Professor Alan Dixon


Professor of Sustainable Development

Geography and Environment

Contact Details


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, nature-based solutions and common property resource institutions contribute to sustainable 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 climate-resilient ‘Functional Landscape Approach’ for wetland and catchment management, and in Malawi he works with sustainable agriculture NGO, Tiyeni. 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 two editions of ‘Africa: Diversity and Development’, which has become a key text in geography, international development, and African studies courses around the world. 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's teaching reflects his research interests in participatory, interactive and experiential learning, that underpin Education for Sustainable Development (ESD). In the first year he contributes to GEOG1512 People and Place and GEOG1513 Sustainable Futures, while in the second year he leads GEOG2532 Development and Change in the Global South. 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 GEOG3530 Sustainable Development in Sub-Saharan Africa, in which students use a range of innovative virtual reality fieldwork resources to explore community-based sustainability issues in Malawi and Ethiopia.


  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy
  • 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

GEOG1502 Skills for Geographers

GEOG1512 People and Place

GEOG1513 Sustainable Futures

GEOG2510 Research Design and Project Management

GEOG2532 Development and Change in the Global South

GEOG3002 Dissertation in Geography

GEOG3530 Sustainable 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

2021 ‘PRESERVE Kafue. Protecting and Restoring the Environment and Supporting the Emergence of a Resilient and Vibrant Economy in Kafue’, with Self Help Africa.

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.

Sarah Jatau - The impacts of climate change on food security in Nigeria: Farmer perceptions and mitigation strategies.

Joe Leaper - Enhancing the environmental sustainability of UK grape growing.

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 and Trustee



Phiri, A, Njira, K and Dixon, A (2024) Comparative effects of legume-based intercropping systems involving pigeon pea and cowpea under deep-bed and conventional tillage systems in Malawi. Agrosystems, Geosciences & Environment 7:e20503.

Binns T, Nel E, Dixon A and Lynch, K (2023) Africa: diversity and development (2nd edition). Routledge, Abingdon. 

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.