Mary Tiffen obituary

Posted by on May 26, 2020 9:23 am
Categories: Global Stories

My colleague Mary Tiffen, the distinguished economic historian, who has died aged 88 from Covid-19, will best be remembered for the groundbreaking African drylands research she conducted from the 1970s to 2000, successfully demonstrating how much farmers’ own skills and capacity to innovate had been undervalued.

Her 1976 monograph on Northern Nigeria, The Enterprising Peasant, the work she led on Kenya in 1994 (More People Less Erosion) and the final comparative studies she undertook around 2000 comparing dryland areas of Kenya, Senegal, Nigeria and Niger, all focused on the ingenuity of the farmers who made a living from these difficult environments. Her research challenged, and continues to challenge, careless assumptions about the causes of desertification and appropriate policy responses.

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