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Centre of African Studies: People


Rick Rohde

Rick Rohde
Dr Rick Rohde
Research Fellow
Chrystal Macmillan Building 15a George Square Edinburgh UK EH8 9LD
0131 332 4147 and 01599 235023
Research Interests
Political ecology, Land reform, Politics of climate change science, Historical ecology, Visual ethnography


MSc (African Studies) University of Edinburgh

PhD (Social Anthropology) University of Edinburgh

I have held research posts at the University of Namibia and the University of the Western Cape and am a Research Associate at the University of Cape Town. My role within several EU funded projects has focussed on pastoralism, land reform and global change in southern African rangelands, as well as the coordination of the social science component of an EU funded technical project that carried out innovative research related to ephemeral rivers within field sites in Namibia and South Africa (

More recently my research has focused on the historical ecology of Namaqualand and southern Namibia as part of a German funded multi-disciplinary "BIOTA-Africa" project, which monitored and analyzed biodiversity and its change along a transect in southern Africa. (

I am presently a Co-Investigator in the AHRC funded project "Future pasts", based in western Namibia that will run for six years until July 2019 ( 

Research Interests

Environmental history of cultural landscapes, historical and political ecology, primarily in Namibia, South Africa and Scotland, with particular focus on the social and ecological impacts of colonialism, land reform, land use history, environmental policy and climate change. Outsider photography.

Publications Include:

Rohde R.F., Hoffman M.T., Durbach I., Venter Z. and Jack S. (2019) Vegetation and climate change in the Pro-Namib and Namib Desert based on repeat photography: insights into climate trends. Journal of Arid Environments 165: 119-131.

Hoffman M.T., Rohde R.F., Gillson L. (2018) Rethinking catastrophe? Historical trajectories and modelled future vegetation change in southern African. Anthropocene 25: 1-13. DOI: 10.1016/j.ancene.2018.12.003

Scott S.L. , Rohde R.F. and Hoffman M.T. (2017) Repeat landscape photography, historical ecology and the wonder of digital archives in Southern Africa. African Research and Documentation 131: 35-47.

Rohde R.F. (2017) ‘Scenes from Namaqualand – an introduction’, in Easton, K. and Attridge, D. (eds.) Zoe Wicomb and the translocal – writing Scotland and South Africa. London: Routledge, pp 166-177.

Rohde R.F. (2016) Camera archana: Tracing a life in photographs. In: R. Rohde & S. O’Connell, ed., Hanging on a wire - The photographs of Sophia Klaase,  Johannesburg: Fourthwall Books, Pages 157-163.

Rohde R.F. and O'Connell S.(2016) Hanging on a wire. The photographs of Sophia Klaase. Fourthwall Books, Johannesburg. ISBN 978-0-9922404-3-1.

Jack S. Hoffman M.T., Rohde R.F. and Durbach, I. (2016) Climate change sentinel or false prophet? The case of Aloe dichotoma. Diversity and Distributions 22(7): 745-757.

Jack S.L., Hoffman M.T., Rohde R.F., Durbach I., Archibald M. (2014) Blow me down! A new perspective on Aloe dichotoma mortality as a result of windthrow. BMC Ecology 14(1).

Rohde, R.F. and Hoffman, M.T. (2012) The historical ecology of Namibian rangelands: vegetation change since 1876 in response to local and global drivers. Science of the Total Environment 416: 276-288.  

Lewis D. and Rohde R.F. (2011) Sophia Klaase: self-portraits. Social Dynamics - Journal of African Studies, 37(2): 299-311. 

Hoffman M.T. and Rohde R.F. (2011) Long-term changes in the vegetation of southern Africa as revealed by repeat photography. In L. Zeitsman (ed.) Observations of large-scale and long-term trends in southern Africa. South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON).

Hoffman M.T. and Rohde R.F. (2011) Rivers through time: Historical changes in the riparian vegetation of the semi-arid, winter rainfall region of South Africa in response to climate and land use. Journal of the History of Biology 44(1): 59-80.

Rohde R.F. and Hoffman M.T. (2010) Landscape and vegetation change in Namibia since 1876 base on the photographs of the Palgrave Commission. In N. Jurgens, U. Schmiedel and M.T. Hoffman (eds) Biodiversity in southern Africa: patterns and processes at regional scale (Vol 2). Gottingen: Hess Verlag. 

Hoffman M.T. and Rohde R.F. (2010) An analysis of vegetation change in Namaqualand using repeat photography as a central tool.  In N. Jurgens, U. Schmiedel and M.T. Hoffman (eds) Biodiversity in southern Africa: patterns and processes at regional scale (Vol 2). Gottingen: Hess Verlag.

Dahlberg A., Rohde R.F. and Sandell K. (2010) Access, conservation and environmental justice: a comparison of national parks in three countries. Conservation and Society 8(3): 209-224.

Rohde R.F. (2010) Written on the surface of the soil: west Highland crofting landscapes during the 20th century. In R.H. Webb, D.E. Boyer, and R.M. Turner (eds.) Repeat photography: methods and applications in the geological and ecological sciences. Island Press: Washington D.C..

Hoffman M.T., Rohde R.F., Duncan J. and Kaleme P. (2010) Repeat Photography, climate change and the long-term polulation dynamics of tree aloes in Southern Africa. In R.H. Webb, D.E. Boyer, and R.M. Turner (eds.) Repeat photography: methods and applications in the geological and ecological sciences. Island Press: Washington DC.

Benito, G., Rohde, R.F., Seely, M., Kulls, C., Dahan, O., Enzel, Y., Todd, S., Botero, B., Grodek, T., and Roberts, C. (2010) Management of alluvial aquifers in two southern African ephemeral rivers: Implications for IWRM. Water Resources Management 24(4): 641-667.

Hongslo, E., Rohde, R.F. and Hoffman, M.T. (2009) Landscape change and ecological processes in relation to land-use in Namaqualand, South Africa, 1939 to 2005. South African Geographical Journal 91(1): 4-15.

Rohde, R.F. and Hoffman, M.T. (2008) One hundred years of separation: the historical ecology of a South African 'Coloured' Reserve. Africa, Journal of the International Africa Institute (78(2): 189-222.

Rohde, R.F. (2007) Making land reform work for those who need it least. Haramata 52: 27-28.

Cousins, B., Hoffman, M.T., Allsopp, N. and Rohde, R.F. (2007) A synthesis of sociological and biological perspectives on sustainable land use in Namaqualand. Journal of Arid Environments 70: 834-846.

Hoffman, M.T., Allsopp, N. and Rohde, R.F. (2007) Sustainable land use in Namaqualand, South Africa: Key issues in an interdisciplinary debate. Journal of Arid Environments 70: 561-569.

Lebert, T., and Rohde, R.F. (2007) Land reform and the new elite: exclusion of the poor from communal land in Namaqualand, South Africa. Journal of Arid Environments 70: 818-833.

Hoffman, M.T., and Rohde, R.F. (2007) From pastoralism to tourism: the historical impact of changing land use practices in Namaqualand. Journal of Arid Environments 70: 641-658.

Benjaminsen T.A., Rohde R.F., Sjaastad E., Wisborg P. and Lebert T. (2006) Land Reform, Range Ecology, and Carrying Capacities in Namaqualand, South Africa. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 96(3): 224-240.

Duncan, J., Hoffman, M.T., Rohde, R.F., Powell, E. and Hendricks, H. (2006) Long term population changes in the Giant Quiver Tree, Aloe pillansii in the Richtersveld, South Africa. Plant Ecology 185: 73-84.

Rohde, R.F., Moleele, N.M., Mphale, M., Allsopp, N., Chanda, R., Hoffman, M.T., Magole, L., and Young, E., (2006) Dynamics of grazing policy and practice: environmental and social impacts in three communal areas of Southern Africa. Journal of Environmental Science and Policy, 9: 302-316.

Benjaminsen, T.A., Rohde, R.F. Sjaastad, E., Wisborg, P. and Lebert, T. (2005) The politics of land and livestock. Global knowledge, International cooperation in research and higher education 2: 54-58.

Wisborg, P. and Rohde, R.F. (2005) Contested land tenure reform in South Africa: the Namaqualand experience. Development Southern Africa 22(3): 207-425.

Rohde, R.F. (2004) Ideology, bureaucracy and aesthetics: landscape change and land reform in Northwest Scotland. Environmental Values 13(2): 199-222.

Rohde, R.F., Hoffman M.T. and Allsopp, N. (2003) Hanging on a wire – a historical and socio-economic study of Paulshoek village in the Leliefontein communal area of Namaqualand. PLAAS Research Report No. 4. Programme for Land and Agrarian Studies, School of Government, University of the Western Cape.

Wisborg, P. and Rohde, R.F. (2003) Trancraa and communal land rights: lessons from Namaqualand. PLAAS Policy Brief No. 4, School of Government, University of the Western Cape. [See:]

Rohde, R.F. and Hilhorst. T. (2002) A profile of environmental change in the Lake Manyara Basin, Tanzania. IIED Issues Paper No. 109, Dryland Programme, International Institute for Environment and Development, London.

Sullivan, S. and Rohde, R.F.  (2002) On non-equilibrium in arid and semi-arid grazing systems. Journal of Biogeography 29, 1-26.

Rohde R.F., Benjaminsen T.A and Hoffman M.T. (2002) Land reform in Namaqualand: poverty alleviation, stepping stones and 'economic units'. In T. Benjaminsen, B. Cousins & L. Thompson (eds.) Contested Resources - challenges to the governance of natural resources in Southern Africa. Programme for Land and Agrarian Studies, School of Government, University of the Western Cape.

Machado M.J., Perez-Gonzalez A., Rohde R.F. and Benito, A. (2001) Land degradation and historical environmental changes: case studies of northern Ethiopia and northern Tanzania. Proceedings of the VI ReuniÓn Nacional de GeomorfologÍa - Geomorphology for the Third Millenium and Society. (Madrid, September 17-20, 2000).

Rohde R.F., Hoffman M.T. and Cousins, B. (1999) Experimenting with the commons - a comparative history of the effects of land policy on pastoralism in two former 'homelands'/'reserves', Southern Africa. In N. McCarthy, B. Swallow, M. Kirk & P. Hazell (eds.) Property rights, risk and livestock development.  Washington, D. C.: International Livestock Research Institute.

Rohde R.F. (1998) 'How we see each other': Subjectivity, photography and ethnographic revision.  In W. Hartman, J. Sylvester and P. Hayes (eds.) The Colonising Camera: Photography in the making of Namibian history. Cape Town: University of Cape Town Press (ISBN 1-919713-22-0); Athens, OH: Ohio University Press (0-8214-1261-2); Windhoek: Out of Africa Press (99916-2-140-7).

Exhibitions, conference presentations, proceedings and workshop contributions:

Rohde R.F., Venter S.L. and Hoffman M.T. (2017) ‘Repeat Landscape photography, historical ecology and the wonder of digital archives’. SCOLMA - UK Libraries and Archives Group on Africa Conference: Document to Digital: how does digitisation aid African research? National Library of Scotland, 11 September 2017.

Rohde R.F. & O’Connell S. (2017) Curators of Photographs by Sophia Klaase: Extra Ordinary Lives: Portraits from a divided land. Fisher Gallery, Otterbein University. August 21 to December 3, 2017.

Sullivan S., Rohde R.F., Impey A., Hannis M. & Low C. (2017) Landscape, Memory and Music in West Namibia. Future Pasts: A multi-media exhibition at Gallery 44AD, 4 Abbey St. Bath, UK; 12 July - 12 August 2017.

Rohde R.F. & O’Connell S. (2016) Outsider photography/insider ethnography – writing ourselves out of the picture? Contemporary Ethnography Across the Disciplines (CEAD) Ethnographic imaginings, space, place and time. 15 - 18 November, University of Cape Town, Iziko Museum of South Africa, Centre for the Book. Cape Town.

Rohde R.F. & Hoffman M.T. (2016) The fog of historical ecology: vegetation change, sea-surface temperatures and climate change in the Namib desert. Paper presented at the RAI & British Museum conference ‘Anthropology, Weather and Climate Change’ British Museum, 27-29 May 2016. [Abstract available:]

Rohde R.F. (2015) Contribution of images from Matida Sida ra Mûgu: How We See Each Other to the AVAMP 2015 ‘Re-presenting photography in Namibia’ at the National Art Gallery of Namibia, May 12 to August 22.

Rohde R.F. (2015) Panelist at Association of Visual Arts Gallery, Cape Town discussing the exhibiton ‘A pristine land interrupted’ by Paul van Schalkwyk. March 28. 

Rohde R.F. (2015) ‘Historical ecology of the Namib based on repeat photography’, a presentation at the Gobabeb Desert Research and Training Centre, Namibia. Feb. 27.

Hoffman M.T., Rohde, R.F.,  Gillson, L. (2014) 20th century vegetation change in the major biomes of South Africa. Paper presented at the conference entitled: “Changing Climates, Ecosystems & Environments of arid southern Africa - A Tribute to Louis Scott” held in Bloemfontein, South Africa, 7-9 July 2014.

Rohde R.F., O'Connel S. and Hoffman M.T. - Curators (2013) "Extraordinary lives: Portraits from a divided land: Photographs by Sophia Klaaste." District Six Museum, Cape Town; March 19 - May 15, 2013. In association with the conference Land divided: land and South African society in 2013 - in comparative perspective. University of Cape Town, March 24 - 27, 2013. 

Rohde R.F and Hoffman M.T. (2012) "A short history of catastrophe prediction: from modernisation to climate change capitalism in southern African rangelands". Paper presented at CAS@50: Cutting Edges and Retrospectives. June 5-8, 2012, McIntyre Centre, University of Edinburgh.  

Jack S., Hoffman M.T. and Rohde R.F. (2011) Aloe dichotoma: a false prophet? Paper presented at the Arid Zone Ecology Forum, Nieuwoudtville, South Africa; October 3-6, 2011. 

M.T. Hoffman, R.F. Rohde, Masubelele, M.A. and Puttick, J. (2011) "The extent and rate of vegetation change in southern Africa's rangelands over the last 100 years: Using historical trajectories to inform future projections" Paper presented at the Conference of the Grassland Society of South Africa, Middleburg, Eastern Cape, July 13, 2011.

R.F. Rohde (2009) “Climate change, cattle, war, pestilence and famine: Reading Central Namibian landscapes through repeat photographs from the Palgrave expedition of 1876.” World Congress of Environmental History 4-8. August 2009 Denmark-Sweden. Session 3.7 - Interpreting the past to anticipate the future: The contribution of environmental history to the climate change debate in Africa. 

Dahlberg A.,  Rohde R.F. &  Sandell K. (2009) "Public access, conservation and environmental justice: a comparison of national park management in three countries". Nordic Landscape Research Network Conference: The Multifunctional Commons of the World Landscapes: Between Private Property and Public Use; Copenhagen, 18th – 20th of March 2009.

Rohde R.F. (2009) "A century of change in the Scottish landscape", in collaboration with the Macaulay Land Use Research Institute, Royal Highland Show, Edinburgh. 

Hoffman M.T., Gillson L., Cramer M. and Rohde R.F. (2009) “Climate change and the implications of the ‘evaporation paradox’ for the Cape Floristic Region, South Africa.” 5th EGU Alexander von Humboldt International Conference, Iphakade: Climate Changes and African Earth Systems – past, present and future. January 11 – 16, 2009 University of Cape Town.

Rohde R.F. and Hoffman M.T.  (2007) "Anthropogenic and climatic impacts on vegetation in relation to the hydrology of the Buffels River during the last 200 years." INTERNATIONAL WORKSHOP: Groundwater Recharge in Ephemeral Rivers of Southern Africa: Implications for Water Management. Cape Town, South Africa, 27-28th November, 2007.

Rohde R.F. (2007) "Community conservation of woodlands in Scotland: Towards understanding the reasons for success and failure." Meeting the waves of globalisation – local, regional and environmental response. Nordic Geographers Meeting, Bergen. June 15 – 17, 2007.

Rohde R.F. (2007) "Repeat Photography as a multi-disciplinary research tool." South African Association of Botanists - Annual Meeting.  University of Cape Town, January 15, 2007.

Allsopp N. and Rohde R.F. (2006) "Why rangeland policy fails the commons of Namaqualand." Paper presented to the Arid Zone Ecology Forum Annual Meeting, August 21, 2006. Kamieskroon, South Africa.

Hoffman M.T., and Rohde R.F. (2006) "Global change and human impacts on biodiversity in Namaqualand, South Africa." Key Note Paper presented at: Society for Tropical Ecology Conference,  Kaiserslautern Germany, February 21-24, 2006.

Rohde R.F. & Hoffman M.T. (2004) "The tragedy of enclosure: environmental change in a communal area of Namaqualand. Proceedings from the conference: Trees, Rain and Politics in Africa. The dynamics and politics of climatic and environmental change. St Anthony’s College Oxford, 29th September – 1st October 2004. Sponsored by The British Academy.

Invited participant to a two-day workshop on equilibrium and non-equilibrium theory, VIIth International Rangelands Congress held in Durban, South Africa, 26th July – 1st August 2003.

Hoffman M.T., Rohde R.F., Allsopp N. & Petersen A. (2000) "Paulshoek, South Africa: Global change and subsistence rangelands in Southern Africa - resource availability, access and use in relation to livelihoods and welfare." Proceedings of a EC funded workshop in Maseru Lesotho, November 26 - December 1, 2000.

Rohde R.F. & Cousins B. (1998) "Experimenting with the commons." Paper presented at a symposium Property Rights, Risk and Livestock Development, in Feldafing (Germany) Sept. 27 - Oct. 1, 1998. International Livestock Research Institute, the International Food Policy Research Institute and the University of GÖttingen.

Rohde R.F. (1996) "Matida Sida ra Mûgu: How We See Each Other". Project organiser and curator of an exhibition of over 200 photographs taken by 16 Damara speaking communal farmers and their families. National Art Gallery of Namibia in Windhoek; National Museum of South Africa, Cape Town 1997; McGregor Museum, Kimberly 1997; travelling exhibition, Northern Cape Province, 1998.

Topics interested in supervising

Environmental history; Historical ecology; Trans-disciplinary research methodologies applied to southern Africa.

If you are interested in being supervised by Rick Rohde, please see the links below for more information:

PhD in Social Anthropology; MSc (R) African Studies