Dr Alan Dixon


Principal Lecturer in Geography

Geography and Environment

Contact Details

email: a.dixon@worc.ac.uk

Research Interests

Alan is an interdisciplinary Geographer and Human Ecologist with research interests in sustainable development and social-ecological systems, especially in the global south. Much of Alan's work has focused on the importance of wetland environments at the community level, where he has explored how local knowledge, social capital and common property resource institutions contribute to sustainable wetland management strategies that produce win-win outcomes for both local peoples’ livelihoods and wetland ecosystem services.

Alan has been involved in various participatory action research and consultancy projects, ranging from ESRC-funded research examining the role of local institutional arrangements in wetland management in Ethiopia, to work undertaken for the FAO that led to the development of global Guidelines for Wetland-Agriculture Interactions. He has worked with the NGO Self Help Africa in Malawi and Zambia to develop and disseminate a ‘Functional Landscape Approach’ for wetland management. As well as informing wetland policy-making and management practice, this work has contributed to food security and built sustainable and resilient livelihoods in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa.

Alan has co-authored ‘Africa: Diversity and Development’, which has become a key text in geography, international development, and African studies courses around the world (a new edition is forthcoming in 2023). In 2013 he also co-authored the Routledge book ‘Wetland Management and Sustainable Livelihoods in Africa,' which sets out a new agenda for wetland management in the 21st century.


Alan is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and his teaching on our Geography courses reflects his research interests in participatory, interactive and experiential learning. In the first year he leads fieldwork and class-based sessions in GEOG1312 People and Place and GEOG1311 Risk and Resilience, while in the second year he leads GEOG2310 GIS and Research Methods, and GEOG2332 Geographies of Development. In the latter, students have the opportunity to engage with real-world practitioners and decision-makers in the field of international development by attending a public conference with local partners, Beacons Development Education Centre. For a quick taster of this have a look at our video here.  

In the final year, Alan leads the award-winning module GEOG3336 Environment and Development in Sub-Saharan Africa, in which students explore sustainable development through virtual fieldwork in Ethiopia.


  • PhD 'Indigenous knowledge and the hydrological management of wetlands in Illubabor, Southwest Ethiopia' (University of Huddersfield, 2000)
  • BSc (Hons) Human Ecology (Huddersfield, 1995)


Teaching & Research Interests

Current Teaching

GEOG1312 People and Place

GEOG1311 Risk and Resilience

GEOG2310 GIS and Research Methods

GEOG2332 Geographies of Development

GEOG3002 Dissertation in Geography

GEOG3336 Environment and Development in Sub-Saharan Africa

Research Interests

  • Sustainability and sustainable development
  • Social-ecological systems, resilience and environment-development relationships
  • Local institutions, local knowledge, and social capital in natural resource management
  • Wetlands and the political ecology of wetland management
  • Participatory action research methods

Member of the Sustainable Environments Research GroupSustainable Environments Research Group

Research & Consultancy

Research and Consultancy Projects

2018 ‘Striking a Balance: Developing a green economy around Lake Bunyonyi, Uganda’. Development of training resources for Self Help Africa.

2015 ‘Healthy streams for healthy people: a socio-ecological index for Belize’, Darwin Initiative Scoping Award (with Dr Rachael Carrie).

2015 – 2017 ‘20 years of wetland management research and policy development in Ethiopia’, University of Worcester Supporting Research Excellence Scheme.

2014 ‘Sustainability literacy among University of Worcester students’, University of Worcester ‘Learning for Sustainable Futures’ Scheme.

2014 Functional Landscape Approach (FLA) Training for Self Help Africa / Wetland Action, Northern Province, Zambia

2012 – 2013 Functional Landscape Approach (FLA) Training for DISCOVER Programme, Malawi. Funded by Self Help Africa / Wetland Action

2012 ‘Institutional arrangements for wetland management in Malawi’. Research project funded by University of Worcester.

2008 – 2009 ‘Local institutional arrangements for wetland management in SAB (Striking a Balance) Project Areas in Zambia and Malawi’. Wetland Action (Zambia and Malawi).

2006 – 2008 ‘Guidelines for Wetland Agriculture Interactions’. Funded by FAO / Wetland Action

2006 – 2007 ‘Food security from Ethiopia’s wetlands – humans and wild vertebrates in conflict’. University of Otago.

2002 – 2003 ‘Indigenous wetland management institutions for food security in Ethiopia’. ESRC.

2002 ‘The role of indigenous knowledge in wetland management’. British Academy.

Current PhD Supervision

Beas Banerjee - Drones, development and disaster risk reduction in Nepal: Towards an anticipatory action approach


ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-9898-0806

Dixon AB, Wood AP, and Hailu, A (2021) Wetlands in Ethiopia: lessons from 20 years of research, policy and practice. Wetlands 41:20.

Mvula A and Dixon AB (2021) Farmer experiences of Tiyeni’s ‘deep-bed farming’ conservation agriculture system in Malawi. Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems 45, 2, 175-196.

Dixon AB, Mvula A and Carrie RC (2020) A Functional Landscape Approach to managing wetland social-ecological systems: Experiences from the Kankhulukulu project in Malawi. Working Paper, The University of Worcester and Wetland Action.

Dixon, AB (2018) ‘Wetlands’. In: Binns, JA, Lynch, K, and Nel, E (Eds) The Handbook of African Development. Routledge, London.

Dixon, AB (2017) Indigenous management of wetlands: experiences in Ethiopia. Routledge Revivals, London.

Wood, AP, Sutcliffe, P and Dixon, AB (2016) ‘Wetlands of the Baro-Akobo River System in Ethiopia’. In: Finlayson, CM, McInnes, R, and Everard, M (Eds) The Wetland Book, Springer, Netherlands.

Dixon, AB and Carrie, R (2015) ‘Creating local institutional arrangements for sustainable wetland socio-ecological systems: lessons from the ‘Striking a Balance’ project in Malawi’. International Journal of Sustainable Development and World Ecology 23, 1, p40-52

Wood, AP, Dixon, AB and McCartney, M (2013) (eds) Wetlands and livelihoods in Africa. Earthscan, London. 281pp

Quirin, C and Dixon, AB (2012) Food security, politics and perceptions of wildlife damage in Western Ethiopia. International Journal of Pest Management, 58,2, p101-114

Binns, JA, Dixon, AB and Nel, E (2011) Africa: diversity and development. Routledge, London.

Lee, B, Binns, JA and Dixon, AB (2010) The Dynamics of Urban Agriculture in Hanoi, Vietnam. Field Actions Science Reports, Special Issue 1, 8pp

Dixon, AB (2009) Local responses to marginalisation: human-wildlife conflict in Ethiopia's wetlands. Geography 94, 1, p38-47.

Maconachie R, Dixon, AB and Wood, AP (2009) Decentralization and local institutional arrangements for wetland management in Ethiopia and Sierra Leone. Applied Geography 29, 2, 269-279

Buch, A and Dixon, AB (2009) South Africa's working for Water programme: A win-win situation for environment and development? Sustainable Development, 17, 3, p129-141.

Dixon, A B (2008) The resilience of local wetland management institutions in Ethiopia. Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography 29, 3, 341 - 357

Dixon, AB, Wood, AP, Finlayson, M and Halsema, GE (2008) Exploring agriculture wetland interactions: a framework for analysis. In: Wood, A P and Halsema, GE (Eds) Scoping agriculture-wetland interactions: Towards a sustainable multiple response strategy. FAO, Rome. p5-28.

Binns, J.A., Dixon, A.B. and Spellman, G. (2007) Sustainable development. Philip Allan Updates, London.

Dixon, A.B. (2005) Wetland sustainability and the evolution of indigenous knowledge in Ethiopia. The Geographical Journal, 171, 4, p306-323.

Dixon, A.B. (2003) Indigenous management of wetlands: experiences in Ethiopia, Ashgate, Aldershot. 260pp.

Dixon, AB (2003) The indigenous evaluation of wetlands research in Ethiopia. Development in Practice, 13, 4, p 394 - 398.

Dixon, A.B. and Wood, A.P. (2003) Wetland cultivation and hydrological management in East Africa: Matching community and hydrological needs through sustainable wetland use. Natural Resources Forum, 27, 2, p 117-129.

Dixon, A.B. (2002) The hydrological impacts and sustainability of wetland drainage cultivation in Illubabor, Ethiopia, Land Degradation and Development, 13, 1, p17-31.

University Roles & External Responsibilities

Alan currently leads the Sustainable Environments Research Group

External Responsibilities

Associate Editor of Wetlands, Journal of the Society of Wetland Scientists (published by Springer)

Deputy Director of Wetland Action (European Economic Interest Grouping)

Volunteer for Beacons Development Education Centre (Worcester) 

Tiyeni Fund (UK-Malawi NGO) Technical Advisor