Knowledge for a sustainable world

BA Hons, PhD

Professor John Morton has a first degree in Social Anthropology from the University of Cambridge, and a PhD from the University of Hull for a thesis on the social organisation of the Northern Beja, a group of semi-nomadic pastoralists in north-eastern Sudan. After working for Oxfam in north-eastern Sudan during 1985-86, he worked as a consultant for a variety of NGOs, UN agencies, etc., including three years as a freelance consultant based in Pakistan. He joined NRI in 1993. He has been Professor of Development Anthroplogy since 2004, Associate Research Director (Social Sciences) 2001-2010 and Head of the Livelihoods and Institutions Department since 2010.

John has led significant projects within his key research fields: the social, institutional and policy aspects of livestock development, particularly among pastoralist peoples; drought management; and impacts of climate change on smallholders, pastoralists and other categories of the rural poor, and their prospects for adaptation. He has also carried out high-level consultancies for DFID, The European Commission, the World Bank, UNDP and several NGOs within these topics. He has field experience in numerous African countries (especially in the Horn of Africa), South Asia and Mongolia. He is fluent in French, and speaks some Arabic.

John teaches a Masters-level course on Livestock in Sustainable Development with NRI's Masters degree courses, and is an active supervisor of research students within his fields of expertise.

John served as a Lead Author on smallholder and subsistence agriculture within the chapter on Food, Forests and Fibre of the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). As such he was recognised as contributing to the award of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize to the IPCC. He is currently serving as Coordinating Lead Author on Rural Areas for the forthcoming Fifth Assessment Report.

I have two overlapping sets of research interests:

  • The social, institutional and political context for livestock development, and for the development of pastoralist communities. I have worked on appropriate methodologies for livestock research among small-scale communities, on factors influencing uptake of tsetse control activities and ways to disseminate those technologies. I have led innovative research projects on the relations of pastoralist communities with elected parliamentarians in Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda, and on the engagement of the Ethiopian private sector (particularly meat and livestock exporters) in pastoral development. My interest has evolved towards looking at the ways in which the languages and discourses used to discuss pastoralism (by governments, NGOs, researchers and others) structure the prospects for pastoral development, and the practical implications for this for pastoralist empowerment.
  • Impacts of climate change and prospects for adaptation. Through work on droughts and other forms of climate variability in pastoral areas I developed an interest in the impacts of climate change on pastoralists, smallholders and other categories of the rural poor, and their prospects for adaptation. This has been expressed through my work for the IPCC, and through my leadership of the project Climate Learning for African Agriculture (see below).

Climate Learning for African Agriculture (CLAA). This two-year project funded by DFID's Climate and Development Knowledge Network is investigating climate issues (of both adaptation and mitigation) are being incorporated into the policy, planning, management and implementation of agricultural research and advisory services throughout Africa, and how the prospects for this can be improved in future. NRI undertakes the project in collaboration with the Forum for African Research in Africa and the African Forum for Agricultural Advisory Services. John has led the project planning, commissioned researchers/facilitators for four country-level case studies with a strong element of action-research, personally backstopped the case-study in Benin, edited outputs (and translated those from Benin) and presented interim findings at conferences/workshops in UK, Senegal and Botswana.

After long involvement with research on technologies to control the tsetse fly and trypanosomiasis in Africa, John was asked to carry out the policy and institutional analysis for an impact assessment and lesson-learning exercise, funded by DFID's Research into Use Programme, on Uganda's "Stamp Out Sleeping Sickness Campaign". This involved interviews with policy-makers at national and district levels, researchers and drug companies, in order to analyse how research information had flown into the project, and how key decisions had been made.

Review of Impacts of Climate Change on Dryland Agrarian Societies: this review was carried out for the World Bank's Social Development Department, in collaboration with IIED. John led the review, constructed a conceptual framework, and presented the findings, which were later adapted as a book chapter.

Member, Professors and Readers Committee, REF Unit of Assessment Co-ordinator, Anthropology and Development Studies
  • Co-ordinating Lead Author, Chapter on Rural Areas, Working Group II, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
  • Member, Peer Review College of the UK Economic and Social Research Council.
  • Member, Scientific Advisory Panel, Commonwealth Studentships Commission for the UK.
  • Consultant Scientific Editor, Tropical Animal Health and Production.
  • Former Council Member, Development Studies Association (2003-2009).
  • Trustee, Pastoral and Environmental Network in the Horn of Africa (1999 - , Chair of Trustees 2007-2009).
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