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 Theme A 'Building the Evidence Base for Climate Smart Agri-Food Systems' of the new 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

  • School of Earth and Environment 'Blended Learning' Officer
  • Member of the Cross-Faculty Research Ethics Committee


  • Associate Director of the Global Food and Environment Institute
<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 'People, Environment and Sustainability'

I contribute to the Masters module 'Critical Perspectives in Environment and Development'

Current PhD Students:

  • Louise Beveridge (NERC DTP CASE Award funded) Pathways to Food Security and Climate Change Adaptation in Latin America.
  • Pierre Moorsom (Priestley International Centre for Climate funded) Farmer-to-Farmer Innovation in Climate Smart Agriculture in Malawi.
  • Jonas Cromwell (ESRC White Rose DTP funded) Resilience and Food Waste in East African Supply Chains.
  • Laura Arenas-Calle (CGIAR-CCAFS funded) co-supervisor. Assessing Trade-Offs in Climate Smart Agriculture: Conservation Agriculture and Alternate Wetting and Drying
  • Thirze Hermans (NERC DTP funded) secondary supervisor. Conservation Agriculture and Climate Resilience in sub-Saharan Africa. Commences October 2017

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>