Social Development Specialist
BA Hons., MSc
Livelihoods and Institutions Department
Natural Resources Institute
Valerie has worked in international development since 1992. Initially she worked in Belize on a forest planning and management project, conducting field research in Mayan and migrant communities and in Mexico she was a research fellow at an agricultural research institute of the University of the State of Mexico. She then joined Oxfam GB's policy department, evaluating their South-South Environment Learning Programme, before moving to NRI in 1996. While at NRI she has worked as a social development specialist on a wide range of research and consultancy projects in agriculture and natural resources management across Latin America, Africa and Asia. In the last decade she has focused on sustainable and ethical trade, including a range of impact studies on fair trade, sustainability standards and corporate codes of conduct. Several of these studies were funded by DFID to inform policy-making in relation to ethical trade and sustainability standards, including early studies in the late 1990s on the impact of cocoa, cotton and brazil nuts comparing conventional and ethical value chains. Other impact studies have been commissioned by Fairtrade organisations and ISEAL. The methodological innovations which Valerie, in collaboration with Adrienne Martin from NRI, have developed in our DFID and Fairtrade commissioned work has influenced Fairtrade's approach to participatory theory of change development, the use of theory based evaluation, case oriented comparative analysis and mixed impact design as well as methods. Other ESRC-DFID funded research on fair, ethical and sustainability standards focused on the politics and governance dimensions. Valerie also led an NRI study in 2010 on the climate change implications for fair trade and collaborated with Anne Tallontire at the University of Leeds on a major assessment of standards in agricultural trade. . She is currently leading a new NRI programme on Sustainable and Equitable Trade and is the leader of the evaluation unit of a new DFID trade and global value chains catalyst fund being implemented in Kenya and South Africa (horticulture) and Bangladesh (garments).
Climate change adaptation has also been a focus, including studies for ODI, FAO, UNDP and CIAT-Africa on gender and climate change issues and biofuels. She has also been part of action research on climate learning in Africa (CDKN) and in a project innovating with participatory video, climate modelling and farmer study tours. In 1996-98 Valerie collaborated with Dr Su Braden, a pioneer in participatory video, to innovate in the use of participatory video in Malawi, supporting community enquiry and advocacy on livelihoods and rural energy issues.
Valerie is interested in understanding how sustainable and equitable trade can be facilitated in the light of global challenges around food security, climate change, and economic development. She is keen on conducting further action research participatory learning and communication.
Current and Previous Funded Research Projects
- 'Assessing the poverty impact of sustainability standards (Rainforest Alliance and Fairtrade) in Kenyan and Indian tea and Ecuadorian and Ghanaian cocoa' (DFID funded, 2009-2013). http://www.nri.org/component/content/article/78-project-websites/livelihoods-and-institutions/484-assessing-the-poverty-impact-and-governance-implications-of-social-and-environmental-voluntary-standards
- This project built upon an earlier multi-year, multi-country project 'Assessing the Social Impact of Codes of Practice in Kenyan cut Flowers and South Africa wine industries, (2002‐2005). The design of both studies shared two dimensions of comparison – the first, comparing certified producer organisations and estates with similar organisations in comparable locations which are not certified (the counterfactual group) and secondly comparing changes among the participating and non-participating groups over time.
- Assessing the impact of Fairtrade in cotton: Senegal, Mali, Cameroon and India. Fairtrade Foundation and Max Havelaar, France in collaboration with IDS, University of Sussex (2009-10)
- Politics and governance of private standards (ESRC-DFID) research in collaboration with the University of Leeds (Anne Tallontire): http://www.nri.org/component/content/article/78-project-websites/livelihoods-and-institutions/494-the-politics-of-private-standards-an-esrc-dfid-funded-research-project-grant-reference-res-167-25-0195
- Farms of the Future: Climate Change adaptation project involving climate modelling, participatory video and farmer exchanges (Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security, CCAFS funded project).
Responsibilities within the University
- Research, consultancy, training
- Lead for the Sustainable and Equitable Trade Programme at NRI
- Nelson, Valerie and Martin, Adrienne (2012) The impact of Fairtrade: Evidence, shaping factors, and future pathways. Food Chain, 2 (1). pp. 42-63. ISSN 2046-1879 (Print), 2046-1887 (Online) (doi:10.3362/2046-1887.2012.005)
- Tallontire, A., V. Nelson, J. Dixon and T. Benton (2012) 'Assessment of Standards and Certification Systems: Review of Literature and Knowledge of Agricultural Production and Farming Systems', University of Leeds Report, for RESOLV
- Nelson V. and Lamboll R. (2012) Exploring the links between Climate Change, Agriculture & Development: A briefing paper. FARA, AFAAS, NRI. http://www.erails.net/images/fara/climate-learning/climate-learning/file/climate_learning/CCAgBriefingpaperfinaldraft.pdf
- Lamboll R, Nelson V and Nathaniels N. (2011). Emerging approaches for responding to climate change in African agricultural advisory services: Challenges, opportunities and recommendations for an AFAAS climate change response strategy. AFAAS, Kampala, Uganda and FARA, Accra, Ghana. http://www.fara-africa.org/media/uploads/library/docs/fara_publications/afaas_climate_change_ver09.pdf
- Tallontire, A, V. Nelson and M. Opondo (in press) 'Contingent spaces for smallholder participation in GlobalGAP: insights from Kenyan horticulture value chains' The Geographical Journal
- Tallontire, A. and V. Nelson (2013) 'Fair trade narratives and political dynamics'. Journal of Social Enterprise, Volume 9, Issue 1.
- Nelson, Valerie, Tallontire, Anne, Opondo, Maggie and Martin, Adrienne (2013) Pathways of transformation or transgression? Power relations, ethical space and labour rights in Kenyan agri-food value chains. In: Food Transgressions: Making Sense of Contemporary Food Politics. Critical Food Studies . Ashgate Publishing, Farnham, UK. ISBN 9780754679707 (In Press)
- Nelson, Valerie, Morton, John, Chancellor, Tim, Burt, Peter and Pound, Barry (2010) Climate change, agriculture and Fairtrade: identifying the challenges and opportunities. Working Paper. Natural Resources Institute, Natural Resources Institute [website] / Fairtrade Foundation [website]. http://www.nri.org/docs/d4679-10_ftf_climate_agri_web.pdf
- Nelson, V. and Y. Lambrou (2011) 'Gender and 'Modern' Biofuels: A guidance paper for policy-makers'. http://www.nri.org/docs/d5673-11_nri_biofuels_web.pdf
- Nelson, V. and Y. Lambrou (2011) 'Scoping the Gender Issues in Liquid Biofuel Value Chains', http://www.nri.org/docs/d5738-11_nri_scoping_gender_web.pdf
- Neefes, K and V.Nelson case study on climate change and gender in Viet Nam in 'Gender and Climate Change: An Introduction' (2010) Earthscan, ed.I.Dankelman.
- Nelson, Valerie and Stathers, Tanya (2009) Resilience, power, culture, and climate: A case study from semi-arid Tanzania, and new research directions. Gender & Development, 17 (1). pp. 81-94. ISSN 1355-2074 (Print), 1364-9221 (Online) (doi:10.1080/13552070802696946)
- Boyd, E., N.Grist, S.Juhola and V. Nelson (2009) 'Theme Issue: Development Futures in a Changing Climate'. Development Policy Review. Vol. 27, No. 6, November 2009. Wiley Blackwell. Editorial: 'Exploring development futures in a changing climate: Frontiers for Development Policy and Practice', p659-674.
- Nelson, V and Pound, B (2009) 'A Review of the Impact of Fairtrade over the Last Ten Years' http://www.fairtrade.org.uk/resources/natural_resources_institute.aspx
- Tallontire, Anne, Opondo, Maggie, Nelson, Valerie and Martin, Adrienne (2011) Beyond the vertical? Using value chains and governance as a framework to analyse private standards initiatives in agri-food chains. Agriculture and Human Values, 28 (3). pp. 427-441. ISSN 0889-048X (Print), 1572-8366 (Online) (doi:10.1007/s10460-009-9237-2)
- Nelson, Valerie, Martin, Adrienne and Ewert, Joachim (2007) The impacts of codes of practice on worker livelihoods: empirical evidence from the South African wine and Kenyan cut flower industries. Journal of Corporate Citizenship (28). pp. 61-72. ISSN 1470-5001
- Nelson, V., J. Ewert, A. Martin.(2005) "What Difference Can they Make? Assessing the social impact of codes of practice in African export agriculture" Development in Practice, 15, 3 /4, 539- http://www.jstor.org/pss/4029984
- Nelson, V. (2007) 'The role of transport development in achieving the Millennium Development Goals'. A paper abridged and edited by Valerie Nelson, NRI, University of Greenwich for the Asian Journal of Transport and Infrastructure.
- Morton, J, J. Quan, V. Nelson, K. Albright 2002 Improving Communication with UK Agricultural and Related Scientific Expertise: UK NGO Perspectives, Science Communication, Vol. 23, no. 4, pp. 442-462 (2002)
- Nelson.V., (2001) in The South-South Environment Linking Programme, in 'Measuring the immeasurable: The Monitoring and Evaluation of Networks'. Novib Publication, 2001.
- Blowfield, M., Collinson, C., Chan, M.K., V. Nelson, B.Maynard (1999) Ethical Trade and Sustainable Rural Livelihoods. Chapter in DFID book 'Sustainable Rural Livelihoods - What Contribution Can we Make?. 1999.
- Nelson, V., Tallontire, A. and Collinson, C. (2002) Assessing the potential of ethical trade schemes for forest dependent people: comparative experiences from Peru and Ecuador. International Forestry Review 4, 99-110.
- Nelson, V., Meadows, K., Cannon, T., Morton, J. and Martin, A. (2002) Uncertain predictions, invisible impacts, and the need to mainstream gender in climate change adaptations", Gender and Development, 10, 51-59 (also appearing in R Masika (ed.) Gender, Development and Climate Change, Oxfam (2002)
Recent Conference Presentations
- Tallontire, A and V. Nelson (December 2012) 'Narrative framings and power dynamics in private standards and global agri-food chains'. Governing sustainable agriculture through multi-stakeholder initiatives', CIRAD, Montpellier, December 2012.
- Nelson, V and A. Martin (November 2012) 'Assessing the poverty impact of sustainability standards'. NRI and ISEAL co-hosted workshop, University of Greenwich.
- Tallontire, A and V. Nelson (2012) Fairtrade political dynamics and narratives and the implications for worker and smallholder empowerment'. FTIS and GeoFair Trade Final Conference, Liverpool, UK.
- V. Nelson and A. Tallontire (2010) IDS STEPS Conference 'Pathways to Sustainability: Agendas for a new politics of environment, development and social justice'. Presentation entitled: 'Pathways of Power in African agri-food chains'.
- Council member of the UK and Ireland Development Studies Association (DSA)
Natural Resources Institute
University of Greenwich
Central Avenue, Chatham Maritime, Kent ME4 4TB, United Kingdom.
Tel: +44 (0)1634 883156