Dr Stephen Whitfield

Dr Stephen Whitfield


My main research interests are in socio-politics of agri-food systems and the multiple priorities and challenges associated with these systems, both in the UK and overseas.

I lead the NERC SHEAR-funded IPACE-Malawi project, which focuses on improving preparedness to climate extremes in agriculutral systems in Malawi, through climate information service provision. This is a collaboration with the UK Met Office, the Red Cross, and Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources. I am also leading a cross-SHEAR integration project on the co-production of climate services

I lead the GCRF Challenge Cluster on African Food Systems Transformation and Justice, which synthesises lessons on social and evnironmental justice within teh context of food system transformation from across GCRF-funded projects. I am also a co-Investigator on the Scaling Up Biocontrol Innovations in Africa GCRF Challenge Cluster project.

I lead Theme A 'Building the Evidence Base for Climate Smart Agri-Food Systems' of the GCRF-AFRICAP Programme (Agricultural and Food-system Resilience: Increasing Capacity and Advising Policy) led by the University of Leeds.

I also lead the White Rose PhD network ‘Advancing a Social Science of Agri-Food System Sustainability' and co-lead the 'Agricultural Climate Resilience to El-Nino in sub-Saharan Africa (ACRES)' project.

In recent research I have taken a critical political look at conservation agriculture as a climate smart agricultural development pathway in Zambia and Malawi. 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. In both cases, I was asking who is framing development agendas, through what narratives, on the basis of what evidence and assumptions, and with what implications?

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.

Fellow of the Higher Education Academy


  • Associate Director of the Global Food and Environment Institute
  • Programme Leader BSc/MEnv Sustainability and Environmental Management
<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, Development Studies, Institute of Development Studies/STEPS Centre, University of Sussex
  • MSc, Environment and International Development, University of East Anglia
  • BA (Hons), Geography, Sidney Sussex College, University of Cambridge

Student education

I run the second year Undergraduate module SOEE2371 'People, Environment and Sustainability'

I also teach on the following modules: SOEE1111 Sustainable Development; SOEE1460 Environmental Science for Environmental Management, SOEE5483 Critical Perspectives in Environment and Development.

Research groups and institutes

  • Environment and Development
  • Climate Science and Impacts
  • Sustainability Research Institute

Current postgraduate researchers

<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="https://phd.leeds.ac.uk">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>