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Professor Henny Osbahr

  • Research Development Lead for Global Development Research Division
  • Programme Director MSc Applied International Development

Areas of interest

I am an interdisciplinary geographer with interests in:

  • The dynamics of food security, agricultural innovation processes and communication services to support sustainable rural livelihood transitions, with a focus on marginalised livelihoods.
  • The role of knowledge systems and culture in shaping decision-making, agency and the governance of agrifood systems.

Research activities in this area:

Social Science lead and Deputy PI for a £3m GCRF-funded project with her role to support understanding of decision-making and local perceptions of livelihood trade-offs in the use of agricultural microplastics for horticulture production, food security, and sustainable development options, and implications for technical innovation and policy change (China, India, Sri Lanka, Egypt, Vietnam). Henny is also the Social Science lead for research exploring policy communication and gendered narratives of agricultural innovation resulting from nature positive family farming in India, with a focus on gender and dietary diversity. She is interested in participatory methods and the integration of these within interdisciplinary research that builds resilience in practice, for example, through the use of a participatory climate services or improved climate information tools across Africa. She uses participatory visual methods, such as photovoice, to understand farmer narratives in innovation adoption within agrifood systems in India and is researching ethnic minority food culture, dietary diversity and farm decision-making in northern Vietnam.

Recent research has included: leading a collaborative research initiative with universities in Japan, exploring communication for agricultural innovation and food security approaches using case studies across SE Asia; a project enhancing agricultural productivity for indigenous people exposed to cyclones in the Philippines, with her contribution on livelihood and dietary diversity transitions; using political ecology frameworks to reveal local perceptions of risk and the gendered nature of access and control over resource use (e.g. for soils in India and water use by smallholder farmers in West Africa, commercialisation of water for horticulture in Uganda); co-production of knowledge for learning by farmers, policy and practice institutions in India and implications for behaviour change; evaluation of indicators for assessment in soil management or food security; role of culture, local knowledge and perceptions in livelihood risk reduction (in the Philippines, Ghana).

Postgraduate supervision

Current PhD students:

  • Stella Ngoleka Climate Change, Tea Growers' Household Income and Livelihood Changes in Malawi: Storylines and Household Economy Approach (Second Supervisor, with Ros Cornforth, Celia Petty in Met)
  • Max MauermanFrom the Crowd to the Sky: Bayesian Drought Model Data Assimilation Using Local Farmer Knowledge (Principal Supervisor, with Emily Black in Met, Dan Osgood at IRI)
  • Sukivihar Sanal Sukumaran - Global Cultural and Human Relations in Global Business and Management (Second Supervisor, with Sarah Cardey)
  • Arisa Takagi - Farmers' decision-making for adoption of innovations that support agricultural adaptation to climate change in Kenya (Principal Supervisor, with Peter Dorward)
  • Punam Behl - Identifying mechanisms that facilitate the effective uptake of agroecology approaches by smallholder women farmers in India (Principal Supervisor, with Sarah Cardey)
  • Clark Ke Liu - The dynamics of returnee migrants in China within rural innovation and entrepreneurship (Principal Supervisor, with Alex Arnall)
  • Pamela Eleazar - Analysing how communication affects knowledge-sharing practices between sugarcane family farmers and extension workers in Batangas, The Philippines (Second Supervisor, with Sarah Cardey)
  • Al Hassan Cisse - The synergies between agricultural interventions and social protection to address climate change adaptation and food security in Senegal (Principal Supervisor, with Andrew Ainslie)

Recent PhD supervision:

  • Young Kafwembe (Reading 2023) Narratives of microfinance and women's empowerment under rural transitions in Zambia
  • Raj Pandey (Reading 2022) Addressing climate change through forest carbon management and community projects in Nepal
  • Babra Kuvuta (Reading 2021) Assessing the role of social ties and peoples' attitude to environmentally-induced resettlement in Malawi
  • Aaron Alesane (Reading 2020) Participation in microfinance programmes and poverty reduction in client livelihoods, the case of northern Ghana
  • Rinchen Lama (Reading 2020) Negotiating Vulnerability: Context and Agency in Hydropower Development in Eastern Himalayan region of India
  • Louise Abongu (Reading 2020) Farmers' adaptation and resilience to climate change in Cameroon
  • Yoshie Yageta (Reading 2020) Local knowledge and soil fertility management in Kenya
  • Laura Imburgia (Reading 2019) Women and water governance in Ethiopia and Argentina)
  • Ibok Otu (Reading 2019) Index for assessing vulnerability to food insecurity in Nigeria
  • George Dakurah (Reading 2019) Food security, farmer decision-making and climate change in northern Ghana
  • Bismarck Guba (Reading 2019) Seasonal rural-rural migration as a livelihood adaptation strategy to mitigate livelihood threats among rural households in northern Ghana
  • Sarrok Talhada (Reading 2018) Large-scale investments, agriculture and local livelihoods in Mozambique
  • Mark Neuse (Reading 2018) Too much success? Unintended outcomes of Ethiopia's State-led development
  • Sam Poskitt (Reading 2018) Environmental management using scenarios
  • Sonali Pradhan (Reading 2018) - Vulnerability and adaptation of coastal India: an integrated livelihood and development policy approach
  • Mackenzie Dove (Reading 2017) Determinants of food insecurity and reduced market potential: the influence of changing climates on small scale producers in Rwanda and Ethiopia
  • Richard Bwalya - Assessment of factors influencing household food security in Zambia (Split Commonwealth Scholarship with University of Zambia)
  • Damodar Pant (Reading 2016) The role of migration and remittance on livelihoods in Nepal
  • Esther Oenga (Reading 2015) Women's opportunities in the Kenyan soapstone industry
  • Hamza Adam (Reading 2014) Rural livelihood diversification and women in northern Ghana
  • Chandni Singh (Reading 2014) Understanding the vulnerability and adaptive capacity of Indian farmers (Rajasthan) in the context of water scarcity
  • Sidiqat Aderinoye-Abdulwahab (Reading 2013) Access to Extension Services, Gender Issues and Economic Empowerment of Pastoralists' Women of Northern Nigeria
  • Debodayita Raha (Reading 2012) Women and rural development in India: public-private partnerships in Rajasthan and Orissa, India
  • Aman Ramali (Reading 2011) Incentives for water pricing in north Africa
  • Naser Farid (Reading) Drivers of food security in monga-prone less favoured north-west Bangladesh: analysis and implications for policy making
  • Fidea Mgina (Reading 2011) Economic reforms and their impact on small farmer credit needs and food security in Tanzania
  • Sarah Cardey (Reading 2009) NGO Communication and HIV/AIDS vulnerability in Uganda
  • Isaiah Okeyo (Reading 2009) Land, gender and livelihoods: contestations and negotiations of land rights of women in different subject-positions in Luo land of western Kenya
  • Florence Crick (Oxford 2007) Adaptive strategies to drought in Niger and South Africa


Module Convenor for IDM096 Addressing Poverty and Inequality through Social Policy (20 credits) and AP3ID3 Dissertation (40 credits)

Research centres and groups

  • Visiting Professor, Hokkaido University, Japan (since 2015)
  • Visiting Professor, University of the Philippines, Los Banos (since 2022)
  • Senior Fellow, Higher Education Academy (Advance HE)
  • Associate Editor, International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability (since 2021)
  • Member of Editorial Board, CABI Agriculture and Bioscience (since 2019)  

Research projects

Current and Recent Research:


Henny has a BSc in Geography, MRes in Environmental Sciences and PhD in Geography from University College London, where she studied the governance of natural resources and rural livelihood strategies in Niger. She worked as a Senior Research Associate (2002-2005) on climate change adaptation in Southern Africa at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, based at the University of East Anglia, University of Sheffield and University of Oxford, as a Research Officer for the African Environments Programme and Tyndall Research Fellow at the University of Oxford (2005-2007). She joined the University of Reading in 2007, becoming Co-Head of the International Development Department in 2019 until 2023. In 2023, she became the Research Development Lead for the Global Development Research Division.

Henny has worked as a consultant for DfID on Adaptation and DRR, the UNDP on Adaptation Mechanisms with coordination of case studies in Kenya, Egypt, Brazil, Vietnam, Mexico, and for the EC Development Directive/VARG (World Bank, DIFD, Red Cross Climate Centre, UN agencies, OECD) on Climate Change Adaptation, DRM and Poverty Reduction to support the implementation of the EU Action Plan on Climate Change and Development (with case studies in Africa, Asia and Latin America). She is also a regular panel reviewer for the Research Council of Norway, the Innovation Research (RCUK, ESRC) and The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and was a Visiting Examiner at University of Leeds. She was a Visiting Professor at Mbarara University of Science and Technology, Uganda (2014-2019), and is now a Visiting Professor at the University of the Philippines, Los Banos (since 2022) and Hokkaido University, Japan (since 2015), teaching on the Program to Foster Pioneers to Transform the Populations-Activities-Resources-Environments (PARE), including Thailand (Kasetsart University, Chulalongkorn University, SIIT/Thammasat University, Mahidol University) and Indonesia (IPB University, Bandung Institute of Technology, Gadjah Mada University).


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