I am a (human) geographer by training and multi-disciplinary researcher by choice; and have, to date, had the good fortune of practising these ‘trades’ within the three related disciplines of Geography, Environmental Studies and, currently, Area Studies.
I was born in Freetown, Sierra Leone and undertook my undergraduate and postgraduate studies at the Universities of Sierra Leone (Fourah Bay College) and Bordeaux (Centre d’Études de Géographie et Écologie Tropicale), respectively. I was subsequently introduced to northern Nigeria, courtesy of an early career United Nations University Fellowship, in what would develop into an enduring relationship which has lasted for more than a quarter of a century. Since then, and in addition to lecturing at Birmingham, I have also taught at Bayero University, Kano (Nigeria) and Moi University (Kenya).
I teach courses on African geography; development and environment; livelihoods; and the role of NGOs in development.
I have recently supervised postgraduate theses on various aspects of NGOs; energy; development theory and practice; livelihoods; and socio-environmental change; and am currently (or will shortly be) supervising research on mining and landscapes; youth and popular culture; post-war reintegration of women; and child labour. I am happy to supervise research in these and allied areas.
Although people are most familiar with my work on rural energy, my research interests extend into cognate areas such as indigenous ecological knowledges, with particular reference to vegetation resources; the implications of environmental policy for access and rights to, and utilisation of soil, water and vegetation resources; woody biomass assessment and mapping; and the construction and deployment of landscape imaginaries. Much of this interest manifests itself in a variety of ways in: (1) my current research project Urban growth, domestic fuel and sustainable forestry in Kano, Nigeria (in collaboration with Dr A.I. Tanko, Bayero University, Kano and Dr R. Maconachie, University of Bath), which is funded by DfID under Round 5 (2010-2013) of the DelPHE scheme; (2) allied research on the livelihood impacts of compulsory land acquisition in peri-urban Kano (with Dr I. Yakubu, Bayero University Kano); and in (3) separate but linked research which assesses the implications for woodfuel planning in Sierra Leone and northern Nigeria, of the current global policy interest in biofuels as economically viable, environmentally-benign and renewable energy substitutes for fossil fuels.
My other main and ongoing research interest is forestry history and practice in West Africa, and I am currently researching forestry as transnational environment-development policy and practice, with reference to colonial Northern Nigeria. A third focus of interest revolves around the history of academic geography in Africa and questions of professional ethics in developing areas geographies. This interest has spilled over into the initiation of, and participation in, North-South institutional linkage schemes: with the Department of Geography, Usumanu Dan Fodio University, Sokoto, Nigeria (‘Gender, Environment and Development in the Wetlands of Northwest Nigeria’, 1998-2001); the Department of Geography and Rural Development, Njala University, Sierra Leone (‘Natural Resource Management and Sustainable Development in Sierra Leone’, 2002-2006); and the current DeLPHE project with colleagues in Bath and Kano mentioned above.
I am Director of the Centre of West African Studies, for which I also convene Post Graduate Taught programmes, and am also Head of Student Experience for the School of History and Cultures. In addition, I serve as member on the University’s Arts and Social Sciences Ethical Review Committee.
I am Editor and member of the Editorial Working Group of the Review of African Political Economy, and am also on the Editorial Board of the online journal Geography Compass.
I have been External Examiner for the MSc Degree in Geography, Resource Management and Development in Njala University, Sierra Leone (2004-05); have just completed a term as External Examiner in Human Geography at Coventry University (2006-2010); and am currently External Examiner for the BA Development Management degree for the University of Wales validated programme of the Ghana Christian University College; and have examined postgraduate theses at several UK and African universities.
2005, with E. Robson, West African Worlds. Paths through Development, Modernity and Globalisation. Addison, Wesley, Longman Publishers, UK.
2000, with C. Madge, Contesting Forestry in West Africa. Ashgate Publishers, Aldershot, UK and Burlington, USA.
Edited journal issues
2010, with Graham Harrison, Review of African Political Economy, Vol.37, No. 126.
2009, with Graham Harrison, Against One-dimensional Africa, Review of African Political Economy, Vol.36, No.122
2009, with Graham Harrison, Crisis Governance in Africa, Review of African Political Economy, Vol.36, No.119
2008, with Graham Harrison, Politics of Capital, Review of African Political Economy , Vol. 35, No.116.
2006, with Phil O’Keefe, Mainstreaming the African Environment in Development? Special Issue, Review of African Political Economy, No.109 (vol.33).
2004, with Mike Powell, Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) and the Knowledge Economy. Special Issue, Review of African Political Economy, No.99 (vol.31).