Professor Valerie Nelson
+44 (0)1634 88 3156
Professor Valerie Nelson has a first degree in Social Anthropology from the University of Cambridge, an MSc in Rural Resources and Environmental Policy from Wye College, University of London, and a PhD from the University of Greenwich in Global Supply Chain Sustainability Initiatives: Impacts, Governance, Systemic Constraints and Regenerative Alternatives’.
She has worked in international development since 1992, initially in Belize on forest planning and management, conducting field research in Mayan and migrant communities, followed by research at an agricultural research institute of the University of the State of Mexico in indigenous communities in the central highlands of Mexico. Following a 6-month stint in Bavaria supporting partnership development between European, Latin America and Asia protected areas, she joined Oxfam GB's policy department, evaluating their South-South Environment Learning Programme. Valerie joined NRI in 1996 and has since conducted social and transdisciplinary research on agriculture, land, rural development, and environment in Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and the UK.
Valerie has led significant research projects and conducted action research in the following areas: Participatory rural development; Sustainable livelihoods and the social dimensions of agriculture, natural resources management and landscapes; Gender, intersectionality and climate change adaptation; Smallholder agricultural adaptation and climate change resilience; Governance and politics of sustainability in global value chains; Fair trade and sustainability standards; Critical reflections on sustainable supply chain initiatives and responsible business; Land rights and governance; Social learning and multi-stakeholder processes; Regenerative and alternative economies and biodiversity; Transformative Change; Human-Nature relations. Early work included pioneering of the use of participatory video in natural resources management in Malawi (1996-1998) and developing and facilitating subsequent social learning and co-production methodologies.
She has led the NRI Sustainable Production, Trade and Consumption Programme since 2013. She currently co-leads the NRI Political Ecology, Culture and Arts Research Group which has the following research themes: relationality, the more than human, socionatures and biodiversity; politics and meanings of food and farming; ecojustice, power and land; transformative change, social movements and sustainability futures; post-growth economies and commoning; environmental intersectionalities and ethics of care.
Valerie is an expert for the Inter-Governmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) acting as a contributing author for the 2022 Values Assessment, the 2022 Scoping Study on Business and Biodiversity, and is currently a lead author for the Transformative Change Assessment. She is also currently a lead author for the UNEP Global Environmental Outlook GEO-7 report. She sits on the Scottish Government’s advisory panel for their environment strategy. Valerie was a member of the UK and Ireland’s Development Studies Association Council for 6 years.
She is also an evaluation and learning specialist, leading multiple complex evaluations and research studies, including multi-country studies: Fairtrade impact; Sustainability standards and poverty impact; Corporate codes of practice and poverty impact; Trade and global value chains via social and economic upgrading; Responsible, accountable, and transparent enterprise; Forest landscapes and finance; Climate resilience and sustainable agriculture; Human rights and environmental due diligence. She has recently co-facilitated a Learning Cycle for the LandCollaborative, involving 12 national land governance stakeholder platforms in Africa and Asia and evaluated a sustainable rubber initiative involving multi-stakeholder platforms in Cambodia, Thailand, and Myanmar. High level consultancies have been undertaken for, amongst others, UNDP, EC, Irish Aid, DFID (now FCDO), Dutch Government, ISEAL, ILO, BEIS, Defra, Welthungerhilfe, Fair Trade Advocacy Office, Fairtrade International, Rainforest Alliance, Oxfam, CGIAR etc.
Valerie is currently teaching on the Masters on Transformative Change for Sustainable Development, leading a module on Regenerative economies, politics and societies. She is supervising several PhD students on subjects including urban ecologies and food, the future of small-scale farming and relational perspectives on food territories.
Valerie currently leads the Sustainability and Political Ecology Research Group. She is currently researching: alternative, diverse and post-growth economies; transformative change, biodiversity and human-nature relations; agriculture and food territories, politics and meanings; land governance; and social learning and co-production approaches and the politics of knowledge.
- Transformative Change in telecoupled agrofood systems for biodiversity and equity (EU Horizon)
- Gender and Climate Resilient Agriculture study (CGIAR)
- UNEP Geo-7 Lead author
- IPBES Transformative Change Assessment (2023-25) – lead author
- IPBES Values Assessment – contributing author
- Mid-term Review of Welt Hunger Hilfe Multi-actor approach for sustainable natural rubber.
- Evaluation of Dutch Government programmes against child labour and for responsible business.
- Co-facilitator Learning Cycle on engaging private sector for responsible agricultural investment for LandCollaborative.
- Review of the global CGIAR Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security Programme (2020).
- Impact of Human Rights Due Diligence and Living Wage/Income as a Human Right on Workers / Smallholders; Bread for the World, FairTrade Advocacy Office (2019-20).
- ILO Study, Sustaining Competitive and Responsible Enterprises Programme Evaluation.
- DFID Sustainable Intensification for Africa Research Programme. Wyg-NRI consortium. Social learning and equity, including study in 5 countries.
- Theory based evaluation and Randomized Control Trial, Better Cotton Initiative, Andhra Pradesh, India (ISEAL).
- Evaluative learning for the FCDO Partnerships for Forests Programme (Part of a team led by LTS)
- Team leader for the FCDO Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning on the Responsible, Accountable and Transparent Enterprise Programme.
- Team leader for the Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning of the FCDO Trade and Global Value Chains Initiative
- Team leader for the Evaluative Learning on the EC Malawi Global Climate Change Resilience Alliance (GCCA) programme
- Team Leader, Empowerment of Drylands Women. A study on Gender and Drylands focusing on issues of Resilience, Land Rights and Governance (UNDP)
- Climate Impacts Research Capacity and Leadership Enhancement or CIRCLE Programme – Quality assuror. FCDO Programme, managed by the Association of Commonwealth Universities and the African Academy of Sciences, developed the skills and research output of early career African researchers in the field of climate change and its impacts.
- Assessing the poverty impact of sustainability standards (Rainforest Alliance and Fairtrade) in Kenyan and Indian tea and Ecuadorian and Ghanaian cocoa' (FCDO funded, 2009-2013).
- Assessing the impact of Fairtrade in cotton: Senegal, Mali, Cameroon and India. Fairtrade Foundation and Max Havelaar, France in collaboration with IDS, University of Sussex (2009-10)
- Climate Learning for African Agriculture (CLAA). Team member in a two-year project funded by FCDO's Climate and Development Knowledge Network investigated how climate issues (of both adaptation and mitigation) are incorporated into the policy, planning, management and implementation of agricultural research and advisory services throughout Africa
- Team Leader: Assessing the Social Impact of Codes of Practice in Kenyan cut Flowers and South Africa wine industries (2002‐2005).
- Farms of the Future: Climate Change adaptation project involving climate modelling, participatory video and farmer exchanges (Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security, CCAFS funded project).
- Politics and governance of private standards (ESRC-FCDO) research in collaboration with the University of Leeds
- Ethical Trade and Forest Dependent People research project (DFID), Forestry Research Programme. Multi-country action research project including South Africa, Solomon Islands, Ecuador, and Peru.
- DFID Forestry Research Programme – Malawi Rural Energy and Livelihoods. Action Research and participatory video innovation.
- Sustainable use of wildland resources in the Serengeti Ecosystem. Social development specialist. DFID Animal Health/Livestock Research Programme.
- DFID Forestry Research Programme – Malawi Rural Energy and Livelihoods. Action Research and participatory video innovation.
- Sustainable use of wildland resources in the Serengeti Ecosystem. Social development specialist. DFID Animal Health/Livestock Research Programme
- Harmáčková, Z. V., Yoshida, Y., Sitas, N., Manetti, L., Martin, A., Kumar, R., Berbes, M., Collins, R., Eisenack, K., Guimaraes, E., Heras, M., Nelson, V., Niamir, A., Ravera, F., Ruiz Mallen, I. & O’Farrell, P. (accepted) ‘What types of values underlie sustainable and just futures?’ Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability (COSUST).
- Martin-Ortega O, Dehbi F, Nelson V, Pillay R. Towards a Business, Human Rights and the Environment Framework. Sustainability. 2022; 14(11):6596. https://doi.org/10.3390/su14116596
- Lamboll, R., V. Nelson et al (2021) Strengthening decision-making on Sustainable Agricultural Intensification through Multi-Stakeholder Social Learning in sub-Saharan Africa. Int J Agricultural Sustainability 19:5-6, 609-635.
- Nelson, Valerie J., Rueda, Ximena and Vermeulen, Walter J.V. (2018) Challenges and opportunities for the sustainability transition in global trade (Introduction). Business Strategy and the Environment, 27 (2). pp. 173-178. ISSN 0964-4733 (Print), 1099-0836 (Online) (doi:10.1002/bse.2008)
- Nelson, Valerie and Phillips, David (2018) Sector, landscape or rural transformations? Exploring the limits and potential of agricultural sustainability initiatives through a cocoa case study. Business Strategy and the Environment, 27 (2). pp. 252-262. ISSN 0964-4733 (Print), 1099-0836 (Online) (doi:10.1002/bse.2014)
- Lamboll, Richard, Nelson, Valerie, Posthumus, Helena, Martin, Adrienne ORCID: 0000-0001-9305-7302, Adebayo, Kolawole, Alacho, Francis, Dziedzoave, Nanam, Mahende, Grace, Sandifolo, Vito, Sanni, Lateef, Abayomi, Louise, Graffham, Andrew, Hillocks, Rory and Westby, Andrew (2015) Practical lessons on scaling up smallholder-inclusive and sustainable cassava value chains in Africa. Food Chain, 5 (1-2). pp. 28-52. ISSN 2046-1879 (Print), 2046-1887 (Online) (doi:10.3362/2046-1887.2015.004)
- Nelson, Valerie and Tallontire, Anne (2014) Battlefields of ideas: changing narratives and power dynamics in private standards in global agricultural value chains. Agriculture and Human Values, 31 (3). pp. 481-497. ISSN 0889-048X (Print), 1572-8366 (Online) (doi:10.1007/s10460-014-9512-8)
- Nelson, Valerie and Martin, Adrienne ORCID: 0000-0001-9305-7302 (2014) Exploring issues of rigour and utility in Fairtrade impact assessment. Food Chain, 4 (1). pp. 14-33. ISSN 2046-1879 (Print), 2046-1887 (Online) (doi:10.3362/2046-1887.2014.003)
- Tallontire, Anne, Opondo, Maggie and Nelson, Valerie (2013) Contingent spaces for smallholder participation in GlobalGAP: insights from Kenyan horticulture value chains. The Geographical Journal, 180 (4). pp. 353-364. ISSN 0016-7398 (Print), 1475-4959 (Online) (doi:10.1111/geoj.12047)
- Tallontire, Anne and Nelson, Valerie (2013) Fair trade narratives and political dynamics. Social Enterprise Journal, 9 (1). pp. 28-52. ISSN 1750-8614 (doi:10.1108/17508611311329994)
- Nelson, Valerie and Martin, Adrienne ORCID: 0000-0001-9305-7302 (2012) The impact of Fairtrade: Evidence, shaping factors, and future pathways. Food Chain, 2 (1). pp. 42-63. ISSN 2046-1879 (Print), 2046-1887 (Online) (doi:10.3362/2046-1887.2012.005)
- Boyd, Emily, Grist, Natasha, Juhola, Sirkku and Nelson, Valerie (2009) Exploring development futures in a changing climate: frontiers for development policy and practice. Development Policy Review, 27 (6). pp. 659-674. ISSN 0950-6764 (Print), 1467-7679 (Online) (doi:10.1111/j.1467-7679.2009.00464.x)
- Tallontire, Anne, Opondo, Maggie, Nelson, Valerie and Martin, Adrienne ORCID: 0000-0001-9305-7302 (2009) Beyond the vertical? Using value chains and governance as a framework to analyse private standards initiatives in agri-food chains. Agriculture and Human Values, 28 (3). pp. 427-441. ISSN 0889-048X (Print), 1572-8366 (Online) (doi:10.1007/s10460-009-9237-2)
- Nelson, Valerie and Stathers, Tanya ORCID: 0000-0002-7767-6186 (2009) Resilience, power, culture, and climate: A case study from semi-arid Tanzania, and new research directions. Gender & Development, 17 (1). pp. 81-94. ISSN 1355-2074 (Print), 1364-9221 (Online) (doi:10.1080/13552070802696946)
- Nelson, Valerie, Martin, Adrienne ORCID: 0000-0001-9305-7302 and Ewert, Joachim (2007) The impacts of codes of practice on worker livelihoods: empirical evidence from the South African wine and Kenyan cut flower industries. Journal of Corporate Citizenship (28). pp. 61-72. ISSN 1470-5001
- Nelson, Valerie and Martin, Adrienne ORCID: 0000-0001-9305-7302 (2015) Fairtrade international’s multi-dimensional impacts in Africa. In: Raynolds, Laura T and Bennett, Elizabeth A., (eds.) Handbook of Research on Fair Trade. Edward Elgar Publishing, Cheltenham, UK, pp. 509-531. ISBN 9781783474608 (doi:10.4337/9781783474622.00040)
- Nelson, Valerie, Tallontire, Anne, Opondo, Maggie and Martin, Adrienne ORCID: 0000-0001-9305-7302 (2014) Pathways of transformation or transgression? Power relations, ethical space and labour rights in Kenyan cut flower value chains. In: Goodman, Michael K. and Sage, Colin, (eds.) Food transgressions: Making sense of contemporary food politics. Routledge, pp. 15-38. ISBN 978-0754679707
- Blowfield, Michael, Gallat, Stephanie, Malins, Annabelle, Maynard, Bill, Nelson, Valerie and Robinson, Dawn (1999) Ethical trade and sustainable rural livelihoods. Natural Resources Institute, Chatham, UK. ISBN 0-85954-503-2
- Nelson, Valerie (ed.) (2017) Fairtrade Impacts: Lessons from around the world. Fairtrade Impacts. Practical Action Publishing, Hampshire, UK. ISBN 978-1853399077 (doi:10.3362/9781780449067)
- Nelson, Valerie, Morton, John, Apenteng, Essie Aduwa Ape and Lamboll, Richard (2013) African Agricultural Research and Advisory Services under Climate Change: Perspectives from an E-Discussion. [Working Paper]
- Tallontire, Anne, Nelson, Valerie, Dixon, Jami and Benton, Tim G. (2012) A review of the literature and knowledge of standards and certification systems in agricultural production and farming systems (NRI working paper series on sustainability standards No. 2). [Working Paper]
- Nelson, Valerie (2000) Zambia feeder roads research project rural transport policy toolkit: Livelihoods profile for North and Luapula provinces. [Working Paper]
- Nelson, V., Haggar, J., Martin, A. ORCID: 0000-0001-9305-7302, Donovan, J., Borasino, E., Hasyim, W., Mhando, N., Senga, M., Mgumia, J., Quitanar-Guadarrama, E., Kendar, Z., Valdez, J. and Morales, D. (2016) Fairtrade Coffee A study to assess the impact of Fairtrade for coffee smallholders and producer organisations in Indonesia, Mexico, Peru, and Tanzania. Technical Report. University of Greenwich, Chatham, UK.
- Nelson, Valerie, Martin, Adrienne ORCID: 0000-0001-9305-7302, Ewert, Joachim, Hasan, Abu Ala, Opondo, Maggie, Flint, Michael, Hartog, Maaike and Priebe, Jan (2016) Trade and Global Value Chains Initiative: Mid-Term Evaluation Report. Technical Report. University of Greenwich, Chatham, UK.
- Morton, J., Kisauzi, D., Ohiomoba, I., Demby, D., Mangheni, M., Moumouni, I., Parkinson, V., Suale, D., Lamboll, R., Nelson, V. and Quan, J. (2014) Climate, agriculture and knowledge in Africa: Agricultural research and advisory services in the face of climate change. Final synthesis report of the climate learning for African agriculture project. Project Report. University of Greenwich (NRI), FARA and AFAAS, Chatham, UK.
- Nelson, Valerie, Smith, Sally, Martin, Adrienne ORCID: 0000-0001-9305-7302 and Vanhuyse, Fedra (2012) Comic Relief trade Programme Evaluation. Technical Report. Natural Resources Institute, University of Greenwich, Chatham, UK.
- Martin, Adrienne ORCID: 0000-0001-9305-7302 and Nelson, Valerie (2012) Impact assessment policies and practices of EIARD members: study. Technical Report. AGRINATURA-EEIG Secretariat, Paris, France.
- Nelson, Valerie, Morton, John F., Chancellor, Tim ORCID: 0000-0002-4442-7001, Burt, Peter and Pound, Barry (2010) Climate change, agriculture and Fairtrade: identifying the challenges and opportunities. Working Paper. Natural Resources Institute, Natural Resources Institute [website] / Fairtrade Foundation [website].
- Nelson, Valerie, Galvez, Modesto and Blowfield, Mick (2000) Social impact of ethical and conventional brazil nut trading on forest-dependent people in Peru. Technical Report. Natural Resources Institute, Chatham, UK.
- Kumar, R. ORCID: 0000-0002-0157-1310, Nelson, V., Martin, A. ORCID: 0000-0001-9305-7302, Badal, D., Latheef, A., Suresh Reddy, B., Narayanan, L., Young, S. and Hartog, M. (2016) Evaluation of the early impacts of the better cotton initiative on smallholder cotton producers in Kurnool District, India: Baseline report. ISEAL Alliance, London.
- Nelson, Valerie, Morton, John, Forsythe, Lora ORCID: 0000-0001-9931-4453, Martin, Adrienne ORCID: 0000-0001-9305-7302 and Hartog, Maaike (2015) Achieving dryland women's empowerment: environmental resilience and social transformation. UNCCD, UNDP, Greenwich.
- Forsythe, Lora ORCID: 0000-0001-9931-4453, Morton, John, Nelson, Valerie, Martin, Adrienne ORCID: 0000-0001-9305-7302 and Hartog, Maaike (2015) Gender and drylands governance: Empowering women for change. UNDP, UNCCD, Greenwich.
- Forsythe, Lora ORCID: 0000-0001-9931-4453, Morton, John, Nelson, Valerie, Quan, Julian, Martin, Adrienne ORCID: 0000-0001-9305-7302 and Hartog, Maaike (2015) Strengthening dryland women's land rights: local contexts, global change. UNCCD, UNDP, Greenwich.
- Nelson, Valerie, Forsythe, Lora ORCID: 0000-0001-9931-4453 and Morton, John (2015) Synthesis of thematic papers from the series ‘Women’s empowerment in the drylands. UNCCD and UNDP, Greenwich.
- Research, teaching, training.
- Leader of the Political Ecology, Culture and Arts Research Group
- Lead for the NRI Sustainable Production, Trade and Consumption Impact and Innovation Theme
- NRI Sustainability Group Coordinator.
- United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) GEO 7 Lead Author (2023 – 26) in Chapter on Impacts, focusing on Sustainable Development Goals, and SDG 8.
- Environment Strategy for Scotland – Global Footprint Outcome Pathway Advisory Working Group (Dec. 2022 – Mar. 2023)
- Global award for Evaluation for Transformation (World Bank, ITAD, IDEAS, 2022) focused on FCDO Partnerships for Forests programme.
- Gulbenkian Prize for Humanity 2022 awarded to IPBES and IPCC (including studies for which I am lead or contributing author)
- Inter-Governmental Science Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES lead author (Transformative Change Assessment) (2022-24)
- Inter-Governmental Science Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services – Scoping Study on Business and Biodiversity. ILK dialogue representative.
- Inter-Governmental Science Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services – Contributing Author to the ‘Methodological Assessment on incorporating multiple values of nature and nature’s contributions to people for just and sustainable futures’ ‘Section 5.3. Analysis of business visions of the future.
- Editor, Frontiers – Sustainable Food Systems – Land, Livelihoods and Food Security.
- Council member of the UK and Ireland Development Studies Association (DSA) (6 years)
- Co-convenor of the DSA study group on business, development, and environment.
- The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), contribution to Values Assessment
- The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) is an independent intergovernmental body, Expert in Scoping Study on Business and Biodiversity Methodological Assessment
- The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) contributing author to Transformative Change Assessment
- Co-lead for NRI in International Land Coalition
- NRI representative in the OECD FAO Multi-Stakeholder Advisory Group on Responsible Agricultural Supply Chains. Co-convenor of Climate and Development DSA Study Group (2009-10)
- Co-track chair of the Sustainable value chains track of the International Sustainable Development Research Society Conference (2016- 18).
- NRI representative in UK NGO consortium developing an adaptation standard (2008-10) adopted by Fairtrade International.
- DFID transport resource centre policy group, social development advisor (2002-3).