Knowledge for a sustainable world

Research Group:
Development Studies

NRI social scientists are committed to researching major questions about how households and communities in the global South escape from poverty, how they make themselves more resilient to external trends (including, but not limited to climate change), and how they can be helped by governments and their policies, civil society, market actors, and international agencies.

We research these questions both in collaboration with colleagues from the biophysical sciences, in NRI and beyond, and in projects we design and lead ourselves. In both cases we make a distinctive contribution by bringing to bear our first-hand knowledge of rural societies across the developing world, and an interdisciplinary orientation.

NRI research in Development Studies is broad in scope, and is carried out in conjunction with other Research Groups, and especially with and through the work we do under our Development Programmes, which integrate research, advisory and consultancy work. More detail on these programmes can be found on our Development Programmes pages:

  • Climate Change, Agriculture and Natural Resources: we research how rural poor people in developing countries are impacted by climate change, how they can adapt to it and how they can be helped to adapt, and how they can realise the co-benefits, and avoid the negative impacts, of climate change mitigation policies.
  • Sustainable Trade and Responsible Business: we explore whether and how trade and private sector initiatives are able to enhance the incomes, livelihoods and environments of smallholders and workers, but also how such schemes are governed and what the broader implications are for world trade in agricultural and other commodities.
  • Gender and Social Difference: we study the workings of gender inequality and other forms of social difference in processes of rural development and natural resources management, with the ultimate aim of contributing to theory, policy and practice to benefit the lives of women, men, girls and boys, as a matter of human rights, gender justice and good development.
  • Land, Rural Institutions and Governance: we work to improve understanding of the dynamics (drivers, outcomes and impacts) of rural development and the institutions and policies that constrain and influence the effectiveness, scale, inclusiveness and sustainability of current projects and programmes. These institutions and policies include those relating to land tenure, to the provision of services to farmers, and to the governance of rural areas.
  • Value chains: we work on quantitative and qualitative analysis of value chains and market linkages for food crops, non-food crops, and natural products.
  • Financial services: we work on financial services for farmers including inventory credit, micro-finance, weather index insurance and bundled products combining more than one financial service, exploring the implications of different service provision models in both their economic and social aspects.
  • Agriculture and nutrition: we are designing and implementing innovative research projects to examine whether and how agricultural innovations are translated into positive impacts on nutrition, taking into account issues of women’s time use and women’s empowerment.
  • Evaluation research and impact assessment: We seek to develop and apply theory and methodologies for evaluation and impact assessment of development and research initiatives and programmes, especially in situations of complexity. We explore questions relating to rigour and the nature of evidence, experimentation and participation, utility and learning, to critically analyse outcomes for different stakeholder groups.

NRI has submitted its work to successive UK Research Assessment Exercises and Research Excellence Frameworks in 2001, 2008 and 2014. In the most recent REF, 49% of our work was rated as world-leading or internationally excellent, with the great majority of the rest as internationally recognised. 100% of our research impact was rated as world-leading or internationally excellent.


Professor John F Morton Professor John F Morton Professor of Development Anthropology +44 (0)1634 88 3064 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.