Stephen Whitfield

Associate, University of Leeds

Stephen Whitfield


Stephen currently holds a post-doctoral research fellow position at the Sustainability Research Institute at the University of Leeds, having completed his PhD at the Institute of Development Studies/STEPS Centre (University of Sussex) in 2014. Stephen has a BA in Geography from the University of Cambridge and an MSc in Environment and International Development from the University of East Anglia.

He has previously worked on the ESRC/DEFRA ‘UK Sustainable Uplands’ Initiative and the European Commission FP7 ‘Prevention and Restoration Actions to Combat Desertification’ Project at the Aberdeen Centre for Environmental Sustainability. During his PhD he held an associate research fellow position at the World Agroforestry Centre in Nairobi (through an affiliation with the CGIAR Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security research programme) and previous to that worked as a researcher at the British Institute in Eastern Africa.

Research Interests

I am broadly interested in the socio-political dimensions of climate adaptation in agriculture. My current research takes a critical political look at conservation agriculture as a climate smart agricultural development pathway in Zambia and Malawi. As in my previous research, I am interesting in asking who is framing adaptation agendas, on the basis of what interpretations of uncertain evidence, and with what implications?

My PhD research took a multi-sited and critical look at how knowledge and narratives of future change in Kenyan maize agriculture are constructed by a variety of actors; including crop breeders, climate scientists, biotechnology regulators, and smallholder farmers. It considered opportunities for the collective governance of adaptation to an agricultural future that is climatically, as well as socially and economically, uncertain.

I have worked on projects in the UK as well as in Africa and Latin America and have a broad interest in agricultural development, climate change adaptation, natural resource management and ecosystem services.