Having started my working life with ENDA-Zimbabwe a grassroots based Non-Governmental Organisation in Africa, I have spent the last 20 years researching, teaching and consulting in the field of Development Studies. The last ten of these have been spent working as an academic here at Manchester where I am an a senior lecturer and associate director at the Global Development Institute (GDI). Over the years I have developed collaborative links with various institutions and have formed productive links with major development actors like DfID, BRAC International, Save the Children International, the UNECA, and The British Council.
Much of my academic career has been devoted to understanding the relationship between ‘place’ and ‘economy’ in Africa. In my work I have sought to generate policy relevant knowledge on how changing agrarian structures transform and influence the way rural communities relate to natural resources (particularly land) and, how this relationship in turn shapes the way they make a living. Links between the rural and urban space economies also mean some of my work necessarily looks at how changes in agrarian structures affect the flows of commodities between the two space economies. The research I do has a focus on smallholder livelihood production systems. I seek to understand global, national and local forces shaping the rural space economy in which smallholder farmers operate.
I investigate their interactions with the state, markets, technology and the environment. In doing so I try to do what Doreen Masey describes as giving ‘process’ and ‘character’ to space by tracking rural social change both in the short term and, in what French historian Fernand Braudel has called the longue duree. On markets, I have a particular interest in understanding how rural commodity markets (especially land) work, the factors driving them and how they change social relations and reconfigure the rural space economy. Recently I have worked on: Post Crisis Reconstruction in Zimbabwe and am currently researching territory based collective enterprise in rural Africa.