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James Sumberg

Emeritus Fellow

James Sumberg is an agriculturalist by training and has over 35 years’ experience working on small-scale farming systems and agricultural policy, primarily in sub-Saharan Africa.

Over the last decade his research has focused primarily on youth and employment in rural Africa. Key concerns have been how young people engage with the rural economy, and the potential of the rural economy to provide decent jobs. A secondary but long-term research focus is knowledge politics in development-oriented agronomy.

James 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



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.


Tomorrow Today

Tomorrow Today is a horizon scanning programme designed to support the preliminary but systematic exploration of new and emergent policy issues.



Young Africans need more and better jobs, not more training

When the world rebuilds after the Covid-19 crisis, Africa will have a unique challenge to face: bringing its overwhelmingly young workforce into decent, productive, and secure jobs. Africa has the world’s youngest population, a fact that some hope will mean fewer deaths and serious cases,...

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Philip Mader & 4 others

10 September 2020


Journal Article

Basket of Options: Unpacking the Concept

How to stimulate technological change to enhance agricultural productivity and reduce poverty remains an area of vigorous debate. In the face of heterogeneity among farm households and rural areas, one proposition is to offer potential users a ‘basket of options’ – a range of agricultural...

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James Sumberg & 9 others

7 July 2021


Youth and the Rural Economy in Africa


How do young people across Africa engage with the rural economy? And what are the implications for how they build livelihoods and futures for themselves, and for rural areas and policy?

24 May 2021

James Sumberg’s recent work