I’ve worked for more than thirty years as an applied social and agro-ecological researcher in agricultural and livestock development, first in Africa, and since 1996 mostly in former Soviet Central Asia. My motivation is that people in poorer countries should benefit from good field research. There are many ways to achieve this. One way is for social scientists to work closely with natural scientists in development projects, in my case with scientists on livestock, crops, soils and plants, as well as ecologists and economists.
I am the director of a research and consultancy firm on extensive livestock production and marketing, called Odessa Centre Ltd., UK.
Since the late 1970s I’ve carried out field research, often with a practical purpose, on pastoral and agricultural peoples in Botswana, Somalia, Sudan, Zambia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan, as well as shorter studies in Tajikistan, western China (Tibetan plateau), Namibia and east Africa.
My main research interests have been on pastoral household economic dynamics in dryland regions, and for the past 15 years on seeking to conserve indigenous goat breeds that produce commercially-valuable cashmere, which can bring additional income for people in the deserts and mountains of Central Asia.
Most recently I’ve been a member of a 4-year research project “Mobility versus Exclusion: Limits to Ideal Free Distributions in Pastoralist Systems”, in Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, funded by Leverhulme to Imperial College, London. The project sought to identify environmentally sound and economically profitable livestock management and land use systems through multidisciplinary analysis. I conducted anthropological field research at rangeland study areas in Kazakhstan, together with national scientific partners, and jointly authored papers with ecologists and other social scientists on the same team.
I’ve edited and authored several books on pastoralism and published a number of articles in academic journals, as well as contributing to development meetings and publications. I was previously editor of the Journal Nomadic Peoples, and am the co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of a new international peer-reviewed journal Pastoralism – research, policy and practice.