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James Sumberg

Research Fellow

James Sumberg is an agriculturalist by training and has over 25 years experience working on small-scale farming systems and agricultural research policy in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America. A key research interest has been the dynamics of change within agricultural systems.

There have been two sub-strands to this work. The first explores the persistence of agricultural research and development themes such as de-stocking, mixed farming and fodder legumes despite consistently poor results from promotional programmes.

The second strand focuses on agricultural research as a development intervention. Here he has published on the farming systems research movement; farmer-participatory research; the potential role of concepts from industrial ‘new product development’ in targeting research; and the value of systems of innovation theory in understanding the challenges to agricultural research in sub-Saharan Africa.

More recently he has worked on the agricultural development potential of “home-grown school feeding”, the changing global food system and the growth of interest in ‘local’ food within the UK.

He joined IDS as a Research Fellow in October 2009. Previously he served as Programme Director at The New Economics Foundation and Senior Lecturer in Natural Resource Management in the School of Development Studies, University of East Anglia. He has also held research positions at WADRA – the Africa Rice Centre, the International Livestock Centre for Africa, CARE International and the Gambian Livestock Department.

Google Scholar
http://goo.gl/VzamdG

Research

Programme

Policy Anticipation, Response and Evaluation

Evidence-based policy is often framed by questioning what works, for whom and in what situations. It is often forgotten that the ability to answer this question depends on knowledge about what has happened, what is happening and what is likely to happen.

Programme and centre

Leveraging Agriculture for Nutrition in South Asia (LANSA)

Leveraging Agriculture for Nutrition in South Asia (LANSA) is an international research partnership. We are working together to discover how agriculture and food-related interventions can be better designed to improve nutrition, particularly for children and adolescent girls.

Project

Matasa Fellows Network

An exciting initiative to support young African scholars engage their research with policy on youth employment in Africa.

Opinions

Opinion

Are African youth innovative?

This is the question that we address in a new article published in the Journal of Rural Studies. Entitled 'Are African rural youth innovative? Claims, evidence and implications', the paper is open access and free to download. Our interest in this question is rooted in the fact that claims about...

22 May 2019

Opinion

The cult of the African youth entrepreneur

What image does the phrase ‘Africa’s youth employment challenge’ bring to mind? Is it, for example, an image of social unrest and violence; or of young migrants risking everything to get to Europe? Or an image of family and personal sacrifice to gain coveted educational qualifications? Or...

27 September 2018

Publications

Journal Article

Rethinking Technological Change in Smallholder Agriculture

The concept of technology adoption (along with its companions, diffusion and scaling) is commonly used to design development interventions, to frame impact evaluations and to inform decision-making about new investments in development-oriented agricultural research. However, adoption simplifies...

Image of Dominic Glover
Dominic Glover & 4 others

22 July 2019

Journal Article

Youth Savings Groups in Africa: They’re a Family Affair

Enterprise Development and Microfinance 28.3

Based on field work in Tanzania, Zambia, Uganda and Ghana, in the paper we provide new evidence that young people’s engagement with savings groups in Africa is deeply embedded in networks of family and social relations. Savings group members rely on money that is given to them by husbands,...

1 September 2017

James Sumberg’s recent work

News

DFID funds programme on Children’s Harmful Work in African Agriculture

The majority of children’s work in Africa is within the agricultural sector. However, there is insufficient evidence on the prevalence of harmful children’s work across different agricultural value chains, farming systems and agro-ecologies. Furthermore, little is understood about the...

16 October 2019

Cluster

Resource Politics

Resource politics – the politics of access, use and control of resources as well as contested knowledge claims around these – has leapt up the global development agenda in recent years. Climate change, ‘planetary boundaries’, humanity’s survival and role in the Anthropocene and the...