van der Geest, Kees

Associate Academic Officer

UNU Publications
Selected NON-UNU Publications
  • Kees van der Geest
    Environmental Migration, Social Vulnerability & Adaptation Section

    Research Interests

    • Climate Change
    • Livelihood
    • Migration


    • PhD, Human Geography, Univeristy of Amsterdam
    • Masters, Human Geography, University of Amsterdam

    Biographical Statement

    Kees van der Geest (PhD) is a human geographer who studies the impacts of climate change, human mobility, environmental change, adaptation, livelihood resilience and rural development. Key features of his work are the people-centred perspective and the mixed-method approach combining quantitative and qualitative research tools. His work has contributed substantially to expanding the empirical evidence base on migration-environment linkages and impacts of climate change beyond adaptation (“loss and damage”).

    Kees has extensive fieldwork experience, mostly in Ghana (5 years), but also in Burkina Faso, Viet Nam, Bangladesh, Nepal, Marshall Islands and Bolivia, and has coordinated research in many other countries across the Global South. Since 2012 he has been working as senior researcher at United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS) in Bonn. In the ‘Migration and Environment’ section at UNU-EHS he leads the work on migration, livelihood resilience and loss and damage from climate change. Between 2014 and 2017 he also co-organized the annual Resilience Academy, which is a network of approximately 100 young professionals working on resilience, loss and damage, and human mobility in the context of global environmental change. From 2016 to 2018 he has been on a part-time secondment to the University of Hawaii, where he was involved in a research project about migration and environment linkages in the Republic of the Marshall Islands.

    Kees studied at the University of Amsterdam (Human Geography) and a semester at the University of Sussex (Migration Studies). His Master’s thesis and PhD thesis were published as monographs by the African Studies Centre. Several chapters of his PhD thesis about migration-environment linkages in Ghana have been published in international journals, like International Migration, Africa, Environment and Urbanization and Forced Migration Review. Two articles from his PhD are in the top-50 of most influential articles on the relation between migration and the environment, according to ISI web of knowledge.

    From 2006 to 2012, Kees worked as a lecturer and researcher at the University of Amsterdam. He taught courses on environment and international development and his research covered the fields of migration, environment and rural development. In this period, he also worked as independent research consultant. Among his clients have been the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, the Royal Tropical Institute in Amsterdam, CARE International, DFID Ghana and the Foresight programme of the UK Office for Science.

    Kees has also been active as documentary film-maker. His first, award-winning, documentary was screened at over twenty international film festivals worldwide. His second documentary received a nomination for the Holland-doc Jury Award of the Dutch Film Festival, and has been watched more than three million times online.

  • Articles

    Book Chapters

    • van der Geest, Kees, de Sherbinin, Alex, Kienberger, Stefan, Zommers, Zinta, Sitati, Asha, Roberts, Erin and James, Rachel, “The Impacts of Climate Change on Ecosystem Services and Resulting Losses and Damages to People and Society” in Loss and Damage from Climate Change Concepts, Methods and Policy Options, ed. Mechler, Reinhard, Bouwer, Laurens, Schinko, Thomas, Surminski, Swenja and Linnerooth-Bayer, JoAnne ( Cham: Springer,2018), 221-236.
    • van der Land, Victoria, Romankiewicz, Clemens and van der Geest, Kees, “Environmental change and migration: A review of West African case studies” in Routledge Handbook of Environmental Displacement and Migration, ed. McLeman, Robert and Gemenne, François ( London and New York: Routledge,2018), 163-177.
    • Mechler, Reinhard, Calliari, Elisa, Bouwer, Laurens, Schinko, Thomas, Surminski, Swenja, Linnerooth-Bayer, JoAnne, Aerts, Jeroen, Botzen, Wouter, Boyd, Emily, Deckard, Natalie, Fuglestvedt, Jan, González-Eguino, Mikel, Haasnoot, Marjolijn, Handmer, John, Haque, Masroora, Heslin, Alison, Hochrainer-Stigler, Stefan, Huggel, Christian, Huq, Saleemul, James, Rachel, Jones, Richard, Juhola, Sirkku, Keating, Adriana, Kienberger, Stefan, Kreft, Soenke, Kuik, Onno, Landauer, Mia, Laurien, Finn, Lawrence, Judy, Lopez, Ana, Liu, Wei, Magnuszewski, Piotr, Markandya, Anil, Mayer, Benoit, McCallum, Ian, McQuistan, Colin, Meyer, Lukas, Mintz-Woo, Kian, Montero-Colbert, Arianna, Mysiak, Jaroslav, Nalau, Johanna, Noy, Ilan, Oakes, Robert, Otto, Friederike, Pervin, Mousumi, Roberts, Erin, Schaefer, Laura, Scussolini, Paolo, Serdeczny, Olivia, De Sherbinin, Alex, Simlinger, Florentina, Sitati, Asha, Sultana, Saibeen, Young, Hannah, Van der Geest, Kees, Van den Homberg, Marc, Wallimann-Helmer, Ivo, Warner, Koko and Zommers, Zinta, “Science for loss and damage. Findings and propositions” in Loss and Damage from Climate Change Concepts, Methods and Policy Options, ed. Mechler, Reinhard, Bouwer, Laurens, Schinko, Thomas, Surminski, Swenja and Linnerooth-Bayer, JoAnne ( Cham: Springer,2018), 3-37.
    • van der Geest, Kees, Burger, Kees, Yelfaanibe, Augustine and Dietz, Ton, “Not the Usual Suspects: Environmental Impacts of Migration in Ghana’s Forest-Savanna Transition Zone” in Land Restoration: Reclaiming Landscapes for a Sustainable Future, ed. Chabay, Ilan, Frick, Martin and Helgeson, Jennifer ( n/a: Elsevier,2015), 463-481.
    • van der Geest, Kees and Warner, Koko, “Vulnerability, coping and loss and damage from climate events” in Hazards, risks and disasters in society, ed. Collins, Andrew E. ( n/a: Elsevier,2015), 121-144.
    • van der Geest, Kees and Warner, Koko, “Loss and damage from droughts and floods in rural Africa” in Inside Africa’s agricultural, food and nutrition dynamics: Digging deeper, ed. Akinyoade, Akinyinka, Klaver, Wijnand, Soeters, Sebastiaan and Foeken, Dick ( Leiden: Brill,2014), 276-293.


  • Articles

    • Pouw, N., Dietz, T., Belemvire, A., de Groot, D., Millar, D., Obeng, F., Rijneveld, W., Van der Geest, K., Vlaminck, Z. & Zaal, F. (2016). Participatory Assessment of Development Interventions: Lessons Learned From a New Evaluation Methodology in Ghana and Burkina Faso. American Journal of Evaluation, 1, 13.
    • Van der Geest, Kees. (2011). North-South migration in Ghana: What role for the environment? International Migration, 49(S1), 69-94.
    • Van der Geest, Kees (2010). Local Perceptions of Migration from Northwest Ghana. Africa, 80(4), 595-619.
    • Van der Geest, Kees, Vrieling, Anton and Dietz,Ton (2010). Migration and environment in Ghana: a cross-district analysis of human mobility and vegetation dynamics. Environment and Urbanization, 22 (1), 107-123.
    • Van der Geest, Kees. & de Jeu, Richard (2008). Climate change and displacement: Ghana. Forced Migration Review, 16, 31.


    • Van der Geest, Kees (2011). The Dagara farmer at home and away: Migration, environment and development in Ghana. PhD thesis University of Amsterdam. African Studies Collection, No.33. Leiden: African Studies Centre.
    • Van der Geest, Kees. (2004). “We’re Managing!”Climate Change and Livelihood Vulnerability in Northwest Ghana. Leiden: African Studies Centre.

    Book Chapters

    • Dietz, Ton, van der Geest, Kees and Obeng, Francis (2013). “Local perceptions of development and change in Northern Ghana” in Rural development in Northern Ghana, ed.Yaro, Joseph. (New York: Nova Science Publishers) 17-36.
    • Van der Geest, Kees and Dietz, Ton (2004). “A literature survey about risk and vulnerability in drylands, with a focus on the Sahel” in The Impact of Climate Change on Drylands, eds. Dietz, Ton, Rueben, Ruerd. and Verhagen, Jan (Dordrecht: Kluwer), 117-146 .


    • Van der Geest, Kees. (2010). Rural Youth Employment in Developing Countries: A Global View. Rome: FAO.