Knowledge for a sustainable world

BA, MSc, PG Cert, PhD

Professor Quan has served with the Natural Resources Institute for over twenty years, becoming a member of staff of the University of Greenwich when the Institute joined the University in 1996. During this time he has worked as a development researcher and practitioner, undertaking a wide range of consultancy and applied research assignments for a variety of international clients, including the African Union, DFID, the European Union, FAO, IIED, SIDA, UNDP, UN Habitat, the World Bank and a number of developing country governments. From 1998 – 2003 whilst with the University, Dr Quan was commissioned to work as a Land Tenure and Policy Adviser with DFID (the UK Department for International Development). His previous postings have been with South Bank University's Local Economic Policy Unit, the Food Studies Group at Queen Elizabeth House, University of Oxford (seconded to UNICEF and the Mozambican Government) and with Oxfam, in addition to periods and working in community and housing development work and teaching in Further and Adult Education in inner London.

Professor Quan's work has focused on: land tenure, land rights and land policy; rural territorial development; rural institutions, policy and governance; local economic development; climate change adaptation and mitigation; rural livelihoods, community based natural resource management, development of smallholder agriculture, and rural extension in developing countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and also in Latin America.Professor Quan is a specialist in lusophone countries, speaking fluent Portuguese and working extensively in Mozambique and Brazil. He takes an interdisciplinary perspective in development studies, drawing on perspectives and approaches in sociology, anthropology, geography and political science. He has collaborated extensively with leading researchers in these fields, including Camilla Toulmin and Lorenzo Cotula (IIED), Klaus Deininger (World Bank lead economist), Julio Berdegué (RIMISP, Chile) and Arilson Favareto (a leading Brazilian rural sociologist at UFABC, Sao Paulo), in addition to collaborating with researchers from the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex and from the Programme for Land and Agrarian Studies at the University of Western Cape, South Africa.

Professor Quan's main research interests are in formal and informal institutions for natural resource and land management, land policy, agricultural development, and place-based or territorial development policies and approaches to rural development. I consider that my work shows the importance of sound institutional arrangements that respond to multiple stakeholder interests and manage them effectively are central to achieving more inclusive and sustainable rural economic and social development. In particular, decentralised institutional innovations at the meso- or landscape scale in a) farmer economic organisation, b) mechanisms and incentives for environmental management c) organisation of rural outreach / extension services, d) participatory decision making and governance arenas, and e) delivery and funding mechanisms for rural development programmes are essential in balancing agricultural development with the multiple demands on rural areas by establishing resilient development pathways that are socially inclusive and climate compatible.

Professor Quan's work on land tenure showed the continuing importance of customary institutions and practices in land and natural resource management, and the scope and need for their fuller integration into more formalised and inclusive land tenure and administration systems. His own investigations and his broader research leadership, including the organisation of a series of international conferences on land rights in Africa, and facilitation of an African research / policy / practitioner network on land in Africa had significant influence on international development policy on land at the beginning of the 21st Century.

The findings and insights of Professor Quan's work on land and on territorial development are important to establish and scale-up inclusive and sustainable rural development processes in developing countries, by balancing top-down sector-led with more bottom-up territorially focussed approaches, integrating the governance of land with broader territorial governance, and achieving multi-purpose sustainable land and natural use mosaics to meet social and economic need.

Rural Territorial Dynamics in Northeast Brazil.

Professor Quan led this project at NRI, which undertook a detailed investigation of the development dynamics of an agricultural region in Bahia in collaboration with Brazilian researchers. The project received two years funding (£85,000) from ESRC in 2009 – 2011 and made an important contribution to the Rural Territorial Dynamics research programme in Latin America led by RIMISP, which operated from 2008 – 2012 and provided supplementary funding. The programme aimed to establish the conditions under which sustainable and inclusive rural development can take place in order to address the problems of inter-regional and rural social inequality in Latin America, and Professor Quan was a member of the core team which developed the programme funding programme (for IDRC, Canada) and steered the development of the programme in the early stages. His research demonstrated the importance of social coalitions and institutional change in and development in influencing development trajectories and outcomes in Northeast Brazil, and indicated the scope for future research into the impacts of rural territorial development policies, rural territorial dynamics in Africa and the understanding and measurement of "successful" rural development approaches.

Political Economy of Climate Compatible Development.

Professor Quan acts as a full member of the team established by IDS, Institute of Development Studies for the project, and co-leader of a study undertaken on the political economy of Carbon Forestry in Mozambique. The project is on-going from April 2013 to March 2014 and aims to understand the political-economic and institutional context of initiatives for improved forest conservation and management, the unfolding of conflicts in access to land and resources amongst different actors and competing discourses of climate compatible development, and the consequences for different social groups. The research was commissioned by CDKN, the Climate Development Knowledge Network, in order to assist in identifying opportunities for greater leverage and engagement to ensure that country based climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies result in positive impacts and new opportunities for the rural poor.

Professor Quan is leader of NRI's programme on Rural Institutions and Agricultural Policy During academic year 2011 -12 he played the role of Enterprise Fellow within NRI.
  • Professor Quan is a member of the ESRC peer review college.
  • Since 2006 he has been Chief Technical Adviser to Mozambique Community Lands Initiative (2006 -2014).
  • He has also acted as a Technical adviser to African Union Land Policy Initiative.
  • He has been a member of the Royal Geographical Society – Institute of British Geographers
  • Professor Quan was jointly awarded the O'Riordan Prize for the best Masters Dissertation in Rural Resources and Environmental Policy (on the topic of climate change in Mozambique) at Wye College, London, 1991.
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