Alan is an interdisciplinary Geographer and Human Ecologist with research interests in sustainability, environment-development relationships in developing countries, and social-ecological systems. 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. Since 2008 Alan has been working 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, Alan’s work has also had a direct impact on enhancing food security and building sustainable and resilient livelihoods among hundreds of thousands of households across sub-Saharan Africa.
Alan has co-authored the highly successful book ‘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 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 and enthusiasm for 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 GEOG2110 Researching Geography, and GEOG2131 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 GEOG3136 Environment and Development in Sub-Saharan Africa, in which students explore sustainable development either through virtual fieldwork in Ethiopia, or by going on a 12-day residential field course to Malawi. Have a listen to their experiences in Malawi here.
- PhD 'Indigenous knowledge and the hydrological management of wetlands in Illubabor, Southwest Ethiopia' (University of Huddersfield, 2000)
- BSc (Hons) Human Ecology (Huddersfield, 1995)