Dr Uche Okpara


I am an applied environment and development researcher with in-depth theoretical knowledge and experience of climate security and transboundary lake water systems research leading to academic achievements that integrate a range of disciplines including environmental management and policy, water security and poverty, and peace-prosperity studies. Specifically, my research advances understanding of the social dimensions of climate change impact, focusing on:

  • The links between climate change and new security challenges at range of scales in both multi-functional urban and rural settings;
  • Social-ecological systems approaches, including gender analysis, to support the achievement of Land Degradation Neutrality;
  • Development of sustainable livelihood and composite vulnerability assessment metrics for communicating locally appropriate insights on climate adaptation decision-making/resilience building; and
  • The practical and policy mechanisms that can advance the integration of climate adaptation, water governance and conflict management programmes to enable inclusive and sustainable development.

I use theories and methods from both the environmental social sciences and political economy, and has expertise in: leading qualitative and quantitative research methods; transdisciplinary research practices for co-generation and implementation of actionable knowledge in environmental change research; and database development to facilitate use of climate change and environmental security information in decision making.

I have considerable expertise in applied field research in challenging environments in Africa and can cross-fertilise different water security, climate change and sustainable development research issues and literatures, combining academic and practitioner debates to make previously uncharted connections visible. My previous research has involved working in partnership with multiple research partners and interdisciplinary teams in Africa and the UK to co-develop new integrated methodologies and analytical approaches for assessing climate and water conflict vulnerabilities, providing progressive research support for development actors and poor communities in water-dependent lake riparian zones. I have granted several topical media interviews to journalists in the UK and elsewhere - including the BBC World Services, UK Sunday Times and Al Jazeera – on subjects relating to insurgent struggles in the Sahel, climate security in Lake Chad and the Great Green Wall Initiative in Africa. Over the last five years I have secured several internal and external grants, from small travel grants up to research fellowships and research dissemination grants. 

I was formerly a DFID/Commonwealth Scholar at Greenwich University, London (2009 - 2010), and a US SSRC (Social Science Research Council) Research Fellow (2013 – 2014). I hold a bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Economics (First Class – University of Nigeria) and a PhD in Environmental Sustainability (University of Leeds, UK - 2016).

Research interests

I am interested in applying and integrating research techniques from across different environmental science and global development, sustainability and security research areas to better understand the interrelationships between people, places and the environment in a human-dominated world. Specifically, my interests cross-cut the following research domains:

  • Water security, climate change and environmental governance
  • Vulnerability, conflict-sensitive adaptation and global development
  • Land degradation neutrality in global drylands
  • Lake drying, human security and livelihood wellbeing
  • Equitable community reconstruction and disaster-conflict mitigation
  • Refugee enterpreneurship
  • Climate change and the rise of rebel empires in the Global South

       Recent publications

  • Okpara, U. T., Stringer, L. C., Akhtar-Schuster, M., Metternicht, G., Dallimer, M., Requier-Desjardins, M. 2018. A social-ecological systems approach is necessary to achieve land degradation neutrality. Environmental Science and Policy 89: 59-66. DOI: 10.1016/j.envsci.2018.07.003.
  • Okpara, U. T., Stringer, L. C., Dougill, A. J. 2018. Integrating climate adaptation, water governance and conflict management policies in lake riparian zones: insights from African drylands, Environmental Science & Policy 79: 36-44. DOI:10.1016/j.envsci.2017.10.002.
  • Okpara, U. T., Stringer, L. C., Dougill, A. J. 2017.Using a novel climate-water conflict vulnerability index to capture double exposures in Lake Chad, Regional Environmental Change, 17(2): 351-366. DOI: 10.1007/s10113-016-1003-6.
  • Okpara, U. T., Stringer, L. C., Dougill, A. J. 2016. Perspectives on contextual vulnerability in discourses of climate conflict, Earth System Dynamics, 6: 2543-2576. DOI: 10.5194/esdd-6-2543-2015.
  • Okpara, U. T., Stringer, L. C., Dougill, A. J. 2016. Lake drying and livelihood dynamics in Lake Chad: Unravelling the mechanisms, contexts and responses, Ambio - A Journal of the Human Environment, 45(7): 781-795. DOI: 10.1007/s13280-016-0805-6.
  • Okpara, U. T., Stringer, L. C., Dougill, A. J., Bila, M. 2015 Conflicts about water in Lake Chad: Are environmental, vulnerability and security issues linked? Progress in Development Studies, 15(4): 308 – 325. DOI: 10.1177/1464993415592738.

        Aricles under review

      - Okpara et al. 2018. Gender and land degradation neutrality: a cross-country analysis to support more equitable practices, Journal of Land Degradation and Development.

      - Okpara, U. T. 2018. Does lake drying undermine peace in Lake Chad? World Development.

      - Okpara et al. 2018. Unravelling the nexus of climate shocks and conflict in lake riparian zones through the lenses of vulnerability and lake drying, Global Environmental Change.

<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://environment.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • PhD Environmental Sustainability
  • MSc Natural Resources and Sustainable Environmental Management
  • BSc Agricultural Economics

Professional memberships

  • International Society for Ecological Economics
  • American Association for the Advancement of Science
  • Sustainability Professionals Network

Student education

I support/contribute to various modules in the interdisciplinary fields of Global Development and the Environmental Social Sciences.

Research groups and institutes

  • Environment and Development
  • Sustainability Research Institute