Photo of Jim Sumberg, Research Fellow with the Knowledge Technology and Society Team

Jim Sumberg - Research Fellow

Rural Futures; Resource Politics
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Simon Jeavons

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Jim 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.

Agricultural Policy Research in Africa (APRA) is a five-year, DFID-funded, research programme consortium which aims to produce new evidence and policy insights into different pathways to agricultural commercialisation in Africa and their differential outcomes for local people and economies.

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The goal of the Challenges and Opportunities for Rural Youth Employment in Sub-Saharan Africa study is to strengthen and deepen knowledge of: the employment dynamics of rural young people, and the relationships between these dynamics and welfare; and the socially and spatially differentiated perspectives of rural young people on work, employment and livelihoods. Research is taking place in Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Niger and Burkina Faso.

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

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The DFID funded Future Agricultures Consortium is an Africa-based alliance of research organisations seeking to provide timely, high-quality and independent information and advice to improve agricultural policy and practice in Africa.

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The Development Studies Learning Partnership was created under the BRICS Initiative in 2011, and enables collaborative learning between traditional and emerging actors in development, be they academics, researchers, practitioners or policy-makers.

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IDS publications on international development research

A sweet deal? Sugarcane, water and agricultural transformation in Sub-Saharan Africa

Global Environmental Change 39 (2016)

Globally, the area of sugarcane is rising rapidly in response to growing demands for bioethanol and increased sugar demand for human consumption. Despite considerable diversity in production systems and contexts, sugarcane is a particularly “high impact” crop with significant positive and negative environmental and socio-economic impacts. More details

IDS publications on international development research

The adoption problem; or why we still understand so little about technological change in African agriculture

Outlook on Agriculture 45.1 (2016)

The notion of adoption is central to efforts to measure technological change in African agriculture, and plays an important role in the evaluation of return on investment in agricultural research and technology development. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Contested Agronomy: Agricultural Research in a Changing World

Over the last 40 years, suggest the editors of Contested Agronomy, agricultural research in the developing world has been profoundly influenced by three powerful trends. More details

Non-IDS publication

Mind the (yield) gaps(s)

Food Security 4.4 (2012)

This paper explores the origin of the notion of “yield gap” and its use as a framing device for agricultural policy in sub-Saharan Africa. The argument is that while the yield gap of policy discourse provides a simple and powerful framing device, it is most often used without the discipline or caveats associated with the best examples of its use in crop production ecology and microeconomics. More details

Non-IDS publication

Public Agronomy: Norman Borlaug as 'brand hero' for the Green Revolution

Journal of Development Studies 48.11 (2012)

This article examines the role played by Norman Borlaug in promoting the notion of Green Revolution as a way to rapidly transform agriculture in the developing world. More details