School of GeoSciences

School of GeoSciences

Abigail Clare

I am a final year PhD student at Edinburgh University, supervised by Simon Shackley (Edinburgh University), and Andrew Barnes (Scottish Agricultural College).

I am a final year PhD student, working at the interface between agriculture, development, biomass and bioenergy.

My PhD investigates how to optimise the use of agricultural biomass in developing and transition economy countries, examining the livelihood, environmental and social impacts of the various options, and who stands to gain or lose in each case. My methods include the Sustainable Livelihoods Approach (SLA), Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) techniques, semi-structured interviews, focus groups, linear programming, cost-benefit analysis and life-cycle analysis. The end goal is to generate livelihood- and policy-relevant outcomes with a view to finding a balance between economic, social and environmental demands on agricultural biomass.

To date my fieldwork has included trips to Ghana and Kenya, with the bulk of my time spent in China. There, I have become increasingly interested in Chinese agricultural policy and the development of farming alongside the rapid urban transitions occurring in many parts of the country. The social policies that govern the agricultural system also serve more general purposes in societal organisation, and thus are difficult to change, despite their negative impact on agricultural efficiency, productivity, and environmental impacts.

At present I am also part of an inter-disciplinary team applying for funding to research and develop locally-driven strategies for malnutrition prevention and agricultural improvement in northern Ghana. We are combining expertise in soil science, anthropology, engineering, community engagement and nutrient recycling in an innovative, participant-empowered research program. More details to follow in early 2015.