evaluation of land and natural resources (PhD)
    - on the vulnerability of small island communities in the Solomon Islands to climate change; research conducted in relation to the Galathea3 expedition.

    1989-2020 Participated with oral and/or poster presentations at more than 50 international conferences, workshops, seminars and postgraduate courses in Europe, East- and Southern Africa and South East Asia.

    1998-2020 Chairman of 8 PhD assessment committees submitted to Geography at the Faculty of Science, University of Copenhagen; external examiner of 1 PhD thesis at Mzumbe University, Tanzania.

    1990-2001 Member of the editorial board on ‘Geografisk Orientering', a periodical (in Danish) published by the Danish Association of Geographers,

    1992-2000 Project Administrator of the Danida funded ENRECA-project ‘Agricultural and Ecological Consequences of Deforestation and Afforestation in Tanzania and Zambia Based on Satellite Remote Sensing'.

    1996-1999 Member of the board in the multidisciplinary research project 'Centre for Research on Sustainable Agriculture in Semi-Arid Africa' (SASA),

    2000-2006 Member of the board of the Danida funded Network for Agricultural Research for Development (NETARD) representing University of Copenhagen, 2000-06. In 2006 as Deputy Chair.

    1998-2007 University Manager' and board member representing University of Copenhagen in the Danish University Concortia on Environment and Development (DUCED) with specific focus on Sustainable Land Use and Natural Resource Management (SLUSE), in the period June-November 2002 appointed as Acting Director of DUCED-SLUSE.

    2001 Appointed as External Examiner by the Centre for Environment & Development (CEAD), University of Natal/Pietermaritzburg, Republic of South Africa, in relation to the ‘Masters Programme in Environment and Development.

    2002-2005 Member of the Project Steering Committee (PSC) of the SACUDE SLUSE (Southern African Consortium of Universities for Environment and Development - Sustainable Land use Project), representing DUCED SLUSE in the committee.

    2012- Appointed External Examiner at Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa.

    Field work

    1987-2020: more than 40 fieldwork periods of the length of 1 week to 3 month in Tanzania and Zambia.

    2004-2020: more than 15 fieldwork periods of the length of 1 week to 1 month in South Africa.

    2006: 1 month fieldwork on Bellona Island, in the Solomon Islands.

    2008-20: 8 fieldwork periods in Sarawak, Malaysia.

    2009: 3 weeks fieldwork in Cambodia.

    2010-11: Fieldwork in Mali and Ghana (West Africa)

    Educational activities:
    1997:Co-teacher on a MSc-field course in Sarawak, Malaysia.

    1999-2013:16 fieldwork periods related to the preparation and undertaking of student field courses in Southern Africa (South Africa, Botswana and Swaziland) related to the SLUSE project (see below under ‘funding' for further description).

    1998-2020: 9 fieldwork periods related to preparation and the execution of field courses in South East Asia (Cambodia, Malaysia and Thailand) related to the SLUSE project.

    2014 Organizer of joint field course for Geography Master students from Univ. of Copenhagen and MSc students from Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) in Morogoro, Tanzania.


    1990-2000: Danida funded project ‘Agricultural and Ecological Consequences of Deforestation and Afforestation in Tanzania and Zambia Based on Satellite Remote Sensing', Danida's Programme for Enhancement of Research Capacity (ENRECA),  (2.100 kkr.).

    1994-1999: The strategic environmental research program 'Centre for Research on Sustainable Agriculture in Semi-Arid Africa' (SASA), a collaborative venture involving The Centre for Development Research, The Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University, and Roskilde University (Dept. of Geography and International Development Studies, RUC). Specifically attached to the sub-project entitled 'Changing resource utilization and livelihood strategies' comprising a cooperation with researchers from RUC. The centre was financed within 'The Danish Environmental Research Programme', (14.000 kkr).
    More info:

    1998-2007: Danced/Danida funded programme ‘The Danish University Concortia on Environment and Development' (DUCED; 1998-2007) with specific focus on ‘Sustainable Land Use and Natural Resource Management' (SLUSE), including the Royal Veterinarian & Agricultural University (KVL), University of Copenhagen (KU) and University of Roskilde (RUC). 1998-2000, 19.000 kkr.; 2000-2007, 25.000 kkr. Objectives: To strengthen the Danish resource base with expertise in interdisciplinary approaches to land use and natural resource management; to develop an interdisciplinary environmental postgraduate teaching program in collaboration between three Danish universities; to prepare partnerships with universities and research organizations in countries receiving Danish environment and development assistance (DEDA), currently Thailand, Malaysia, South Africa, Botswana and Swaziland; to develop research in support of DANCED activities. For further information on SLUSE see

    2006-2007 Participant in the research project "Sustainable Resource use or Imminent Collapse? Climate, livelihoods and production in the Southwest Pacific" (CLIP), a Galathea 3 related research project with focus on three islands in the Solomon Island. Researchers from different disciplines work together in order to ascertain whether it is climate change, soil degradation, migration, employment opportunities, world market dynamics - or a combination of these - which are the most important for survival and agricultural production on the islands. Was part of the research team going to the Island of Bellona. Various funding sources (2006-07: approx. 4.5 mill DKK). (

    2007-2008 Seed-funding to establish an educational initiative within 'Global Environmental Governance-uddannelsen (GEG)' as an multi-faculty activity funded by the 'merger-grants' at University of Copenhagen; 290 kkr).

    2009-2014: Participant in the project ‘Impacts of climate change on water resources and agriculture - and adaptation strategies in Tanzania’ (CLIVET). Partners in DK: GEUS, DMI, IGN-UC. Partners in Tanzania: IRA/UDSM, WRED/UDSM, TMA. In particular involved in WP3 on ‘Analysing climate change impacts and devising adaptation options in the agricultural sector‘, incl. co-supervision of a TZ-PhD-student from IRA/USDM. The project had its main focus on the Great Ruaha River Basin – see

    2009-13: Participation in the project ‘Youth and employment: the role of entrepreneurship in African economies’ (YEMP) with participation of partners from Ghana, Zambia and Uganda. Danish partners are DGG/UC and CBS – see

    2010-15: Coordinator of the Danish participation in the DANIDA funded research project  (DGNRM: 2,1 mill. DKK; Total project: 4,9 mill DKK) ‘Rural-Urban Complementarities for the Reduction of Poverty - Identifying the Contribution of Savings and Credit Facilities’ (RUCROP) with participatin of partners from Sokoine Agricultural University, Tanzania – see

    2012-16: Participation in the project ‘RurbanAfrica - African Rural-City Connections’, an EU-funded project (through the seventh framework programme) and hosted at IGN with participation of 10 partners from EU and East, Central and Western Africa – particular involved in Tanzania and related to WP2 on ‘Rural livelihoods, income diversification and mobility’ -  see

    2015-18: Participant in the international project ‘Long Term Livelihood Change in Tanzania‘, funded by the ESRC/DfID growth research programme: ES/L012413/2. Project homepage:

    2015-21: Coordinator of the Danish participation in the DANIDA funded research project (DGNRM: 2,3 mill. DKK; Total project: 4,9 mill DKK) ‘Rural-Urban Transformation: Governance, Mobility, and Economic Dynamics, in Emerging Urban Centres for Poverty Reduction’ (RUT) coordinated by Department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness, Sokoine University of Agriculture, Tanzania. Project homepage:

    2022-27: Coordinator and PI of the DANIDA funded research project (DGNRM: 5,5 mill. DKK; Total project: 12 mill DKK) ‘The role of rural-urban linkages for enhanced climate resilience in rural Tanzania’ (RUL4CLI) including partners from Institute of Resource Assessment & Centre for Climate Change Studies, University of Dar es Salaam, and the Climate Change Group at International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED). 

    For more info on research projects see:

    Supervision, in the position as mentor within geography, of 12 Assistant Prof. (‘adjunkter') in their pedagogical education as university teachers at Faculty of Science, University of Copenhagen, and external examiner in the evaluation of 7 candidates.

    Supervisor of 23 successful MSc-candidates and 3 PhD-candidates in Denmark and Tanzania.



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