Professor Fiona Nunan

Professor Fiona Nunan

International Development Department
Professor of Environment and Development

Contact details

International Development Department
School of Government
Muirhead Tower
University of Birmingham
Edgbaston, Birmingham,
B15 2TT, United Kingdom

Fiona's interests and experience focus on natural resource governance and management in developing country settings, particularly within inland fisheries and coastal locations in East and Southern Africa, and on exploring the links between poverty and the environment.


  • PhD (Birmingham)
  • MA (Sussex)
  • BSc (Kent)


Prof Nunan's main area of interest is concerned with the environment and development, particularly in renewable natural resource governance and livelihoods in the Global South. She rejoined IDD in September 2008, after spending five years in East Africa, working on two fisheries co-management projects, funded by the UK Department for International Development and the EU; she previously worked at IDD  between 1994 and 2002 as a Research Associate and Lecturer. 

Prof Nunan was appointed as Head of the department in 2014 and was previously the Director of Postgraduate Research and the Director of Postgraduate Taught Admissions for IDD. She leads on the new Environment, Sustainability and Politics pathway of the MSc International Development, working closely with colleagues in the Political Science and International Studies Department.

Her first book was published in 2015 by Routledge, 'Understanding Poverty and the Environment: Analytical Frameworks and Approaches'. The book makes an innovative contribution to literature on environment and development by bringing together a diverse range of analytical approaches and frameworks that can be used to study human-nature interactions.

Prof Nunan has served on the Council of the UK Development Studies Association since 2010 and convenes the DSA Study Group on Environment, Natural Resources and Climate Change.


My specialist area of interest is environment and natural resource management and governance, and I convene the IDD module on 'Transforming Development for Sustainability'. I also co-convene Making Policy on campus and distance learning and contribute to other modules.

Postgraduate supervision

PhD supervision to completion

  • Mattias Hjort (2016) 'Governing Deforestation: A Governmentality Analysis Of Tropical Forests In Climate Negotiations'
  • Eleanor Chowns (2014) 'The Political Economy Of Community Management: A Study Of Factors Influencing Sustainability In Malawi’s Rural Water Supply Sector'
  • Claudia Santizo Rodall (2002) 'The Politics of Implementation in the Education Sector. A Policy Network Analysis with Game Theoretical Reasoning'
  • Atsuko Yamashita (2002) 'Policy Networks in Educational Reform in Japan'

Current PhD supervision

  • Deo Namwira 'Resilience strategies and institutional bricolage: the fisherfolk livelihoods of Lake Tanganyika, Democratic Republic of Congo'
  • Mohammed Elmontasir Salih 'Access and use of land in Rural Gedaref, Sudan'
  • Yogi Suwarno, 'Responding To Climate Change: Policy Integration and the Indonesian Forestry Sector'
  • Titis Endang Widuri 'The Empowerment of Women in Fish Processing Groups at Sumedang Regency, Indonesia through participation in local development planning'
  • Ourathai Yosinta 'Organizational Culture and Good Governance in the Public Sector: A case of provincial level in Thailand'


Research interests

  • Fisheries governance, livelihoods and co-management
  • Poverty and the environment
  • Impact evaluation methods and approaches

Current and recent projects

  • Principal Investigator, Leverhulme Trust, Networking for fisheries-co-management on Lake Victoria, East Africa, 2014 - 2016
  • Co-Investigator, NERC/ESRC/DFID Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation Programme, Coastal Ecosystem Services in East Africa (CESEA), Nov 2013 - March 2016
  • Co-Investigator, Climate and Development Knowedge Network (CDKN), iCoast: Understanding the fiscal and regulatory mechanisms necessary to achieve climate compatible development in the coastal zone, June 2012 - May 2014.
  • Co-Investigator, NERC/ESRC/DFID Ecosystems Services for Poverty Alleviation programme, 'Swahili Seas', Jan 2011 - Dec 2012; supporting the development of a Payment for Ecosystem Services scheme in Gazi Bay, Kenya. Also see the website of the East African Forum Payment for Ecosystem Services for more information
  • Principal Investigator, NERC / ESRC / DFID Ecosystems Services for Poverty Alleviation programme, 'Capturing the value of coastal ecosystem services for poverty alleviation in East and Southern Africa', August, December 2010.
  • Co-author of a country case study paper reviewing development aid within fisheries in Uganda since 1976, identifying lessons for development assistance, under the World Bank funded 'The political economy of fisheries reform: lessons and applications for development assistance', led by IDDRA Ltd, 2009.
  • Community Development Specialist, Implementation of a Fisheries Management Plan, Lake Victoria Fisheries Organization (EU funded), 2005-2008 (employed by Harewelle International Ltd.).
  • Institutional and Social Development Advisor, Integrated Lake Management project, Uganda, (DFID funded) supporting the Department of Fisheries Resources and the Ministry of Local Government, Uganda, in developing and implementing an integrated approach to lake management, encompassing fisheries co-management on two lakes, 2003-2004 (employed by CARE International).

Other activities

Member of the Council of the Development Studies Association (DSA) since November 2010

See my IDD blog entries



Nunan, F. (ed.) (2020) Governing Renewable Natural Resources: theories and frameworks, Abingdon: Routledge.

Nunan, F. (ed.) (2017) Making Climate Compatible Development Happen, London: Routledge.

Understanding Poverty and the Environment: Analytical frameworks and approaches, Routledge, 2015 

Book chapters

Nunan, F., M. Menton, C. McDermott and K. Schreckenberg (2018) ‘Governing for ecosystem health and human wellbeing’, in Schreckenberg, K., G. Mace and M. Poudyal (eds) Ecosystem services for poverty alleviation: trade-offs and governance. London:Routledge.

Nunan, F. (2018) ‘Conservation and people’, in Binns, T., Lynch, K. and Nel, E. (eds.) Handbook of African Development, London: Routledge.

Nunan, F. and Onyango, P. (2016) Inter-Sectoral Governance in Inland Fisheries: Lake Victoria, in Song, A., Bower, S., Onyango, P., Cooke, S. and Chuenpagdee, R. (eds.) Inter-Sectoral Governance of Inland Fisheries, Too Big To Ignore e-book, available at

Journal articles

Nunan, F. and D. Cepić (2020) Women and fisheries co-management: Limits to participation on Lake Victoria, Fisheries Research, 224, online first. 

Nunan, F., D. Cepić, E. Yongo, M. Salehe, B. Mbilingi, K. Odongkara, P. Onyango, E. Mlahagwa and M. Owili (2018) Compliance, corruption and co-management: how corruption fuels illegalities and undermines the legitimacy of fisheries co-management. International Journal of the Commons, 12(2): 58–79.

Nunan, F. (2018) Navigating multi-level natural resource governance: an analytical guide, Natural Resources Forum, online first.

Song, A. M., S. D. Bower, P. Onyango, S. J. Cooke, S. L. Akintola, J. Baer, T. B. Gurung, M. Hettiarachchi, M. Islam, W. Mhlanga, F. Nunan, P. Salmi, V. Singh, X. Tezzo, S. J. Funge-Smith, P. Kumar Nayak and R. Chuenpagdee. 2018. Intersectorality in the governance of inland fisheries. Ecology and Society 23 (2):17.

Nunan, F., Cepić, D., Mbilingi, B., Odongkara, K., Yongo, E., Owili, M., Salehe, M., Mlahagwa, E. and Onyango, P. (2018) Community cohesion: social and economic ties in the personal networks of fisherfolkSociety and Natural Resources, 31(3): 306-319

Cepić, D. and. Nunan, F. (2017) Justifying non-compliance: the morality of illegalities in small scale fisheries of Lake Victoria, East Africa, Marine Policy, 86, 104-110.

Rogers, P., Nunan, F. and Addisu, A. (2017) Reimagining invasions; the social and cultural impacts of Prosopis on pastoralists in Southern Afar, Pastoralism, 7: 22.

Mark Huxham, M., Emerton, L., Kairo, J., Munyi, F., Abdirizak, H., Hillams, T., Nunan, F. and Briers, R. (2015) Applying Climate Compatible Development and economic valuation to coastal management: A case study of Kenya's mangrove forests, Journal of Environmental Management, 157, 168-181.

Nunan, F., M. Hara and P. Onyango (2015) Institutions and co-management in East African inland and Malawi fisheries: a critical perspective, World Development, 70, 203-214.

Nunan, F. (2014) Wealth and welfare? Can fisheries management succeed in achieving multiple objectives? A case study of Lake Victoria, East Africa, Fish and Fisheries, 15, 134–150.

Nunan, F., J. Luomba, C. Lwenya, E. Yongo, K. Odongkara and B. Ntambi (2012) Finding Space for Participation: Fisherfolk Mobility and Co-Management of Lake Victoria Fisheries, Environmental Management, 50 (5), 204-216.

Nunan, F., A. Campbell and E. A. Foster (2012) Environmental Mainstreaming: the organisational challenges of policy integration, Public Administration and Development, 32 (3), 262-277.

Nunan, F. (2010) Mobility and fisherfolk livelihoods on Lake Victoria: Implications for vulnerability and risk, Geoforum, 41, 5, 776-785, 2010.

Nunan, F. (2010) Governance and Fisheries Co-management on Lake Victoria: Challenges to the Adaptive Governance Approach, MAST, 9, 1, 2010.

Nunan, F., Tumwebaze, R (2009) African Fisheries Development Aid: Uganda Case Study, with, for the World Bank funded 'The political economy of fisheries reform: lessons and applications for development assistance', led by IDDRA Ltd., University of Birmingham, Birmingham, August.

Nunan, F (2009) Governance and fisheries co-management on Lake Victoria: challenges to the adaptive governance approach, People and the Sea conference, Centre for Maritime Research, Amsterdam, 9-11 July.

Nunan, F (2007) Reducing poverty through fisheries co-management: Lessons from early experience in Uganda, Journal of International Development, 19, 1151-1164.

Nunan, F (2007) Managing lakes in Uganda: Lessons from integrated management through policies, structures and plans, Water Policy, 9, 253-269.

Nunan, F (2006) Planning for integrated lake management in Uganda: Lessons for sustainable and effective planning processes, Lakes and Reservoirs: Research and Management, 11, pp. 189-199.

Nunan, F (2006) Empowerment and Institutions: Managing fisheries in Uganda, World Development, 34, 7, 1316-1332.

Nunan, F., Devas, N (2004) 'Accessing Land and Services: Exclusion or Entitlement?', in Urban Governance, Voice and Poverty in the Developing World, by N. Devas, Earthscan.

Nunan, F (2002) Poverty and the Environment: Measuring the Links, Environment Policy Paper Issue No. 2, Environment Policy Department, Department for International Development, DFID, London.

Working papers

Nunan, F. (2016) Topic Guide: Governance of Natural Resources, Hemel Hempstead: Evidence on Demand.

Policy briefs

Nunan, F., M. Menton, C. McDermott, K. Schreckenberg and M. Huxham (2018) Governing natural resources for effectiveness, equity and sustainability: what matters?, Policy and Practice Briefing, Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation (ESPA) programme.

Nunan, F. (2013) Making Climate Compatible Development happen in Coastal Areas, Research Brief No. 1, iCoast Research Brief, No. 1, Edinburgh Napier University, Edinburgh.

Nunan, F., A. Campbell and E. A. Foster (2012), Making Environmental Mainstreaming Happen, IDD Policy Brief 04/12, IDD, University of Birmingham, Birmingham.

Workshop papers

Nunan, F. (2013) Institutions and co-management in African fisheries: a critical institutionalist perspective, Capturing Critical Institutionalism Workshop, 18-19 April, King's College, London.

Other publications

The Conversation

How corruption encourages illegal fishing on Lake Victoria, The Conversation, 11 September 2018 

A close up look at the social networks of Lake Victoria’s fisherfolk, The Conversation, 27 November 2017

View all publications in research portal


Governing natural resources for sustainability and wellbeing

Fiona’s expertise lies in how governance systems mediate linkages between the environment and people and how local people work with government in managing renewable natural resources, such as fisheries and forests, in developing countries.